Storms Ahead

By Erika Nelson

I wouldn’t say I hate the rain … but it’s not my favorite natural phenomenon, either. The dismal grey skies and absence of natural light. Soaked clothes and muddy shoes. Umbrellas dripping all over the carpet. Humidity that turns an hour’s effort with the straightening iron into a frizzy, unkempt mess. The ever-present risk of hydroplaning — I totaled my Ford Focus by hydroplaning on Hwy 84 a couple years ago, and have had a personal vendetta against the rain ever since.

I concede that the rain has some positive qualities — it sustains all life on earth, after all. I guess that’s kind of a big deal, right? Not to mention that nice “before the rain” smell. And it’s not like there aren’t enjoyable moments sometimes: I possess the long legs necessary to leap across puddles, which ignites a flicker of childlike joy in my cold heart. Snuggling up inside with a good book and a warm blanket while it’s pouring outside is one of the best ways to spend a lazy weekend. Yet these “snuggle inside” days often backfire by making you not want to emerge from your blanket at all. Even though it sustains all of earth’s life, the rain has a tendency to suck the life out of me. 

Why did she move to a city FAMOUS for its rain?! you might ask. Well, I had two main requirements when I chose a transfer school: be in Oregon (so I could take advantage of that sweet, sweet in-state tuition), and in a metropolitan area. After graduation, I suppose I could move somewhere more mild and dry. But I don’t want to leave … and not just because I like not having to pay sales tax. I fell in love with an Oregon native; a man as comfortable driving in a deluge as he is on a dry summer’s day. He’s practically amphibious. 

Maybe I just need to let the rain win — “win” in the sense that I learn to love it. I could cultivate an interest in meteorology; monitor the weather app and make bar graphs comparing expected inches of rainfall to actual inches of rainfall!! On second thought, maybe that’s a bit much. Learning to tolerate the rain is a much more realistic goal; accepting Portland’s default climate as just part of life. I can adapt instead of complain. I could purchase an actual waterproof coat, so I don’t get soaked every time I step outside. Maybe pull my light therapy lamp out of storage and actually use it (maybe the thing works, maybe it doesn’t … but damn if it doesn’t cheer up the room.) Perhaps with time I, too, can become an amphibious Pacific Northwester … or at the very least, remember a plastic bag to hold my dripping umbrella when I go indoors.  

Portland State’s 20 bright spots in 2020

Esmerelda Valdez: “Perfect depiction of what it feels to be a part of the Graduating Class of 2020!”

By Portland State’s Social Media Team

Unprecedented. Surreal. Socially distanced. No matter how you choose to describe it, 2020 has been a year like no other. But it hasn’t been ALL bad. Though the threat of COVID-19, urgency around racial equity and a strife-filled political climate have dominated our thoughts and lives, we didn’t have far to look to find uplifting PSU stories that will give you all the feels.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. We just didn’t have time to include more before 2021 is upon us.


20. Those beautiful blooming blossoms

Every spring like clockwork, 100 Akabono cherry trees bloom along Portland’s southwest waterfront a few blocks from campus, transforming the esplanade into a pink wonderland (and popular selfie opp.) In spring 2020, they provided a moment of much-needed normalcy against a decidedly abnormal backdrop. Fun fact: The trees were given to Portland in 1990 by the Japanese Grain Importers Association.


19. Athletes transform obstacles into opportunities

Viking men’s basketball coach Jase Coburn and Lindsay Coburn Meiggs held an impromptu wedding at Boise’s CenturyLink Arena.

Remember the canceled tournament that turned into a wedding? Or the drive-by retirement sendoff for beloved trainer Jim Wallis? It would have been easy for Viking Athletics to throw in the towel (bad pun intended) after facing challenge upon challenge this year. But that’s not the Viking Way. So when our student-athletes were sidelined from the sports they love, they responded with an overall 3.34 GPA for the year, including a remote spring term GPA of 3.56 — including 78 who achieved a 4.0 and 155 who ranked at 3.5 or above. #goviks


18. Star-studded Zoom drop-ins

Most of us agree that virtual gatherings just aren’t as good as in-person — but there is one advantage: cameo appearances. Comedian alum Ian Karmel graciously dropped in on a spring scriptwriting class to talk comedy. And soccer legend Abby Wambach and her bestselling author wife Glennon Doyle surprised the women’s soccer team. We can’t wait to find out who will show up next!


