LGBTQ+ Advocate Fosters Community and Inclusivity at PSU

Eli Hess

Being exposed to diverse perspectives and experiences is an important part of college. And students play a key role in cultivating this environment. 

Eli Hess is one of these students. A liberal studies major who graduated in 2014 from Portland State, they returned as a postbaccalaureate (seeking a second bachelor’s degree). Now they’re taking classes toward a degree in social work.

As a queer and non-binary person, Eli always had advocacy on their mind. “Social justice is a big part of my world. That started to fall into place once I got involved again at PSU, with  Illuminate and the Queer Resource Center.”

With the help of students like Eli and the thriving LGBTQ+ community in Portland, PSU is consistently ranked among the top 30 LGBTQ+ friendly colleges in the nation by College Choice and Campus Pride. This welcoming environment is what made Eli initially interested in PSU. It’s proximity to downtown and extensive programs were a bonus.

Growing up in Portland, Eli went to small magnet schools specializing in art. They graduated from high school a year early and had plans to take a gap year before going to college. “I got anxious about taking time away from school and applied to PSU. I liked the idea of going to a large college that’s integrated with what’s happening downtown. I would have access to a broad range of topics and ideas.”

They took classes in many areas, from music to Spanish to queer studies. PSU’s gender, sexuality and queer studies major didn’t exist at the time. But that didn’t stop Eli—they majored in liberal studies, which allowed them the flexibility to take various sexuality and queer studies classes.

A few years after graduating, Eli got a hankering to go back to college. They returned to PSU to take writing classes while volunteering at Call to Safety, a domestic and sexual violence crisis line serving the Portland area. 

Eli started looking for opportunities to advocate for students on campus. They began working as a Peer Educator for Illuminate, a program through PSU’s Center for Health and Counseling (SHAC). It sheds light on the social injustices that lead to sexual and relationship violence and creates social change through prevention programming. 


Eli (front) wearing denim at PSU’s Denim Day event.

Illuminate holds events on campus, like Denim Day, a campaign that asks students, faculty and staff to wear denim to spread awareness about sexual violence. 

The program also hosts workshops on topics like bystander intervention, anti-oppression and consent. “We even meet with the athletic teams twice per year. We tailor workshops to specifically reflect how sports culture functions within our larger social structure. It’s discussion-based, giving athletes the opportunity to talk about their narratives and listen to their peers,” says Eli.

Then, Eli had that lightbulb moment. “I thought to myself, ‘oh, social work. This is what I want to do.’ Social work has always been in the back of my mind since my dad got his Master of Social Work from Portland State.”

Eli is now working on their bachelor’s in social work. They hope to earn their master’s in one year through the advanced standing option.

“I trust PSU specifically for social work. It’s one of the few social work programs in the state and it’s consistently ranked as one of the best in the nation,” says Eli.

Eli’s advocacy on campus continued to grow. While working for Illuminate, Eli made connections with people in the Queer Resource Center (QRC), a resource for LGBTQ+ students that provides community spaces, hosts events and offers academic and personal support. They worked in a desk staff position for two terms before becoming the Trans Student Resource and Retention Coordinator.

“I’m working exclusively with trans students,” says Eli. “The position provides these students with the resources they need in order to thrive here. I’m a part of a team creating space for queer and trans folks to feel safe and recognized. It’s important to foster a community where they’re seen and not just reduced to one part of their identity.”

Students visiting the QRC will find a comfortable lounge area, computer workstations with free printing and an LGBTQ+ lending library, which features clearly marked sections for authors who are trans, POC and more. Students can mingle with their peers or talk with confidential advocates. The QRC hosts events throughout the year, from campuswide pride celebrations to small LGBTQ+ movie nights. See list of events

“I really like working in education, especially from a student affairs perspective. It’s important to promote social justice in education. We must create ways for students who wouldn’t take a gender and sexuality class to learn about biases and intersectionality.”

Eli’s long-term goal is to continue working in higher education. They’re considering transitioning into the academic side after earning a doctorate.

Eli recognizes that part of social justice is reevaluating and continuing to educate oneself. “Education and community are the roots of social change. Learning is my thing. I view my community and my relationships as educational as well. We can learn so much from each other.”

See how you can get involved with the QRC or Illuminate.


Eli (far left) speaking on a panel at Sex and Chocolate, an event hosted by Illuminate that explores sexual health topics and provides lots of free chocolate.

