In July 2019, I got my lower lip pierced in some 2005-throwback-glory. I got snakebites and I love them SO much. These little pieces of metal have quadrupled my confidence and I don’t regret them.
I have had the itch to get another piercing every day since then. Little things have gotten in the way: unexpected bills popping up, opportunities for tattoos instead, etc. When I received my stimulus check, I was determined to put it in savings … and do one nice thing for myself. One self-indulgent, unnecessary, fun thing. I thought about buying some new clothes, but couldn’t find anything that caught my eye. I thought about splurging on some first-edition books I’ve had my eye on, but couldn’t justify the several hundred dollars it would have cost. And then it hit me: I’m gonna get another piercing!!
I considered what kind of piercing I wanted for days. Another lip piercing? No, my lips might look too crowded. A belly-button piercing? I’d always wanted one, but it took my fiancee’s piercing a year to heal, and the thought of not wearing high-waisted pants made me want to cry. An ear piercing? Unfortunately, due to a misadventure at Claire’s, my earlobes are so heavily scarred that it would take a miracle to get a needle through them. An eyebrow piercing? I couldn’t think of any negatives! I’d always wanted one, and I thought it would make me look like the 2005 punk-rocker I’d always wanted to be!
I found myself lying face-up on a table with a needle through my face a week later. And I have to say! I love it! I’m so happy I did this little thing for myself, and I can’t wait to rock a face full of metal in the next few years.
As I have shared many times in my Chronicle articles, I am chronically ill and disabled. I have a compromised immune system, I am hard of hearing, I walk with a limp, I am allergic to everything from pet hair to plants to hand soap, I have fibromyalgia, crippling pain, I have intense sensory issues, I have delayed motor skills, I have multiple mental illnesses, I have plantar fasciitis, GI issues, I’m severely anemic … I could go on. This makes my daily life no less joyful, but pretty complicated. What can exacerbate the difficulties is that 99% of my illnesses and disabilities are invisible.
If someone looked at me, they would see your average Portland twentysomething: skinny jeans, T-shirt, high-top shoes. If I were to walk, they may notice the limp. But from the outside, I look able-bodied and neurotypical. While this does include some inherent privilege that I want to acknowledge, it can also make things quite frustrating. One cannot know that I am in so much physical pain I can hardly walk, or that I am covered in painful hives under my long sleeves because I pet my dog.
Because of my complicated health, I have had to be my own fiercest advocate in the medical field. I’ve been told my pain is all in my head, that I’m just suffering growing pains, that my pain tolerance is just bad. My favorite is when a family doctor told me at thirteen, “Well, your weight just puts too much strain on your body! Of course your knees hurt!” I was a hundred pounds soaking wet.
Recently, I had to go to the ER. It was the first time my pain levels had landed me somewhere of this caliber. I’d had to go to urgent care several times, and been to my PCP countless times. I was scared out of my wits of the ER, especially as an immunocompromised person in the middle of a pandemic! I had woken up at 2 a.m. sure I had broken every rib in my body. I could hardly breathe, and felt a stabbing pain and then a crunch with each breath I took in. It was terrifying. I’d cried for hours until my fiancee urged me to go to the ER at 5 a.m..
The pain was indescribable. I could barely breathe, let alone sit up and walk. Even still, I felt that I was over-exaggerating. The pain will probably go away in a few days. The medical bills aren’t worth it. I can’t breathe, but maybe I’m just being hysterical. They won’t believe me anyway. Maybe the pain will go away if I just buck up and deal with it. The denial was real.
Unfortunately, all my worst fears came true at the ER. I was treated exactly as I’d feared: like I was making everything up. The doctor insinuated that I was there trolling for pain pills. When I explained that addiction ran in my family and I was very wary of pills, the physician leveled a look at me like I was lying. An exact quote from him was, “Well, it’s not like you’re having a heart attack! It’s not a real emergency.” At that moment, the pain in my heart was worse than the pain in my ribs. Another useless trip. Another doctor acting as if I was some kind of hysterical hypochondriac. He interrupted me as I rattled off my list of diagnoses to say, “But are you actually diagnosed with that?” Of course I am. I’ve had to fight like hell for these diagnoses since I was thirteen years old.
