How do you find your path in life? For Ian Ruder, ’05, it began with overcoming the devastating effect of an automotive accident and led through Portland State University into the heart of Portland’s communal fabric, where he now resides as a writer, editor, and social advocate.
Ian grew up in San Francisco, but moved to Portland during high school when his family moved here. He had planned to attend Georgetown University after graduation, but had to adjust after he was paralyzed in a car accident. After extensive rehabilitation and an aborted attempt to attend the University of California–Berkeley, he enrolled in classes part-time at PSU, hoping to get back into academia.
“PSU was close to home for me, and a very comfortable place to be.” Ian recalls. “At the time I was confronting the question of what I could do. PSU allowed me to figure out how I could be a student again.”
Ian’s future became clearer through his experiences with two members of the History Department whose lectures and style offered inspiration, Professors David Horowitz and Barney Burke. He decided to pursue a degree in History. The following autumn he applied and was admitted to the University Honors Program. Ian explains, “I began exploring every single aspect of my program, and it made a real difference.”
A Laurels Merit Scholarship provided the means for Ian to continue at PSU. Through a chance connection, he met Debbie Murdock, the strategic advisor to the president, and she soon became an invaluable mentor. She got him involved with the Student Ambassador Program during his sophomore year and he thrived as an ambassador and the program co-coordinator over the next two years.
Ian’s commitment to the PSU community was augmented by his burgeoning communication skills. When a friend became editor of the Vanguard, he convinced Ian to join the student newspaper. Little did either know they had unlocked anew career path for Ian. He created his own twice-weekly column — the Ruder Reality — and made a point of expanding coverage on Vikings sports as the sports and opinion editor. Ian eventually became the editor of the sports and opinion sections at the Vanguard, and was a key member of the editorial team that won the Best in State award for student newspapers in 2005.
Since graduating, Ian has placed his writing talent and perseverance towards helping others who face similar challenges to his own. This work began at New Mobility, a magazine that provides information for the community of wheelchair users who want to lead active, healthy lives. Now Ian is the editor for Life in Action, a bi-monthly publication from the National Spinal Cord Injury Association that offers active-lifestyle information, peer support and advocacy. Ian has also remained involved with PSU, covering Portland State football and basketball as a freelancer for the Oregonian.
Through his activism, freelance writing, and love of Viking sports, Ian utilizes multiple venues to share his values and positivity with others both locally and around the world. A truly talented writer, Ian’s own words best sum up his PSU experience and advice for current students:
“If you have a passion for something, you can find your place and your voice at PSU. Take advantage of all that PSU and the Portland community has to offer you. You’ll be rewarded tenfold for your efforts.”
By John Riopelle, for the Portland State University Alumni Association.