Journeys and Destinations

The circuitous route is sometimes the most enlightening.

“There were times when I had a lot of doubt, times when I thought I’d never get to the point where I could graduate. Looking back now everything looks so different.”

Franky Martin, a senior Graphic Design major from Salem, Oregon, will finally, after eleven years bouncing from college to college, job to job, walk the commencement stage and be rewarded with his Bachelor’s degree.

“Getting my bachelors was always at the back of my mind. It was always the goal,” but the route to that goal wasn’t always so clear.

Franky initially started at a private college in Oregon, but left after finding that it didn’t mesh well with his own personality. “It was small, rural, expensive— it just wasn’t for me. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity.”

Opportunity is something Franky finds at PSU in spades. “The engagement here, with PSU, with the city, is so amazing. The creative community is big and really receptive to student involvement.”

Portland’s urban environment was something that was always alluring to Franky. After leaving his first college, Franky started taking classes at Chemeketa Community College in his hometown of Salem, but all the while he was there the opportunities in Portland beckoned.

“At Chemeketa, all of my graphic design professors kept saying that the place to study in Oregon was PSU.” Before Franky transferred, he was able to speak with graphic design faculty at PSU, who helped him in the transition.

“Everyone here— the professors, faculty, even my peers— are so invested in my success. They really do care about my growth not only as a student but also as a person. Everyone seemed excited to help and get to know me.”

Franky’s professors have been able to put him in touch with graphic design professionals all over Portland who are helping him gain the skills and connections he needs to land a job after graduation.

“I helped with the design for Design Week in Portland this year, and there is no way I would have gotten that opportunity without my professors looking out for me.”

The professors in Franky’s program also bring in industry professionals nearly every week, and students have the opportunity to speak candidly with them about what is important to their growth and success in the industry.

“Looking at where I am now it’s hard to believe I ever thought I couldn’t get here. It’s kind of surreal.”

As surreal as it may seem, Franky’s success in the program (he was part of the winning Adobe Creative Jam this year, an event where PSU Graphic Design students have a limited time to create a unique piece of graphic art) is indicative of how easily PSU students are able to gain the skills the need to land a job post graduation.

“Oh yeah, I feel more than prepared. I’ve grown not just in my technical skill but as a person too. I’ve gained so much confidence, more than I’d ever thought I could have.”

Franky’s advice to new students?

“Really get to know the faculty in your department. They’re advocates for you, allies, and the people who can help you in good times and bad.”

Franky attributes a lot of his success to the mentorship of his professors. However, it is his own hard work that will shine brightest as he gets his diploma. When he does eventually leave campus to make his mark on the world, he isn’t seeing it as a door closing.

“It’s less of a journey ending for me as a whole new path opening up.”

Learn more about PSU graduates and student success!

See where alums are working now!

Franky Martin

A Place for Adventure

While PSU is definitely an urban campus, that does not mean that we vikings aren’t all about getting into nature. Wanna go to the coast? Sure, it’s just 90 minutes away. The mountains? Go hiking around Mt. Hood or in the Columbia Gorge. Feeling aquatic? Paddle out onto the nearby Willamette or Columbia Rivers.

“I love the access PSU has to wild spaces. It was one of the big reasons I wanted to come here,” says Jacob McCoola, a second-year graduate student in the Leadership and Sustainability Education program.

“Portland was the perfect fit for me. I had always wanted to live in a big city, and not only did Portland seems like a very cool place to live, culturally, but it had such unique closeness to the outdoors.”

Jacob, who spent two years as a naturalist in Colorado and has an intense fondness for outdoor education, is able to complement his degree program (the only one of its kind in Oregon) by working with PSU’s Outdoor Program.

The Outdoor Program, which is in its 50th year, is a resource center aimed at getting students into the outdoors by offering day hikes, weekend camping trips, rock climbing excursions, and much more, all of which are led by students.  

“It feels like half of my education has come from working with the Outdoor Program.” Jacob wants to continue using the skills he is gaining through the Program into life after college as an outdoor and sustainability educator.

“It’s the oldest university outdoor program in the country.” Jacob is not only an Outdoor Program Trip Leader, guiding students through explorations of the outdoors, but also the Program’s Outreach Coordinator.

“Being a trip leader is an amazing experience, and really helps students, myself included, gain leadership and management skills.” Any student, regardless of major can become a trip leader by completing the Outdoor Program’s Wilderness Leadership Development program (WiLD). “We get trip leaders from all over the university. We’ve had environmental science majors, linguistics majors, music majors. Anyone with a passion for the outdoors can do it.”

This inclusivity doesn’t only extend to the staff at the Outdoor Program.

