Envisioning Equality in Computer Science

Alex (right) going for a walk with a friend

Originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, Alejandro Castaneda, (Alex) discovered Portland State University in high school while he was searching for Computer Science programs and schools in the Pacific Northwest that participated in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program. He told me his mom said “I want you to go to school somewhere that is close enough that I can drive to you.” He went on and told me that he loved the way campus looked and the close proximity and connections with large companies like Nike and Intel. He wanted to attend college in a big city that was growing so that he would have lots of job opportunities after graduating. “Even today, the city of Portland is one of my favorite parts about attending PSU,” he says. The discounted tuition rate he has with WUE made it possible for him to attend PSU and that’s what helped make the decision.

When he was growing up, he would always help his family with technical stuff and grew to have an interest in computers, so choosing Computer Science was natural. However, when he got to college classes, he discovered that the content he would be learning was very different than what he was expecting. “It’s less…IT than I expected. More data. Like, less fixing and more making. But I love it. The most exciting part is being able to create whatever you want. There are infinite possibilities in the field of Computer Science.”

Alex and I talked for over an hour, but I feel like I only got a hint at his depth of knowledge and interest in the topics we covered. He has such a vast understanding of not only the subject matter he studies but the social and cultural significance around it, and what the implications are for the future of his field.

The main thing I noticed during our conversation is that Alex is committed to building equality in the field of computer science. He is involved with so many organizations I could barely keep track. He is the Mentorship Director at WiCS (We in Computer Science), a student group that works to challenge the exclusion of LGBTQ+ people, women, gender non-conforming, first-generation immigrants, people of color, and disabled people from the field of computer science. “We aim to build spaces where people feel as though ‘We Belong’ so it’s exciting to partake in something that will change our community. In the mentorship program, my team works to pair students in need of a mentor with those who are seeking someone to help out, so it’s extremely beneficial.”

He works with tech organizations off-campus as well. “By being part of the campus, you are also part of the city. You can easily meet so many other people who aren’t students.”

He is involved with the organization Out in Tech: a non-profit that aims to unite LGBTQ+ tech community. They do a lot of Portland community events and mixers. He also mentioned the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, a national organization of professional engineers to serve as role models in the Hispanic community. Engineers without Borders do various projects around the city. He said they worked on building solar lamps and a self-sustaining shower designed for homeless populations in the city.

At this point, you may be wondering how on earth he keeps up with all these commitments in addition to going to class and having a social life. He turned his phone toward me so I could see his Google Calendar — it was like a colorful Christmas tree, with overlapping calendar notifications, reminders, and color-coordinated events. In awe, I told him how impressed I was by his commitment and drive and managing this crazy schedule. He laughed and said “I get it from my mom. She is always working. I can’t just sit around and do nothing. So I seem to always occupy myself in some way by taking more than I can handle and then managing all that and feeling so awesome when I do.”

We talked a little bit about his transition from Las Vegas to Portland. He came to Portland not knowing anyone and he said he felt alone for a little while, but decided to try and make friends and was able to meet tons of people through campus. At resource centers like the Global Diversity and Inclusion Club, there were always events going on. Living in Campus Housing his freshman year gave him a lot of points of connection and helped him build friendships with other students. “The university provides structure to the events on campus by posting fliers, and The School of Business highlights every event on campus to get you involved.”

He was telling me he knows so many people now from his involvement though classes, the Ambassador Program, and Campus Recreation, when, by sheer coincidence, he looked up and pointed to someone walking by on the sidewalk outside. “Like her, I actually know her, that’s Amber. We were in the same dorm our sophomore year.” He lives off-campus now, but the roommates he has are friends that he made from living on campus.

He told me something that I hear a lot of students say: “Professors really care about you and try to get to know you. They want to see you succeed. If you actually put in the time and effort, the professors will reciprocate your hard work.”

I was really moved by a story he told about his most pivotal moment at Portland State. “At the end of my Freshman Inquiry class, my professor, Dr. Kenny Bagley, came up to me and extended his hand and told me “Alex, you should get a Ph.D.” I was completely taken aback because I barely considered getting my bachelors, and here my professor who’s known me for only a year was recommending me to pursue a doctorate. This experience motivated me because I feel as though now I have many people invested in my life. He saw capabilities in me that I didn’t even see in myself.”

Here at PSU, we are so proud of students like Alex who work hard to make opportunities equal for everyone. Increasing representation and dismantling structural barriers is so important to building a better world for us all. People like Alex are shaping the future by emboldening others today, and at PSU, the possibilities for this are endless.

Discover your potential. Apply today.

Snow No!

Snow is not common in Portland, but when we do get it, it’s kind of a huge deal. There’s even a website devoted to letting everyone know if snowing or not (chances are, it’s not). Before you start freaking out about the possibility of the lightest dusting, review our guide below to stay cool and safe.

PSU Alert System

If the weather conditions get so bad that it’s dangerous to get to school, PSU will cancel classes (woo-hoo!). Make sure your preferred notification type is set up with the PSU Alert system for the quickest updates on conditions. You can get alerts to your phone or email, and updates will also be posted to Portland State’s main social media handles and the pdx.edu website. You definitely don’t want you to get to campus just to realize there’s no one else here.Keep in mind the Campus Public Safety Office stays open during closures, so you can reach out to them if you need help or have questions.

