Portland State University has many different programs that help prospective students decide if PSU is right for them and one of these programs is the Students Ambassadors. This group of students is often the first connection that future students have to the university. They are hired to represent the student and campus experience. Ambassadors come from all walks of life and represent every college on campus.
I am not an ambassador but my friend, Sophia Hogan, has been involved with this program for the past year and is preparing to continue her involvement the next term.
The different activities that she has done this past year include giving tours, currently virtual, to prospective students. As they would do in real life, she shows all of the different buildings on campus and shares the history behind them all.
She has also been a part of different student panels. These panels are moderated by PSU counselors who describe the admission process and what the school is like. The counselors then ask the ambassadors about their experiences at their specific school.
This spring, she participated in Admitted Students Day where they help admitted students decide if PSU is right for them. This is when students can talk to ambassadors in their same pathway to get an idea of what the culture is like. The ambassadors also have questions for themselves to answer if the prospective students are nervous to ask.
PSU is currently in a transition toward being back on campus where the ambassadors are holding “live from PSU” tours, where Sophia and other ambassadors will livestream a tour of campus.
Giving these tours has actually helped Sophia still feel connected to her acting side which she hasn’t been able to do since she was in high school. These tours allow her to memorize lines and “give a show” of the campus which gives her a little break from her academics.
Sophia has had a fun experience while at PSU and she has been wanting to share her experience with others. She also comes from an immigrant household so she is able to help prospective students who come from the same background feel welcomed.
If you are a prospective student and would like to get to know more about campus, college life, and academics, you can schedule a one-on-one meeting with a student ambassador who will tell you everything you need to know about PSU!
If you are currently a PSU student and are interested in becoming an ambassador, applications open every Winter term. Information about this process can be found here!
Video games are not only a huge hobby of mine, they’re also a form of stress relief. They can serve as both an art form and a way to decompress. I play a lot of games normally, but over the past year that we’ve been in the pandemic, I find myself turning to more calming management-style games. They’re distracting and perfect when I need to relax. I thought I’d recommend some of my indie favorites in case you’re also looking for your next fix. I tried to include several, but realistically, I could go on forever. These are either games I’ve played myself and have given a happy stamp of approval, or that have received raving reviews from friends. I could also recommend several other games that wouldn’t quite fit the management tag, but that’s a list for another day.
Personally, I feel like Stardew Valley is super well-known, but I still haven’t played it! I’m hoping to remedy that soon. However, almost all of my friends have played, and no one has anything negative to say about it. In Stardew Valley, you take over a farm and make it the best it can be, while getting to know the townsfolk and exploring a gorgeous world. Stardew Valley has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with 290,206 reviews. It’s available on multiple consoles, but if you play on PC, you can find a lot of mods that people have lovingly made to enhance your experience.
Slime Rancher features you taking the role of Beatrix LeBeau, a rancher living on a foreign planet who spends her days wrangling various types of slimes and exploring the Far, Far Range. Slime Rancher is super charming, with many different environments to explore and cute characters to meet. You can combine slime types and grow their favorite foods, while keeping an eye on the changing market prices. In my opinion, Slime Rancher does an excellent job of balancing exploration with management that actually feels necessary and real! You’re required to pay attention to your ranch and venture out in order to advance the game. It also has a timed mode and a relaxed mode so you can customize your experience. Slime Rancher has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with over 54,461 reviews and took me about 20 hours to play through.
Potion Craft isn’t released yet, but you can play the demo. It looks like a unique, promising concept. You play as an alchemist in a small town, taking the townspeople’s various requests for potions while trying to figure out how to make most of them through wild experimentation. What charmed me the most was the art style of the game — it looks like a medieval text. I found the demo extremely fun to play and spent time exploring what happened when I added various ingredients together. I’m really looking forward to spending hours in this game, managing my little alchemy shop when Potion Craft releases.
