Live music, mouthwatering food and boisterous conversation beckoned people from all walks of life to come celebrate Nepalese art and tradition at Portland State. Every winter term, the Nepalese Student Association (NSA), one of the many student organizations at PSU, hosts the Nepalese Cultural Night. NSA is made up of both international and domestic students, most of whom have Nepalese roots—all PSU students, regardless of their heritage, can join. And they foster this attitude of inclusivity at the event as well, creating a space for community members, faculty and students and their families to mingle and share their love of Nepalese culture.
This year, the Nepalese Cultural Night took place in the Smith Memorial Student Union. The event space was illuminated with vibrant colors and decorated with traditional banners. Culturally-significant, handmade Nepalese arts and crafts were displayed in an exhibition. There were copper bowls and jewelry passed down for many generations and used in wedding ceremonies. They also displayed instruments, like Nepalese singing bowls and traditional drums, for people to try. Everyone mingled while sipping on hot chai tea and watching Nepalese films play on the projector as they waited for the main events.
Throughout the night, different performers showed off their culture. Music varied from traditional Nepalese music to karaoke songs from popular movies. Dancers floated across the stage in sparkling, cultural garments.
Halfway through the night, students in NSA and their family members filled the stage to lead a performance of Deusi Re. This traditional song is sung during Tihar, the festival of light. In Nepal, folks go to homes around their community to sing Deusi Re and dance. These households give the performers food and money in exchange for blessings.
To top off an already amazing night of entertainment—free food! The catered food included chicken makhani, vegetable khoorma, mixed vegetable pakoras, basmati rice, nan and hot chai tea. The mingling continued, but slowed down, as everyone savored their dinner.
The event gave everyone a taste of Nepalese culture and perfectly exemplified the Nepalese tradition of hospitality. So, if you weren’t able to join in the festivities and get to know the community, check out the Nepalese Cultural Night next year, or join the Nepalese Student Association.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When students start thinking about college, it can be hard to visualize what they’ll accomplish after graduating—they may not even know what they want to study, let alone what career they’ll have.
This was certainly true for Lauren Krueger, Portland State University alumni who graduated in 2013, with a degree in Electrical Engineering. At first, Lauren wasn’t sure what she wanted to study, but she knew PSU was a good option.
Now she’s an Electrical Engineer at Interface Engineering.
Initially, Lauren was drawn to PSU because it was familiar and close to home—she is a third-generation PSU student. PSU’s proximity to Portland and surrounding communities meant she could commute and reduce the cost of attending college. She ultimately decided PSU was the right choice because of its abundance of science and engineering opportunities in the Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Sciences.
“Growing up I was never naturally inclined toward math or science,” admits Lauren. But despite the challenges, she studied what interested her. “During my first two years of school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in, but I knew that calculus, physics and women’s studies were my favorite subjects, and that I wanted to be in a field where I could help create pathways for and elevate women and underrepresented minorities.”
“Lauren never settles for the conventional,” says Dr. Robert Bass, Lauren’s former undergraduate professor and academic advisor. “She will pursue the path that she knows is best for her, regardless of the obstacles or perceived conventions.”
She took advantage of the resources available to PSU students, including the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), a program dedicated to supporting the success of underrepresented STEM majors. When she met some Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) students in the LSAMP program, she found her calling. Because she struggled with STEM subjects, she says “it took a lot of perseverance to pursue an Electrical Engineering degree.”
Lauren served on the LSAMP Student Leadership Board for three years. “She was always committed to making it smoother for students who struggled to earn a STEM degree. She used her own experiences to inspire others,” says Dr. Lorna Tran, former LSAMP Director and current Community College Liaison.
Lauren also acted as a role model for future students when she was a Student Ambassador in PSU’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions. She spoke with people visiting campus, led campus tours and was source of information for students. Not only did it equip Lauren with the networking skills and self-confidence she would find invaluable in her professional career, but it showed her how she could make a real impact on other students’ lives.
Dr. Renjeng Su, professor and former Dean of Maseeh College, says, “Even more impressive than Lauren’s outstanding academic performance was her effort to reach out to and help her peers. Lauren plays a valuable role in making the engineering field welcoming to women.”
