How to Create Your Scholarship Strategy

It can seem like an impossible task to apply for scholarships. Where to start? What to write about? How to add in scholarship applications to your already packed schedule? We know you’ve got a lot going on. To make it a little less scary, we put together some tools and tips to help you get started on your scholarship applications, leaving you with plenty of time to watch Netflix get caught up on school work. Applying for scholarships is time-consuming, no doubt, but it pays off big time. Literally.

Let’s start with the basics

Scholarships are opportunities for free money you can use to pay for college. By “free” we mean it’s money you don’t have to pay back. Scholarships can come from many different sources. Creativity and confidence can go a long way when searching for opportunities.

There are many different scholarship types. Some scholarships are merit or skill-based, while some depend on how you are involved with your community, and some are based solely off financial need.It’s a good idea to apply early. Many scholarships have early application deadlines, with most opening in the fall and closing quickly for next school year. This means that scholarship applications need to be submitted nearly a year in advance of when you plan to start school. The earlier you apply the more likely you are to get more money because the pool of competitors will likely be smaller.

What do I need to submit?

For most scholarships you will likely need to complete three to four components:

Scholarship Application: This form is for your personal information, things like classes you are taking, grades, where you’re from, etc.

Responses to Essay Questions: This is your chance to introduce yourself and highlight your experiences and achievements. We went in-depth on the best ways to make your essay stand out. It can be useful to save your essays since a lot of scholarships have similar essay questions. A little bit of tweaking on a basic essay can save you a lot of time.

Letters of Recommendation: Most students submit at least two from key influential professionals in your life that can speak to your character and accomplishments and want you to succeed. Make sure to give your letter-writers plenty of notice to avoid any disasters. Got questions about asking for letters? We can help!

Interview: Sometimes (not often) scholarships request an interview with students. Treat it just like you would a job interview. Remember to be honest and confident!

How do I find scholarships?

Go Local First. Begin your scholarship search at your school. The PSU Scholarship for students applying for the fall term opens on October 1 and closes on February 1. This scholarship is exclusive to students interested in coming to PSU. We did a post about this great resource, so be sure to spend some time reading up on it.

Use Community Connections. This is an important one because organizations are more likely to give you money if they know you personally. Think about the social, athletic and professional communities that you are a member of. Talk to your family, coworkers, friends and who knows? The more you spread the word, the more likely you will get a scholarship. Do you volunteer for an organization frequently? Don’t be afraid to ask for a scholarship! The worst thing that will happen is that they say no.

Here are a few options:

Broaden your search. There are scholarships for just about anything out there. Think about your goals and dreams. What brought you to this point? How do you plan on using your degree? Think about your next big steps and then search for a national scholarship that may be specifically focused on studies in the arts, sciences or unique to you and your future endeavors. You can also make a list of anything unique or interesting facts about yourself and start with that!

Here are a few options:

Go BIG! There are national scholarship directories, too:

Get the Help you Need

Schedule an Appointment with a PSU Financial Aid Counselor. Open to all students, the Office of Financial Aid holds Scholarship Workshops every Fall term to help students create effective scholarship applications.

PSU Advising & Career Services Workshops PSU’s Advising and Career Services offers a selection of workshops aimed toward helping you choose a major and career, answering your questions about internships, preparing you for interviewing, perfecting your resume and cover letter, and more. No need to sign up in advance, just arrive in their office prior to the time the workshop is scheduled to begin.

Visit the PSU Writing Center The Writing Center aims to help writers at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to the final draft. When preparing for a session, reflect on what you want to focus on the most. It is helpful to bring two drafts, one for you and one for the consultant. 

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.

Finding Your Way with WUE

Are you interested in attending college out of state but intimidated by the cost of tuition? Well, if you haven’t already heard, the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) is a phenomenal program that greatly lowers the cost of tuition for students who live in states in the western region of the United States. 

WUE tuition is 150% of in-state tuition, less than half of out-of-state tuition.  And the best part—all students are automatically considered for WUE if they apply to PSU by May 1. WUE is the ticket to get the out-of-state college experience without paying the out-of-state price.

Visit our Paying for College page to help you get an idea of what to expect for tuition.

Students from almost every WUE-participating state attend PSU. Portland State University is proud to be the only research university in Oregon that participates in the WUE program.

Visit our website to learn more about eligibility requirements.