I wanted to lay down and give up. But I refused. I have repeated it a million times: if I don’t advocate for myself in the medical world, no one will. If I don’t demand the treatment I deserve, I will not receive it. And so I went on another endless visit with my PCP. I was firm: I wanted a blood test, I wanted referrals to a chiropractor, and I wanted suggestions for how to engage in pain management. I wasn’t rude, but I was steadfast. And I received all of these things. The blood test gave me answers I’d long been seeking, the chiropractor is incredibly helpful, and the pain management skills are at the very least helping my mental health.
I am ill. I am disabled. But I am proud of myself, and I am not making my conditions up. I am someone who suffers greatly, but someone who advocates for himself fiercely and firmly. And I’ll just have to keep doing it!
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.
I have many tattoos, and I love them all! I love to ask people for their “tattoo stories.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a fun design you got on a lark, a matching tattoo with a paramour, or a design that means the world to you! I love to hear the inspiration behind others’ tattoos. Here are a few of mine!
One of the dearest to my heart is a sad clown girl on the back of my calf. This tattoo is special A) because it was my very first tattoo with color in it, and B) it actually helped me get over a fear. I have been afraid of clowns my entire life. I have no idea why. I woke up one day and decided to love clowns. I was going to lean into it hard. Cue a year of collecting vintage clown dolls and finally getting a tattoo to immortalize my silly little journey.
Next, there is a thylacine on my thigh. This extinct meat-eating marsupial lived in Tasmania, and was hunted into extinction by careless people. I’ve always had a fascination with extinct animals, but the thylacine captured my heart. Their tale was uniquely tragic: mass killings of livestock led these animals to be the suspected culprits. A bounty was placed on their pelts, and they were hunted in droves. It was later proven that wild dogs had been killing livestock, and thylacines had had nothing to do with it. A wave of poorly-timed disease later, they were all but decimated. They were strange-looking — a jaw that could open to a 120 degree angle, stripes like a tiger, a head like a wolf, a gait like a dog. They were freaks of nature uniquely adapted to their environment. They were misjudged and it led to their demise. My heart aches for them on the daily. I’ve been obsessed with them since I was ten years old, and this tattoo was the culmination of eleven years of love for a tragic animal.
Lastly, there is my Rocky Horror tribute tattoo, my favorite lyric surrounded by roses. These roses match tattoos four of us in my friend group received from an unlikely friend with a tattoo gun. I have been performing in the Clinton Street Cabaret’s Rocky Horror Picture Show since I was eighteen years old, and this show is my life. The friends and partners I have gained through this show have been the best. I love them all so dearly. The memories I’ve made and continue to make are so special to me. The lyric, “Rose tint my world” is how I prefer to see life. I want to look at the world through rose-tinted glasses. I want to see only the best in life. I want endless joy and debauchery. And this musical, and those people, are the closest thing I have to a rose-tinted world.
Content warning: frank discussion of the symptoms of mental illness, mentions of medication.
To be in love is a beautiful thing. I consider myself lucky every day that I have so many people to love and share my life with. There is a side to love, however, when you are mentally ill, that can be very hard.
A day can look like this: I get home from work. I do some chores, walk the dog, maybe complete some homework. My fiancee comes home a few hours later. We greet each other and spend the evening together. We talk about our days, our plans for the weekend. We watch TV. We walk the dog again. I do more homework. I read a book while my fiancee drinks a glass of wine with their sibling. We go to bed.
A day can just as easily look like this: I wake up, paralyzed with fear from another night of nightmares. Eventually, I shake this off and begin my day. I go to work. I do OK, but I can feel mania creeping up around the edges. I’m in a hyper-good mood. My energy is unusually high for someone who only slept two hours last night. I’m talking a mile a minute. My client appreciates my good mood. I get home. I walk the dog. I hyperfocus on homework and before I know it, five hours have passed. I cannot stop homework because my self-worth is very much entangled with my academia. Finally, I pull myself away from the screen. I have a pounding headache. I haven’t had any water today. My fiancee comes home from work. We talk about our days. I’m jumpy. I can’t sit still any longer, and start obsessively cleaning the house. I take the dog on another walk. I see a white pickup while walking, and have a panic attack, due to past trauma. We spend the evening together — I feel intense guilt for watching TV, as it’s not a productive activity. I read. I feel guilty that I’m reading for pleasure, and not doing homework. I know I took my medication today, but I seem to be feeling all the symptoms of everything! All at once! The incredible daily pain of my physical disability coupled with the mental turmoil is making me snappish and panicked. I try my best to be patient and kind. I keep wanting to cry, and am not sure why. We go to bed. My insomnia keeps me up. I have nightmares all night again.
