Veteran Explores Trauma in Writing and Comics

Dustin Rozier

Portland State’s urban campus is a big departure from home for many students. Growing up in a small town of about 5,000 in Georgia, Dustin Rozier never imagined he’d end up in Portland, let alone go to college.

“Where I grew up, I didn’t know anyone who went to college. No one in my family went to college, and very few graduated from high school. The idea of college didn’t seem like a feasible option,” says Dustin. And now, he’s making the most out of being a student at PSU, following his interests across many programs. He couldn’t settle on just one! Dustin is a senior finishing his bachelor’s in English and Creative Writing in fiction, with minors in French and Philosophy and a Comics Studies certificate.

Dustin’s path to PSU was not simple. Right out of high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. “At that time, we were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I thought I had this duty to serve, but it was also a way for me to get out of my small town. I left when I was 18, then spent six and a half years in the Marines.” Joining the Marines and seeing many parts of the world exposed Dustin to people from diverse backgrounds. His mind was opened to new ideas. It got him thinking about going to college.

“I had never lived in a city outside of the military. While I was on leave, I visited Portland and really liked the Pacific Northwest. I identify more with the social and political environment here. I’m vegan, for example.” Dustin initially planned on working security jobs. He knew he would get money for college from GI Bill Benefits, so he decided to take the plunge and apply to PSU.

Dustin got involved with the community of veterans at PSU by working in the Veterans Resource Center. The VRC provides a comfortable and supportive environment for veterans, including a student lounge, computer space, leadership opportunities, student employment and programs.

Students who think they qualify for benefits should connect with Veterans Services. In addition to the VRC, PSU’s Veterans Services includes the Veterans Certification office, which can help you process and certify your Veterans Affairs (VA) or Department of Defense (DoD) benefits, including the GI Bill. There are several different GI Bill programs with different eligibility under the VA Education Benefits. Keep in mind that before you can apply to use VA Education Benefits, you must apply to PSU and contact the Veterans Certification office.

Visit the Veterans Services website for information about how to start getting benefits.

Dustin lives in an apartment on campus with his dog, Bear.

Like many students, Dustin wasn’t sure what major he wanted. He tried the Anthropology program and enjoyed it. But when he took College Writing (an introductory writing class), he found the right fit for him. He was always a big reader and did some writing. His professor helped him connect with the English department and suggested he meet with his advisor. PSU has Advising Pathways that groups similar majors together, so students can stay with their advisor, even if they switch majors. “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without the support from my advisor, Roxanne James, and the amazing faculty in the English department.” Says Dustin, “They helped me figure out what topics I was interested in and pushed me to pursue them.”

Dustin’s passions moved from wanting to help veterans through social work to helping them deal with trauma through his writing and scholarly work. “I’m interested in trauma theory and ecocriticism,” says Dustin, “like looking at how comics can display personal and environmental trauma, and how that helps people cope.” He decided to study Creative Writing and Comics Studies, in addition to English, so he could both learn about comics and write them.

He even joined the University Honors College, so he could connect with other dedicated students. Honors students work one-on-one with faculty on research projects, internships and a senior thesis.

His dreams just kept getting bigger. “When I first started, I had no idea I would even get a degree. Then it slowly formed into the idea of getting a PhD in English Literature. I decided I wanted to teach in a university.”

When Dustin found out about the Peer Mentor program, he thought it was the perfect opportunity to gain teaching experience and get more involved with PSU students. Peer Mentors are part of PSU’s unique University Studies program. University Studies is a nationally recognized approach to education that gives students an integrated learning experience, critical job skills and lifelong connections. Students choose a theme-based class and work on a project that addresses a real problem in the Portland community. Peer Mentors work with professors to design lesson plans and lead small group sessions with students outside of the main class. These group sessions help students get more individualized feedback and build community.

“I worked with one professor on a class with the theme ‘Portland,’ then another with the theme ‘The Work of Art.’” Says Dustin, “Being a Peer Mentor helped me learn how I could transfer a lot of my skills I developed in the military, like leading people, public speaking and problem solving, to the educational environment at PSU.”

When Dustin decided to apply for grad school, he knew Portland State was the only place he wanted to go. He felt supported by the faculty and staff at PSU, but he also knew he would be still be challenged in the English program. And he was accepted! Next fall, Dustin will be starting his master’s degree in English and teaching at PSU as a Graduate Assistant.

“I’m not in the same demographic as most undergrads,” says Dustin, “being a veteran and a first-generation college student. Going to PSU and living in Portland has helped me look back on my past in a different way. It helped me realize how I can use my background and interests to teach others.”

