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.

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.

Upcoming Events: June 2019

Upcoming Events June 2019

The school year is coming to a close at Portland State, which means we’re celebrating all our graduating students. Across campus, PSU students are welcoming summer with inspiring film, music and theater performances throughout the start of the month. Take advantage of these events before campus winds down. For a more comprehensive list, check out the PSU events calendar.

Archeology Roadshow

Saturday, June 1 | 10:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. | Walk of the Heroines, by Hoffman Hall
Join the anthropology department for a celebration of the region and Oregon’s heritage. Explore the archaeology of daily life with 40 exhibits and hands-on activities organized by PSU students, faculty, alumni and dozens of community partners. This event is free and open to the public. See more information about the activities.

Global Rhythms VIII

Saturday, June 1-Sunday, June 2 | various showings | Lincoln Performance Hall
People love to sing, and they love to sing together—this has been true in every culture since the dawn of humankind. In Global Rhythms PDX, the choir is a vehicle to explore the widest possible range of sounds and styles for the human voice. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $7 for students from any school. Purchase tickets online.

New Play Festival

Saturday, June 1-Sunday, June 2 | various showings | Boiler Room Studio
This is the final week of the School of Music and Theater’s showcase of new dramatic works, which are written, performed and directed by PSU students! Tickets range from $6 to $15 and can be purchased online.

PSU Vocal Collective with Nancy King

Monday, June 3 | 7:00 p.m. | Lincoln Performance Hall
Portland’s beloved jazz singer Nancy King joins the PSU Vocal Collective for their final concert of the year. The PSU Vocal Collective is a 14-voice ensemble and rhythm section, presenting unique arrangements of jazz and other contemporary music styles. The concert will also feature selections by the Advanced Vocal Combo. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for seniors and students and free for PSU students. Get tickets online.

Senior Send-off

Tuesday, June 4 | 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. | Park Blocks in front of the Simon Benson House
Come celebrate the Class of 2019 with FREE PIZZA. The first 200 graduating seniors will receive a special gift from the PSU Alumni Association. There will also be a decorating station with supplies for students to decorate their grad caps for the 2019 grad cap contest. All students are welcome to attend. Learn more.

Kyogen! Dance! Drums!

Tuesday, June 4 | 7:00 p.m. | Lincoln Performance Hall
At this event, PSU students and Japanese guest actor Shingeyama Ippei will perform five short comic kyôgen plays. One of the plays is the first staging of an original play written by a PSU undergraduate. All are hilarious farces, which are full of surprises, hyperbole and physical slapstick. The PSU Taiko Ensemble joins the show for rousing, up-tempo drumming. Tickets range from $5 to $12. Learn more and purchase tickets.

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.

Chuck It for Charity

Thursday, June 6-Sunday, June 15 | 5:00 p.m. | various location on PSU campus
Each spring, students moving out of residence halls dispose of many usable items. Instead of sending them to the landfill, students have the opportunity to donate them to charity! Collection bins in select residence halls will be available for non-perishable food, clothing, home goods and other items. Donated items will be redistributed on campus via Pop-Up Swaps, through the PSU Reuse Room, and to local charities. Learn more.

School of Film Spring Showcase

Friday, June 7 | 3:30 p.m. | Lincoln Hall
This showcase features the work of students graduating from PSU’s School of Film. The event includes a portfolio show, followed by a reception, student showcase and award presentation. The student showcase features a faculty-curated selection of student work produced during the academic year. This event is free and open to the public. Learn more.

Honor Day Graduation Celebration

Friday, June 7 | 5:00-8:30 p.m. | Native American Student and Community Center
This is an annual commencement ceremony where the Native American Student and Community Center recognizes graduating PSU Native American, Alaskan Native and Pacific Islander students. Learn more.

Family Friendly Commencement

Saturday, June 8 | 1:30-5:00 p.m. | Smith Memorial Student Union
The Resource Center for Students with Children hosts this free event to celebrate the accomplishments of students who have triumphed in pursuing their degree at PSU while raising children. Children are invited to join their parents and cross the stage to receive a family diploma. In addition to the ceremony, the event will start with a family bash including a bouncy house, games, arts and crafts, refreshments and more. Learn more.

Free Food Market

Monday, June 10 | 12:00 p.m. | Park Blocks in front of Shattuck Hall
Every second Monday of the month, the Free Food Market provides fresh fruits, vegetables and other food items to PSU students and the greater community. This partnership between the Committee for Improving Student Food Security and the Oregon Food Bank is an effort to increase student access to healthy food options and to reduce food insecurity. This event is free and open to the public. Here’s how it works.