Class Cancelations

Keep an eye on the weather reports and check your pdx.edu email frequently. Even if PSU does not close, some professors may still cancel classes ahead of time. Yay! Extra time to do homework…just me? Okay, nevermind. If the campus is open but you can’t make it to class safely, contact your professor ASAP. Professors can accommodate students who miss class because of the weather. Your safety is much more important than getting to class. Now is also a great time to review PSU’s list of emergency and public safety resources, including procedures for inclement weather.

Transportation

Don’t risk it. Cars can slip on even the littlest bit of ice and if you’ve never driven in snow, don’t be like me and assume it’s no big deal. Leave your car at home and take public transit instead. Be prepared for delays and crowded spaces. City buses have chains and are prepared for icy or snowy conditions. Better yet, stay home and look out the window and take in the tranquil winter wonderland while drinking a warm cup of cocoa. Check out our blog all about TriMet’s public transit options.

International Student Pursues Passion for Film at PSU

Many people live their entire lives in just one country, some just one city. But not Sebastian Suarez Hode. Originally born in Honduras, his family moved to Mozambique when he was ten years old for his father’s job. After high school, he chose Portland State University and moved 10,000 miles away from his family and friends to pursue his passion for filmmaking. 

Sebastian wanted to study somewhere that had opportunities for growth and success, but not in a city so big he couldn’t overcome the competitive atmosphere in the industry. When I asked him how he knew his future was in the film industry, he said his passion was ignited when he started practicing photography in high school. “I realized I had a talent. Lots of people complimented my work so I began to pursue it further,” explained Hode. I loved the confidence. The focus of his work transformed over time into documentary work. His interests were unlimited; he would research anything from local news to nature, to community services, and charity work.

The thing that drew him to PSU to study film was the benefit of the surrounding city of Portland. “There are lots of up and coming productions here, which is great for a film student.” As we all know, the show “Portlandia” recently brought a ton of attention to the city and built a reputation as a unique place, known for weird, quirky people, who have an obsession with brunch, organic vegan cuisine and SUVs to transport excessive camping gear. “The city is what made the decision for me to attend PSU. Portland is your classroom. It is a great background for subjects in film and photography. It’s a fun, cool city, with close proximity to cool nature like the high desert region, mountains, and beaches along the coast. I can even get on the city train and in 20 minutes I can get to the massive Forest Park.”

Not just for creative pursuits, he says the city had the added benefit and convenience of getting around on public transportation. “The city is easy to navigate and you don’t need a car.” (PSU students can ride the TriMet Streetcar for free with your PSU ID!) “PSU is in the center of downtown, so everything you need is right nearby.”
However, this transition was definitely a huge challenge and the move was intimidating. He arrived in the city not knowing a single person. He was completely on his own and had no family in the United States. For his freshman year, he lived in a dorm on campus where he was able to make friends. “Campus housing places you in dorms with people who you have classes with, so you can make friends easier. Living in a dorm was a great introduction to college because it fosters a tight-knit community.”

He told me the story of the first friends he made at PSU. While waiting in line for the first event on the first day of orientation, he just started making conversation with the other nervous students in line next to him. By the time they got to the front of the line, they were laughing and joking like old friends. “This experience is such a classic college story, but it’s representative of my whole experience at PSU. People will say ‘hi’ to you right away and communicate with you in meaningful ways. The campus is so welcoming and open-minded. The friends I made that day are still some of my closest friendships.”

I learned so much about the School of Film during our interview. Sebastian is working on a Bachelor of Science in Film, but PSU also offers a Bachelor of Arts. He says the difference is in the material you study. The B.S. focuses more on the math and science stuff, while the B.A. focuses on the humanities aspect. Who knew.

His education goal, in addition to graduating with a degree in film, is to come out of school with connections in the industry. “All the professors here at PSU are already working in the field and they help students come out of college with professional connections. All the skills I need are taught in school, but in this industry, the most valuable thing is to know others.”

In addition to classes, Sebastian works on campus in the Undergraduate Admissions office. He is an International Admissions Representative and helps prospective PSU students navigate application and immigration requirements. You can watch videos he made about why he chose PSU and an introduction to an international student at the School of Business!

We are so grateful for the global perspective that Sebastian brings to our community, not just Portland, but also the United States. He is such a driven and passionate student and this is reflected in his work. He made the brave decision to pursue a degree in another country and he enjoys spreading the word about his experience as an international student. If you are an international student and are considering PSU, contact one of our international student counselors to get started on your journey.

5 Ways to Ease Homesickness

Homesickness can be one of the toughest, most unexpected challenges when you’re new in college. It can really happen to anyone, even if you’re just one city away from home. 


Homesickness feels a lot like like anxiety or depression and usually happens when we feel disconnected from familiar people and places. There are lots of ways homesickness can present itself but the most common symptoms are comparing your old setting with the new one or wanting to call home frequently. You could also have trouble sleeping or eating, feel nauseous, excessively sad or sluggish. 