I’ve saved the best for last. Spiritfarer was my personal game of the year in 2020. You play as Stella, the newest Spiritfarer replacing Charon, and sail around a beautiful world in your massive vessel with your cat Daffodil. Your goal is to find lost spirits in the world and help them pass on, while discovering more about yourself. You complete charming tasks, like cooking, gardening, building workshops and spirit houses, and chasing adorable nebula rollie-pollies that sink onto your boat like falling stars. (Extremely important note — you can hug Daffodil at any time!) Spiritfarer is ultimately a game about loss, death, and grief, and it definitely made me sob every time I helped a spirit pass on. With the disclaimer that it’s a sad game, it definitely struck a chord with me as a sentimental, beautiful work of art about how those you love will never be far. The soundtrack is incredible, the quests are charming, and I literally cannot say enough about it. The developers are releasing new spirits this year, which has motivated me to start a new playthrough and experience it all over again. Spiritfarer has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with 7,340 reviews, and I have almost 40 hours in the game — but disclaimer, I did spend extra time getting all of the achievements.
I hope that this list gave you some inspiration for calming management games to try!
The past 12 months have felt like a chaotic decade and with the vaccine coming out at the same time as the warm weather, it feels like we are finally out of the dark winter. With this new light there are so many new things I have been excited about.
I have only lived in Oregon for about a year and have not explored as much as I wish I could have. So for spring break my roommates and I took a day to see the coast. Luckily this kind of trip does allow us to social distance and stay safe from the general public. We drove to Pacific City and spent the day walking on the beach and the sand dunes. It was so beautiful and I am so glad that I got to spend a day with my roommates looking at some pretty sites.
Since moving out to Oregon, I have not been able to see my dad or brother in almost a year. It has been hard because we are really close but we knew that it was safer to wait to be together again. With this spring and my family getting the vaccine I have been able to make the choice to make a trip to see my family at the end of this summer.
This spring term, I am taking my first music education class. For the past year, I have been developing my music skills in theory and aural practice. I have enjoyed these classes and have learned so much but it’s not what I have wanted to do. I have been wanting the opportunity to start observing classes and learning the techniques I need in the classroom and that’s what I have been able to start this term!
PSU’s CAT program teaches all facets of IT infrastructure in a professional environment
The CAT (Computer Action Team) is a hands-on, IT training program for student volunteers. PSU’s University Communications spoke to the CAT’s Department Manager, Brittaney Califf, and Communications Student, Brian Koehler to find out more about the opportunities CAT provides for students. Interview edited for clarity and length.
Q: What does the CAT do and what does being part of the team entail?
Brian Koehler: The CAT (Computer Action Team) provides IT support throughout the Maseeh College of Engineering (MCECS). With a primary focus on instructional needs, we support many large-scale computer labs (both college-wide and departmental), remotely accessible computer/session servers, various remotely accessible services as well as the server and physical network infrastructure that binds it all together. Where possible, the CAT is also able to leverage its infrastructure to support research and special projects in the college.
The second purpose of the team is to provide an invaluable resource to all students of Portland State University, regardless if they are students of MCECS or not. We provide IT training and skills via our brain dump program to students as well as Help Desk Work experience in an IT environment.
Brittaney Califf: We do everything here! We have our own admin side, our own user services, all the way to the end to our own surplussing of equipment and recycling, so we run the gamut.
Can you tell us more about the Braindump program?
BK: The Braindump program is the major part of being in the CAT. Every student who joins the CAT is expected to participate in this program. It is a weekly 3-4 hour class that is taught by one of our full-time employees or a student leader that has to do with IT. In return for this free class, we ask that students volunteer 3-4 hours per week working on our front desk helping MCECS students and faculty with their IT issues. Students then can put what they learned in the Braindump class in action while on the front desk.
BC: The program is only offered once a year, in the fall. The next brain dump batch will be starting Oct. 8 for this year and we only take one set per year because it’s really like an 18-month program — one batch ends up teaching the next batch. They get a broad range of skills to be at the front desk. Probably within 3 months, they’re on the front desk and by 6 or 8 months in, they’re alone on the front desk, helping people. The best way to learn around here is just to help other people.
What kind of skills are developed in working for the CAT?
BK: Students in the CAT can learn almost every facet of IT infrastructure in a professional environment. Some of these systems include Windows, Linux, printers, website development, and networking. We also have teams that specialize in technical and wiki writing to record and document all of the Computer Action Team’s training and systems, as well as student leadership roles and a communication team.
BC: If you don’t know what you want to do, this is a great place to find out what you enjoy: You can do the purchasing, administrative, and business end or you can join a networking team. You can do hardware, software, development, web administration and we have a video team. We have a huge variety of opportunities where people can mess around and find what they love. People really find their niche here.