Inside PSU’s Judaic Studies Program

Judaic Studies students studying talking in the Park Blocks

Portland State offers a unique Judaic Studies program, where students learn Jewish history and Hebrew. All students, whether or not they’re Jewish, can pursue a degree in Judaic Studies. The program provides important insight into how this rich history has shaped cultures across the world.

The Judaic Studies program is interdisciplinary—classes cross into other departments, including history, English, film and world languages and literatures.

There are also many opportunities to study abroad in Israel. Students can see historically significant sites firsthand and learn while being immersed in Jewish culture. Thousands of dollars of scholarship funds are available to students interested in studying abroad in Israel.

Students in the Judaic Studies program develop excellent critical thinking and communication skills. They leave the program prepared to enter diverse fields, like non-profit management, social justice, grant writing and law. Many students also go into graduate programs, Jewish educational institutions and rabbinical studies.

Degree Options

PSU offers both an undergraduate major and minor in Judaic Studies. Students majoring in Judaic Studies have the opportunity to choose an area of concentration, including Israel studies, modern Jewish history and more. Students minoring in Judaic Studies complete at least 28 credits of Judaic Studies coursework. Since many of the classes are cross-listed with the history department, a minor in Judaic Studies is a great fit for students majoring in history.

Scholarships

Students in the Judaic Studies program have access to six dedicated scholarships, many of which are awarded to multiple students each year. The major scholarship application deadline is February 1.

Available to Judaic Studies majors:
  • Harold Schnitzer Family Scholarship: a $5,000 annual award for up to four years available to incoming students. Applications for this scholarship are accepted on a rolling basis.
  • Lorry I. Lokey Endowed Fund for Israel Scholarship: an award of between $1,000 and $5,000 to support students studying abroad in Israel.
  • Shleifer Scholarship: a $5,000 annual award of tuition support.
Available to both majors and minors:
  • Sara Glasgow Cogan Memorial Scholarship and Internship: an award that covers six credits of tuition to support students interning at a local Jewish communal or cultural organization, like the Oregon Jewish Museum or the Center for Holocaust Education.
  • Abigail Jacobs-Kaufman Scholarship: a $500 to $1,000 award for students with demonstrated financial need to cover tuition.
  • Aspen Mitzvah Fund Scholarship: a $1,000 renewable scholarship for students completing their second- and third-year modern Hebrew sequences.

Get Involved

The Jewish Student Union and CHAI (the Cultural & Historical Association for Israel) provide cultural and educational resources for Jewish students and the larger community.

The Judaic Studies department has a comfortable, community space for students and student groups to gather. The program has a strong relationship with the local Jewish community and hosts fascinating lectures and events throughout the year.

See how you can join PSU’s Judaic Studies program.

Meet Nam Le

PSU student Nam Le standing with bike

Nam Le is a PSU student working toward his bachelor’s in business, with a concentration in marketing. Nam is originally from Saigon, Vietnam. He came to Portland State as a freshman student. Here’s his story:

“I first found out about PSU by signing up for a campus tour with my high school. At first, I didn’t know anything about PSU, and I wasn’t considering applying here. But then I learned about PSU’s history and amazing programs. I was attracted to the business program because I learned about how PSU alumni Carolyn Davidson invented the Nike swoosh. I finally made the decision to go into PSU’s business program because it’s the best in Oregon. As a first-generation college student, and someone who is new to American culture, it was important for me to choose a college that has everything a student like me needs, including affordable tuition and a great location in downtown Portland.

I’ve already learned a lot. My favorite classes have been Professional Selling and Business Communication. I learned how to write professional emails and communicate effectively within a team.

I got a lot of support from my professors. Dean Erica Wagner was not as strict and hard on us students as I expected. She was actually really caring and became like a second mother. Professor Daniel Wong was also a mentor to me. He’s a great role model for first-generation college students.

I love all the food places around campus. Phat Cart has the best orange chicken bento, and there are lots of Thai places with delicious Pad Thai. I decompress by getting food from the food carts and reading in the rooftop terraces around the Urban Center. When I want to study, I go to the International Lounge, which is part of the International Student Services.

I lived in campus housing for my first three years so I could be close to the unique community on PSU’s campus. Living on campus helped me grow my connections and adapt to American culture. It also gave me easy access to unlimited on-campus events.

Through all the challenges, I’ve been developing into the person I strove to become. My plan after graduation is to work in the sales and marketing field in Portland. I have one piece of advice for students applying for college: College is an investment. Invest in yourself.”