It’s important to be able to enjoy your college experience! Not everyone’s process to overcome homesickness may be the same, but here are our best suggestions for dealing with these feelings:

Join a club to meet people.

PSU has your back with over 200 student clubs and groups! From a neuroscience club, to Greek life, to Acapella groups, you will definitely find a group of people with shared interests. The website also has links to volunteer and service opportunities if you want to go beyond campus. When you’re feeling down, it’s important to branch out and talk to new people! Even if it’s difficult, and especially if you don’t feel like it. The more you get out there, the more chances you’ll have to meet new friends. 

Visit SHAC.

All students enrolled in at least five credits can visit the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC). Counseling Services offers brief individual and group counseling, crisis/emergency services, and workshops throughout the year to support your transition to PSU. Getting help is a really smart and brave thing to go. Actually a lot of students experience homesickness, so you are not alone. Definitely consider visiting SHAC for other health and wellness needs, too, from health and dental check ups, to acupuncture, to scheduling a time in the Mind Spa, which features a massage chair, light therapy and biofeedback games to help you relax.

Distract yourself!

One of the best ways to get yourself out of a funk is to just focus on something else for a little while. Go to the library to study rather than your dorm room, or go for a walk, or check out a new coffee shop, or visit a thrift store. There are unlimited things going on in the city pretty much all the time, you just have to get out there. The 5th Avenue Cinema is a student-run cinema that shows FREE movies for PSU students. The PSU Farmers Market is every Saturday, rain or shine, right on campus at the park blocks. The more places you go, the more people you will meet, and the more chances you’ll have to make friends. Our Visitor Guide also has tons of student-recommended activities (a bunch of them free or discounted for PSU students), restaurants and other cool spots to visit.

Visit the Campus Rec Center.

When you’re feeling bad, it can sound really tempting to loaf under a blanket and dig into a massive tub of ice cream, but this will likely only make you feel worse. To combat this, get some exercise to get those endorphins flowing, our body’s natural feel-good hormones. I always remind myself that the hardest part about going to the gym is just getting dressed and heading out the door. The Rec Center also makes it super easy and convenient to get a sweat going, with all kinds of fitness options, including an Olympic size pool, a hot tub, cardio and weight rooms, and a rock-climbing wall! They also offer a wide range of group fitness classes, including yoga, cycling, and Zumba. If you want to get started but are not sure how, there are also educational classes like lifting and rock climbing for all skill levels. Exercise is so good for our well-being. It has been shown to improve sleep, build confidence, tone muscle, and help with anxiety and depression.

Do you also like getting exercise outdoors? Spending time in nature reduces anxiety and depression and it can be fun to go on an adventure. Our Outdoor Program offers guided hikes throughout the state with a 50% discount for students.

Talk with friends and family back home.

This is an important step. Talking with your loved ones can help you feel more connected and loved. They will want to hear all about your new adventure here. And this is a great time  to ask for a care package including anything from home that would make you feel more comfortable, like photos or blankets, or even a stuffed animal (hey, no judgement here). 

However, just keep in mind that it’s important to not over-rely on your family and avoid your new world. If you notice that you’re spending more of your time talking with people back home than exploring your new environment, you will only prolong these bad feelings. You should set up a weekly time to call or FaceTime back home. This will help you create the space you need during the rest of the week to connect with your life at PSU and gives you something to look forward to.

BONUS tip: Talk to a Professor or Staff Member.

PSU faculty and staff are sympathetic and they want to see you do well here! Do you feel particularly fond of one of your professors, or another staff member like a Resident Assistant? These people are good to reach out to and are here to help you. For so many things, the stress that comes with big changes can be managed by simply talking to someone about what is on your mind. There is a good chance they have also experienced some kind of homesickness at one point and can give you some tips to get adjusted, or even just an open ear to hear you out.

Remember that it’s normal and common to feel homesick during your college experience and that it’s okay to miss home. These feelings normally pass on their own over time, but if they don’t pass or even get worse, there are resources here for when you need the help. Who knows, maybe when you return home you’ll be homesick for Portland! 

Meet The Unipiper

The Unipiper near the Portland sign

This Icon Keeps Portland Weird

A man in a Darth Vader costume riding a unicycle and playing flaming bagpipes can only mean one thing: you’re in Portland. “Keep Portland Weird” is the city’s unofficial motto for good reason. It’s a town that attracts people of all kinds. The mixture of historic and new buildings, along with its proximity to Oregon’s natural beauty, make it a hotbed of inspiration. This reputation for weirdness is what drew Brian Kidd—that unicycling, bagpipe-playing, costume-wearing man known as the “Unipiper”—to Portland. 

“Portland’s weird spirit comes from its culture of freedom and acceptance,” says Kidd. “People here are more likely to express themselves in their own ways and not judge others for their expression. That creates a vibrant art scene.”

Finding Portland

When Kidd moved here twelve years ago, he never expected to become an icon for Portland. He learned to unicycle and play bagpipes while going to college at the University of Virginia. While interning after graduation in North Carolina, Kidd started combining those two creative outlets. 