What kind of jobs can experience with the CAT lead to?
BK: Many students have found jobs via connections they made at the CAT with Nike, Intel, and other local companies. Our weekly Braindump classes will teach students everything about IT in a professional setting as well as give them hard skills they can use in their day-to-day technology use. They will walk away with one year of IT help desk experience if they complete the Braindump program. They also have the chance to work closely with our full-time employees and get even more directed training in any systems of their choice.
How many people are currently involved in the CAT?
BK: The CAT is run by Janaka Jayawardena, who set up the idea of the Braindump program and student volunteer program almost 30 years ago, and is assisted by Brittaney. The team consists of 8 FTE (that includes a director and department administrator), 7-10 student workers, and an army of volunteer trainees. Technical support for each platform (Windows, Linux/UNIX, etc.) has a full-time lead who, in turn, is surrounded by a team that may include full-time employees, student workers, and student volunteers.
BC: There are fewer student workers right now due to current constraints, but the volunteer crowd consists of about 43 people right now.
How has the CAT been operating differently during the pandemic?
BK: The Computer Action Team was one of the driving forces to getting many MCECS systems pandemic-ready; the students and full-time employees worked daily to get all of the labs set up virtually and get the professors and employees of MCECS running. To do this, we had our students in the technical writing team update and improve our website to have the latest information and user guides to getting set up for remote labs.
BC: The Braindump program has also been all online for the first time ever — this is our first remote batch of students. Skills are being transposed into online help, whereas students would usually walk over to a lab and help somebody. Phone calls are usually a big thing for us and those are not happening; they’re being transposed into voicemails and students are then returning the calls. It’s a little weird but no less active. People are not needing less help, they’re just needing different help.
What should students interested in joining the CAT know?
BK: Again, we only enroll students once a year in October; it is the only chance they get to join the Braindump program and become a part of the CAT. They can learn more at our website and they can follow our social media accounts to get a heads up on next year’s orientation.
BC: We take people from all across campus. You don’t have to be studying Engineering, we’ve had folks from Geology, English, Physics — all over the place. We’ve taken folks who don’t know how to turn a computer on! You really do learn from the ground up, if you need to, and it starts wherever you are.
How a Portland State student group makes the major more welcoming for all
If you’re a current or prospective computer science student, you may have heard of We in Computer Science, more commonly known as WiCS, one of PSU’s student-led computer science groups. But do you know much about the group’s goals or what it offers for CS students? WiCS’s 2020-2021 president, Alejandro Castaneda, weighs in on four key things to know about the group.
WiCS was originally founded as “Women in Computer Science” by a group of women at PSU who felt that they didn’t belong and that there wasn’t a space for them in computer science.
That out-of-place feeling was largely due to a general trend in tech: “As courses go on to the upper division, the amount of women and people of color in classes just drops down significantly,” Alejandro explains. “This is something seen throughout the whole industry, where people of color and women have higher burnout rates . . . It’s this culture of tech that is very exclusionary.”
The group was later renamed to “We in Computer Science” as an acknowledgement that several groups —including women and people of color as well as LGBTQIA+ and gender non-conforming people, first-generation immigrants, and disabled people — face this exclusionary culture.
Its name may have changed, but WiCS has always focused on supporting each of these groups that have been historically underrepresented in computer science. WiCS envisions a future in which these groups are truly included — a future in which diversity is celebrated and people can truly feel that they belong in computer science.
WiCS works to build this future by providing a community in which members can receive advice and guidance from people who may have been through similar experiences. Essentially, as Alejandro says, “In case they are struggling, or in case they’re feeling alone, they have this whole community that is also there to support them.”
3. Mentorship program
WiCS’s mentorship program is one major way in which it builds this community. Mentees are paired up with a mentor (who can, in turn, also be a mentee if they so choose). It’s one of WiCS’s biggest highlights, Alejandro says. The mentor helps foster connections between their mentee and the rest of the WiCS community, and helps guide them through courses and jobs.
The 2020-2021 school year marks the third year of the program, and with 23 mentors and 36 mentees total, it’s still going strong even in this year’s remote world.