Dustin is excited he gets to stay at PSU and explore the Pacific Northwest more. When he’s not busy with classwork, Dustin is a part of the motorcycle culture in Oregon. He builds motorcycles and rides them around the state, taking in Oregon’s natural beauty.

Check out PSU’s Advising Pathways, so you can start figuring out what major is your right fit.

Dustin poses with his motorcycle against the Oregon landscape.
Dustin on a writing research trip during wildfire season in Southern Oregon.

Multicultural Retention Services Empower PSU Students

At PSU, we understand that supporting students means helping them succeed at every opportunity. Each student is unique, and that means that they all need equally unique support.

That support can come from many different places.

Multicultural Retention Services (MRS) provides academic support, advising, referrals and advocacy to students who are first generation, low income and/or from diverse and multicultural backgrounds. MRS offers support to students through services for Latino/a, Asian, Pacific Islander, African, African American and Diversity Scholars.

Cultural, academic and social support takes many forms, and MRS has services designed to build a strong sense of community that is essential to successfully navigate PSU.

Who can benefit from these services at PSU?

Student mentors and staff help students navigate through these programs, the results of which come in the form of better grades, more financial certainty, a greater support network and a heightened graduation rate.

Learn more about MRS and see how the communities on campus are encouraging students to pursue their passions and get their degree.

Get the Facts: Transferring to PSU

The decision to transfer to another school is a big one. We want you to have all the facts about the process so you can make an informed decision and take the steps needed to earn your degree.

We’ve debunked the myths we hear from students about the transfer process:

Myth: It’s too late to apply to PSU for the Fall term.

PSU takes applications on a rolling basis which means that prospective students can submit applications as late as September 1. You should apply as early as possible for the term you plan to enroll. We open applications for Fall 2018 on August 1. You can still apply for Fall 2017! In fact, a great option for folks interested in starting next fall is to attend a Transfer Workshop where you can:

– Apply to PSU and defer your $50 application fee
– Talk to Academic Advisors
– Find out how your credits transfer to PSU
– Meet with Financial Aid representatives

Sign Up for a Transfer Workshop

Myth: I need to earn my associate’s degree before I can apply to transfer to PSU.

Students interested in transferring to PSU from a community college do NOT need to hold an associate’s degree before applying to PSU or to be admitted. Students with 30 or more transferable quarter credits (20 semester credits) earned after high school graduation will be reviewed for admission as a transfer student. Check out PSU’s transfer admission requirements to get all the details.

There is also the misconception that a bachelor’s degree from PSU requires completion of math and science coursework. There are many degree programs at PSU that only require one math or science class in order to graduate, and those credits may transfer from your previous school. Talk to your admissions counselor or connect with an academic advisor to find out how your specific courses will transfer to PSU.

Myth: Transfer students can’t live on campus.

Transfer students absolutely live on campus and they get to choose from multiple housing options. Transfer students get the same housing opportunities as all undergraduates at PSU. In fact, on campus housing can be less expensive and more convenient than other local housing options. Transfer students planning to start in fall term must submit a housing contract by May 1. The Office Housing and Residence Life accepts contracts from students prior to admission, so don’t wait to submit a contract!

Myth: PSU is too big, I’ll just got lost in the crowd.

The average class size at PSU is just 27 students. Myth. Busted. Our student to faculty ratio is just 19:1. What this means is that you won’t be taking classes in huge lecture halls or struggling to get in to the classes you need to complete your degree. PSU’s academic and career advisors’ jobs are to help you plan your courses and think about our careers. Before you start at PSU you can connect with advisors who will help you look at your current course loads and advise you as you plan for your transfer to PSU.

Myth: Going to school downtown is a hassle.

If you’re worried about getting to and from PSU everyday, put those worries to rest because there are a bunch of different ways to get to campus, and after your first trip you’ll think it’s easy. If public transportation is your thing (it’s convenient and affordable), you can take the bus, streetcar (FREE for PSU students) and Max to campus. Public transit is the most popular mode of transportation for PSU students and employees. Learn more about PSU’s student transit program (aka discounts!).

Biking is popular too, whether you ride your own bike to campus or use Biketown. PSU has multiple bike garages (and if you live on campus, you’ll have access to housing bike garages), where you can leave your bike safely and out of the rain.

Myth: I can’t meet with a PSU Academic Advisor until I’m admitted.

PSU advisors are happy to meet with students before they have even applied to PSU. We recommend connecting with a PSU advisor, admissions counselor and financial aid representative as soon as you can to plan out your college career and make the most of your time at PSU. Another reason to attend a Transfer Workshop!

We hope that clears up at least some of the questions you may have about transferring to Portland State, but if we missed anything feel free to reach out to your Admissions Counselor.