A couple of Kidd’s college friends, who were from Portland, kept talking about how great it was. They told him he would fit right in. “I became sick of hearing about it! But when I decided I wanted a change of scenery, it was on my shortlist of places to check out.” Kidd moved sight unseen. He had no intention of staying long term, but the city and its people changed his mind.

Kidd started showing off his Unipiper act at the Portland Saturday Market. He was quickly embraced by locals, and it wasn’t long until he went viral after posting a video of his performance online. “I think the reason I was embraced was because, in one image, you could see what Portland is all about,” says Kidd. “I was just in the right place at the right time to become the symbol of a much larger movement.”

Since that video blew up, Kidd has appeared on America’s Got Talent, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live! But those appearances were nothing compared to the support he found in the City of Rose. “Getting to perform live on TV is cool and all, but the best thing I’ve experienced as the Unipiper is just being accepted by the community here.”

It’s hard to pin down exactly what makes Portland weird. “You can ask a hundred different people, you’ll get 100 different answers. Really, keeping Portland weird means preserving the things that the city built its reputation on in the first place,” says Kidd.

Finding those little things that make it unique can be hard for first-time visitors and new residents. Because of Kidd’s local-celebrity status, he gets messages on Facebook all the time from people who are planning a visit and want to know what they should do. Kidd can never answer that question because it depends on the person—and PDX has a little something for everyone. 

“The true beauty of Portland reveals itself over time,” says Kidd. “It shines best when you have time to let it wash over you, when you can take time to get to know the different neighborhoods and subcultures.” 

Portland Picks

Something everyone likes is food, and there are options for every palate. There are little food trucks all around the city, serving food from all cultures. 

But if Kidd had to pinpoint one thing someone visiting the area should see, it’s Multnomah Falls, about 45 minutes east of downtown. “When you travel to the Falls, you get to see that transition from the city into the natural landscape of the Columbia River Gorge. The scenery changes so drastically, and that helps you understand how nature affects the culture in Portland.”

Like all cities, Portland has been changing. The metro area has seen an influx of businesses, including many high-tech companies, earning it the nickname “Silicon Forest”. According to Kidd, this growth means many people are coming to the city for their jobs, not necessarily for that spirit of creativity. Although the new development brings with it fresh energy, it also makes it harder for new folks to realize what makes Portland great in the first place—all the weird little places fostered by its community of creatives. 

Kidd thought for a long time that there should be an organization to help introduce all these newcomers, in addition to long-time residents, to the city’s weirdness and inspire them to share their creative side. He thought someone else would start one. Then he realized he would have to make it happen himself. 

“I’ve built a reputation and have an audience, so I want to use that visibility to do good. I want to help foster that next Unipiper.” Kidd set out to start Weird Portland United, a non-profit dedicated to promoting and supporting creatives. 

Weird Portland United

Weird Portland United hosts a monthly lecture and networking series and free community events around various PDX locales. It will also kick off the Weird Portland Hall of Fame with a gala. The non-profit will be providing Weird Community Betterment Grants for people who need a bit of money to make their creative ideas come to life. As an example, Kidd says the grant could go to purchasing billboard space for strictly weird use. 

Kidd already has many “weirdos” on board, including Moshow, the internet-famous cat rapper. The mission of Weird Portland United: provide a platform where creative weirdos can share their stories and inspire others to do their part to keep Portland weird.

“I always say, be the weird you want to see in the world,” says Kidd. “Starting Weird Portland United is a culmination of my journey as the Unipiper.”

According to Kidd, Portland is that perfect environment to foster this creative expression. “The city has a reputation for letting everyone be themselves. It has everything you need to figure out who you are. Chances are, you are going to find your crowd here. I want to make sure it stays that place.”

This article originally appears in the Portland State Visitor Guide. See the full guide here or look for a copy around the city of Portland.

Plan a Visit to the PSU Writing Center

Writing is something all college students will have to do for most of their classes. That’s why PSU has a Writing Center, which is designed to help students at any writing level, and at any stage in the writing process.

How do you know if you should go to the Writing Center? Well, everyone should go! Whether you’re struggling with grammar, don’t know how to write a particular assignment for a class or want feedback on a scholarship essay, the Writing Center can help.

One unique thing about PSU’s Writing Center is that all consultants have earned or are working toward their Master’s in Writing or English, and many also teach writing classes. There’s even an ESL specialist and dedicated graduate student drop-in hours.

Here’s what you should do to get the most out of your visit.

Step 1: Decide what you want to get out of your session.

When you go into your session, your consultant will ask you what you want to get out of it and will tailor their feedback accordingly. Make sure you have a few specific questions or issues in mind.

Have a tricky essay assignment and don’t know where to start? They can help you brainstorm and write an outline. Finished your paper but think you didn’t use commas correctly? Let your consultant know, and they can point out recurring issues and show you how to fix them.

Step 2: Schedule an appointment or visit drop-in hours.

The best way to meet with a consultant is to schedule an appointment online. Appointments can be either a half-hour or an hour long.