Lavender Graduation

Wednesday, June 12 | 6:00-8:00 p.m. | Smith Memorial Student Union
The Queer Resource Center hosts this event to honor the graduates of their community in an intimate setting. The ceremony includes dinner and acknowledgements of each participating graduate. This event will include a catered dinner, ceremony and reception to follow. All Gender Restrooms are available onsite. Learn more and register to attend.

Multicultural Graduation

Friday, June 14 | 6:00 p.m. | Smith Memorial Student Union
This is an annual Cultural Resource Centers ceremony that honors diversity and celebrates cultural traditions by creating a student-centered inclusive space to celebrate the graduation of multicultural students. The ceremony includes student speakers, a keynote speaker and a post-ceremony dessert mixer. Learn more.

Commencement Ceremonies

Friday, June 14-Sunday, June 16 | various times | Viking Pavilion and Moda Center
PSU students will gather together to celebrate the culmination of their hard work. Decked out in regalia, students will walk across the stage to be conferred their degrees. Graduates are encouraged to invite family and friends, but they must reserve tickets. The different colleges at PSU have dedicated ceremonies throughout the weekend at either the Viking Pavilion or Moda Center. See ceremony schedule.

Many departments and programs at Portland State hold their own events to celebrate students and their communities. See the full calendar of these graduation celebrations.

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.

Top 5 Reasons to Live On Campus at Portland State

Campus Housing

We know the last thing you need to worry about when you come to Portland State University for your first term is where you’ll live. You already have to deal with college applications, financial aid and scholarships essays. Not to mention jobs, chores, assignments and… you know, life.

So we’ve made it easy. Simply apply for housing by the priority deadline, May 1, and you’ll have easy access to all the beauty and excitement downtown Portland has to offer.

Here are five reasons why living on campus is a rewarding and irreplaceable experience.


1. Get better grades

National research shows that students who live on campus have higher GPAs and are more likely to graduate on time than their off-campus peers.

Living on campus also means access to a ton of academic support. Academic coaching, Resident Academic Mentors and an after hours in-hall academic support center are all available to help you succeed.

2. Forge lifelong friendships

Living with your peers is an amazing way to meet new people who share your passions. You can even choose to live on floors with your Freshman Inquiry classmates. Part of PSU’s unique University Studies program, Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) classes are a theme-based, interdisciplinary approach to education that foster close cohorts of students.

Applying to the Honors College? There are Honors-only housing, so you can be part of that dedicated, close-knit community. Are you an international student? You can live with other international students who will relate to your experience. Are you a transfer student? Well, you can live with other transfer and upperclass students as well. PSU strives to house students with people in their community.

PSU’s diverse student body means you will encounter students from all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.

3. Be healthy and happy

PSU has a ton of awesome (and free) ways you can relax and stay stress free on campus. You can see a movie in the 5th Avenue Cinema, a student run cinema that plays films you wouldn’t normally get to see on the big screen—and there’s free popcorn!

Stay fit and have fun at Campus Rec. You can take a dip in the on-campus pool or hot tub, climb the rock climbing wall, attend a Zumba class and much more.

Through Student Health and Counseling (SHAC), you can also get accessible, on-campus mental and physical health services from a team of dedicated professionals. The counseling services are free for all students taking five or more credits. You can even use the Mind Spa, a space where you can meditate, do yoga, play biofeedback games, relax in a massage chair and use the light therapy alcove.

4. Stay safe

Public safety officers patrol our neighborhoods 24/7, keeping our campus community safe. Our buildings require special access, only granted to building residents. You can even use one of the call boxes throughout campus or call Campus Dispatch directly if you would like a safe walk home late at night.

Since you’ll already be on campus, you can get to class without driving in stressful rush-hour traffic. To top it off, you have easy access to all of Portland’s public transit options.

5. Save money

Living on campus means no credit checks, no worrying about paying utilities, no landlord disputes and no hassle about complicated contracts and fine print. And of course, it’s cheaper than living anywhere else downtown. Not to mention that payment plans are also available.

There are so many on-campus housing options, which range from vintage flair to modern chic. So stop worrying about where you’ll live and focus instead on what’s important: which food cart has the best gyros.


If you’re worried about moving to campus as a first year student, check out our blog all about easing homesickness—it lays out even more resources to make your transition to living on campus easy and enjoyable.

Apply for on-campus housing!

From Robotics Hobbyist to Aerospace Engineer

Engineering student, Jennifer Jordan

Your hobby just might turn into your career—and PSU could be the next step to get you there. Engineering started as a hobby for Jennifer Jordan, and now she’s a student at Portland State double majoring in Electrical Engineering and Physics with a minor in Mathematics.