Most days, I am, at the very least, okay. I am an attentive, caring, and thoughtful partner. I’m an empathetic and compassionate friend. Honestly, I’m a genuinely happy person. I love my life. I feel lucky to have the friends and paramours that I do.
But there is a lot of darkness in my brain. Every day is a battle against the symptoms of my mental illness and those of my physical disability. I don’t write this article to alarm anyone, or to host a pity party. This is simply my daily reality. Sometimes it’s scary, sad, and angering. But most of the time, it’s the simple life of a dedicated student and lover of the world.
It’s so important to destigmatize mental illness. So many people I know live with it — all three of my romantic partners are mentally ill. Most of my family members. Two thirds of my friends. I don’t seek to explain the prevalence of it — that’s a project for another day! But if almost everyone I know lives with at least one mental illness, why are we ashamed to talk about it? I want to do my bit to normalize discussing mental illness. I don’t seek to wallow or revel in self-pity, but I want to be frank about my daily reality.
I sat in front of my laptop, as I often do. Same black skinny jeans, same homemade crop top displaying a garish fish that said, “WOMEN WANT ME, FISH FEAR ME.” Same glasses and gray beanie as I always wore. My dog sat next to me like usual. The TV was on, playing a rerun of a show I’d seen many times before. It was raining — typical and perpetual in Portland. But something was different about this afternoon. Something was significant. Something had shifted.
I’d just finished my honors thesis.
The culmination of four years of blood, sweat, and more than a few tears in the PSU Honors College was a 51-page creative biography of author Mary Shelley. I’d read hundreds of pages in research. I’d read as many of her novels as I could get my hands on. I’d read her letters and diaries. I’d read dozens of her husband’s poems. I’d written for hours and hours. I’d revised with vigor, often deleting pages at a time until my finished product was “perfect.”
And there it was. An innocuous Google Doc. It looked like every other assignment I’d ever done. Times New Roman font, MLA format, double spaced. But it meant so much more. Hundreds of hours of research and writing and years of schooling — all for this project. It seemed silly to think, but there was something almost holy about it. It was (and is!) the physical manifestation of all of my effort and passion. I’d cried while writing it. I’d raged at my computer. I’d laughed with joy when I’d written something particularly good.
And if it made me sound a little unhinged … what of it? I didn’t care!
I still have a lot to do before I graduate with my undergraduate degree. I have one more term to go, and many final papers. I’m doing the first year of my master’s in English alongside my bachelor’s degree, so I’m not off the academic hook any time soon.
But I am proud of myself. I am proud of my work ethic and what I have created and learned. And I can’t wait to write with this much feeling and passion for the rest of my life!
She served as president of Winona State University from 2005-2012, after which she became a distinguished professor of public service at Portland State.
Watch an interview with Ramaley by Liza Schade on May 22, 2020 in the PSU Library Archives, in which she discusses lessons learned during her time as president of PSU, ideas behind the new University Studies curriculum, diversifying student and faculty, and creating safer and more inclusive university spaces.
Gladys McCoy, ’67
First African American elected to public office in the state of Oregon
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 28, 1928, to Tilman Sims and Lucile Dawson and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, McCoy grew up during the Depression in the Jim Crow South.
The first in her family to attend college, McCoy graduated in 1949 from Talladega College in Alabama. She moved to Portland, married William McCoy, and had seven children before she decided to pursue a graduate degree at Portland State University. She received a master’s degree in social work in 1967.
During her years of service, McCoy focused on issues of diversity in public workplaces, public health programs and social services for low-income populations, and justice and human rights.
In 2018, the Multnomah County Commission adopted the Gladys McCoy Standard, which directs the county to interview qualified candidates of underrepresented groups for leadership roles in county departments.
