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.

Upcoming Events: March 2019

Events in March

This March is the month of creativity at PSU. Performances, concerts and seminars will be heard all around campus, beckoning students to take a break from school work and enjoy the show. Here are some event highlights happening in March. For a more comprehensive list, check out the PSU events calendar.


Redefining Failure: Empowering Women of Color in Business

Friday, 1 | 12:00-2:30 p.m. | Karl Miller Atrium
Join PSU’s School of Business and Women’s Resource Center for this annual event. Hear from local leaders of color within a business as they share insights to visibility in the workplace and sustaining in a predominantly white field and city, as well as stories of redefining failure through lessons gained along the way. These speakers will be providing TEDx Talks on their experience followed by a Q&A. This event is free and light refreshments will be provided. Learn more and register to attend (required).

In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play

Friday, 3 – Saturday, 9 Various showings | Lincoln Performance Hall
This play is set in the 1860s, when a new invention has electrified the Victorian home of Dr. and Mrs. Catherine Givings. Don’t miss this provocative comedy from Sarah Ruhl about electricity, pleasure and true intimacy. This play is for mature audiences. Tickets are $6 – $15, which you can get online.

Creative Writing Program Reading Series:
Suzanne Matson and Andrea Hollander

Monday, 4 | 6:30-8:00 p.m. | SMSU 333
Fiction writer Suzanne Matson and poet Andrea Hollander read from their new work, hosted by the Creative Writing program. These readings are always free and open to the public. View their readings calendar.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Wednesday, 6 | 1:00-2:30 p.m. | SMSU M211
This conversation, facilitated by Jen Mitas, encourages attendees to reflect on their own role in the social networks that make a positive impact on the places we live. This is a free event hosted by the Office of Academic Innovation. RSVP online.

Frida Fest

Friday, 8 | 5:00-7:00 p.m. | Parkway North, SMSU 101
Diversity and Multicultural Student Services is hosting this event to celebrate International Women’s Day with influence from Frida Kahlo’s life. Come enjoy various activities, catered food and music. This is a free event.

Ladies’ Lab Night

Saturday, 9 | 12:00-6:30 p.m. | Hoffman Hall
At this event, young women in the Portland community interested in science are invited to meet the women doing research in PSU’s biology, chemistry, geology, physics and engineering labs. Attendees are able to learn about the amazing work these women are doing, make valuable connections and see what a career in science might look like. Everyone is welcome to attend, regardless of gender or age (children must be above 9). RSVP online and see the event schedule.

PSU Vocal Collective: A Celebration of Women in Art

Wednesday, 13 | 7:00 p.m. | Lincoln Recital Hall (LH 75)
The PSU Vocal Collective and Advanced Vocal Combo present a concert of music by female composers and arrangers. They will explore topics of women’s rights, empowerment, strength, love and grace through a selection of contemporary compositions. This event is free and open to the public.

Elevating Impact Summit

Friday, 15 | 8:00a.m.-5:00 p.m. | The Portland Armory
Join The School of Business’ Impact Entrepreneurs to celebrate business for positive social, environmental and economic impact. Attendees enjoy talks on the main stage, a pitch fest for local entrepreneurs, exhibits and activities on the mezzanine levels and breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon reception. Student tickets are $25 and regular tickets are $110. Learn more and buy tickets online.

My Soul Is a Witness: Spirit and Spirituality in the Songs of America’s Enslaved

Sunday, 17 | 4:00 p.m. | Lincoln  Recital Hall (LH 75)
Listen to lyric tenor Leroy E. Bynum, Jr., Dean of the College of the Arts, and Music faculty Chuck Dillard, on piano. This recital will explore both the spirit and spirituality of America’s “slave songs” captured in concert arrangement by several of the 20th century’s most celebrated arrangers of spirituals. This event is free and open to the public.

Mandelring Quartet

Monday, 18 and Tuesday, 19 | 7:30 p.m. | Lincoln Performance Hall
Listen to the Mandelring Quartet, presented by Friends of Chamber Music. The four individual members are as one in their shared determination to seek out the innermost core of the music.  Their approach to the music is always both emotional and personal. Tickets range from $30-$55 and can be purchased online.

