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.

Know Your Dates: Transfer

Alright, you’ve made up your mind. You’re going to transfer to PSU and finish your degree. It’s time to start getting your application together. We know at times the process can be confusing, so we’ll go through each important date and deadline to explain what is needed from you.

Let’s get started!


AUGUST 1

The PSU Admissions Application is available! We begin accepting applications early because we want you to have the most time to submit your application. We get it—life happens, but remember, if you can get your application submitted early, then you can focus on connecting with an advisor, deciding where you’ll live and figuring out how you’ll pay for college.

OCTOBER 1

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available. This is the form that lets you know what financial aid options you are eligible for—you’ll also need to fill out a FAFSA in order to submit a scholarship application at PSU. This is a crucial step in getting the money you need to pay for college. When you fill out a FAFSA, remember to add PSU as one of your colleges.  

The PSU Scholarship Application. If you haven’t already started your Scholarship Application, now is the time. The scholarships have different requirements, like essays and references, so you won’t be able to wait until the last minute to complete it. Apply early so you can be sure you get the most money possible to help pay for college.

FEBRUARY 1

Your PSU Scholarship Application, essays and references. This is a hard deadline, so you must get all your documents in.

Your Honors College Application. This is a priority deadline for transfers. However, after February 1 students are far less likely to get honors scholarships.

The FAFSA. We have a rolling deadline for FAFSA, but like all parts of the application process, it’s best to do this early.

Last day to apply to PSU to be eligible for the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE). Luckily, there is no separate application required—you will automatically be considered for WUE when you turn in your PSU Admissions Application.

Admitted Student Reception sign ups open!

The hard part’s done, but once you get an admission decision there are a few important dates you’ll need to know!

APRIL 1

New Student Orientation sign ups open. We recommend signing up for Orientation as early as possible. To gain access to sign ups, you’ll have to confirm your enrollment.

MAY 1

Confirm your enrollment to PSU. May 1 is National College Decision Day, so students all around the country are making the big decision about where they will attend college. Apply early so you have enough time to weigh your options and make the choice that’s right for you. As soon as you confirm your enrollment, you can sign up for New Student Orientation and start preparing for your first term as a PSU Viking!

Apply for on-campus housing. This is the final deadline.

JUNE 1

Last day to apply to PSU to be considered for Transfers Finish Free. There’s no separate application—you will be automatically considered when you submit your Admissions Application.

AUGUST 1

Final high school transcripts are due.

YOU’RE DONE!

Whew. We know, it’s a lot, but if you start early it’s a breeze. Applying to PSU is quick and easy because we do not require an essay or letters of recommendation!

Review PSU’s transfer admissions requirements.

University Honors at PSU: Like Nothing Else

At PSU, we pride ourselves on being unique. We have a unique campus, unique students, and especially unique street food.

But more than any of that we have a unique approach to education. In no place does that stand out more than PSU’s Honors College.  

PSU’s nationally recognized Honors College has supported and inspired some of the university’s most high-achieving students for more than 40 years. Our Honors College offers the atmosphere of a small liberal arts school with the benefits of a large urban university, and is open to all majors.

Honors students learn to be both critical consumers and producers of knowledge, and gain the skills that prepare them to land rewarding opportunities after graduation. Honors students have gone on to remarkable careers in medicine, the arts and sciences, law, education and sustainability.

The academically intense curriculum of the Honors College prepares students for their senior thesis project. This project provides students the opportunity to work closely with a professor in their major to pursue an independent research project, which is publicly presented and published. You heard that right, published while still in your undergrad.

Students in the Honors program are connected early on with internships, fellowships and scholarships, allowing them to take their talents beyond the classroom and into Portland’s living laboratory and global contexts.

The Honors College is one of the most unique college experiences in one of the most vibrant cities in the country, and is waiting for you to join and flourish.

Learn more about Urban Honors and how to apply today!

Excellence is the Norm

At what point does a chance encounter become more than just coincidence? For Frances Hanna, a junior International Studies Major from Indiana, Pennsylvania, her road to PSU seems almost fated. “I randomly visited Portland with my mom for fun and my mom recommended that I apply because she thought it would be a good fit.”