17. PSU steps up in early days of the pandemic

When COVID-19 first reached Portland, teaching and research labs around campus donated over 1,000 boxes of gloves as well as hundreds of masks and other personal protective equipment to local hospitals. The PSU Center of Entrepreneurship printed and distributed 1,000 face shields to Legacy Health. And they were just getting started!


16. Getting a second chance

Sentenced to 15 years at age 15, Josefina Ramirez this year was the first incarcerated youth in Oregon to become a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, part of the university’s effort to increase educational opportunities for people in detention facilities around Oregon. In the fall, Gov. Kate Brown granted Josefina executive clemency and she was hired by an outpatient treatment facility.


15. Alumni spring into action

  • Recent Portland School of Business grads Sharona Shnayder and Wanda McNealy were looking for ways to contribute to their communities last spring, and realized that picking up trash is a simple and safe way to practice environmental activism that anyone can do wherever they are. The Tuesdays for Trash grassroots movement was born! (Find them on instagram at @TuesdaysForTrash) 
  • School of Architecture alum Lisa Patterson designed a hub in Portland that provides bedding and clothing exchanges, medical aid, showers, bathrooms and an outdoor warming area for Portland’s houseless community.

14. Students go the extra distance

Morgan Godvin
  • Public health student Morgan Godvin moved to Tijuana last spring to serve the houseless community there while taking classes online between shifts. The experience made a deep impact, and Godvin now plans to pursue a career in public health and human rights law. 
  • In true Viking spirit, College of Urban and Public Affairs student Lauren Everett transformed an empty lot near her home into a temporary park last summer, a place for people to safely gather. “The amount of dedication and sweat equity that went into this project has been really inspiring” she said. “I hope this inspires similar efforts in other neighborhoods, to create spaces where people can gather safely during COVID and beyond.”

13. International students show resilience

Portland State’s international students had to contend with multiple stressors all at once this year. Thousands of miles from home, students worried about their families and friends abroad, had flights canceled and suffered financial hardship and homesickness — all while having to cope with changing immigration policies. Amazingly, they persevered. This fall, just over 1,000 international students enrolled at PSU. “There are some incredible stories out there of what students are doing to try to keep up,” said Christina Luther, director of International Student and Scholar Services. Read some of their stories here.


12. PSU names new chief of Campus Public Safety

Willie Halliburton

In July, Willie Halliburton was sworn in as PSU’s new Chief of Campus Public Safety. Halliburton has been at PSU since 2016, following a 32-year police career. He has since announced his commitment to unarmed campus patrols. “I believe deeply that safety comes from developing relationships in the community and treating people with respect,” Halliburton said. “My ultimate goal as chief is to build trust between CPSO and the PSU community — staff, faculty and particularly students. I recognize the need for change and to honestly address the concerns of the PSU community.”


11. Speech pathology clinic expands reach

While most speech-language pathology programs had to put clinical training on hold last spring, PSU quickly adapted its telepractice to actually expand its services. The clinic did not abandon a single client and, with the addition of four clinical supervisors, were able to increase their caseloads! “In the COVID-19 crisis, we have found an opportunity to innovate and deepen our commitment to serving the community and families in need,” said Claudia Meyer, director of clinical education at the Speech and Language Clinic at PSU.


10. PSU gave $8.3 million to students in need

The pandemic and corresponding shutdown was a financial disaster for many students. So when the federal government stepped up with $8.3 million earmarked for financial relief for students, it was gratifying to hear what a difference these payments made. “I can finally sleep at night,” was how one student expressed her profound relief after receiving the financial assist.