Jennifer is from Astoria, a small town off the Oregon coast, and also happens to be the setting for the 1980s cult classic, “The Goonies.” At first, she didn’t want to go to college far from home, so she started close by at Clatsop Community College. That’s where her interest in engineering blossomed into her future career. “I was a leader of the ROV (remotely operated vehicles) team on campus. We built a robot named Lazarus and took it to an international robotics competition. It was a cool event, and it was the first time I was really exposed to the world of engineering and met people in the industry.”

Getting her degree wasn’t an easy road, though. “My mom died when I was pretty young,” says Jennifer, “so I didn’t have a safety net. I went to three different high schools and lived on my own for a while. I ran into financial issues when I was going to community college. I was working two jobs and going to school full time, and it just wasn’t feasible to balance everything.”

After a year and a half, Jennifer dropped out of community college to work full time. She got a job in the medical industry, which she did for five years before deciding she needed to go back to college. “Working in the medical industry helped me deal with my mom’s death, so it was helpful for me emotionally. But there was a point where I wasn’t being challenged. That pushed me to get more involved in different hobbies, like robotics, and go back to school.”

She found herself exploring the PSU website. She knew she wanted to study physics, but the Maseeh College of Engineering caught her attention. “Growing up, I always liked math and science, but I was living in a small town without opportunities in STEM. It seemed just out of reach,” says Jennifer. But Portland State’s excellent engineering programs and its affordability compared to other Oregon universities made it a real possibility. In the end, she decided to do both: physics and engineering.

“The first time I was on PSU’s campus was when I made an appointment to meet with an advisor in the Maseeh College Student Services office. Coming from a hobby background in engineering, I didn’t really know the difference between mechanical, electrical and civil engineering. They helped me find the best fit and told me about different scholarships.” Current and prospective undergraduate engineering and computer science students can schedule an appointment with a Maseeh College advisor or stop by during designated drop-in hours. Advisors do more than assist with admission and scholarships—they will help students transition into a career by connecting them with jobs and internships.

It didn’t take long for Jennifer to find her place. “When I first joined the Maseeh College, I was nervous about being a girl in engineering. In my Electrical Engineering 101 class, there were about 50 guys and 6 girls. It was really intimidating. But then I joined the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and got involved with people in the community.” SWE is an organization made up of students and women working in the engineering industry, and their mission is to provide professional development opportunities and engage in K-12 outreach.

After immersing herself in the engineering community and proving herself in classes, she was offered a managerial position in the Electronics Prototyping Lab (EPL). “The EPL is a lab through the Electrical Engineering department, but it’s open to ALL students, regardless of major. We’ve had English majors, art majors, all kinds of people. It’s just such a creative and inclusive environment.”

The EPL is just one of many labs in the Engineering Building. Maseeh College Student Ambassadors, like Jennifer, lead tours of the Engineering Building frequently. What’s one of Jennifer’s favorite thing about the Engineering Building? “There are so many things, but one cool feature is the Dryden Drop Tower. It’s a 102-foot tall metal tower, which you can see by the stairs when you enter the building. It simulates the micro-gravity that occurs on spacecraft.”

Jennifer is also involved with the Portland State Aerospace Society (PSAS), a student aerospace engineering project working on building Oregon’s first satellite (which will be launched by NASA) and a rocket that would allow PSAS to launch their own satellites in the future. With the funding and resources made possible through the Beta Project, Jennifer helped design and build what she refers to as “the cage.” Jennifer explains, “the cage is going to test the satellite. It creates a magnetic field strong enough to cancel out the earth’s magnetic field or amplify it in any direction. So when we have the prototype of the satellite built, the cage is going to test the satellite’s ability to orient itself.”

For the rocket project, Jennifer is working on the Argus Module, a  360° camera device. “It has six cameras that are oriented so we can stitch together the video from all the cameras and put it in an Oculus Rift (a virtual reality headset). When the rocket gets launched, you’ll be able to look around as if you’re on the rocket.” Watch a 360° interactive video of one of their rocket launches.

Jennifer relied on the student loans she got through FAFSA for her first year at Portland State. After she gained confidence and experience through her involvement with different engineering projects and groups, she applied for scholarships. She was awarded the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation scholarship (SMART) through the Department of Defense. The goal of the scholarship is to support and recruit some of the brightest STEM students in the nation. “They’re paying for my schooling, including my tuition, books and housing” says Jennifer, “and after I graduate, I’ll be doing a summer internship in Georgia and working for them for a few years after I graduate.”

And after working for the Department of Defense, Jennifer wants to work in the aerospace industry. If you had asked Jennifer years ago what she saw on her horizon, she would not have pictured this. “I don’t come from a family where I had a lot of financial or academic support. I never thought I could do anything like what I’m doing now. I’ve definitely put in a lot of hard work, but I could not have done it without the community and support here at PSU.”  