Aside from its mentorship program, WiCS also holds several events throughout the year designed to help and support its community. Here are the big ones:
Annual Winter Career in Tech Night: A workshop in which local tech companies are connected with WiCS members to provide real-world advice for resumes, internships, interviews, networking, hiring standards, and everything else career-related.
Annual Spring Hackathon: Participants work with a team over a weekend on a real coding project to encourage community growth and bolster coding skills for students of ALL levels.
Monthly Town Halls: These often feature presentations from members of the tech community and discussions about how to both improve and thrive within the industry.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about WiCS is that they want you to get involved. Alejandro advises checking out WiCS’s website and its Slack channel, and recommends people who are curious to come to one of the events it hosts.
Just taking the initiative to attend a WiCS event is a fantastic first step. “Even if your video’s off, even if your mic is on mute, you still showed up,” Alejandro says. That bit of involvement can lead to deeper participation and connection, and can potentially create an experience that’ll stick with you for years.
WiCS may focus on supporting groups that are historically underrepresented in computer science in particular, but that doesn’t mean that only people in those groups can be a part of its community. Anyone who shares WiCS’s vision of a future where everyone can feel welcome in computer science is encouraged to take that first step and check the group out!
Ah, conventions – gatherings for people who share a common love of comics, anime, or other uniting things. Where else can you walk giant circles around one building all day, squeezing past people in impossibly intricate armor cosplays, trying to get in line to buy an incredibly expensive burger? I love conventions, and have truly missed their presence in my life this past year. I can’t wait for them to be back again! I’d like to provide a little tidbit on what to expect if you’ve always been fascinated by these gatherings of greatness or have ever considered attending. This is by no means a comprehensive list of every piece of advice or every convention in the area, but hopefully it’ll get you started.
Where do I start?
There are usually a “main three” in Portland my partner and I like to frequent — Rose City Comic Con (RCCC), Wizard Con Portland (WC) and Kumoricon. RCCC and WC are more comic-oriented, while Kumoricon is more anime-oriented. My partner and I aren’t super into comics, and I’m not into anime, but we feel like there’s an inclusion of many sources of media at these conventions. All celebrate pop culture, and offer merchandise for video games, tv shows, books … you name it. There are some smaller cons in Portland we haven’t checked out yet, and we’re interested in checking out some Oregon conventions outside the Portland area. We’ve also attended Seattle’s PAX West in the past, which I highly recommend if you love everything video games like we do. My partner and I are interested in checking out some other Washington conventions in the future as well. RCCC, WC, and Kumoricon are all in the fall or winter, and PAX is in the summer. Convention tickets usually range between $40-70 for a full weekend pass, but of course, this varies. You can also purchase a one-day pass if you want to test the waters.
Do you have to cosplay?
No, absolutely not. There are plenty of folks in their regular clothes. However, cosplaying is really, really fun. You can start small and purchase your entire costume online, or pick a character that wears everyday clothes that are easy to find. Or, you can get a little more advanced and try out sewing and/or crafting parts of your costume. It’s rewarding and exciting! It’s a highlight of convention season every year to recognize folks in costume from media my partner and I both love, and also, to be recognized! Having a starry-eyed con-goer ask to take your picture is a pretty sweet feeling. There’s usually a lot of workshops and panels during a con about cosplaying and how to make props if you’re interested in learning. If you are cosplaying, I recommend checking out social media or convention forums to see if there are any meetup groups for the media you’re cosplaying from! Usually there will be a costume contest at a convention, and that’s a great way to see the amazing talent on display.
What is there to do?
A lot! My personal favorite part is browsing the artists’ alley. There are so many cool posters, keychains, stickers, and a ton of other kinds of merch I won’t even think of before I see it! There’s usually a lot of stock for things that are current and popular, but there’s a particular excitement that ignites inside me when I see merchandise for something older, or less well-known. I’ve scored some truly awesome finds, and it feels great to support local creators. You can also attend panels, which are usually on a variety of topics, and simply people-watch. I love walking around and seeing everyone’s cosplays, as well as being asked for pictures. Always ask someone before taking a picture, and don’t touch anyone’s cosplay or body without their consent. There’s plenty to do the entire weekend, but you can always try just going for one day if you’re unsure about how you’ll like it.