Gladys McCoy died in Portland on April 11, 1993. Each year, the Multnomah County Office of Community Involvement presents the Gladys McCoy Lifetime Achievement Award for “volunteer service dedicated to improving the county community.”
Avel Gordly, ’74
First African American woman to be elected to the Oregon Senate
Born Feb. 13, 1947, Avel Gordly served in the senate from 1997 to 2009. Previously, she served for five years in the Oregon House of Representatives.
Gordly graduated from Girls Polytechnic High School in 1965 and worked at Pacific Northwest Bell until 1970, when she enrolled at Portland State. She earned a degree in the administration of justice in 1974, the first person in her family to graduate from college. She went on to work for the Oregon Corrections Division as a women’s work-release counselor and later as a probation officer.
She was elected state representative from north and northeast Portland in 1992. In 1996, she was elected to the Oregon Senate, where she served from 1997 to 2009.
In 2008, OHSU opened the Avel Gordly Center for Healing, which provides mental health and psychiatric services. Gordly has also served as a professor of black studies at PSU.
First woman to serve on the Public Utility Commission
Nancy Ryles served in the Oregon House of Representatives, the Oregon Senate and as one of three members of the state’s Public Utility Commission. She was known as an advocate for education and for equality for women and minorities. An elementary school in Beaverton is named after her.
Born Nancy Ann Wyly, she graduated from Jefferson High in Northeast Portland and was chosen as Portland Rose Festival Queen in 1955. Ryles attended Portland State and Willamette University, but did not graduate from college.
Ryles served on the Beaverton School Board from 1972 to 1978. The Oregon Education Association gave her its Human Rights Award in 1974, and she was named Beaverton’s “First Citizen” in 1979. She was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1978, the Oregon Senate in 1982, and was appointed to the Oregon Public Utility Commission in 1987.
In July 1990, Ryles was diagnosed with brain cancer. She died in September at age 52. Her early death gave her farewell speech to the Senate added poignance: “The challenge then is to do the best we can … wherever we are … in whatever time we have. I hope I have done that.”
Before she died, a group of Ryles’ friends decided to honor her legacy by creating a scholarship in her name. She insisted that it go to students who returned to school at PSU after their education was interrupted.
Betty Roberts, ’58
First woman to serve on the Oregon Supreme Court and the Oregon Court of Appeals
Betty Roberts was the 83rd Associate Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, the highest state court in Oregon.
She was the first woman on the Oregon Supreme Court and the first woman on the Oregon Court of Appeals. Roberts served from 1982 to 1986 on the high court and from 1977 to 1982 on the Court of Appeals. She graduated from Portland State College in 1958.
A native of Kansas and raised in Texas, Roberts had previously been elected to both chambers of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, but lost bids for the governor’s office and the United States Senate, both in 1974. She was married three times, including to Frank L. Roberts and Keith Skelton, both of whom she would serve with in the Oregon Legislative Assembly.
She was a private mediator and senior judge until her death due to pulmonary fibrosis.
Margaret Carter, ’72
First African American in the Oregon House
Born December 29, 1935, Margaret Carter was the first black woman elected to the state’s legislature. She served in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1985 to 1999, and the state senate from 2001 to 2009.
Born Margaret Hunter in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Dec. 29, 1935, she was one of nine children. Her father was a Baptist minister, and her mother was a cook at the school cafeteria. After getting married she had five daughters by the age of 28, and moved to Oregon in 1967 to escape abuse by her then husband. In 1970, she enrolled at Portland State, graduating in 1972 with a bachelor of arts degree in education. She earned a masters of education in psychology from Oregon State University in 1973.
She resigned from the senate in 2009 and took a post as deputy director for human services programs at the Oregon Department of Human Services.
Tawna D. Sanchez, ’12
Second Native American to serve in the Oregon legislature
Born and raised in Portland, Sanchez is Native American, of Shoshone, Bannock, and Ute descent. She is currently serving in the Oregon House of Representatives, for the 43rd District which covers parts of north-central Portland. She is the second Native American to serve in the Oregon legislature, and the first to represent Portland.
Sanchez graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Marylhurst University and with a master’s degree in social work from Portland State University in 2012.