The Program isn’t just for students who have experience in the outdoors, but for students seeking to learn new skills, broaden their knowledge of being outside and get to know their fellow students.

“We strive to make our trips and events accessible for all students, regardless of ability.” The Program often collaborates with the Disability Resource Center on campus to find ways to include all types of students in Outdoor Program trips.

“We recently had an awesome paddle boarding event out on the coast that we designed so that it would be inclusive for students with disabilities. It was great and everyone had an amazing time.”  

Jacob’s advice for students who want to make use of the Outdoor Program is simple.

“Come on a trip, any trip! I can’t think of a better way to meet people and form a real sense of camaraderie. Plus, it’s an adventure, and who doesn’t want that?”

Check out the Outdoor Program trip schedule!

Learn how to become a Trip Leader!

Jacob McCoola

PSU is a Place for Community

The comfort that comes from a welcoming and accessible campus can make all the difference. If certain campus resources are offered, like those that help students graduate, it can make the task of choosing a college much easier.

Such was the case for Grace Piper, a senior Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major from Hillsboro, OR.

Portland State was a really easy decision for me.” Grace had grown up around Portland and knew about the resources and opportunities PSU offers, but there was one thing in particular that helped them decide.

“What ultimately drove me to PSU was that it was listed in the top 25 most LGBT friendly college campuses when I was applying back in 2012/2013. This year I think we actually moved into the top 10, which is really cool and important!”

Once on campus, Grace found the Queer Resource Center, a support resource for students along the sexuality and gender spectra. “The QRC was on my radar early on.” QRC events helped Grace get acclimated to campus life and surrounded them with a community that understood where they were coming from.

“At first, I felt pretty shy and nervous. I remember coming into the QRC, looking around and quickly leaving. Eventually, though, I felt comfortable hanging out more and coming to events. I have made my best friends through the QRC.”

Now Grace helps to support the QRC by acting as their Marketing Coordinator. “I first got involved after helping plan Pride Month freshman year and have been working here since.” Grace also helps plan QRC events on campus that bring students who are feeling marginalized into a safe, welcoming environment.

“I helped plan the Queer Students of Color Conference this year. Pride Month, too, which happens throughout the month of May and leads us into the city’s celebration of Pride.” The Queer Students of Color Conference (QSOCC) especially represents the broad outreach that the QRC takes on, reaching out to student populations that may feel excluded or without representation.

All students, regardless of sexual or gender identity, can utilize the services of the QRC, which gets over 3,000 visits a year.

Grace’s university outreach doesn’t just extend to the QRC, they are also a University Studies Peer Mentor, leading the Health, Happiness, and Human Rights Freshman Inquiry course.

“It has been a really cool opportunity for me. I want to go into education and advocacy work, so this position has given me a lot of experience in teaching and curriculum development.”

All of these experiences are helping Grace gain the skills they need for life after graduation. “If I can, I want to work somewhere focusing on queer and trans and/or communities of color, which pairs really well with my campus experiences.”

Grace’s advice to new students?

“Seek community. Being marginalized makes completing your degree harder, so exploring the resources available to you is really important for support and making friends. Put yourself out there to find where you feel comfortable.”

Learn more about the QRC and find more LGBTQ resources on campus.

Grace Piper

Resource Breakdown: Writing Center

“It’s all about setting up a relationship with students,” says Lucas Bernhardt, sitting in his office at the PSU Writing Center.

He has to whisper, since a student is being helped out at one of the tables in the comfortable and quiet room. “We want to be an ally.”  

Lucas, the Center’s Office Manager, helps facilitate the Writing Center, which is an accessible and individualized support environment for students needing to improve their writing. “Hopefully, as students leave the center, their confidence in their own writing has gone up.”

So who can use the Writing Center? Everybody.

Having trouble writing for a class? Come to the Writing Center. Wondering how to cite work? Drop on by. Questions about the Oxford comma? Come early and often.

There is no question or concern too small, and the combination of adjunct staff and student workers (all of whom are Master’s candidates in English or Writing) will provide personalized, expert guidance on how to improve any aspect of writing.

“When students come in with questions, we are less interested in fixing the short term problems. Rather, we want to help students gain writing skills that they can take with them beyond college, into the rest of their lives.”

This approach seems to be working. Lucas has noticed that many students have become repeat visitors, growing as writers with every visit. The Writing Center is an especially valuable resource to international students and those for whom English is not a primary language, they make up more than half of the students who come into the Center.

“We collaborate a lot with English as a Second Language professionals all over the city to help people improve their writing,” Lucas says.