See if PSU’s business program is right for you.

Returning Student’s Winding Journey to PSU

Bridie Cawthorne

When most people picture the typical college student, they think of someone fresh out of high school, living in a dorm and working a part-time job. But for many students, the journey to earning a college degree isn’t that straightforward. Sometimes, the path takes many years, and it’s never too late to go to college.

For Bridie Cawthorne, her path to earning her degree was complex. Now 38 years old, she’s about to graduate from PSU with her bachelor’s degree in biology, with a focus in molecular and cellular biology. And what’s next for Bridie? She plans on earning her Ph.D. and doing industry research.

Becoming a doctor was not her plan right out of high school. In fact, Bridie never graduated from high school. “Studying was hard for me. I was a terrible student when I was young.”

Bridie was born and raised in Portland, but she ended up moving a few times and working odd jobs. After volunteering for a veterinary hospital, she landed a job at an emergency veterinary clinic. She finally moved back to Portland and continued working as a veterinary technician.

“I spent 15 years doing that,” says Bridie, “and I felt like I had hit my glass ceiling. I was burnt out. I loved that job, but I couldn’t emotionally handle caring for sick animals anymore.”

A friend of Bridie’s was thinking about going back to school, and she encouraged her to do the same.

“I struggled like many other older students with the decision to go to college, especially because I didn’t graduate from high school. Not graduating is a hurdle many people think they can’t overcome and go back to school. Anyone can do it, and it’s totally worth it!”

It’s a common misconception that students need to have a high school diploma or GED to get into a four-year college. PSU has a few options for students with non-standard high school backgrounds, including enrolling as a non-degree student or transferring from a community college.

Bridie started taking classes at Portland Community College. She originally went back to school for nursing. That changed when she took a cell biology class.

“That class made me feel like things made sense. My professor’s lectures were amazing, and I felt supported in my learning process.”

She began doing research in the lab through BUILD EXITO, an undergraduate research training program that supports students on their pathway to become scientific researchers. Students at PSU and partnering community colleges and universities, like Portland Community College, get hands-on research experience at every stage of their undergraduate education. Students are matched with faculty advisors and peer mentors, participate in enrichment workshops and receive financial benefits, including monthly stipends and/or tuition remission. The goal of the program is to attract more diverse people into the biomedical and social sciences.

Through BUILD EXITO, Bridie was paired with faculty advisors who teach at Portland State, Dr. Mike Bartlett and  Dr. Jeff Singer. “Without their help and the support from BUILD EXITO, I wouldn’t have made it into the lab. I got so much guidance.”

When Bridie started college, she was afraid she’d still be a terrible student. But she excelled  and made it on the Dean’s List, an award that recognizes academic achievement. She earned her Associate of Science in two years at Portland Community College.

Transferring to Portland State was the perfect next step because she could continue with the BUILD EXITO program and keep working with her advisors. “All my professors and advisors have made themselves available, which helped shape my academic experience at PSU. They helped me get jobs and figure out what classes would be a good fit for me. Every student at PSU should take advantage of the faculty and staff who are there to help them succeed.”

Bridie does “wet lab” bench work in the molecular/cellular lab, which includes cloning and maintaining cell cultures, among other tasks. The research looks at proteins that play a role in regulating the cell cycle.

Because of all her hands-on lab experience, she knew working in a lab was the career she wanted. “PSU helped open doors for me. Getting to work in a real lab added so much value to my education. I took what I learned in my classes and was able to apply them to a lab environment,” says Bridie.

In her senior year, Bridie served as a classroom learning assistant. A few classes a term, she facilitated discussion in Principles of Biology, 200-level general biology classes. She helped students understand how to interpret peer-reviewed research.

At the end of 2018, Bridie went to the American Society of Cell Biology conference, which was held in San Diego. BUILD EXITO covered her travel funds. At the conference, Bridie presented a poster, showing professionals in the scientific community her research.

She faced some personal hardships along her path. “I had two miscarriages while I was a student. I was struggling with grief,” says Bridie. “I saw a therapist through SHAC. There can be a lot of stigmas associated with miscarriages, but I was able to get the help I needed.” Students taking more than five credits pay a Student Health fee, which covers most services through PSU’s Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC).

Bridie has a little more winding path to travel—she’s currently six months pregnant with her first child. After graduating from PSU, Bridie plans on taking a year off to focus on her husband and baby. Then, she hopes to get a Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at OHSU.