We Met in Moscow

Friday, 22-Sunday, 31 | Various showings | Alpenrose Dairy Opera House
This musical is based on the lives of Eleonora Andreevna and Ralph Bunch, Portland State University professor emeritus. Both middle-aged and broken-hearted when they met, the show not only explores the unique way this couple fell in love during the post-Cold War era but also the adventures they had exploring their cultural differences. Tickets range from $5-$18 and can be purchased online.

Vikings Sports

Vikings Basketball, Tennis and Golf are playing all month. Make sure to check out the PSU Vikings event calendar for a detailed schedule.

Portland: A Comics Hub

Comics in Portland

Portland is a city full of creative people. It should be no surprise, then, that it’s a hub for comics lovers. Portland is home to some of the best indie comics publishers, numerous comic book shops and endless events. And Portland State helps foster this vibrant community, offering one of the only programs in the nation where students can learn about and make comics.

We’ve compiled a list of all the things PSU and Portland have to offer for folks interested in the comics scene.


At PSU
Comics Studies Program

PSU students can earn a Comics Studies Certificate. This program takes an interdisciplinary approach, getting students hands-on practice to create comics, learn theory and make connections with the publishing industry. This is a 24-credit undergraduate certificate that can be fulfilled in conjunction with a bachelor’s degree. Students studying related topics, like English or Graphic Design, would be a great match for this program. The Comics Studies program helps students get internships with local companies, like Dark Horse and Oni Press.

The Comics Studies program has professors who are accomplished professionals in the comics industry. You can learn writing from Brian Michael Bendis, who has won five Eisner Awards and is the primary architect of the Ultimate Marvel Universe. He is the co-creator of Miles Morales, the character who was recently adapted into the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie. You can also take a class from Shannon Wheeler, acclaimed cartoonist for The New York Times and creator of the satirical superhero Too Much Coffee Man.

Portland State is inspired by the creativity and innovation coming out of the comic-book scene in Portland. PSU’s mission is to connect students to the local comics community. Comics Studies students are taking what they learned at PSU and getting jobs doing what they love in Portland and beyond, as comics artists, writers and scholars.

PSU Comics Club

PSU has an active community of comics makers and enthusiasts. Many of these students are members of the PSU Comics Club, a student organization dedicated to connecting people interested in comics through reading discussion groups and other events.

Library Collection

PSU’s Millar Library has an extensive Dark Horse Comics Collection—so extensive that they have a copy of EVERY Dark Horse comic book, graphic novel, poster, figure, etc. the press has ever produced. PSU takes care to collect, document and make the collection available because of Dark Horse’s value in Oregon history. But it’s also important because Mike Richardson, founder and creative mastermind behind Dark Horse, graduated with a degree in art from PSU in 1977.

The Dark Horse Comics Collection includes a research collection and browsing collection. The browsing collection is on the third, fourth and fifth floors facing the curved windows. These books are easy to find and pursue, and you can read them in the library or check them out. If you want to look at the research collection for scholarly reasons, you’ll have to make an appointment in Special Collections.


In Portland
Comics Publishers

The comics produced in Portland run the gamut from zines printed in garages by small artists to the most popular comic series and graphic novels in the nation by local publishers.

  • Dark Horse Comics: We’d be surprised if a comic book reader hadn’t heard of Dark Horse. They’re the publisher behind many critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful comics, like Sin City, Hellboy, Aliens and Star Wars, just to name a few. We love that PSU alumnus, Mike Richardson, is the founder of Dark Horse! Their headquarters are just South of Portland in Milwaukie.
  • Oni Press: Located just across the Hawthorne Bridge from PSU, Oni Press publishes a different kind of comic—they avoid publishing anything superhero. Instead, you’ll find comics like Rick and Morty, Invader Zim and Scott Pilgrim.
  • Image Comics: One of the biggest comics publishers with numerous imprints, Image Comics recently moved their headquarters to Northwest Portland. Since their imprints feature so many genres, it’s hard to sum up their titles, but The Walking Dead, Saga and Unnatural are some of their most popular.
  • Microcosm Publishing: Granted, Microcosm publishes more than comics, but they do have an impressive number of totally unique zines and graphic novels. They’re known for their punk approach to publishing, featuring titles about art, radical politics and odd humor. They also boast way more women authors than the industry standard. Their headquarters are in Northeast Portland.
Comic Book Stores

We’d need a pretty long list to feature ALL the comic book stores in Portland, so we’ve compiled just a few of our favorites.