She continues to give back to Portland State students today. Lauren serves on PSU’s ECE Industrial Advisory Board, where she works to draw more women into the Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Science. She was a panelist in a series of events for the department’s Women in ECE Night. Lauren states the goal of these events is to boost the number of women in ECE by connecting students with professional women engineers, “Being in a room of women who all are pursuing, or have completed, degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering where we could discuss our common experiences was cathartic and encouraging, and reinvigorated the inspiration that led me towards STEM in the first place.” She looks forward to representing PSU as a panelist at the LSAMP Conference at University of Washington in winter, 2019.
She has been working in the electrical engineering field since graduating and recently took her professional engineering (PE) exam. “I had to put in a lot of time and energy to pass the exam and was really proud to have passed it. It was the culmination of a decade of hard work.” Lauren’s continued perseverance illustrates there are opportunities for women and underrepresented people in STEM, and it is her goal to be a resource and role model for anyone ready to start forging their own path.
For many people, getting a degree can seem just out of reach. This can be especially true for low-income, immigrant and first-generation college students.
Nabin Dhimal fits all of these descriptions. Despite many challenges, he graduated from Portland State in 2018, with a degree in Social Science and a double minor in Sociology and Psychology. But that wasn’t enough for Nabin—he’s currently pursuing a Master’s at PSU in Educational Leadership and Policy through the College of Education.
Nabin was just one of more than 100,000 Nepali-speaking Bhutanese living in refugee camps in Nepal. The “One Nation, One People” policy in Bhutan forced the Nepali-speaking Lhotshampas to dress, speak and act like the majority Drukpas culture. Lhotshampas who protested this ethnic cleansing were imprisoned and tortured. Eventually, the majority of Lhotshampas were forced out of Bhutan into Nepal, and Nabin’s family was part of that group.
“My family lived in Bhutan for six generations,” says Nabin. “The government would select Lhotshampas to leave, accusing them, saying they weren’t Bhutanese, in order to split up families. My father was selected. If you refused to leave, they would attack or imprison you, sometimes even burn your house down. My whole family fled together.”
The Nepali government refused to integrate the Lhotshampas and allow them to work, so they were stuck living in a refugee camp for 18 years. Nabin was born in that camp. “I was fortunate because we were not bombed or shot at in the refugee camp, but there were very few resources to go around. We had no documents to work and no money. At six, I started working as a cashier in a food truck to make enough money to buy my own school supplies and watch DVDs on a small battery-powered TV.”
One of Nabin’s biggest joys growing up was school. “When I was five, I followed my siblings to school. I wanted to go to school so bad. My uncle broke the law by telling the school I was a year older so I could go. I loved learning, but there were few resources or qualified teachers. There were 50-60 students in each class, and we only had outdated, used textbooks. There were no opportunities for you to pursue a higher education.”
To escape these circumstances, Nabin and his family emigrated in 2008 with the help of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the leading inter-governmental organization that helps migrants in need. IOM placed Nabin and his family in the United States, and they have lived in Oregon since. “Coming to the U.S. was hard at first. We didn’t know any Nepali people in Portland, and my extended family was placed in other states and countries. We used to be only five minutes away. Life is much easier for people who have an education, especially for people living in the United States—you can learn the language and get good jobs.”
“School is a privilege. I wanted to break the cycle of poverty and set an example for people in my community by earning a degree.”
In high school, Nabin started thinking about how he could make this happen, but finding the support he needed was difficult. “I think people expected me to go to community college because of negative perceptions of English language learners. I didn’t want to go far from home, so I could still support my family. My Speech and Debate coach, Patrick Gonzales, saw I had potential and encouraged me to apply to PSU.”
But paying for college was still a major concern for Nabin. He applied for the Diversity Scholarship, a program that promotes diversity and student participation at PSU. This scholarship awards a renewable tuition remission to students in financial need from diverse backgrounds. Not only did the scholarship help him afford to go to school full time but it got him involved with people from other cultures and marginalized communities.
