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Summer Academy to Inspire Learning
at Portland State University


The Summer Academy to Inspire Learning (SAIL) at Portland State University (PSU) successfully concluded its 2011 inaugural program held August 15 - 19, 2011. This week-long summer camp was free to students and led by volunteer Economics faculty with the aim of increasing the number of low-income students enrolling and succeeding in college. 

During the spring term, we recruited 8th grade middle school students who were invited to complete the SAIL camp during the summer prior to entering 9th grade. The SAIL camp curriculum combines academic sessions with outdoor activities aimed at providing students with a feel for the college experience and familiarizing them with the University. The program also includes sessions that explain the college admissions process as well as guidelines on how to compete for and secure financial aid and scholarships.  

SAIL @ PSU was launched in collaboration with Ninth Grade Countsan initiative of the Portland Schools Foundation comprised of a network of 20 different programs focused on connecting incoming ninth graders with learning opportunities during the summer. 

These Summer Transition Programs for incoming ninth graders in Portland and Multnomah County provide academic support, build high school readiness skills, and offer exposure to career and college opportunities. The programs that participate in the Ninth Grade Counts partnership target students who are at risk of disconnecting from school—sometimes referred to as "academic priority" students.

Our first camp - some highlights

In 2011, SAIL @ PSU enrolled eleven students from the Reynolds and Parkrose middle schools, out of which, nine students successfully completed the program.  The week-long camp met August 15th through August 19th from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm each day. Here are some highlights of camp activities which focused on both learning and fun.  

Monday: Professor Bill Harbaugh from the University of Oregon played the "Market Game" with students illustrating some basic 'supply and demand' concepts as well as how markets work. A scavenger hunt through the PSU campus was followed by a scavenger hunt through the PSU course catalogue. The question "What do you what to be when you grow up?" is always a delightful way to find new interests and the abundance of choice in the 2011 PSU bulletin made that a fun exercise.

Tuesday: A well orchestrated visit to the Oregon Historical Society museum was the work of Professor Sarah Tinkler. The museum developed a tour focused on the economics and trade history of Oregon that guided students in groups of four through their exhibits. Later that day, and keeping with the theme of trading and money, Joshua Winicki (one of the SAIL @ PSU program organizers and Economics Ph.D. from the University of Oregon) discussed money supply and illustrated the creation of money through lending in a game called "Money from Nothing".

Wednesday: Professors Sarah Tinkler and James Woods crafted an engaging data collection experiment for students at the Portland Farmers Market (at Shemanski Park). Following this, students analyzed the data on prices and products using a randomization experiment guided by Professor Woods.

Thursday: The day began with a discussion of the more intricate problems of social organization, such as the overuse of scarce resources. Students met in a PSU computer lab for an online presentation of the "Tragedy of the Commons" game by Professor Ron Mitchell from the University of Oregon. Later that day, Professor Rossitza Wooster played two games with students illustrating strategic choices and some concepts from game theory.

While Economics was the main discipline students got exposed to during the SAIL camp, there were two curricular items that gave students a taste of topics in Engineering and Chemistry. The first of these was an interactive tour/demonstration by Professor David Sailor from Engineering on Wednesday. Students met in his lab to learn about, and play with, infrared cameras, a wind tunnel, and a spectrometer. 

Friday: Professor Andrea Goforth from Chemistry demonstrated how to make ice cream with liquid nitrogen and molten iron using thermite. This event combined tasty fun and fireworks with multiple opportunities to reference elements in the periodic table.

The week ended with a visit from President Wim Wiewel who reiterated to campers the importance of a college experience and the beauty of diversity in learning at PSU. An award ceremony was held for students who completed the camp where they received certificates and gift cards. All were invited to attend next year's SAIL @ PSU as "sophomores" when they will have the opportunity to continue the learning process by experiencing other academic disciplines.



Program History

The SAIL program was created in 2005 by Professors Bruce Blonigen and Bill Harbaugh from the Economics department at the University of Oregon (UO). Working closely with administrators and teachers at the lowest socio-economic status (SES) middle schools in the local area, the goal was to identify students who are bright enough to succeed in college, but are at risk of not realizing this potential due to low family income, parents without college educations, or related factors. The focus on students transitioning from 8th to 9th grade was motivated by the recognition that these students are old enough to start thinking about their academic future and are about to face critical decisions about college preparatory courses as they start high school. To ensure success in the long run, SAIL follows students throughout the academic year assisting them with college and scholarship prep, academic tutoring and SAT prep.

Since its inception in 2005, SAIL at UO has grown to include faculty-led summer camps from six departments and 110 students. Eight students from the first 2005 SAIL class will be starting as freshmen at the University of Oregon this year.

Funding for SAIL @ PSU

SAIL @ PSU is free to students and faculty and staff donate their time. At present, the program is externally funded in its entirety.

We gratefully acknowledge corporate sponsorship from NW Natural.

Additionally, we are grateful to Professors Sarah Tinkler and James Woods (PSU Economics faculty) for significant donations and for volunteering their time to serve as program organizers and participants.

Volunteer Faculty and Staff


Volunteer Faculty Volunteer Staff
Randy Bluffstone (Economics faculty, PSU) Jessica Eden (PSU student)
Andrea Goforth (Chemistry faculty, PSU) Rihana Mungin (PSU student)
Bill Harbaugh (Economics faculty, UO) Margie Port (Economics Office Coordinator, PSU)
Ron Mitchell (Political Science faculty, UO) Andrea Janda (Economics Office Specialist, PSU)
David Sailor (Engineering faculty, PSU)
Sarah Tinkler (Economics faculty, PSU) Organizations
Wim Wiewel (University President, PSU) Oregon Historical Society
Joshua Winicki (External faculty) Portland Farmer's Market
James Woods (Economics faculty, PSU)  
Rossitza Wooster (Economics faculty, PSU)  


SAIL @ PSU Organizers and Contact Information:

Rossitza B. Wooster 
(PSU Economics Faculty and SAIL program Co-Director):  (503) 725-3944

Joshua Winicki (External Economics Faculty and SAIL program Co-Director):  (503) 267-2562

Sarah Tinkler (PSU Economics Faculty and SAIL program Board member):  (503) 725-3933

James Woods (PSU Economics Faculty and SAIL program Board member):  (503) 465-4883 


SAIL @ PSU Picture Gallery 2011



SAIL @ PSU Videos 2011