“When I first started taking college classes, I was self-conscious because I was the oldest person in the classroom. But I realized it doesn’t matter what age you are when you go to school. I was welcomed by a diverse group of students at Portland State. I feel supported here.”

See if PSU’s biology program is the right fit for your journey.

Bridie working in the molecular/cellular lab.

Summer Job-Finding Tips for Students

Student looks for summer job

It’s officially summer in Portland. Residents of the Rose City are trading their raincoats for shorts and swimsuits. It’s the perfect time to enjoy all that Oregon’s outdoors have to offer, including hiking the Gorge, attending music festivals and hosting backyard barbecues.

Summer is the perfect opportunity to gain valuable experience at a job or internship. You can build new skills, expand your career network and add to your resume. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your summer.

Figure Out Your Goals

Knowing your goals before you start the job hunt will help you save time and get the most out of your work experience. Do you need to earn extra money? Want to develop a specific skill? Hope to explore a career you have interest in? You should use this information to prioritize what jobs you apply for. Don’t waste your time applying for jobs you know aren’t a good fit.

Don’t be afraid to ask professionals in your field for an informational interview. On top of building your network, these interviews can help you see if that industry or career path is what you want to do after graduating.

Use PSU Career Services

To start your search, visit Career Services, a resource that helps PSU students and alumni achieve their career goals. Check out Handshake, PSU’s database of job postings and internships. Career Services also hosts career workshops and fairs throughout the year. This is your go-to place to get help with your resume, cover letters and more.

Spread the Word

Connect with friends, family and professors about your job search and explain what you’re looking for. Ask for their advice and see if they can put you in touch people in your desired industry. Other students are also a great resource, since they may know who is hiring both on and off campus.

Be Prepared

Research the employers you’re interested in and the people who work there. This can easily be done with a quick Google or LinkedIn search—you may learn you already have connections! Incorporate relevant information from the job posting and your research into your resume and cover letter. Show them why you’re the perfect fit for their company.

Should you be granted an interview, be prepared to answer questions about your skills and why you’re interested in that particular position. Ask a mentor or friend to do a mock interview, so you can practice your answers and get used to the interview environment. Try to make it as close to the real thing as possible.

When you go to the interview, make sure you arrive early, turn off your cell phone and show enthusiasm for the position. Get the names of your interviewers. Follow-up the interview with a thank you note—this little touch can help you make a memorable impression. Pro tip: Bring a thank you card with you to the interview and fill it out before you leave the office.

In a competitive job market, a career-related summer job or internship can make the difference in obtaining a full-time position. It is also a great way to make contacts and show employers your interest in their field after graduation.

Take Summer Classes

We know, taking classes is often the last thing students want to do over the summer, but the PSU Summer Session is the perfect opportunity to launch your career after you graduate. PSU offers over 1,300 online and on-campus summer courses ranging from 1 week to 12 weeks. Taking classes over the summer can help you explore new subjects, learn about your desired field and graduate sooner.

So while you’re enjoying Oregon’s beautiful summer weather, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success in your future career!

Already thinking ahead to when you return to school? Check out our blog about why you should get an on-campus job.

Meet Sebastian Suarez Hode

Sebastian Suarez Hode

Sebastian is a junior in PSU’s School of Film. He came to PSU as an IB international student from Mozambique. Here’s what he has to say about his journey to becoming a student at PSU:

“Choosing where to go to college can be extremely daunting. For us international students, having to do it from thousands of miles away can make the entire process much more stressful. When my time came to apply to colleges, I considered all options: big city or small town, large university or small college. When I found Portland State University online, it seemed like that perfect balance of what I wanted for my college experience. Situated in the middle of downtown Portland and surrounded by luscious forests, PSU offers the best of both worlds.

When considering Portland State, whatever questions I had about the campus, city or academics were answered quickly. PSU admissions staff and the Film department were always available to answer my questions in a personalized manner. Unlike the other universities I was considering, my correspondence with PSU actually gave me a good idea of what my college experience was going to be like. Even before I was admitted, I felt valued at Portland State.

Today, I am almost halfway done with my undergraduate degree. I feel settled into a diverse community of international and domestic students alike. My classes at PSU have felt like progress towards a career in the film industry. I am learning useful skills for film production and theoretical writing, as well as developing a strong personal style, which I’m conveying through my portfolio of film and video work.