If scheduling an appointment won’t work for you, stop in during drop-in hours. Remember to show up early to sign in because drop-in hours fill up fast. The Writing Center (located in 188 Cramer Hall) holds drop-in hours Monday through Friday from 12 to 2 pm.

You can also stop by the Writing Center Outpost on the second floor of the PSU Library. Outpost hours are from 9 am to 12 pm.

Step 3: Come prepared.

Print out two copies of your paper, so both you and your consultant can easily read it. Make sure to also bring in your assignment sheet. Time is limited, so if your paper is long, have a couple of sections you want to focus on, in addition to some specific questions.

Step 4: Become a better writer!

Remember that Writing Center consultants will not “fix” your paper for you. They won’t copy edit your writing, but will point out things you can improve and give you the tools and advice to do it yourself. This means you shouldn’t bring in an assignment an hour before it’s due—you won’t have enough time to work on it before turning it in.

Once you leave your session, revise your work! Consultants even suggest you bring in the same assignment multiple times throughout the writing process. That way, you can really see your growth.

No matter your skill level, it can be helpful to get feedback on your writing, especially if it is from someone experienced.

Don’t hesitate to visit the Writing Center!

Learn more and schedule an appointment.

Explore by Bike: PSU’s Bike Resources

Bike rider on Portland bridge

May is National Bike Month, so get out there on two wheels and explore PSU and Portland, one of the best places on Earth for cycling. It consistently has one of the highest bike commuting rates in the country. Portlanders love to cruise the city’s 350+ miles of bike paths. PSU has even been awarded platinum status by the League of American Bicyclists—the highest bike-friendly ranking a university can receive.

To celebrate National Bike Month, PSU hosts the annual Bike Challenge, a friendly competition and series of events throughout May. The Bike Challenge encourages new and experienced riders to hop on their bikes. The different PSU departments compete against each other to see who can get the most students and staff to ride throughout the month.

You don’t even need your own bike to get started. Just take advantage of PSU’s many bike resources for students.


Bike Hub

The Bike Hub

Have you been putting off getting that flat tire fixed? Want to get some new gear? Don’t have a bike, but want to rent one? PSU’s Bike Hub has you covered. The Bike Hub is a student-run bike resource for the PSU community. It’s located in the Academic and Student Resource Center (the same building as Campus Rec).

Bike Repairs

If you want to fix up your own bike using PSU’s Bike Hub, it’s free! The Bike Hub is a do-it-yourself environment where experts can instruct you and provide you with the resources and tools to keep your bike running smoothly.

The Bike Hub also hosts workshops and events geared toward teaching new bikers how to maintain their systems. Every Friday the Bike Hub hosts the Flat Fix Clinic, where you can bring in your wheels and learn how to change flat bike tires—free patch kits are included for all attendees. Check out the Bike Hub workshop schedule.

DIY not your thing? The Bike Hub has trained staff who can repair your bike for you. And their prices are much cheaper than other shops in town. See services and costs.

All you need to do to utilize the Bike Hub repair services is become a member! Membership is FREE to current PSU students, staff and faculty.

Short-Term Bike Rentals

If you don’t have your own, you can rent a bike for a day, a weekend or a full week through the Bike Hub. They offer bikes for different needs, including a comfortable cruiser, a fast bike that can handle both on and off-road rides and an electric bike that will do the hard work for you. Check out bikes and prices.

Long-Term Bike Rentals

Through VikeBike, you can rent a bike for just $45 per term for up to three academic terms! VikeBike even has a need-based program that provides bikes to qualifying students for FREE. The VikeBike program is designed to break down the cost barrier to cycling. They refurbish abandoned bikes on campus and rent them out to students. On top of a fully-refurbished bike, you’ll get a Bike Hub membership, indoor bike garage pass, a helmet that’s yours to keep and more. Sign up!


BIKETOWN bikes on campus

BIKETOWN

BIKETOWN is Portland’s bike sharing system, which has 1,000 bikes and 100 hubs around the city. The bright orange bikes are great for everything from quick trips to Powell’s to just getting around campus easily.

And the best part? PSU students get a FREE annual membership! This means you get 90 minutes of free ride time per day. All you need to do is sign up.

You’ll find these orange bikes on PSU’s campus in these four convenient stations:

  • Student Recreation Center
  • Engineering Building
  • Smith Memorial Student Union
  • Collaborative Life Sciences Building

Check out this interactive map of all the BIKETOWN locations around Portland.


PSU Cycling

If you’re serious about biking, consider joining the PSU Cycling team! The PSU Cycling team goes on social rides in Portland and competes with other colleges around the Pacific Northwest.


Looking for other eco-friendly and fun ways to get around the city? Check out our guide to Portland transit.

Homelessness Didn’t Stop This Future Doctor

Katrina Dejeu

Going to college can be especially challenging for first-generation college students, and even more difficult for students from low-income or single-parent homes. Katrina Dejeu didn’t let those challenges deter her from achieving her ultimate goal—becoming an intensive care unit doctor.

Katrina is graduating from Portland State University in Fall, 2019, with a bachelor’s degree in health studies: health sciences and she’s in the pre-medicine advising track.