And that’s it! You should definitely take advantage of this amazing opportunity to study out-of-state in our beautiful city!

Learn more about WUE and apply now.

6 Best Study Spots on Campus – Ranked

Being on campus in the middle of bustling downtown, we get used to being surrounded by distractions. It can seem impossible to find a place to focus and get work done. As a student, it is super important to study in an environment free of interruptions. With finals week coming up, we scoured campus to find the most productive study spots at PSU.

#6 Academic and Student Recreation Center: Yes, the gym is here, but this building has multiple spots on several floors to get work done. The first floor features plenty of chairs and tables for studying with a group. On a sunny day, you definitely need to visit the expansive 5th floor balcony to study; surrounded by jaw-dropping views of the city and a peekaboo from Mt. Hood.

#5 Karl Miller Center: This stylish building has plenty of solo or collaborative space on almost every floor. The modern design provides ample access to power outlets and natural lighting. CoCo Donuts and Best Baguette are on-premise for when you need a study snack break. Visit CoCo Donuts after 2pm for their stellar happy hour deal: just two dollars for a donut and coffee.

#4 Fariborz Maseeh Hall: Our newest campus building is artfully designed to make the most of natural light, has plenty of seating, tons of outlets, and secluded spots if you look for them. Case Study Coffee is located on the first floor.

#3 Smith Memorial Student Union: This building was designed with students in mind. There are study spaces throughout the entire space with comfy chairs and plenty of tables to spread your work out. Large windows overlooking the beautiful scenery on the Park Blocks provide a relaxing atmosphere to focus and get work done. The sky bridge between Smith and Cramer Hall fills up quickly but if you’re able to find a spot, it’s a good one for getting work done.

#2 Millar Library: If you’re working on a group project, the flexible study areas on the 3rd floor provide ample room with movable furniture and study booths. Students with children under 5 can even reserve a spot in the family study room, a space designed to accommodate kids with toys, books, and a large window. There are also silent study areas in the basement, and 4th and 5th floors for those who need silence to focus.

Viking Pavilion

#1 Viking Pavilion: Our sports arena might seem like an unlikely place for getting work done. Turns out there are several hidden spots, perfect getting work done. There is seating and tables on multiple floors for solo or group study sessions. Versa Cafe on this first floor will keep you caffeinated and focused.

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! 

Four Essential Autumn Hikes Near Portland



As the days get shorter and temperatures get colder, it might seem like it’s not worth getting motivated to explore the outdoors. One of the best things about attending Portland State is the easy access to nature — any time of year. We’re 90 miles to the coast and 90 miles to Mt. Hood and there’s plenty to explore in between. Here are some nearby hikes that are especially amazing during the fall and cannot be missed out on:


Forest Park – Lower Macleay Trail

Difficulty level: Beginner
Distance: 1.7 miles
Distance from PSU: 11 minute drive, 1 hour on public transportation

Spanning 5,200 acres, Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the United States. This lush forest stretches eight miles along the northeast slope of the Tualatin Mountains. The Lower Macleay Trail follows Balch Creek, and hikers can expect to cross several wooden bridges. This trail passes the famous “Stone House”, otherwise known as the “Witch’s Castle,” a 1936 building that has since been abandoned and covered in lichen. Forest Park is a wonderful hike for visitors to experience the beauty of Oregon forests without leaving the Portland city limits.

Trillium Lake

Difficulty level: Beginner
Distance: 2 miles
Distance from PSU: 90 minute drive

There’s a reason this hike is popular. Views of Mt. Hood across a serene mountain lake make it worth the trek. And it’s beautiful year-round; in the fall the beauty is in the leaves and the reflections off the glassy water. It features gorgeous views of Mt. Hood and a wooden boardwalk that winds through the forest. It’s only two miles with a minimal incline, making this hike great for first-timers. Ducks and geese live near the lake, and you might get lucky and see deer grazing among the trees. In the winter, it’s a great beginner snowshoeing trail. Don’t own snowshoes? Rent them from the Outdoor Program!

Silver Falls – Trail of 10 Waterfalls

Difficulty level: Moderate, with lots of stairs (can be icy in cold temps)
Distance: 8.6 miles
Distance from PSU: 90 minute drive

Have you ever walked behind a waterfall? This is one of the most stunning hikes in Oregon and one of the most photographed waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest. 50 miles south of Downtown Portland, this hike ambles through lush forest, and takes you past waterfalls that are up to 200 feet tall! This is a long, winding hike, but it’s well maintained and the elevation gain is moderate. You can park at one of the many entrances and take the shorter two or four mile loops.

