Some Advice? See Your Advisor

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

My primary goal at PSU has been to graduate in four years. Using PSU tools like the DARS report and Course Projection Guide, I meticulously created and followed a degree map for the better part of my first three years of school. I believed it to be so thorough that I never bothered to speak with my advisor in order to sort out anything I could have missed.

Last spring, I finally decided to visit with my math advisor because I needed to ask about the Honors thesis. The math department has different requirements surrounding the thesis project, and the little nuances had me confused. I entered the meeting thinking it would be around a five-minute clarifying chat, but it turned into a full half-hour of me reworking my entire senior year class schedule. Low and behold, in the three years I avoided my advisor, I had never learned about some fine print on the degree requirements involving an Honors student in math. Where I thought I only needed one more math sequence to be done, I actually needed to take two 400-level math sequences. 

Leaving my advising appointment, I felt the strangest mix of stress, frustration, and gratitude. I was upset that I didn’t have my whole college career mapped out correctly all along and stressed about my senior year, which would no longer be chill with an additional math sequence tacked on. Overwhelmingly, though, I was relieved and grateful that I saw my advisor before it was too late. Speaking from my experience, save yourself the future grief and meet with your advisor(s). Too many horror stories exist about seniors just missing their graduation requirements; I narrowly avoided being one of them. This week I applied for graduation in Spring 2020, and I am extremely lucky that I could.

Letters to Avoid Losing Touch

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Last month my best friend left for Senegal, Africa with the Peace Corps. All this past summer I dreaded the moment we would have to say goodbye. I knew communication with her would be next to none once she left. We promised to write letters, but the mail takes around two months to deliver—if it doesn’t get lost first.

This situation reminded me of a different friend who wrote “read when” letters to me when she left for her mission years ago. “Read when” letters (also called “open when” letters) are prewritten notes that help you remain  present in someone’s life even when they are far away. I kept every “read when” letter that my friend wrote for me, and they remain one of the most precious gifts I’ll ever receive. I decided to write the same letters as a gift for my Senegal-bound friend.

Sitting down to write the letters for my friend was honestly depressing. Every word I wrote was a constant reminder that she was leaving soon. The hardest letters were her birthday cards; those really drove home the fact that we wouldn’t share any adventures or experiences for two years. As emotionally draining as it was, I only wish I had written her more. I feel so much more at peace knowing that she’ll have birthday cards to open on her birthday, and that they can’t get lost in the mail. Even though I can’t support her in person, she can immediately turn to my words over and over again when she’s lonely or in need of a boost.

I know this won’t be the last set of “read when” letters I write. As my time at PSU nears its end, I recognize that graduation causes people to scatter. This first—but far from last—goodbye made me realize my lifelong friends and how determined I am to stay in touch with them past our PSU experience.

 

PSU Accreditation Scare, Not So Scary

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

The PSU Vanguard recently published an article about PSU’s accreditation status. As of January 2019, PSU has two years to improve how it defines and assesses student learning outcomes. Less than half of PSU’s programs have sufficient plans to assess student learning, and accreditation requires that number to increase above 50% by 2021. If PSU fails to comply with these standards, the university risks probation and after that loss of accreditation. Losing accreditation is a big deal, as it means the loss of federal funding. 

Upon first reading this article and talking about it amongst my peers, we were all under the impression that PSU was already on probation when it is not. In this mix of misunderstanding, I’d started researching what a diploma from an unaccredited university meant for job and graduate school opportunities. All of my upperclassmen friends were thanking their lucky stars that they’d be graduating within a year regardless. In reality, we had no idea what the accreditation process and continuing verification looked like for a university. One thing that the PSU Vanguard article didn’t mention was that accreditation status is evaluated and reaffirmed in a seven-year cycle. PSU was last evaluated in 2015, and the next evaluation is in 2022. Additionally, the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities, which governs the accreditation of regional universities, does not have a defined time period for probation. So while PSU has two years to fix the current student learning assessment problem, it could actually amount to several more years.

All in all, I know this article caused a level of fear amongst my peers. I know that I had never even considered what it would mean for a university to lose accreditation and what that would mean for myself and the entire student body. However, looking at the accreditation process as a whole puts everything in perspective. PSU has a lot of time to fix the current issue, and remains accredited at least until 2022—and hopefully for many years to come. 