She has always been interested in healthcare. Since she was young, she thought she would go into nursing. Even though money was tight, she knew going to college was the first step to achieving her goals. She applied to PSU because it was close to home and more affordable than other universities. And she knew PSU offered resources to help her be a successful college student. “TRIO is one of the main reasons I decided to go to PSU. I got an email from TRIO, and they suggested I take the Summer Bridge class. It helped me adjust to college and learn about PSU’s resources.”

TRIO is a program that helps students overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education. TRIO students are first-generation, low-income and/or from culturally diverse backgrounds. They get an advisor, who works with them throughout their time at PSU. TRIO hosts workshops to set students up for success. They even provide TRIO students a computer lab and resource rentals, including books, laptops and calculators. Katrina even became a Peer Outreach Mentor for TRIO when she was a junior.

Katrina started at PSU in the pre-nursing track. Her classes were going well, but she faced some challenges during her freshman year that made her worried she’d have to quit college. She is the second oldest of four children, and her mom is a single parent. Katrina works so she can help support her family and pay rent. Due to difficult personal circumstances, Katrina and her family became homeless.

“We didn’t have any immediate family we could rely on. We stayed at motels with whatever money we had, and sometimes we stayed in our cars. When you’re homeless, you don’t want to do anything. I remember working a job and going to school, but I had no motivation to do anything else. It was scary. The stress made me not want to go to school anymore.”

The first person Katrina went to for help was her TRIO advisor, Linda Liu. “I just cried to her,” says Katrina, “and she listened and referred me to other PSU resources that could help. She even helped me write emails to my professors explaining what was going on and how they could help work around my situation.”

Katrina reached out to PSU’s Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC). “Being homeless was a stressful time for me, and I just needed someone to talk to. It was comforting talking to a counselor because they don’t pass judgment.” SHAC even connected Katrina with resources in the Portland community that could help her family find shelter. “We were able to find an apartment because of the resources I was given,” says Katrina.

PSU students taking five or more credits are charged a Student Health Fee, which covers most medical and counseling services at SHAC. The counseling services at SHAC include individual counseling, group counseling and more. Schedule a consultation with a counselor.

Katrina overcame that stressful time and even got scholarships and grants to help her pay for college, including the Ignite Scholarship. Ignite is a program that supports pre-health students so they can reach their healthcare career goals. The Ignite Scholarship is a one-time $5,000 award for pre-health students. As part of the scholarship, these students serve as Ignite Mentors, where they connect with incoming pre-health students and help them develop strategies for dealing personal and academic issues. “I really like mentoring others. It’s rewarding to meet students from all walks of life and help them achieve their goals.”

Her healthcare knowledge and leadership experience came in handy when she started volunteering and working in the healthcare field. She gives back by volunteering as a lab assistant at Outside In, a clinic dedicated to providing medical services to homeless youth and other marginalized people. At Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), Katrina works as a student lab assistant for a stem cell research lab. Katrina’s TRIO advisor helped her get a job as a scribe for Adventist Health in the emergency department; she assists physicians by taking notes and completing medical documentation.

It was the thrill of working as a scribe that made Katrina think that becoming a doctor might be a better fit. She learned in her PSU classes that her interest in analyzing lab results and making decisions about patient treatments aligned with doctors. But becoming a doctor felt out of reach. “I thought because my family is low-income and my mom is a single parent that I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to medical school, and it takes many years to complete.”

All she needed was a little push to start her down her dream path. “My supervising doctor at Adventist told me he saw me as more of a doctor than a nurse, because my personality would be best in a leadership role,” says Katrina. “I was surprised to hear that, and it made me believe I could actually become a doctor. I kept talking to my mom about it, and one day she told me, ‘Just do it!’ That convinced me. I wouldn’t let my fears of not being able to afford medical school or being a good enough student get in my way.”

During her junior year, she officially switched to the pre-medicine advising track after talking with her pre-health advisor. Katrina and her advisor looked over the classes she needed and discussed when she should apply for medical school.

After she graduates, Katrina plans to get her doctor of medicine in internal medicine. She wants to get a critical care fellowship, so she can work in an ICU. “I like the adrenaline rush of working in the ICU. Those doctors have to perform under pressure. I want to be able to save people’s lives in emergency situations. That would be such a great honor for me.”

Check out how financial aid can help you pay for college, so you can achieve your dream career.

Katrina working as a scribe
Katrina’s typical day as a scribe involves following a provider and charting patient information in the electronic medical record.

Top 12 Questions We Get About Orientation

So, you’ve been admitted to Portland State University and decided it’s the right college for you. Now what?

Attend New Student Orientation! All undergraduate students must attend Orientation before they can start their journey as a PSU student. But attending Orientation isn’t a chore—it’s a celebration of you joining our community and taking the next step in your academic journey! Orientation will help get you familiar with everything PSU has to offer and start connecting with fellow students.

We’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions and the answers, so you know what to expect. If you have more questions, email us at orientation@pdx.edu.


When can I sign up?