Students can make appointments to visit the Center or arrive during drop-in hours, with writing consultants who are professionally-trained in academic writing. A typical Writing Center session involves a student bringing in a piece of writing that they feel needs improvement, and their writing center consultant attempts to identify and fix the most pressing problem.

“It’s a varied approach. There are so many talented people working here, all with different backgrounds, so you’re going to be paired up with someone who can provide insightful and relevant feedback.”

Although the immediate goal of the Center is to solve writing issues, the end goal is creating stronger students. The best way to do that, Lucas says, is to be proactive.

“Come in early, earlier than you think you need to. We are always here to help, and we can support you more if you come in as you notice problems arising. Your goals are the same as ours, making your writing stronger.”

Learn more about the Writing Center and other resources for students who want to improve their writing.

Support to Help Stand Out

At first, Devyn Yan Radke, a sophomore English major from Portland, Oregon and graduate of Parkrose High School, was unsure about whether or not she wanted to attend college.

“I was worried that I would get lost in the crowd and that I wouldn’t be able to meet people and make friends.”

Looking back now, those anxieties seem so far away. Devyn is a Student Ambassador for the University, helping promote PSU to prospective students and acting as a resource for new students. Next year Devyn is also going to be a Peer Mentor for the Freshman Inquiry courses within the University Studies program, helping ease the transition to college for a new generation of first-generation students.

So what changed?

“I realized how much of a community PSU really is. Everybody is there to help with anything you need. It was all so open.”

Part of what helped Devyn acclimate to life on campus was the plentiful resources available to students. “What really helped were things like the Writing Center and Learning Center. I use both and they really help me do well in class.”

Devyn gets a lot of support from her department as well. “Everyone in the English department was so easy to talk to and all my professors have been really open and encouraging.” Her favorite professor?

“Sarah Ensor for sure.” A past recipient of the College of Liberal Arts Outstanding Teaching Award, Ensor teaches literature in the English department. “Not only is she a great teacher but I feel like I can always ask for for help in and out of class.”

Devyn is also a scholarship recipient in the EMPOWER program, a community for first-generation, Asian and Pacific Islander students coming to college for the first time. “The support groups here on campus really highlight how excited people are about getting kids through college and into careers where they can make meaningful impacts in their community.” Devyn will be providing that same kind of support as she is going to be a Mentor in the program, an opportunity she found out about through the Department of Multicultural Student Services.

Where Devyn is now, it’s hard to believe that she was ever apprehensive about going to college. “I have always considered myself an introvert, so programs like Student Ambassadors and being a Peer Mentor has brought out my leadership and communication skills.”

Her advice to students who are experiencing anxiety about going to college?

“Come in with an open mind and really try to get involved. Everyone is super friendly and wants you to join the community here.”

Sign up for a Campus Tour and discover the community on campus.

Devyn Yan Radke

Passions Find a Home in Portland

It’s all about finding your niche. Where you fit in, what you like, what you don’t. Discovering where you can thrive can radiate throughout your college life and out into your career.

“Getting involved and recognizing all the opportunities around you makes all the difference,” says Vineta Gleba, a Ukrainian-born, Beaverton-raised, junior majoring in Marketing. “Knowing what’s around and taking advantage of it means everything.”

That is part of the reason Vineta chose PSU to begin with. “I knew it had a really good business school. Plus, having it be right in the city meant that there would be all sorts of opportunities for me to get in contact with the community.”

Through the College of Business, Vineta has been able to meet with and tour several of the national organizations that call Portland home, like international ad giant Wieden + Kennedy.

Through the College and Business and the Honors College, Vineta was also able to complete an Internship abroad in Panama with Kalu Yala, a sustainable housing non-profit focused on building homes in the developing world.

She is also getting to meet with professionals at Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, through the Athletic and Outdoor Connect program within the College of Business. “I’m really into sports and physical activity, so it was great to meet with companies that shared my interests and with whom I could network.”

Vineta is also able to merge her passions for business and marketing with sports with her job at Campus Rec. “I do Marketing and Outreach so it really combines my interests.” Vineta helps students by promoting Campus Rec at resource fairs and by helping facilitate and represent Campus Rec events like PRIDE Kickball and Cornhole in the Plaza.

“I want students to know that Campus Rec is an amazing resource available to them, and that it’s included in their student fees.”

Vineta’s work with Campus Rec is helping her gain the skills she needs to pursue a career in business and marketing after she graduates. “I want to work for organizations that are interested in helping the developing world navigate environmental and social issues.”

That goal is enhanced by the Certificate in Social Innovation that she is getting from the College of Business in addition to her degree in Marketing.

“Being able to meet with companies in Portland, my job at Campus Rec and the innovative Business degree program are all giving me the skills that can help land an amazing job after I graduate.”