The Great Unknown

IMG_7864 by Molly MacGilbert

I’m graduating in 11 days. The emotion that arises when I think about this fact can only be expressed as a cross between a celebratory squeal of freedom and a blood-curdling Hitchcock scream. The question I’ve been asked at an increasing frequency in recent months, weeks and days provokes a similar cocktail of excitement and terror: “What’s next?”

Really, the person who has asked me this question the most is myself. And despite the ominous tick-tocking of the clock of my undergraduate education, the answer remains: I don’t know. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. And regardless of my search for answers and the anxiety that arises when I come up short, I think I’m becoming more okay with not knowing.

From a young age, there’s so much pressure to know what we want to be when we grow up. We grow up playing house and prescribing careers to our Barbie dolls, from pastry chef to firefighter to fairy princess. Our high school years are geared toward preparing for college, and most of us start applying our junior year. I don’t know about you, but at age 16 I could hardly plan my breakfast, let alone pinpoint the career path I was supposed to follow for the remaining (hopefully) several decades of my existence. Which is probably why my college years have been full of indecision, confusion, change, dropping out and transferring.

But with every stressful semester and unpleasant job, I’ve gotten a little closer to figuring out what I want. And even if we never figure out what we want to be when we grow up, I think that’s okay. I’m pretty sure no matter how old I get, I’ll be stumbling blindly through life with more questions than answers. And anyone who honestly thinks they have all the answers is someone I neither want to be nor be around. Life is inherently mysterious and ridiculous, and we might as well accept that.

The one thing I know I’m doing after graduation is taking a well-earned road trip down the Pacific coast. Not only does this give me an opportunity to get a little less pale, it also gives me an opportunity to run away from my anxieties and put off the job search until July. Cheers to that—and cheers to the great unknown.

Job Hunting By The Numbers

img_7471.jpg By Naomi Kolb

As graduation approaches, I find myself in the same boat as many of my fellow soon-to-be-alumni: I still don’t have a job or other obligation lined up for after graduation on June 17th. In the hopes of securing a job soon, I thought that I’d share part of my job-hunting experience. . . by the numbers.

  • Days since I submitted my first job application: 60
  • The number of applications that a Career Services Adviser told me was average to submit before landing an interview: 25-30
  • The number of applications that my coworker told me was average to submit before landing a job: 50-60
  • Applications that I’ve submitted so far: 15
  • Applications that I haven’t heard back about at all: 10
  • Positions that I’ve interviewed for: 2
  • Job offers that I’ve received: 0

Hopefully sharing my experience will help give my peers a better idea of what to expect when job hunting in Portland! Applying for jobs while still being a full-time college student is stressful to say the least and entirely unattainable for a lot of us. As many enter into our final days at PSU, I just wanted to say congratulations to all that are graduating and good luck on whatever your next endeavor may be, even if you don’t quite know what it is yet.

Way to go

Qin 2By Qin Xia

I will graduate this June! I was excited to say so in January. Now, every time when I say, “I will graduate in a couple days,” I tear up. I hated the journey, but now I miss it even while I am still in it.

I remember the first term that began my study life at Portland State University. I was exhausted, and worried a lot about giving up. I use to worry if I had enough money to finish my degree. I remember every night I spent in the library, the tons of coffee I drank, and the papers I wrote.

If you ask me to write down one word that sums up the journey, it would be stress. The stress of getting use to life styles different from my own country, the stress of the academic learning in another language, the stress of the financial side, even the stress of now finding a job. Stresses are always by my side since I chose to study at PSU.

I hated it, but I also love it.

Because of the stress, I kept challenging myself all the time. My English keeps improving, and I absorbed many skills to deal with the different culture. I appreciate the help I received from all my teachers and my friends. With the powerful help and encouragement, I successfully finished my Chinese degree in May, and I will also complete my teaching degree at PSU next Month. For now, I wish time could slow down a bit. I know I will miss the feeling of being a student.

All of this helped me to become a nicer and stronger me.

Graduation is not the end; it is another way to continue.

