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.

Get to Know the PSU Library

It’s safe to say that students have become accustomed to looking to the internet for everything. Need to research for an assignment? Wikipedia and Google Scholar are just a click away, right from the comfort of your home. But you shouldn’t overlook the PSU Library. It’s a powerful resource for students, which can be utilized both in person and online. Since there are so many resources, it can be hard to figure out where to start. Let us walk you through it.


Millar Library

The PSU Library, also called the Branford Price Millar Library (Millar for short), is that building with the curved windows overlooking a big tree and the Park Blocks. The rumors are true—the 1989 addition to the building was made to surround the ancient Copper Beech tree, rather than replace it. The historic tree and surrounding library symbolize PSU’s dedication to environmental awareness and preservation of the Pacific Northwest’s beauty.

During the term, the library is open from 7:30 a.m.-Midnight, with shorter hours on the weekend. Hours vary for different resources and for holidays, so check out their website for more information.

What You’ll Find

Resource Floor Breakdown
Circulation Desk 1 Your go-to place to check out anything you might need: books, study room keys, laptops, chargers, headphones and Course Reserves (short term loans of textbooks or other materials for class).
Study Rooms Basement,
3, 4 and 5
Every PSU student gets up to 15 hours of study room time per week. There are lots of study rooms to choose from, with different sizes and equipment. Reserve a study room online.
Computer Labs 1 and 2 Across both labs, you’ll find over 100 computers, both Macs and PCs. There are also printers you can use from lab computers or online from your personal computer. Make sure to have your student ID handy when you go to print.
Reference Desk 2 Need help finding a book or starting your research? Ask a librarian at the Reference Desk. They’re available to answer your questions.
Learning Center 2 Here you can meet with tutors and get help with almost any subject you could need, including academic coaching. They even offer some tutoring online. Check out their tutor schedule.
Writing Center Outpost 2 You’ll find Writing Center tutors at this outpost, right near the Learning Center. They’re open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-noon and take drop-ins. If you need more extensive help or can’t make those hours, visit the main Writing Center in Cramer Hall 188.
3D Printer 2 PSU students can print projects using the library’s 3D printer for only 15 cents per gram. You can use the printer for class or just for fun, printing other people’s designs or creating your own!
Bradford’s Bean 1 Can’t get through your study session without a pick-me-up? This little coffee bar serves Peet’s Coffee and variety of sandwiches, healthy snacks and pastries.
Quiet Floors Basement, 4 and 5 Here you’ll find study cubicles and chairs, all designed to give students a quiet and comfortable place. Remember… Shhhh…

Librarians

The library employs a large staff of librarians who specialize in any subject you can imagine. Get in contact with your subject librarian for specialized help. You can meet with librarians in person or chat with them online.

Books and Collections

Explore the many shelves of books at your leisure. Need to find something specific? Check out the PSU Library Catalog, which you can do on your own computer or by using one of the dedicated Research Kiosks throughout the library.

What if you find a book that isn’t available in the PSU Library? You have access to books from Summit and Interlibrary Loan. Summit is an alliance between 39 colleges and universities in Oregon, Washington and Idaho that makes their collections available to students in participating schools. You can request a book from Summit through the Library Catalog, and a school that has it will send it to the PSU Library for you to pick it up. Books only take about 5 days to arrive. If Summit doesn’t have the materials you need, you can request them from Interlibrary Loan. However, getting books this way takes longer and is less reliable than through Summit.

The PSU Library has a number of Special Collections and Archives, featuring everything from African American History in Oregon to rare Medieval manuscripts. PSU even has a complete Dark Horse Comics Collection! You can read and check out the comics from the browsing collection located on the third, fourth and fifth floors facing the curved windows. Learn more about the Dark Horse Comics Collection in our blog about comics at PSU and in Portland.

Students in Special Collections
Students looking at rare books in the PSU Library Special Collections.

Online

The PSU Library online resources can be accessed from your home computer or on campus. The library website is the first place you should go when you need to do research for class.

Ask a Librarian

You can chat with a librarian 24/7 using Ask a Librarian. Just open up a chat and send them any questions you have about finding a source, using the library services and more.  

Databases

Have you ever used Google Scholar, found an awesome source, then realized you needed to pay to read it? That’s why you should use the databases through the PSU Library. PSU pays all those fees for you to access articles and materials online, but you have to go through the website to take advantage of it.

Subject Guides

If you don’t know where to start your research, or you want more information about a subject you’re studying in class, check out the Subject and Course Guides. The librarians who specialize in these topics put together special guides with a bunch of useful resources. They make it as easy as possible for you to get the resources you need, like relevant databases, industry journals and more.

PDXScholar

Ever wanted to find work published by PSU students and faculty? PDXScholar is a database that provides access to all the articles and research put out by people at PSU, including studies, dissertations and theses, university archives, journals and open access textbooks.


Go explore the library in person and online, so you know everything you have access to as a PSU student!​  

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.