  • Books with Pictures: Their mission is to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, race or disability status. They stock everything from indie to LGBTQ to all-age comics. You can find them near the famous Ladd’s Addition neighborhood on Division Street.
  • Bridge City Comics: In North Portland, you’ll find Bridge City Comics, which offers both new and used comics and a large Portland-based creators section.
  • Cosmic Monkey Comics: Everyone from new comics fans to avid collectors can find something in Cosmic Monkey Comics’ huge selection of comics and collectibles. They’re located in Northeast Portland.
  • Floating World Comics: Located in Chinatown, Floating World Comics carries more than comics, offering records, original artwork and kids titles. Their online shop is also impressive and gives you an idea about what you’ll find in store.
Events

Author signings and comic book releases happen frequently, so follow comic book shops and publishers online to see what’s coming up.

  • Wizard World: This comic con is coming up—February 22-24. Wizard World boasts impressive celebrity guests and outstanding vendors.
  • Rose City Comic Con: In September, you can go to this annual comic book and pop culture convention. Tens of thousands of people attend each year, many of whom dress up in comic-inspired cosplay.
  • Kumoricon: If anime and Japanese pop culture is more your speed, check out this convention in November. Attendees dress up as their favorite anime characters, play games, watch panels and more.
  • Meetups: Portland hosts an impressive number of comics-related meetups, boasting hundreds of members.

So, go read a comic, preferably one made by a Portland publisher, found in the PSU Library or purchased from an independent shop. Make connections and be a part of the thriving comics scene.

Learn how you can apply to PSU and enter the Comics Studies program.

Dark Horse Comics Collections
Memorabilia and comics in the PSU Library Dark Horse Collections.

Be Honest Showcase

On April 30, Portland State’s graphic design students displayed their work at the seventh annual Be Honest Showcase, a portfolio show, open house, alumni reunion, award ceremony, and variety show. Unlike most portfolio shows, this is not just for graduating seniors, students of all levels have the opportunity to share and discuss their work. More than 133 student students participated. Franky Martin, graphic design student worker for the Admissions Office, offered to share about his experience at Be Honest and in the graphic design program at PSU.

I’m originally from Oregon and close to finishing my last year as a graphic design student at PSU. After completing my Associate’s Degree at Chemekata Community College in Salem, OR and working in my field, I decided I wanted to gain more experience and earn a Bachelor’s Degree in graphic design at Portland State. I transferred to PSU because they were able to work with me on transferring my existing credits to make them count towards my degree so I didn’t have to pay or redo work that I had already done.

PSU has given me valuable experience and countless opportunities to work on projects for real clients, showcase my work, and connect with people in the graphic design industry. Every spring, the PSU art department partners with the advertising firm Weiden + Kennedy to host an open portfolio show for graphic design students. This year was my first year in the show and it was a great experience for me to put myself and my work out in public and talk about the different projects I have completed throughout the year. For me, selling my work and my passion for is hard.

Additionally, in one of my classes at PSU we partnered with nonprofits or school programs in the Portland area to create brand identities. This was a great experience because we had to present not only to faculty but to the actual client. These are just two of the many opportunities at PSU that have taken my learning beyond the classroom and allowed me to elevate my skill set both in working with software technicalities and professional development. I have made so many connections with really talented peers as well as people in the graphic design industry.

Franky is close to finishing his bachelor’s degree in graphic design at PSU. He is a talented artist and loves the creativity and practicality he gets to use in his chosen field. When he is not using his artistic abilities, he can be found at one of the many skate parks in Portland. His favorite food truck on campus is La Casita.

Photos from Be Honest Showcase, 2016

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