The Last Word

IMG_7864  by Molly MacGilbert

I’m graduating next month. Just typing those words feels hard to believe. My college career did not follow a linear path; I attended four different colleges in three different time zones, with a year off in the middle during which I worked at a bagel shop and partied too much. I’ve learned so much in the past five years—and I didn’t learn all of it in textbooks or classrooms. As I prepare to leave PSU and enter the so-called real world, I will impart a few quick lessons I wish I could’ve told my freshman self:

  1. Sit in the front of the class. Simple but effective. By sitting near the front of the room, you’re up close and personal with the material. It’s harder to get away with smartphone distractions, side conversations, watching pigeons through classroom windows or daydreaming. The times I’ve habitually sat in the front have left me pleasantly surprised by my test grades.
  2. Get involved in the student community. This is something you’ve heard a million times and, like me, have maybe been reluctant to listen to. When I first transferred to PSU, I read the Vanguard every week and wanted to contribute. I included this goal in to-do lists, planner pages and new year’s resolutions. It wasn’t until my senior year that I finally wrote my first story— and I could not believe how exciting and rewarding it was to see it in newsprint. My only regret is not getting involved sooner.
  3. Use a planner. With Vanguard and student blog responsibilities, internships, a 6-credit capstone and homework, I could not have stayed afloat without my planner. Weekly and daily to-do lists and color-coding helped me manage my time confidently and efficiently. Once deadlines and due dates are on paper, they’re no longer building up in my head and stressing me out. Don’t think of yourself as a slave to your planner, though—just do things piece by piece, do the best you can and know that you will handle it all.

To those of you who are still powering through your education, you’ve got this! And congrats to my fellow soon-to-be graduates—we’re almost done, and it feels good. Feel free to comment your own tips for ruling your schooling!

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.

Doing it in four years, yes!

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

The fear of not graduating in four years is real. Going into my junior year, I frantically started assembling a “degree map” to chart out what classes I needed to take every term. I’d been following what courses I needed on my DARS report, but had never taken the time to sit down and map everything out. The biggest benefit of doing this was that it brought up questions I could address early and also made me conscious of term-specific classes.

Portland State has a lot of tools to help students plan accordingly. On Banweb, there’s the DARS report for detailing your major/minor requirements and the Schedule Planner, which has removed the hassle of avoiding class times overlapping when registering for class. Recently, PSU unveiled a cool new tool that helps a lot with planning out classes. Their Course Projection Guide extends three years out and lists what classes are projected for future terms. I started comparing my personal degree map against the Projection Guide and realized there were a couple of major schedule shifts I’d have to make. 

The greatest thing a degree map has done for me is alleviate the stress of not being sure if I’d graduate on time as a double major—I can! An added bonus is that when I go to speak with my advisors, I already have a plan laid out for them to work with and make suggestions. College is an expensive investment, and I think it’s great that Portland State has provided students with several different tools to plan their future accordingly.

Community of Action

1IMG_4856by Steph Holton

In my last blog post, I talked about failing my student commencement speaker audition, and since then I’ve realized that the things I’d hoped to be able to say to my graduating class are still words that I want to share, and ones that are just as true here as they would be on that stage. So to all of my PSU classmates, I’d like to say:

“Four years ago, when I stood in front of my high school graduating class of 121 students, I talked about the future. I talked about taking the lessons we’d learned from our parents, our teachers, our coaches, and going out into the real world to—eventually—do great things.

“Today, with this… marginally larger audience, I want to talk about the amazing lessons I’ve learned from you, my fellow students, and the great things you’re already doing.

“In our time together at PSU, we’ve seen newsworthy accomplishments—like our engineering students launching a balloon more than 20 miles in the air in order to bring the 2017 solar eclipse to the desktops of viewers worldwide, and students of different skin colors, religions, and nationalities rallying together swiftly and peacefully to stand for our rights to safe communities, women’s healthcare and affordable schooling.

“And then there are the more subtle, everyday accomplishments. It’s not uncommon to see complete strangers sharing their opposing viewpoints in the middle of the Park Blocks, or to inquire about someone’s pronouns, and then use them correctly. And even though at PSU we recognize that conversation, understanding, and respect are basic tenets of good citizenship, and that we still have a lot of room to grow in these areas, they’re not common practice on every campus. PSU is special because we don’t look past each other’s differences. We embrace them. We recognize that our different backgrounds and beliefs and aspirations are assets in our collective pursuits for a better world.

“Four years ago, I left my little Montana valley town for the stumps and bridges of Portland, and I’ve learned here that more than anything, it’s the small, everyday practices—recycling, asking others’ opinions, embracing difference—that make us all activists. I am so proud to be a part of this community of action, and I want to thank you for teaching me to appreciate the amazing things we’re doing right now.”