Students who are starting in fall term can sign up for orientation starting May 8. You must confirm your enrollment prior to signing up for orientation.

Do I have to go to Orientation?

You sure do! You will not be able to register for classes until you complete an Orientation program. Besides, there’s no better way to start off your PSU experience. You’ll meet academic advisors, who are ready to support you towards graduation, and current and incoming students. You’ll also learn about PSU’s many resource centers and student groups.

How do I sign up?

Sign up online. Before you can sign up for Orientation, you must confirm your enrollment. There are many Orientation sessions to choose from, so sign up early to get the session that works best for you.

What if I’m an out-of-state student and can’t make it to an Orientation session in Portland?

If you’re from Hawaii or California, we are hosting sessions in your state! Sign up online as soon as possible, because these sessions are quickly approaching. If you are coming from another state besides Hawaii or California, or from outside of the US, contact us at orientation@pdx.edu. International students are required to attend the International Student Orientation.

What if I can’t attend any Orientation sessions?

Contact orientation@pdx.edu as soon as possible to make arrangements.

How long is Orientation?

Freshman Orientation sessions taking place on campus are full day programs. Transfer sessions are half day programs, with morning and afternoon sessions available. Out-of-State Orientations are also full day programs. You will not be able to register for classes if you do not attend the entire session. You must arrive and check in at the beginning of the session. If you miss check-in, you will have to attend another session, otherwise you will not be allowed to register for classes.

What do I need to do to attend Orientation?

After you sign up, make sure you’re ready for Orientation. Check our list of things to do to prepare for Orientation.

Do I need to bring anything?

Yes! Bring a government-issued ID, as you use this to get your PSU ID card at orientation, if you should choose to do so. We strongly suggest you bring a laptop or tablet for course registration (smartphones are not recommended). We’ve made a list of everything you’ll need to attend orientation including how to get to campus, where to park, what you’ll be doing at Orientation, answers to many of your questions and sample agendas!

Can I bring someone with me to Orientation, like a parent or guardian?

Of course! While not required, you may certainly bring a guest or two. Beginning this new chapter in your life is exciting, and we want you to share that experience.

Does it cost anything?

Incoming students attending on-campus sessions do not pay a fee to attend Orientation. However, there is a $20 fee for each guest, which helps to cover the cost of the provided meal and materials. This can be paid in advance during the session sign-up process. Incoming freshman and transfers students (and their guests) attending out-of-state sessions in Hawaii and California are each required to pay a $50 fee. These fees support the cost of hosting orientation in your area.

Will I register for classes at Orientation?

Yes! This is why attending Orientation is required. You’ll meet with advisors in your academic area of interest who will give you direction on what courses you should take. You will walk away from Orientation with a completed first-term schedule!

Will I get to tour campus?

Absolutely! We offer campus tours to our incoming students and guests at all on-campus sessions. PSU is about to be your new home, and we want you get a feel for campus!

Will I get to tour the dorms?

Yes. We offer optional housing tours at all our on-campus sessions. Tour times will be on the agenda you receive at check-in.

I’m worried because I don’t know anyone else. Am I going to meet anyone?

Since it’s Orientation, no one knows anyone else yet! You’ll meet tons of other students who will start at the same time as you. You’ll even get to spend time with others who share your major. This is the perfect opportunity to connect with peers you’ll see again on campus in September!

Who should I contact if my question hasn’t been answered here?

If you have any remaining questions after this list, get in touch with us at orientation@pdx.edu. Keep an eye out for Orientation emails. We will send you details about your Orientation session via email, so check your @pdx.edu email account.


Sign up for New Student Orientation!

Upcoming Events: May 2019

May Events

This May, Portland State is encouraging students to nourish their bodies and minds. PSU is hosting events on and off campus centered on sustainability, wellness and art from diverse cultures. Here are just some of the inspiring events taking place this May. For a more comprehensive list, check out the PSU events calendar.

Noon Concert Series

Every Thursday | 12:00-1:00 p.m. | Lincoln Recital Hall
This weekly concert series is hosted by the PSU School of Music. At these events, students, faculty and guest artists will perform various instruments and music genres. The concerts are always free and open to the public. View their performance calendar.

All Majors Career and Internship Fair

Thursday, May 2 | 11:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. | SMSU Ballroom (3rd floor)
PSU students and alumni of all majors are invited to attend this event, which brings in over 80 employers from a variety of industries—see which ones suit your skills and interests. Take this opportunity to make progress on your job and internship search by networking with employers and making a great first impression! Learn about different career paths and ask your career questions directly to employers. This is a free event. See what you should do to prepare.

Fridays@4: Architecture Series

Every Friday | 4:00 p.m. | Shattuck Hall
Each Friday during most of the academic term, PSU School of Architecture students and faculty gather together to hear from professional designers and architects, academics, visiting artists, innovators and students in the program. This free event is open to the public and provides refreshments. See calendar for information about each event.