See how Portland State can help you with your next step.

Sign up for a campus tour and visit the Engineering Building.

Jennifer Engineering Project
Jennifer in one of the engineering labs showing off “the cage.”

Transferring to PSU is Easy

It's easy to transfer to PSU

There are things in life that are hard: running a marathon, doing your taxes, building IKEA furniture…

Transferring to PSU from your community college is not one of them. In fact, transferring to PSU is pretty darn easy.

More than 50% of students at Portland State University enroll after taking classes at other colleges and universities, so we understand your needs and concerns as a transfer student.

To top it off, PSU offers Transfers Finish Free, a program that covers standard tuition and fees for income-eligible Oregon transfer students. The deadline to apply to PSU to be considered is July 1.

PSU has expert Admissions Counselors specifically trained to help students transfer to PSU from community colleges and universities all over the country. Here are their tips tips for making the transfer process smooth and hassle-free.


1. Take a look at our Transfer Degree Maps and meet with an Academic Advisor

In collaboration with several Oregon Community Colleges, we have created special transfer degree maps to help students navigate the transfer process. Students are encouraged to meet with their Academic Advisor to discuss their degree plan and see how their credits will transfer into their new degree.

2. Check out Transferology

Make sure your community college credits transfer over to PSU by using Transferology, an interactive online tool where you can compare multiple universities to see where your earned credits will go the farthest.

3. Meet with a Transfer Admissions Counselor

Transfer Admissions Counselors are here for one reason: to help you apply to PSU with the strongest application possible. Admissions Counselors are available year-round to answer questions and meet with students about their transfer application to PSU. Their goal is your success, period.

4. Visit us at a Transfer Event

PSU is coming to you for Transfer Workshops! Admissions Counselors and Academic Advisors will be visiting Oregon community colleges and meeting with students. At Transfer Workshops, you can:

  • Apply to PSU and defer your $50 admission fee!
  • Speak with an academic advisor—all popular majors will be represented
  • Get your financial aid and scholarship questions answered
  • Learn how the credits you’ve already earned will transfer to PSU

Want to come visit us? Transfer Open Houses are monthly on-campus events where students interested in transferring to PSU can meet with admissions and financial aid representatives, learn about PSU and tour our beautiful, 50 acre, downtown campus.

If you bring your official transcripts (from every college you’ve attended) and apply to PSU online 48 hours before you arrive, you’ll get an instant admission decision AND we’ll defer your $50 application fee! Check the Transfer Open House schedule and sign-up today.

5. Fill out your FAFSA early on

In order to be considered for PSU scholarships and financial aid, you must first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA also determines your eligibility for things like work study and federal grants. You can fill out the FAFSA at any stage in the admissions process, so it can be helpful to get it out of the way so that you can focus on other things. Check out our blog all about demystifying the FAFSA.

6. Know important dates and deadlines

Like with all applications, there are important dates you should know. PSU accepts admissions applications on a rolling basis, but it’s best to submit early. February 1 is the next big date to remember:

Check out our blog dedicated to breaking down all the dates you should know. Review them early on so you don’t get caught off guard.


As long as you follow our tips, transferring to PSU will be a breeze! And get in touch with us—we’re here to help you through the process.

Apply to Transfer Now

Snow at PSU

Snow Sculpture

All Portlanders have their fingers crossed that we won’t get another snow storm like 2016, which is still referred to as the “Snowpocalypse.” Even though snow in Portland is uncommon—the campus has only been closed a few times over the years—it’s important for PSU students to know how to deal with snow if it happens.

PSU Alert

PSU’s first priority is keeping students safe. If the weather conditions make getting to and from campus dangerous, PSU will close for part of the day or completely, canceling classes and events. Notification of closures will be posted to the website, notified to the media and sent through the PSU Alert system to all students, faculty and staff. The PSU Alert system will send you updates through the contact information you provide in Banweb (PSU’s information system where students find their records, register for classes and manage their financial aid information), so make sure your information and contact preferences are up to date.

Class Cancellations

Keep an eye on the weather reports and check your pdx.edu email frequently.  Even if PSU does not close, some professors cancel class preemptively or because they can’t make it to campus. If campus is open, but you can’t make it to class safely, contact your professor ASAP—professors will accommodate students who miss class because of the weather. You should prioritize your safety and comfort over getting to class. Check out PSU’s list of emergency and public safety resources.

Transportation

Stay off the roads by taking public transit. Inclement weather can cause the transit to run behind, but the Portland’s public transit is so extensive that it can help get you to class and back home safely. Check out our blog all about TriMet’s public transit options.

The Campus Public Safety office stays open during closures, so you can reach out to them for help.