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Oran Stainbrook: Commencement 2013 Speaker
Oran Stainbrook: Commencement 2013 Speaker

Oran Stainbrook is a current PSU student graduating in June with a Bachelors of Science in Architecture and is one of the students who will be speaking at the 2013 Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, July 16. Oran is part of many school organizati ons and clubs including team leader for Student Leaders for Service, University Studies Peer Mentor and the Sustainability Volunteer Program.  

Interview by Kemea Smith.

Why did you decide to attend PSU?

“Well actually I just really wanted to live in Portland! Growing up, I had heard these tales of  the city from friends who had travelled here.  The way they spoke of Portland was as if it was this mystical fairyland. It seemed so amazing in every way. I also was a big fan of Elliott Smith and knew that a lot of his song referenced the city so it was kind of this prophecy that I had to fill. PSU seemed like the obvious and most convenient choice and it was the only school that I applied to.”

Are you a first generation or non-traditional student?

“I am a first generation student. My family always suggested that I go to college, and I knew it was important to them. However it was far more important to me. I knew I could go to college and succeed and I felt like I owed it to myself and everyone who has come before me.

“I owed it to my family’s legacy and all the generations of my family that had to struggle to get to a place where I would have the privilege and opportunity to get a higher education. As well as all the mentors and teachers who invested and believed in me when I was younger.”

What inspired you to get involved with the Peer Mentor Program?

“I was sitting on my porch many years ago and this girl who I knew from PSU was at my house. She explained what the program was and suggested that I apply. I had no idea it existed and I just immediately knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do. I had taught English in Thailand for a few summers and I felt qualified.”

“I work with Professor Sarah Newlands in her Work of Art FRINQ course. Sarah cracks me up she is so funny! It’s the best job I have ever had and it’s been an amazing experience.”

What is your favorite memory at PSU?

“One of my favorites was my first year of mentoring. I was mentoring a FRINQ class of 36 students and known of them knew each other. I thought a lot about how I was going to build community and form a family. I felt like it was my responsibility to make time and space for them to come together and be friends while feeling happy and safe.”

“The first week we went up to the roof of the rec center and I brought a bag of art supplies so they could create name tags. I  remembered watching them color name tags and thinking about myself when I was a freshman. In that moment the 12 human beings I was in charge of, felt like my children. I had this really bizarre feeling of being in the past present and future. I was thinking about myself as a freshman, feeling very present in the moment, but also thinking of them as seniors in my position. The year turned out to be an amazing experience.”

What is one thing that you will miss about PSU?  

“The sense of place and community which go hand in hand, both of those are something I’ve never experienced anywhere else in my life. My parents moved often and I never had a chance to feel like I was an integral part of a greater whole. I feel so deeply rooted and locked at PSU, it is like home. In the future this is always where I will claim to be from.

Who has been your biggest supporter during your academic career?  

“My parents weren't be able to support me financially or give me knowledge about the college process. Neither of them went to college so they don’t really understand the whole process. However, their emotional support has meant everything to me. They were always really supportive and encouraging whenever I felt like quitting.”      

Why did you decide to apply to be a commencement speaker?

“It seemed like a really fantastic opportunity to have that chance to say goodbye to my home and community. But it’s also an attempt to reflect back on my community and what this experience has meant not just to me but to everyone. I will try to distill the truth and meaning behind this chaotic experience that we all had together.”.

What are some of the topics that you will touch on during your speech?

“I want to speak to the experience of our time. It will be a reinterpretation of our schools model and about community, sustainability and love.”  

What are your plans for the future?

“I am too attached to PSU, so I am sticking around for a few months. I will be working with the Middle Eastern Partner Initiative this summer. It is a program that brings a group of students from the Middle East to study at PSU for a month. Me and five other students will live with them and act as mentors. After that I am doing my Senior Capstone at the Kiwanis Camp, and then I am registered for a course at the EarthShip Academy in New Mexico. This fall I will be learning how to build earthships out of car tires and aluminum. Finally my Peace Corp application is done and I just have to push send. I definitely want to do it, but at this point I am trying to decide when I will leave for my assignment.”


If the PSU community would remember one thing about you what would you want that to be? 

“I guess for being a good friend.”