Living in Portland is a breeze! Portlanders on and off campus are welcoming to everyone, and they always share a smile. Leaving the hustle and bustle of the city is as easy as a 10 minute train ride, where I can unwind in vast urban parks. Food carts and restaurants, with all types of cuisines, are situated all over the city.There is never a shortage of things to do in Portland!”

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.

Freshman Year at PSU: What to Expect

Freshman Year at PSU

So, you’re thinking about going to college. Everyone talks about how different it is from high school, but it’s hard to imagine what it will actually be like. To help you know what to expect from your freshman year at Portland State, we’ve asked some current PSU students what their experience was like when they first started out.


How does being a freshman at PSU compare to being in high school?

Overwhelmingly, the PSU students we talked to said being in college is liberating. You have more freedom, both in your schoolwork and personal life. It can feel like an daunting change at first, but once you find community on campus, you’ll have a support network.

‘It felt more liberating and like I could be my own person and take care of myself. But I felt like I still had support from PSU.’

Check out PSU’s extensive list of student groups, so find one you’re interested in and join! This is a perfect way to find a like-minded community on campus. There are also many resource centers that provide students with services and safe spaces to work on homework or relax.

Check them out:

Favorite part about being a freshman at PSU?

PSU offers many resources for students to adjust to college life.

‘I loved being able to explore the endless amounts of resources at PSU, like the tutoring services and Rec Center. They helped me see everything with fresh eyes and take it all in.’

Even though college coursework can be challenging at first, you never have to feel overwhelmed. You can get help with most subjects in the Learning Center, which offers both in-person and online tutoring. If you need help with any stage in the writing process (brainstorming and understanding assignments included), visit the Writing Center. Schedule an appointment online or visit during drop-in hours to meet with a tutor.

Stay fit by visiting PSU’s Rec Center. Climb the rock wall, swim in the pool, relax in the hot tub, use fitness equipment, take classes (like yoga or Zumba) and much more. You can even explore the Pacific Northwest by going on a backpacking or kayaking trip with the Outdoor Program.

Keep your mind and body healthy by using the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC). All students taking five or more credits pay a Student Health Fee, which gives them access to SHAC medical, counseling and dental services, regardless of whether they have PSU insurance. The Student Health Fee covers most medical and counseling services, including the Mind Spa, a space for relaxation through meditation, yoga, biofeedback, massage and light therapy.

Something unexpected about being a PSU student?

In high school, you rarely get to choose what classes you take. Of course, students have to take prerequisites at Portland State, but there’s so much more freedom to choose classes that interest you. The students we talked to were surprised by how much they loved their classes.

‘I didn’t expect that I would love my classes as much as I have. You get out of it what you put in, and I truly enjoy learning now.’

One of the unique things about PSU is that we have advising pathways. Similar majors are grouped together, so you can pick an area you’re interested in and stick with that advisor, even if you change majors. Your advisor can help you figure out your future career and suggest classes for you to take. Find your advisor and schedule an appointment.

Don’t be nervous about your classes. Advisors, tutors, resource center staff and your professors are here to help you succeed.

‘I didn’t expect to succeed as well as I am. It’s nice to know that passing classes isn’t as hard as I thought it’d be, especially since all professors have office hours and are willing to help students whenever they need extra assistance or clarification.’

You can find your professor’s office hours and contact information on their syllabus. If you can’t make their office hours, don’t hesitate to contact them to schedule an appointment.

What do PSU students wish they knew during freshman year?

When you’re worried about getting settled in, it can be stressful figuring out how you’ll pay for college. But there are so many opportunities at PSU and through the connections you’ll make here to find jobs and internships.

‘I wish I had known more about Handshake and other resources for finding jobs and internships.’

Handshake is an online application that helps you apply for jobs and internships at PSU and beyond. Getting a job on campus is a great way to connect with other student workers. And the best part is that on-campus jobs work with your school schedule—their first priority is helping you succeed as a student.

There are many other opportunities for you to pay for college at PSU.

‘I wish I knew more about how to get the most financial aid!’

Connect with the Financial Aid office and apply for financial aid every year. PSU also has an extensive list of scholarships. October 1 is the scholarship application deadline, so get a head start. Scholarships have different requirements, like essays and references.

Read our blog about understanding financial aid.

Major takeaway?

College is worth it! At Portland State, you’ll make lasting connections with people from diverse backgrounds. You’ll learn and grow as a student and person.