I hope you’ll give convention-going a try if it sounds interesting! This year, it’s a goal of mine to try selling my handmade soap in an artist’s alley. For now, I simply dream of going back. Hope to see you there!
After scheduling an upcoming medical procedure, the doctor informed me that I would have to get tested for COVID-19 prior to going. My heart sank. I’ve never enjoyed going to the doctor. Well, nobody does, but for me it used to be a phobia that would lead to tears and panic attacks. I’ve come a long way and it doesn’t scare me like it used to, but I was far from enthused about being tested for COVID. I understood why they had to do it. But the nervous butterflies started up. In fact, I was more scared for the COVID test than I was for my upcoming surgery. Anxiety is a silly thing sometimes!
There are a few types of tests to see if you have COVID. One involves spitting in a tube, another involves twirling a swab just inside your nose. However, the one I would be getting — and the one I was scared of — is the nasopharyngeal swab, where a long, skinny Q-tip-looking thing is inserted far back into your nostril to get the back of your sinus. When I looked up a diagram of this, I thought, “Nope,” and proceeded to hyperventilate.
Well, I am here to share my experience with you and to inform you that it is not a bad experience at all. I know I’m not the only one who worries about this sort of thing, so please allow me to ease your mind a bit by reassuring you that it looks much worse than it actually is.
The whole test took less than 30 seconds. My partner drove me to the drive-through testing site. When we got there, I showed my photo ID and rolled down the window. The nurse explained what was going to happen and asked me to lean my head back against the headrest and relax. I’ll admit, when someone asks me to relax, it doesn’t exactly make me feel relaxed, but it does help to stay calm. On the count of three, the nurse stuck the swab into my right nostril and just…kept…going. It is a really strange feeling, but it doesn’t hurt much. You know the feeling when you really have to sneeze, how your nose kind of burns? That’s exactly what this felt like — a tickling sensation in the back of my nose. When the swab was removed, I coughed a few times, blew my nose and felt back to normal.
The test probably only took 5-10 seconds, and the anticipation was about 100 times worse than the actual thing…which is always how things go, in my experience. I found that closing my eyes, bringing a stuffed animal, and squeezing my partner’s hand helped keep me calm during the process. I am quite squeamish about any medical procedures involving the face, so if I can get through this, anybody can!
If you go on the Internet you can find a variety of COVID test horror stories about how awful it was. Although I’m not discounting anybody’s experience, it’s important to remember that people often exaggerate to make the story more interesting. For the vast majority of people, the test will be smooth, quick and easy. I worried more than was necessary, so if you’re about to be tested for COVID yourself, I hope this can help ease your mind.
Well, I received my news. For those of you who read my previous post Learning to be Comfortable with the Uncomfortable, I wrote that I felt like I was spiraling, unanchored, waiting for decisions and news that would help me shape what my life was going to look like next year. A few weeks ago, both my partner and I found out that we didn’t get into our chosen graduate program. Honestly, I was devastated. I had wanted to get into that program since I started college, and it felt crushing to receive that news. However, I’ve spent the few weeks afterwards in a state of odd peace, which I didn’t imagine I would obtain.
I’ve done a lot of thinking and realized that while I would have loved to go, this decision may be for the best. My partner and I have both had a rough time with online school, and as we near graduation, we’re both feeling pretty burnt out. A break sounds nice right about now. We’ve also spent the past four years on part-time wages, and being able to find full-time jobs and actually have some savings will be great. We also have become really interested in buying a car, and that would probably be really difficult on our current funds. It’s actually achievable next year with the chance to work full-time, and getting some more experience in our chosen fields is never a bad thing.
I was introspective and realized that I was so averse to taking another gap year because I’d already taken one —and it was a bad experience. I first decided to take a gap year in between high school and college, and moved from California immediately after graduation. I had no friends in Portland, and lived alone. I was really lonely without my pets for the first time. I loved my job and saved up a lot of money working there, but I didn’t really do much else other than work. I was incredibly depressed, and understandably didn’t want to repeat that. But I’m in a much different position now than I was then. My life is fulfilling, and I have a lot of hobbies and people around me that bring me joy. There’s so many things that I’m looking forward to doing now that I’ve lived in Portland for five years and have regular favorite spots. Of course it’s normal for me to be upset about not getting in, but I’ve been really pleased to come to peace with it, and realize the many silver linings that are appearing. I’m feeling optimistic about maybe getting my novel publishing-ready this year, and I really want to try taking my online business to a convention! A year of resetting sounds pretty great right about now, with how awful this year has been. We’ll both apply again next year, but it feels like a lot of pressure is off. I’m mostly grateful to just have an answer, so I can begin formulating a picture of what next year will look like.