9. Researchers deployed smart trees in crusade to understand climate change

Hannah Prather, a certified arborist and postdoctoral researcher who is part of a team from Portland State, Reed College, Washington State University and The Nature Conservancy, spent the summer getting up at 4 a.m. to install sensors high up in Portland-area Douglas fir trees. These “smart trees” will become part of a study to better understand the impacts of climate change on urban trees. The Smart Trees team uses a range of technologies to monitor the health of the urban tree canopy, a key resource for reducing the social and environmental impacts of our warming climate.


8. Taking strides toward racial equity

Ame Lambert

As part of President Stephen Percy’s commitment to promoting equity and justice at PSU, the university will hire a cohort of 7 new scholars in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ School of Gender, Race and Nations in fall 2021. The school — made up of Black Studies, Indigenous Nations Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies — seeks to better understand and advocate for historically underserved populations. PSU also welcomed the esteemed Dr. Ame Lambert as Vice President for Global Diversity and Inclusion. In October, she and President Percy convened five cross-campus task groups to organize a Virtual Equity Summit and developed a learning and action agenda to make our vision for a racially just and equitable future a reality at Portland State.


7. An unprecedented milestone

In June, Rachel Esteve became the first student with Down syndrome to graduate from Portland State with a four-year certificate from the Career and Community Studies program. Part of the first cohort of graduates from the program designed for students with intellectual disabilities, Rachel was joined by Lucy Balthazaar, Wyatt Isaacs, William Larson and Sawyer Viola.


6. PSU faculty among the best researchers in the world

Thirty-three Portland State researchers are ranked among the world’s most-cited and the top researchers within their discipline areas, according to a recent study that looked at more than 6 million researchers in 22 disciplines and 176 subdisciplines. Of course, we already knew this but it’s nice to be recognized!


5. PSU choirs make beautiful music

When it became apparent that in-person concerts were not possible in 2020, Portland State choirs quickly adjusted, practicing outdoors in small, distanced and masked groups. The PSU Chamber Choir, recognized as one of the finest choirs in the world according to Classics Today, created several live concerts online, partnering with the Rose Choir and Thorn Choir. And the Portland State Community Choir chimed in with a beautiful rendition of “Tender Love.”


4. School of Public Health helps with contact tracing

Students Hunter Peterson, Joyleen Mabika, Taurica Salmon and Shabir Sawary

When COVID-19 hit Oregon, Portland State public health students sprang into action, partnering with OHSU and Oregon Health Authority to perform contact tracing, conduct case investigations and help manage the outbreak. The partnership provided not only real-world experience, but also opportunities for careers after graduation. These inspiring Viks did more than study the issues — they addressed real-world problems with hands-on solutions!


3. Spring Term pivot

Yes it’s the most overused word of 2020, but we don’t care. Portland State faculty and staff delivered a full-on, jaw-dropping pivot this spring when classes moved from in-person to remote in a matter of days, and our students found new ways to learn and connect.

A few highlights: The Offices of Academic Innovation and Information Technology sprang into action to provide guidance and technical help. Faculty members adjusted their teaching methods and curriculum on the fly (and still kept their good humor).

Students shared their study spaces, quarantine routines and survival tips — which even included dancing on the roof.


2. The unexpected duet

It became the national anthem heard around the world. School of Music & Theater graduate Madisen Hallberg was recording the national anthem for PSU’s virtual commencement ceremony last spring in the park blocks when local artist and singer Emmanuel Henreid, who goes by Onry, walked by and asked to join her. This simple moment between two strangers was a balm for our souls during a divisive moment in our country, reminding us of the uniting, healing power of music. Thanks to the College of the Arts, the duo reunited this holiday season to bring us a beautiful rendition of Dona Nobis Pacem, translation: Grant us peace.