PSU Outdoor Program is leading a group hike at Silver Falls on November 23! Check out their schedule to view the full list of events.

Cape Horn Trail

Difficulty level: Strenuous
Distance: 6 mile loop
Distance from PSU: 45 minute drive

While this hike is in Washington, just across the Columbia River, it’s only a stone’s throw away from the Portland State campus. If you are up to the challenge of scaling steep inclines and braving muddy trails, you will be able to experience the breathtaking panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge. This hike also takes you past tumbling waterfalls and gives an epic display of the changing autumn foliage.

Oregon is known for its beautiful scenery and there is no shortage of adventure in the area. If you need a little extra motivation to get out and explore this season, head on over to the Portland State Outdoor Program where you can find affordable gear rentals and sign up for guided trips year-round. Have fun out there, and be sure to tag @go2psu on your adventure.

PSU Admissions Myth vs. Fact

The sheer amount of info surrounding the application process can be overwhelming, to say the least. To help you sail smoothly through the process, we have set course to debunk some of the misconceptions about admissions and student life at Portland State. Let’s drop some truth bombs.


Myth: I need to write a personal essay to apply to PSU.
Fact: PSU does not require an essay or letters of recommendation to apply. Admission is based on GPA and test scores for high school students, and college GPA for transfer students. However, students do need to write essays to apply to our University Honors College as well as some scholarships, so sharpen your pencils.

Myth: I have taken college-level courses in high school (things like Running Start, Early College, etc.). So I apply as a transfer student, right?
Fact: Regardless of how many college credits you have, if you are still enrolled in high school and have not yet graduated when you apply to PSU, you will be considered a freshman applicant. You will only be required to follow Freshman admission requirements, and the college-level credits will be transferred to PSU should you be admitted.

Myth: PSU will only accept test scores sent directly from SAT or ACT.
Fact:
We understand that officially submitting scores can be costly and time-sensitive. As a result, PSU does not require test scores to be submitted through the organizations who proctor the test. All we need is for the test scores to be reported as part of your high school transcript. Talk to your guidance counselor if this is something you would like to do, and relax, we have it covered.

Myth: PSU does not allow students to take a gap year.
Fact:
Exciting news! We have recently developed a policy for gap year students! This new policy allows eligible students to defer their admission for one year. Check out the eligibility requirements to participate in this new program.

Myth: It is always less expensive for a student to first attend community college and then transfer to a four-year university.
Fact: 
It depends. Research shows that students who start at a four year school are more likely to graduate in four years, but that’s not always the best option for people. Our admissions counselors are here to work with you to determine the best route for you whether that means starting at a community college or coming to straight to PSU from high school. PSU understands the transfer student experience. In fact, 58% of our student populatation transfered here. 

Myth: Incoming freshmen are required to live on campus at PSU.
Fact:
Campus housing at PSU is always optional.  41% of incoming freshmen and 51% of students from other states choose to live on campus. Most of our international students also live on campus. Living on campus for your first year is highly encouraged, and is guaranteed for any student who applies before May 1st. We are pretty proud of our Residence Life program here at PSU. In fact, students who participate in our Living Learning communities typically have GPAs a whole point higher by sophomore year. Many of our students choose to live at home or off-campus. We are happy to work with you to find the best housing option for your situation. 

Myth:  Freshman courses at large public universities usually have over 100 students.
Fact:
The average class size at PSU is only 35! It’s the relationships that form in the classes that really matter. At PSU, you’re not just a number. With the small class size, along with a student to faculty ratio of just 20:1, means that you can get important personalized attention from professors who care about your success.

Myth: PSU doesn’t have the campus life other large public universities have and is only a commuter school.
Fact: We’ve got a lot going on at PSU and the Viking Pride is strong! We have more than 200 student clubs, 15 NCAA Division 1 sports teams, club sports teams, 10 Cultural Resource and Resource Centers, Greek Life, a student newspaper, a student run radio station and movie theater and so much more. We guarantee that every student will find something to be passionate about on campus. Go Viks!


We hope that demystifies at least some of the questions you may have about applying to Portland State University, but if we missed anything feel free to reach out to your PSU Admissions Counselor and they will get back to you pronto!

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.