Vineta’s advice for students?

“Take advantage of all the incredible resources on campus. Discover your passions and surround yourself with people who love what you love. Especially Campus Rec, although I might be a little biased.”

Check out all the amazing programs and resources at Campus Rec that are included with your student fees.

Check out Vineta’s Blog and YouTube channel!

Vineta Gleba

Accessibility Meets Oppurtunity

The benefits of experience cannot be undervalued. Those who seek out the avenues to build their skillset are able to venture into the world prepared to make the biggest impact, a fact which Justin Orendorff, a junior Liberal Studies major from Canby, Oregon, understands.

“I want to learn as much as I can so that I can do something great after I graduate.” Justin aspires to be an author and to go onto graduate programs in creative writing, so it made perfect sense that he would get involved with Ooligan Press, the PSU student-run book publishing house on campus.

Couched within the Master of Fine Arts in Book Publishing program, Ooligan affords both undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to get hands-on professional experience with book publishing.

“I don’t think I could have gotten those kinds of experiences and skills at another university, not like this.” And Justin’s right. No other school in Oregon offers undergraduate students the chance to work on books that will actually go onto store shelves the way PSU does.

“It’s invaluable to see the process, especially since I want to be an author.” What’s more is that students participate with Ooligan as a class, so they get credits they can use towards graduation.

What’s especially unique about Ooligan Press, and PSU student groups at large, is that students don’t need to be in a specific major to participate.

“I’m a Liberal Studies major, so I take classes in sciences and education, but Ooligan, which I thought was only for English majors, was excited when I asked about joining. My major didn’t matter, they just wanted me to grow.”  

The ability for undergraduate students to get professional experiences while still in school is not only limited to Ooligan. Every major has ways for students to get involved with community or research projects, all of which are enhanced by the vibrant Portland geography.

Justin transferred to PSU from another Oregon university that was in a much smaller town.

“It definitely didn’t have the same resources and opportunities as Portland. Plus, I love that the campus is right downtown. It makes everything so accessible.”

That accessibility is playing into Justin’s project at Ooligan, where he is helping to organize the annual Write to Publish conference where authors can learn the ins and outs of getting published. “Since I want to be published one day it’s a perfect fit.”

Taking on community projects and hands-on skills during undergrad can have impacts that ripple out through a student’s life, and the staff and faculty at PSU are excited to facilitate students’ in their efforts serve Portland.

Learn about ways PSU undergraduates gain professional skills and interact with the city.

Justin Orendorff

Home Away from Home

For anyone coming to college for the first time, the task of making friends and joining a community can be daunting. This is especially true for students coming from outside the continental U.S., who may not know  a single person when first arriving on campus.

“Oh yeah, it can be super intimidating,” says Jovi Valencia, a senior Philosophy major from Waimea, Hawaii. “However,” he adds, “don’t let that stop you from reaching out. Everyone on campus is so welcoming and open.”

Jovi is speaking from experience. When he first got to campus he was reticent to attend Pacific Islander Club (PIC) events, but after his first experience he wished that he had meet up with the Club sooner.

“At first I didn’t go, but after a while I just came and hung out and everyone was super welcoming.” Now, in his final year at PSU, Jovi is on the Board of PIC and supports many different cultural centers on campus by attending events and meetups.  

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from if you want to get involved with a cultural club or organization on campus. If you click, you click, it’s that simple.”

The Cultural Resource Centers on campus serve not only as a place where students can interact with their peers, but also as a platform to help inform the population on campus about social issues that are important to each specific organization.

“It’s definitely about community awareness. Whether it be through talks, panels or culture shows, each club is passionate about letting people know about what’s important to them and their culture.”

One such piece of community awareness is coming up soon. The Pacific Islander’s Club, of which Jovi is a member, is putting on its Lu’au this Saturday, an annual tradition which is in its 15th year.

“It’s going to be great and is definitely our biggest event of the year. There’s gonna be lots of representation from many different cultures along the Pacific Rim, including lots of traditional dance, song, and good food.”

Jovi’s advice to students looking to get involved?

“Just come and hang out, you’re sure to find a group that you connect with. There really is something for everybody here, regardless of where you’re from.”

Check out the Pacific Islanders Club on Facebook!

Jovi Valencia

What You Need to Know About Orientation

Do I need to wear flannel if I move to Portland? Where’s the best coffee? Wait, there’s a bowling alley on campus?!

We know you have questions about Orientation, and we’re stoked to answer them. Here are the most common questions we get AND the answers. Have more questions? Email us at

Do I have to go to Orientation?