Be Honest! PSU Graphic Design Portfolio Showcase

Saturday, May 4 | 5:00-9:00 p.m. | Wieden + Kennedy, 244 NW 13th Ave
Be Honest is the PSU Graphic Design annual student portfolio showcase. All graphic design students who want to participate will display their work. It’s part portfolio show, part party, part open house, part alumni reunion, part scholarship ceremony and all fun! This event is free and open to the public. Learn more.

Coastal Camping

Saturday, May 4-Sunday, May 5 | weekend trip | Oregon Coast
Travel across time with PSU’s Outdoor Program through the history of the Oregon Coast on this oceanside camping trip. At Ecola State Park, take in the lush, temperate rainforest of the coast and the stellar ocean views. After a night camping in the fresh ocean air, you’ll get to explore Fort Stevens State Park, learn about the colonization of the Columbia River estuary and visit the remains of a hundred-year-old shipwreck. This trip is designed for all abilities and can be easily modified to accommodate disabilities. The trip costs $110 for Rec Center members (all PSU students pay for membership in their tuition and fees) and $190 for non-members, which pays for transportation, trip leaders, meals and all necessary equipment. Learn more and see other trips.

Pride Kickball Tournament

Tuesday, May 7 | 6:00-8:00 p.m. | Stott Field
Celebrate PSU Pride month (May) with the Queer Resource Center! Wear your pride colors and relive recess with a spirited game of kickball. Winners will receive a championship t-shirt. This event is free for Campus Rec members (all PSU students pay for membership in their tuition and fees) and $7 for guests. Register online.

Nourish Wellness Fair

Wednesday, May 8 | 12:00-2:00 p.m. | Viking Pavilion
Attend PSU’s annual Nourish Wellness Fair to learn more about wellness resources on and off campus. Receive free massages, healthy food samples, fresh produce and more. This event is free and open to the entire PSU community. Valid PSU ID required. Learn more.

Manuel Arturo Abreu: Beneath the Music from a Farther Room

Thursday, May 9 | 5:00-7:30 p.m. | AB Lobby Gallery, Art Building
The AB Lobby Gallery presents a solo show of new work by Manuel Arturo Abreu featuring sculpture, printed matter and video work exploring the musicality of abstraction and the veil of language. This event is the opening reception, and the work will be on display until May 23. The opening reception is free and open to the public.

Pacific Islanders Club 17th Annual Lu’au

Saturday, May 11 | 4:00 p.m. | AB Lobby Gallery, Art Building
Every year, the Pacific Islanders Club hosts a lu’au, an important cultural tradition around the Pacific that has been adopted by cultures around the world. This year’s theme, “Let The Legends Be Told,” showcases the stories of the island nations represented in the club including Hawai’i, Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Palau. You’ll eat culturally-inspired food, watch performances by members of the community and see a special appearance by Tolo Tuitele and Kaloku & Da Krew. This event is free for PSU students with proof of ID. Tickets cost $10 for faculty and staff, $12 for pre-sale and $15 at the door for the general public. Learn more.

How Race Is Made in America: Natalia Molina Lecture

Tuesday, May 14 | 5:00 p.m. | SMSU Ballroom (3rd floor)
Come listen to this lecture by Dr. Natalia Molina, who will illustrate how broad themes of race and citizenship are constructed and explore how “racial scripts” are easily applied to different peoples, places and events. Register for this free event online.

Reuse Pop-Up Swap

Thursday, May 16 | 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. | SW Montgomery between 6th Ave and Broadway
PSU Reuses is hosting this swap, where campus and community members are invited to leave something, take something or do both! Donate household goods, office supplies, clothing and non-perishable foods. There will also be a bin to collect e-waste for any broken electronics or appliances. We are not able to accommodate furniture or broken or hazardous materials such as chemicals. This is a free event.

Chamber Choir: Surprise!

Friday, May 17 | 7:30 p.m. | St. Philip Neri Catholic Church
The Portland State Chamber Choir celebrates guest tenor Paul Sperry’s 85th birthday with a concert of American premieres, new works and old favorites. The program includes the American premiere performances of “Vineta” and “Es Rakstu” by Eriks Esenvalds as well as new arrangements of music by American composers Richard Hundley, Paul Bowles and Dudley Buck. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online.

Music That Binds Us

Saturday, May 18 | 1:30-3:00 p.m. | Lincoln Recital Hall
Join us for an afternoon of music you won’t soon forget! Six local composers join forces to create this exciting one-time only concert. This performance entwines moving audio recorded stories of everyday people with beautifully composed music commissioned with each story in mind to create a powerful and thought-provoking exhibit of the human experience. This concert is full of everything it means to be human—love, loss, sadness, triumph and tribulations. This event is free and open to the public. Reserve your seat.

12th Annual Sustainability Celebration

Thursday, May 23 | 3:00-5:00 p.m. | SMSU Ballroom (3rd floor)
This once-a-year extravaganza of inspiration provides a lively overview of sustainability initiatives, projects and programs at PSU. You’ll have the opportunity to mix and mingle with the most forward-thinking students, staff and faculty on campus. This event features an awards ceremony, project showcase, live music and free food. RSVP online.

Vikings Sports

Vikings Softball and Track events are happening all month. Make sure to check out the PSU Vikings event calendar for a detailed schedule.