Sanchez served on the Oregon Child Welfare Advisory Commission and the Oregon Family Services Review Commission, and has worked with the Native American Youth and Family Center for much of her life.
Debbie Murdock was known and widely respected for her tireless belief in and dedication to public service and Portland State University. She worked tirelessly at PSU for 14 years serving as lobbyist and strategic advisor to the president. Her intellect, passion and powers of persuasion led to tens of millions of dollars in funding for PSU and policy directives that helped transform the University into the largest in the Oregon Higher Education System.
During her time at PSU, Murdock helped secure funding for several major projects, including the Native American Student and Community Center.
Murdock died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 52. Her colleagues and friends established the Deborah Murdock Scholarship to honor her memory in a way that she would have loved: by helping PSU students reach their educational goals.
The Memorial Clock Tower in Urban Plaza is named after Murdock, and is said to represent her energy and vitality.
What if the solution to a more sustainable car is to install a hydrogen engine conversion kit instead of replacing the entire car?
For student-entrepreneur Blake Turner, converting existing gasoline-fueled cars to zero-carbon hydrogen-combustion vehicles using a conversion kit is the solution to a more affordable and sustainable car.
Turner is the founder of Turner Automotive, a business that focuses on converting existing gasoline-fueled cars to hydrogen-combustion. Turner says he got the idea for his business from working on a Chemistry class term project, but the idea wasn’t fully developed until later when he participated in Invent Oregon, a PSU-led competition for college students to address imperative problems.
Here’s how Turner explains Turner Automotive: “Our conversion kit can convert a gasoline engine to hydrogen without modifying any existing components. The idea is that converting a car is much more affordable, convenient and sustainable than building new cars. The affordability comes from the fact that it’s a small conversion kit, rather than a whole new car, and the convenience is that you can go back to burning gasoline at any time, allowing for a gradual transition that does not exist at the moment.”
Turner Automotive was built with 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, Turner Automotive is developing its Hydrogen Engine Conversion Kit.
“While COVID-19 has put a serious stop to our ability to work with our mentors, I hope to come out of this pandemic driving a fully converted car! We have explored various business strategies and how we plan to distribute our kit,” Turner said.
We asked Blake about his business and experience at PSU.
“The Cube has been invaluable as a resource for funding, access to mentors, and most importantly access to other student entrepreneurs.”
How did The Cube program help you?
The Cube has been invaluable as a resource for funding, access to mentors, and most importantly access to other student entrepreneurs. This environment of collaboration has helped give us new ideas and strategies that we would not have been able to come up with otherwise.
What is some advice you can offer to other student entrepreneurs?
Just say ‘yes’. I had a hard time trying new opportunities and going outside my comfort zone. I would doubt myself, and just stick with what I knew. But when I first agreed to participate in Invent Oregon, it changed my life…In the two and a half years I have been with the cube, I have had experiences I never would have dreamed of.
As we continue to refine our technology, we intend to raise more non-dilutive funding through other competitions to fund a Beta test of our Conversion Kits. This Beta Program will convert ten volunteer cars to give us long-term usage info, as well as valuable user feedback to refine our kits. After the Beta Test, we will convert a small fleet of vehicles. We have talked with PSU about converting the PSU facilities fleet, but this is still in its early stages. After the first fleet conversion, we plan on selling to individual consumers to scale up production before targeting larger fleet operators.
Turner planned to graduate in 2022, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put that on hold for now. In the meantime, he is working out his education plan. After graduating Turner said he plans to take his business as far as he can. “Outside of my business, I plan on pursuing a career in communications, specifically technical communications, ideally representing an engineering team and communicating their projects to other sectors,” Turner explained.
Visit the Cube webpage to learn more, or find out more about Turner Automotive.
— Autumn Barber
This is one a series of profiles about students in the Cube program, a four-month intensive course that is designed to prepare student entrepreneurs for launch and go-to-market for their companies.
As someone who always likes to push myself academically, I applied for the Urban Honors program. It was a way for me to challenge myself in something that didn’t involve music. Luckily, I have a friend who is a year ahead of me who answered my many questions. How the program worked, how they liked the courses, what they were learning? They were also able to tell me the differences between University Studies and the Urban Honors program.