1. Celebrating The Class of 2020

Yessica Villegas

The Class of 2020 will have a distinct place in Portland State history. Participating in the first-of-its-kind virtual commencement after enduring four (or more) years of hard work, thousands of grads took photos in their regalia, celebrated at home or in their backyards … and made the best of it. And our faculty, staff, alumni and community stepped up to help make the moment special. Grads, you did it. We could not be prouder of what you accomplished and can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.


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A Capstone About Cats: Reflections on Our Senior Capstone

By Claire Golden and Erika Nelson

It was complete coincidence that two PSU Chronicles bloggers — Erika and Claire — ended up in the same Senior Capstone, but we wanted to reflect on our experience. This was far and away the most involved class we’d ever taken, but it was also one of the most rewarding…in large part because our work impacted the real world.

Our class was called “Grant Writing for Shelter Pets.” In a Capstone, you work directly with a community partner — in our case, a non-profit cat shelter in Vancouver, Washington called Furry Friends. We worked in groups writing grant proposals for Furry Friends (Claire worked in the group seeking medical funding for seriously ill cats, and Erika was in the group focused on building a new “kitty condo” structure.) This wasn’t just another course–it had real-world ramifications. The fate of hundreds of cats were directly influenced by our commitment to the grantwriting process–for example, these grant proposals could be the difference between Furry Friends getting funding for life-threatening medical conditions, influencing whether cats live or die. 

This course was intense! Capstones always take up a lot of time and energy. We found it’s best to plan for contingencies that could affect your stamina and focus–life happens sometimes (sometimes in ways we can never anticipate), but you can try to be prepared for things likely to happen. Remember that this class is six credits, which is basically a class-and-a-half. So it’s going to take longer than you’re used to…and it’s a 400-level course. To be safe, treat this class as two regular classes and then you’ll know how to budget enough time.

A huge part of the class involved communication, and while we’d done group work in previous classes, it was nothing to this extent. It was tricky doing distance communication; although this was an online class even before most other classes were remote, not being able to meet with the whole group in person proved challenging. We found group emails, group texts, and Google Docs to be invaluable (pro tip: make sure everyone is looking at the same Google Doc to avoid confusion). It’s essential to communicate with your groupmates, your instructor, and the community partner. It’s way better to double-check something than to miss something.

It’s important to keep in mind that since Capstones involve community service, you might be emotionally affected by the project and the community partner’s stories. Be sure to practice self-care and make use of your support network if necessary. We read stories about animal abuse that made us feel sick, but that was just more motivation to work hard.

In the end, we’re both proud of our work and happy that we made the decision to take this Capstone. We both learned so much–not only about the grantwriting process, but about collaboration, research, and harnessing empathy to do good.

Making Do

By Erika Nelson

Recently, I wrote about my experiences under lockdown in student housing. Although being alone in quarantine was weighing on my mental health, I said that crashing with family or friends in Southern Oregon was not an ideal option for me. Since that post, I tried really hard to make the best of my situation —  I went through every coping skill I could think of: working out, journaling, playing computer games, texting friends and family, virtual therapy, throwing myself into homework — but I cracked. Living alone became too much to bear—so when the opportunity to fly down to Medford arose about a week ago, I took advantage of it, and set out for the Rogue Valley by way of a very, very lonely PDX.

I thought a lot about whether I would divulge that I fled Portland — I’d made such a big deal about staying put and weathering the lockdown on my own. Surely I can just pretend to still be in the dorms? Who would know the difference? Do I want people to think I’m weak? Besides being embarrassing to admit I broke down, I had traveled when not absolutely necessary, and still feel rather of ashamed about that. But I ultimately decided to be vulnerable in these vulnerable times, and share my experience.

The truth is, it’s ok to be overwhelmed, and it’s ok to make do with the resources you have. Like making do with frozen vegetables instead of fresh ones to avoid a trip to the grocery store, we are all making do in other ways with the resources available to us — mentally, physically, socially. It’s ok to break. It’s ok to be strong one week and a sobbing mess the next — because these are uncertain, scary times. 