Portland State offers many other Multicultural Retention Services for students like Nabin to help them achieve their goals. “TRIO reached out to me the summer before school started. They let me know about the programs and resources available. I took Summer Bridge, a class for TRIO students before the term starts. I learned how to find classrooms on campus, use the PSU Library and navigate D2L, PSU’s online learning platform,” says Nabin. TRIO is a program that provides educational opportunities to help students overcome barriers to higher education, like ethnic background or economic circumstance.
TRIO was the first place Nabin went when he was struggling with classes. “Andrea Griggs, my TRIO advisor, connected me to academic support on campus. But she totally changed my path when she helped me realize I needed to change my major. I wanted a major that would allow me to fight for equity and uplift others in underserved communities. I decided a degree in Social Sciences was the right path.”
Though he didn’t realize it at first, the challenging ideas he was exposed to in his Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) class would change his career goals. “I took a race and social justice themed FRINQ class, and it ended up being my favorite class. It made me aware of a lot of systemic issues.” Freshman and Sophomore Inquiry classes are part of PSU’s unique University Studies program, which uses theme-based classes and an interdisciplinary approach to get students involved with peers and the larger Portland community.
It didn’t take long for Nabin to be a force for positive change.
Nabin began working as a Peer Mentor in the Diversity Scholarship program, serving as a resource for other students. He realized that if he was going to make getting an education more equitable, he needed to earn a graduate degree. With the support of TRIO, his advisor and faculty, Nabin applied to PSU’s Educational Leadership & Policy program. Now, he’s working toward his Master’s degree and is specializing in Leadership for Sustainability Education.
Nabin helps prospective international students in PSU’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions. He’s also a Career Coach for NW Promise at IRCO, a nonprofit immigrant and refugee organization dedicated helping underserved students earn college credit and get into high-paying careers.
Nabin’s next goal is to earn a Ph.D and work in an educational nonprofit, where he can challenge policies to be more equitable. “I want to be that lens, looking at the education system to see if it’s serving different populations of students as well as it should.”
Nabin has one important piece of advice for low-income, immigrant and first-generation students: “Find out what resources are available to you and use them. PSU has a diverse student body and wants to make getting a degree accessible to everyone. The more people from diverse backgrounds successfully completing college means more influence to make the policy changes that will better serve those populations.”
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.”
Every year in May, the Pacific Islanders Clubs holds their main annual event, the Lu’au for all Portland State students and community members to enjoy. It is a festive night that honors the eight Pacific Islands and includes music, food, merchandise, a photo booth, and even a ceremonial Kava Circle. We spoke with Xylia Lydgate, PSU student and coordinator of the Lu’au, to get caught up on the happenings of the event.
This year was my first year as a coordinator for the position and I think it went really well. We got lots of great feedback from the community and over 900 people were in attendance. Lu’au means gathering or celebration and is the biggest event the Pacific Islanders club hosts throughout the year. It is our big chance to have fun and share our culture with the community.
This event is important because most people do not know the different cultures of the eight islands and just associate the stereotypes of grass skirts and hula dances with the pacific islands without knowing much more. With this event, we are trying to break those stereotypes and promote the different aspects of each individual island through dances, food, or traditions. My favorite part of event is the different traditional dances. We start rehearsing in January and work really hard to tell the audience the story and meaning behind the different performances so that can engage in learning in a fun way.
On a more personal level, it helps to have events and cultural groups on campus such as the Pacific Islander club that help people from all over the world who come to Portland State feel more at home. Transitioning to a new place and being so far away from home and family can be difficult. Sharing a piece of my cultural traditions with others makes me feel welcome and visible on campus.
I chose to come to PSU blind-date-style. I was so intrigued by the city and wanted a college experience in an urban setting so I just went for it, applied, was accepted, and came here on a whim. It turned out to be a perfect match. My advice to anyone going through the process of choosing the right school is to visit with the Admissions Office to see what PSU has to offer, and find out if PSU aligns with what you want in a college, both academically and socially. Being involved in student activities helps smooth the transition process and helped me with first impressions that has led to me having the time of my life.