If you are not familiar with University Studies or the Honors program, this is PSU’s general education pathway for all majors. Many traditional universities require a certain amount of math, science, and social studies credits even if they do not relate to your future career. With University Studies, you still get the basic general education, but in a more discussion friendly way. There are many different topics that you get to pick including power and imagination, the city of Portland, sustainability, and more. These discussions allow students to learn in the real world rather than a textbook.
Since I am not a University Studies student, I don’t have any personal thoughts on those classes but here is a resource to learn more about it!
The Urban Honors program has the same idea but is a little more tailored. At the end of your four years, you will write a thesis in your focus area and the three years prior to that give you the skills to prepare that thesis. You learn how to write different academic papers, how to analyze and research for a thesis, and you also have real life experience before you graduate.
This is what drew me to the honors program, the fact that I could have the opportunity to work in my discipline before diving into the real world. One of the ambassadors that I met from the program was an English major who was able to get an internship at a publishing company. I was very excited to see what I could do in these future classes and for the baccalaureate thesis.
University Honors has improved my writing skills so much. I have been able to write papers that are looked at as academic articles rather than regular assignments. As a freshman, the honors community was a fantastic way to meet new people. The ‘honors dorm’ is a smaller community so you are able to really get to know all of the students you live with. I have also been able to create an independent research study that would fill in as my junior credits. I have set up a project with my music advisor where I will spend my time analyzing different pieces from female composers.
One thing that I have struggled with is scheduling my music classes with honors classes because there is always a conflict. My first year, there was only one out of the ten honors classes I could take and it was with a professor that I knew I wouldn’t be that successful with. Their teaching style does not go with my learning style and it was hard for me to understand some of the comments he gave me because his thoughts were so complex. This second year, I have run into even more conflicts as every class I needed to take was at the same time as my required music classes. I asked an advisor if the classes would differ the next term and they told me that it was unlikely.
Luckily, with remote learning my band class was shifted to small ensembles, having Zoom meetings once a week so I was able to get around that. There was also a conflict with my required noon concert course, but again with COVID I was able to take that course asynchronously. I saw that for winter term I would have the same conflicts so I registered for the two other 200 level honors courses I needed. At this time I was not sure if we would be remote for this upcoming term so I didn’t want to take the chance of overlapping happening with on-campus classes. Adjusting to remote classes during COVID has been a challenge, but in the end it allowed me to balance the demands of being a music major with my honors classes.
This Women’s History Month, take a stroll through Portland State’s Walk of the Heroines and celebrate some of the African American women activists and community leaders who left their mark in our city:
Kathryn Bogle was a freelance journalist, social worker and community activist best known for “An American Negro Speaks of Color,” a 2,000-word article she sold to The Oregonian in 1937, which described the realities of being Black in Portland.
Willie Mae Hart
Willie Mae Hart co-owned Portland’s first Black-owned cab company, which helped people out during the Vanport flood, and was the first African-American nurse to work at Portland’s Physicians and Surgeons Hospital. The PSU Library’s University Archives & Special Collections has this interview with Willie Mae Hart from 2010.
Pauline Bradford, among one of the first African Americans hired by the IRS, was a respected teacher, committed community volunteer and longtime neighborhood advocate. The Portland State University Archives & Special Collections has this interview with Pauline Bradford.
The interviews were conducted by Portland State University public history students in 2010. In winter 2015, with professor Dr. Patricia Schechter, a second cohort of students reviewed the recordings and transcripts of the oral histories and created a digital exhibit containing audio and written excerpts from the interviews, photographs, and historical and biographical information. The digital exhibit can be accessed here.
Marie B. Smith
Marie B. Smith was a civil rights leader, a Williams Avenue YWCA board member and became the first female president of the Portland branch of the NAACP.
Verdell Burdine Rutherford
Verdell Burdine Rutherford was a prominent leader in Oregon’s civil rights movement. She also was an avid historian who created an extensive collection that chronicled the African American experience in Oregon, which you can now find at Portland State’s Library Archives & Special Collections.
Beatrice Morrow Cannady
Beatrice Morrow Cannady was a leading champion of Portland progress and racial equality, editor of the Advocate, Oregon’s largest and at times only African American newspaper, and a founding member of the Portland NAACP.