I’m making do with what I have, and I am filled with so much gratitude that I have support available to me. I was lucky to get that flight to Medford. I’m lucky to have a family to take me in. I’m lucky that I went through the gauntlet of air travel without bringing disease into my home (well, as far as I know. I really hope that my next post isn’t written from a family member’s hospital bedside.) 

Many students are still alone on campus, and don’t have any other option but to stay. I feel guilty leaving them behind. Part of me feels like I should be there in solidarity. Another part feels justified that I did what I had to do to take care of myself. Maybe those opposing feelings aren’t mutually exclusive. 

To those who are struggling under the weight of lockdown, whether in isolation or not, here are some resources that might help:

PSU Student Resources: https://www.pdx.edu/unst/student-resources

Multnomah County Crisis Hotline: 503-988-4888.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

PSU Black Studies professor reflects on MLK’s legacy

BY SHIRLEY JACKSON
FACULTY GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

This marks the 20th year that all U.S. states recognized the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a national holiday. 

The idea of the MLK or King holiday, as it is referred to be many, started with Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow. After her husband’s assassination in April 1968, Coretta wanted to find a way to honor his memory and the work he was doing. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta was the result. 

Coretta continued to work diligently to have King’s birthday recognized as a holiday.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill that recognized King’s birthday as a national holiday. Some states began celebrating King’s birthday in the mid-1980s, a few southern states celebrated it along with the birthday of Civil War Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee, but it took until 1990 for all states to observe the King holiday.

King’s birthday gives us the opportunity to remember the things that he did in his lifetime and spurs us to continue this work. 

His legacy includes the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the many speeches and marches he gave, and his writings such as his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” which was a response to white religious leaders who warned him against embarking upon his nonviolent activities. 

In this letter, King vocalized the importance of his actions, writing, “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.” King’s statement makes clear that while things look as though they will not change, with time, they will — and not because we are loud or quiet, riotous or righteous, but because we are sound and right. The key is understanding that there are different ways of going about it and some may be quick, and some may be slower than others.  

“Make it a day on, instead of a day off,”
by engaging in service activities. Let us remember why we celebrate this day.

Following the passage of the Civil Rights Bill in 1964 and the Voting Rights Bill in 1965, King moved to other issues such as employment, housing, and opposition to the Vietnam War. 

His assassination at the age of 39 did not end the work he set out to do. 

As we celebrate his birthday, many opt to “Make it a day on, instead of a day off,” by engaging in service activities in their communities. Let us remember why we celebrate this day. 

Happy Birthday Dr. King!

Shirley A. Jackson, Portland State University Professor,
PSU Black Studies Department

An Uncertain Senior

By Maya Young

Starting at PSU, I knew that I wanted to delve into communications studies but had no idea what that truly meant. My first year, I took an intercultural communications course and was immediately drawn in by the depth in subject matter that we covered. From this course, I found that I was deeply interested in the influence of cultural and societal effects on interpersonal communication. My interest has only grown as I have found myself more invested in communication theory and research.

Now, as a senior, I am identifying strong skill sets within myself that do not completely correlate with one specific job type. Beginning my job search for post-graduation has been a daunting task as I am met with a plethora of different fields to go into and little knowledge of my professional passions outside of academia. PSU has afforded me numerous opportunities, from networking with communications graduates, working as a learning assistant for a core course, and even beginning a position as a Business Minor Marketing Assistant. But despite all of these experiences, I remain overwhelmed by what my professional life will be after I graduate. 

My advice? Make the most of the opportunities and resources offered at PSU. From professors to advisers, and from internships to on-campus jobs and extracurriculars, there are numerous ways to test the waters and uncover your passion. Although I remain uncertain, I know that these experiences are invaluable and will eventually lead me to do what I love and hopefully make a difference.

Almost Good Enough

1IMG_4856 by Steph Holton

I recently applied to be a student commencement speaker. On paper, I’m pretty qualified for the job. I did three years of speech and debate, I recently presented a paper at a conference and I even spoke at my high school graduation, all with a fair amount of success.