You sure do! You will not receive course registration access without completing an orientation program. Besides, there’s no better way to start off your PSU experience, you’ll meet faculty, academic advisors, current students and folks from PSU’s resource centers, student groups and, of course, fellow incoming students!

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

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

Out of State Dates and Locations

  • May 20, 2017, 8:30 am – 2:30 pm Honolulu, HI
  • May 22, 2017, 8:30 am – 2:30 pm Burbank, CA
  • May 23, 2017, 8:30 am – 2:30 pm Burlingame, CA

How long is Orientation?

Transfer sessions run for  half the day, about 4.5 hours. Out-of-state sessions sessions run from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, we’ll stick around after 2:30 to answer questions. On campus sessions run for the full day, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. You will not be able to register for classes if you do not attend the entire session. You must arrive at the beginning of the session so you can be checked-in, if you miss check-in you will have to attend another session, otherwise holds will not be removed to allow for course registration access.

Do I need to bring anything?

Yes! Bring a government-issued ID so you can get your PSU ID. We strongly suggest that you  bring a laptop or tablet for course registration (smartphones are not recommended for registration). You should also bring a rain jacket just in case (it is Portland, after all), and plenty of excitement about the upcoming academic year!

Does it cost anything?

Incoming students attending on campus sessions do not pay fee to attend Orientation, however, there is a small fee for each guest attending a freshman session. This can be paid in advance or upon arrival at the session. Incoming students and guests attending out-of-state sessions in Hawaii and California are both required to pay a fee. There fee helps cover the cost of the meal and materials provided throughout the session.

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

Of course! While not required, you may certainly bring a guest or two. Beginning this new chapter in your life is exciting and we want you to share that experience. We ask that incoming students limit their guests to two. We look forward to welcoming you AND your family to the Viking family!

Will I register for classes at Orientation?

Yes! This is why attending Orientation is required. You will be meeting with professional advisors in your academic area of interest that will give you specific direction for the courses you should take. You will walk away from Orientation with a completed fall term schedule!

Will I get to tour the dorms?

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

Will I get to tour campus?

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

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

It’s Orientation. No one knows anyone else yet! You’ll be meeting other students starting in fall term and you’ll spend a good amount of time with others who are sharing the same major as you. This is a good chance to chat and meet with people you’ll be seeing again in September on campus!

What if I can’t attend any of the offered Orientation sessions?

Contact as soon as possible to make arrangements.

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

If you have any remaining questions after this list, get in touch with us at Keep an eye out for Orientation emails that are being sent to your PSU email account. Many of the details that you’ll need will be sent to you closer to your actual orientation date.

More Information and Orientation Sign Up

International  Student Orientation Info and Sign Up

Surprise in the Unexpected

Sometimes a plan comes together in the shadow of uncertainty. For Hayley Pritchard, a first year School Health Education major from Nevada City, California, the decision to pursue college was never so clear. “College wasn’t really on my radar.”

It wasn’t until she visited Portland and learned that PSU had a degree that interested her, that college became a possibility in her mind. “I’ve been interested in health education ever since I started volunteering with health organizations in the seventh grade, so I was thrilled to learn that PSU had a School Health Education degree.”

Hayley is wasting no time in making her mark on campus. She is going to be an RA next year, and she sees a lot of potential to use what she is learning in her classes to help incoming students.

“What I’m learning in my Stress Management (PHE 275) and Community Health (PHE 446) classes I can apply to working with students living on my residence floor and help get them through their first year.”

Transitioning from living at home to living on campus in a big city can be a big change for some, but Hayley sees living in the heart of Portland to be an amazing chance to explore. “I love how connected all the student housing is with the city. It really allows you to explore and go everywhere. It’s unrestrictive.”

Hayley is exploring all that the city has to offer. “I feel like I’ve been all over Portland this year, tasting all the amazing food and experiencing all the amazing culture the city has to offer. I even found a place I can go blues dancing, a passion of mine.”

Getting around Portland from PSU is easy since the Max (light rail), streetcar, bus and BIKETOWN (bike share) all have a presence on campus. “You can even walk to most places you want to go.”

Don’t think that living downtown means you’ll be living in cramped spaces. PSU has a wide range of on-campus housing options, all of which, from the modern residence halls to the historic ones, include everything students need to thrive in their first year.

“Living in the dorms really helps create a community, too. You’ll get to meet a really diverse set of people.”

Hayley’s advice to students coming to campus this fall? “Make sure you are proactive. Not just in school, but to yourself as well. Make sure you take care of yourself and do what makes you comfortable. Surround yourself with everything you need to be successful, it makes all the difference.”

Learn more about Housing at PSU and sign-up to take a Housing tour!