Good call, mom.

Frances found an amazing community at PSU, all of who supported her interest. “From day one I knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to learn about ethical textile production in Southeast Asia. So I became an International Studies major focused on East Asia with a minor in Mandarin.”

To help her get the most of her studies, Frances’ admissions counselor encouraged her to apply to PSU’s Honors College. “They connected me with the Director of Honors at the time and Brianna Avery, the Honors Advisor.”

That choice to pursue honors has paid off in dividends. “Honors gave me scholarships that allowed me to afford PSU as an out of state student.”

Frances’ Honors College experience has allowed her phenomenal opportunities as an undergraduate, all of which will help her land a rewarding career after she graduates. “My connections with honors have helped me develop a greater understanding of the manufacturing industry in Southeast Asia by allowing me to study abroad in China through scholarships.”

“I was able to improve my mandarin in Shanghai and am now applying for an internship in Shanghai for this fall.”

Her goals after PSU? “I’d like to work for an American company that is focused on ethical production.” Her professors in the Honors College are helping her make that goal a reality by providing encouragement and support at every turn.

“I think every Honors professor I’ve ever had has written me a recommendation letter for something.”

Frances’ experience is not abnormal. The staff and faculty at PSU are passionate about helping students succeed and are excited to assist students who are seeking out internships and other professional opportunities.

But of course, you have to ask first. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out,” Frances urges. “The staff and faculty are incredibly excited about the PSU mission and everyone cares.”

So, go ahead, get in contact with a professor who shares your interests. At the PSU Honors College, the only urban-focused Honors program in the country, the international faculty bring a worldly perspective, engaging with students on a personal level and helping them pursue their career goals. At Honors at PSU, the city Portland acts as the culturally rich backdrop for an unmatched education leading to unparalleled opportunity.

Accepted to the Honors College at PSU? Confirm your enrollment today!

A Wealth of Experience

There’s something to be said about seamlessness. Apart, peanut butter and jelly are good, but when blended together they create one of the greatest culinary inventions of all time. And while we are no means comparing ourselves to the heaven that is PB&J, we think that PSU does seamlessness pretty well too.

The interaction between the city of Portland and campus is one of the things that draws students from all over the country to PSU. It certainly was a factor when Abby Williams, a Marketing and Advertising major in the School of Business and Honors College student, was choosing schools to apply to. She loved that, “You can’t tell where Portland starts and campus ends.”

PSU’s urban geography enables students to experience a multitude of cultural, professional and academic environments. “The opportunities at other schools in the Pacific Northwest don’t compare with those at PSU.”

And Abby would know. She is a first-hand recipient of many of these unique experiences, having had amazing internships every single year since she got to PSU. “My first year I got an internship through one of my business professors, who worked with the Port of Portland. I helped throw events for major airlines and helped with a community event for over 5,000 people called the Seaport Celebration.”

Professors at PSU are always encouraging students to pursue internships where they believe students can learn new skills and get hands-on experience in fields in which they want to pursue careers. PSU also has amazing resources for students looking to get real-world experience during their time as an undergraduate.

PSU’s Office of Advising and Careers Services, a resource for students, has internship and job databases, hosts career fairs, brings industry professionals to campus and provides personalized academic and career advising to every student.

“My second summer I worked in the marketing department at Blount International, a company that makes products for forestry workers. I helped them build their website so they could better communicate with customers. They had previously only marketed to businesses, their new website was part of their launch into a new market targeted at consumers.” All of Abby’s internships have helped her gain skills and use the things she is learning in class to build her resume and help her plan for her career.

And she’s not done yet. She continues to interview for even more internships around Portland. “Every summer I try to intern in different environments to learn about different parts of the industry  before I commit to something post-graduation.”

Her advice to future students? “Go into the application process with intention. Think about what you want to do long-term and about what PSU and Portland can do for you.” If Abby is any indication, the combination can sure do a lot.

Accepted to the Honors College at PSU? Confirm your enrollment today!