When I had the opportunity to audition for this role, however, I bombed. My knees shook the whole time, and near the end of my speech—which I knew so well I could probably say it backwards—I completely blanked and spent several seconds in awkward silence. A week later I got one of those “thank you, but we decided to go another way” emails.

Failing really sucks, especially when you get so close to something, and then fall short. I was disappointed when I got the email, and for a moment I felt like I shouldn’t have tried in the first place; if I hadn’t tried, I couldn’t have been disappointed about being almost good enough. I also tried to justify my failure; maybe I’d bombed because it’s infinitely more terrifying to give a speech to 15 very distinguishable faces than to a faceless crown of several thousand, or maybe if I’d just run through my speech one more time…

Then I realized that I’ve had the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with all of you as a PSUChronicles student blogger for the last three years, and it’s been right for me. I think a lot of times when we fail, it’s not that we weren’t a good fit for a position, it’s that we maybe weren’t the right fit. And if we don’t try things we might fail at, we’ll never find that right fit.

I’m still a little sore at myself for messing up my audition, but that’s life. The only thing we can do when things like this happen is to forgive ourselves and keep trying. As for me, I’m going to keep trying in the way that I know best—through writing—and as graduation swiftly approaches, I want to say congrats to my fellow graduates, and to all of you, thanks for reading.

An Ode to the Deviants

img_7471.jpg By Naomi Kolb

I posted a picture of my graduation from community college on Instagram almost exactly two years ago to the day. The caption for my photo read, “official graduate of @inverhills with my associate of arts in gender and women’s studies. @portlandstate I’m coming for you next!” It wasn’t particularly unusual that I transferred to PSU from a community college, but what makes my situation a bit different than most is the fact that I earned my associate’s degree before I’d even earned my high school diploma. This means that when I graduate from PSU next month, I’ll only be 20 years old.

My educational path has not been traditional and I’m rather proud of that. Most of my immediate family has also taken a nontraditional path to higher education. My mom went back to school to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees when she was a single parent in her 30’s. My brother switched his major twice and was a super, super, super senior by the time he graduated. They inspired me to pursue higher education and assured me that it was OK to take a path less traveled.

In part thanks to them, I’ll be the youngest person in my family to graduate from college with my bachelor’s degree. So to my mom, to my brother, to myself, and to anyone else who deviates from the four years that it’s “supposed” to take to graduate: this is an ode to you. There are plenty of ways to go about getting your degree, and as long as you do it in the way that makes the most sense for you, it shouldn’t matter if it takes you much less or much more time than the usual allotment of four years.

Don’t Forget What You Love

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Recently, I have found myself falling away from some of the hobbies I love in order to study and do homework. Even though college is definitely a time to figure yourself out and find your identity, I started to miss parts of myself I’d accidentally left behind.

For years I sang, played guitar, and enjoyed performing the songs I’ve written at open mic nights. In fact, Portland’s flourishing music scene is a key reason I chose PSU—and yet I still have not been to an open mic. For the entirety of winter term, I only picked up my guitar once and never wrote a new song.

I also haven’t been running as much. I loved having a goal to train for that culminated in a competitive race where I really tested my limits. Moving to Portland from Idaho, I was excited to participate in the races it had to offer. As in the case with my singing and songwriting, fall and winter term passed by and my runs grew few and far between.

Despite entering spring quarter of my freshman year with two academically successful terms behind me, I felt rather unaccomplished and disappointed. On a whim, I signed up for the Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon with only a month to train. After my first long training run, I immediately felt like part of my old self was back—and in a good way. I have also queued up possible open mics to go to and ended my creative drought by writing a song.

Looking back, I see that I took the “fresh start” of college too literally and ended up sidelining the things I love to do. It’s very easy to get swept away in the idealized college life of self-discovery. Despite the transformations I’ve undergone, the biggest learning curve was realizing that not everything about me has to change.