Earlier in the year, I had the opportunity to try something I’d always been curious about — working with a personal trainer. I was fortunate enough to try purchasing sessions with a personal trainer from campus Rec, with the hopes that I could get assistance developing an at-home routine that would help me get a little more fit. Due to the pandemic, I wasn’t playing sports anymore and I’ve never been a fan of running. I was hoping that being able to exercise in my garage with someone to motivate me would be a novel experience that would be just what I needed.
Looking back on my sessions, I am definitely glad that I tried it. It’s a lot easier for me to stay motivated if I have someone to check in with, and I was grateful that I could ask questions and figure out what reasonable goals were with a professional. Before I committed to purchasing sessions, I was able to meet with my trainer to discuss my goals, and feel out if it was a good fit. I think it helped me to have clear goals, like something that I could easily fit into my busy day, but my trainer was able to help me clarify those goals even more and get specific. Finding relatively short but intense workouts that I could do at home helped me minimize the personal excuses that I’ve always come up with — I don’t have enough time, or I don’t want to go to the gym, et cetera. I also did realize that I think I honestly prefer sports as my form of exercise. I’m just not a big gym person, and while working out at home is definitely better, sometimes it still feels a bit too similar. I’m definitely going to keep up the workout routine that I developed up until the pandemic is over, but I’m looking forward to being able to join a sport again and have that be my go-to. I would say overall that I recommend the experience if you can try it and do want to check it out!
For student-entrepreneur Omar Waked, being late to a chemistry final his freshman year sparked an idea that would later become the foundation for his business.
Waked is a senior at Portland State University majoring in Civil Engineering and the co-founder and CEO of Raedam, a technology-fueled parking solution that helps drivers find an available spot more quickly. The day he almost missed his final, not being able to find a parking spot for 30 minutes was frustrating, and Waked knew he was not alone in experiencing this. That’s when he decided to do something about it and developed the idea for Raedam.
Here’s how Waked explains Raedam: “It provides scalable hardware that collects real-time data, paired with our mobile app that helps individuals streamline and automate tasks such as guidance to parking and automating payments.”
Raedam was created through the help of PSU’s Cube Program. The Cube is a four-month-long program that helps students turn their prototypes into reality, preparing them for launch by the end of the program. Currently, Raedam is in development. “We are testing a new method of acquiring real-time data in a far more scalable form than we previously worked on. We have an IOS mobile app for individuals to use to be guided to available parking and payments for supported locations,” Waked said.
We asked Omar about his business and experience at PSU.
“The CUBE should be the first place you look to for support, help, or guidance as a student entrepreneur.”
— OMAR WAKED
How did The Cube program help you?
“The CUBE has provided a foundation for support and guidance in my entrepreneurship journey. Access to mentors with experience in various industries, a group of other student entrepreneurs to connect and learn alongside, as well as the information shared through credible and knowledgeable in the subjects have provided for a more supportive and effective journey.”
What is some advice you can offer to other student entrepreneurs?
“Anyone who plans to pursue the route of entrepreneurship needs to have conviction in what they are doing. You will be faced with rejection throughout your journey, and unless you have the drive and conviction to see your ideas and dreams come into existence, you will be overburdened and eventually quit. It will not be fast nor easy, especially going at it alone. Find people who you enjoy working with, people who will support you and help you reach the finish line. The CUBE should be the first place you look to for support, help, or guidance as a student entrepreneur.”
“We are looking to bring on additional members to help with ramping up our developments. We plan to deploy our hardware this year at various locations and begin gathering feedback from individuals and businesses to fine-tune our products and services to provide the best experience possible as we expand.”
“I would like individuals to spend more of their time on things that matter and I can assure you, parking is not on that list.”
— OMAR WAKED
Waked anticipates graduating later this year and plans to continue to develop and expand Raedam beyond Portland. “I would like individuals to spend more of their time on things that matter and I can assure you, parking is not on that list,” Waked explained.