‘College is worth it, not just the academics, but the whole experience of meeting new people and gaining new experiences.’


Worried you’ll be homesick your first year? Check out our blog outlining all the PSU resources that can help ease homesickness.

Admissions Events Breakdown

Admissions Events

Every year, we host many events to welcome prospective and admitted undergraduate students to Portland State. But what do all the admissions events mean? We’ve compiled a list of all the admissions events, so you can figure out which ones you should attend.


For Prospective Students:

Campus Tours

PSU hosts guided campus tours most weekdays. Prospective students and their families will learn about the admissions process and go on tour around campus, led by one of PSU’s Student Ambassadors. Tours take about 75 minutes, and you will get to walk through the Park Blocks, tour some of our historic and renovated buildings, see the PSU Library and Viking Pavilion and check out campus housing. Sign up!

Honors Visit Days

If you are a prospective or recently admitted honors student, you can attend an Honors Visit Day, which includes an information session, campus tour and visit to the Honors Commons and Honors College housing. Register by selecting a visit labeled “HN.”


For Prospective Freshmen:

Preview Day

In the fall, high school seniors and their families are invited to this event on PSU’s campus to participate in fun activities and speak to current students, staff and faculty. You’ll get to hear about different academic departments and tour our 50 acre campus. You’ll also get to eat lunch on us at the farmers market or one of our many food cart options, which are set up along the Park Blocks. Learn more.

Bridges

High school students who are first generation and/or from ethnically diverse backgrounds are invited to this annual event, which happens in November. Students must attend as part of a school or organization. At this event, you will take part in a series of workshops and tours designed to help you make an informed decision about what career path you’re interested in and where you’ll go to college. You will learn about the admissions process, financial aid, scholarship opportunities and how to be a successful student at PSU! Learn more.

Viking Scholars

PSU hosts this event every May to honor high-achieving Oregon high school juniors. You must have a GPA of 3.50 or higher and be nominated by your high school counselor to attend. Nominated students and their families are invited to the Viking Scholars Reception, where they will be served dinner and celebrate their achievements. All students who attend will receive a $1,000 scholarship to be applied to their first term of full-time enrollment at PSU. Nominated students can register here.

VIP Vikings

Attendees to the Viking Scholars Reception who are also admitted to and enroll in the University Honors College will be invited to this event, which is held in August. Prospective Honors students and their families will enjoy an ice cream social and meet with current Honors students, faculty and staff. To top it off, all students who attend will be awarded an additional annual $3,000 scholarship. Qualifying students will receive an email invite.  


For Prospective Transfers:

Transfer Open House

These monthly events are for students interested in transferring to PSU. You will get to know PSU’s campus and meet with admissions and financial aid representatives. If you bring your official transcripts and apply to PSU 48 hours before attending, you’ll get an instant admission decision and have your $50 application fee deferred! See schedule.

Transfer Workshops

If you can’t make it to PSU’s campus for Transfer Open House, see if there’s a Transfer Workshop happening near you. PSU admissions counselors travel to community colleges around the Portland Metro area to answer your questions and help you with the admissions process. If you bring your official transcripts and apply to PSU 48 hours before attending, you’ll get an instant admission decision and have your $50 application fee deferred! See dates and locations.

Transfer Consultation

Admissions counselors frequently hold Transfer Consultations on community college campuses and at PSU. This is your chance to meet one-on-one with a counselor, who can answer any questions you have about becoming a PSU student. See Schedule.


For Admitted Students:

Admitted Student Reception

Admitted students are invited to celebrate their acceptance to PSU! At this event, you get to meet future peers and learn about the next steps for enrollment, financing your education, campus housing and more. These events are held at different locations around the country, including one on PSU’s campus. Sign up!

New Student Orientation

All new PSU undergraduate students are required to attend Orientation before they can register for classes. At Orientation, you’ll get to know the campus, learn about student resources and support services, register for your first term of classes and more. Before you can sign up for Orientation, you must confirm your enrollment. Sign up for Orientation!

Viking Days

PSU kicks off each school year by hosting this big celebration the week before classes start in September. The schedule of events includes a lip sync battle, SHAC block party, a drag show and more! This is the perfect opportunity to connect with fellow students and make PSU your new home. Learn more.


Make sure to take advantage of PSU’s many admissions events! They’re designed to answer your questions and welcome you to our diverse student body at PSU.

Still trying to decide where you’ll go to college? Check out our blog about National College Decision Day and tools to help you decide.