Fearless Stories

Transforming lives

Portland State University students are building a satellite that will be launched into orbit from the International Space Station. It's this type of real-life, research-based experience that molds tomorrow's innovative thinkers.

Mapping the brain

Working in a lab at OHSU has given PSU biology student Valeria Vazquez-Trejo an inside view of medical research and opened new career options to her. She now might add research to her plans to become a doctor for low-income, Latino and underrepresented communities like the one where she grew up.

PSU grad finds his future in shoes

Edwin Martinez felt like an underdog growing up Latino in Southeast Portland. But his hard work in PSU’s Athletics & Outdoor Industry program helped him land his dream job at Adidas after graduation. Now he’s giving back to PSU by mentoring other underserved students.

A digital path to the FBI

At the age of 12, Trent Teyema knew he wanted to be an FBI agent. His path to get there made him one of the country’s experts on cybersecurity, and earned him a role at the White House, formulating and executing national security policies.

Four Years Free draws students

PSU's new program, announced a year ago for incoming 2017 freshmen, makes it possible for qualifying Oregon high school graduates to attend the university tuition free.

A Native perspective in Congress

Rudy Soto ’11 threw himself into one leadership role after another at Portland State, culminating in becoming the University’s first Native American student body president. He has brought those skills and passion to our capital as a congressional aide.

What's in a name?

Does it matter if a married woman keeps her own surname? Does having a daughter change a man’s perceptions of gender equality? How do long hours at work affect families? Sociologist Emily Fitzgibbons Shafer explores questions about gender and families.

Red Means Help

FIR Northwest, a non-profit ad agency run by PSU students, is working with the Portland Police Bureau to help victims of human trafficking. A new ad campaign, “Red Means Help,” informs victims that they can silently request assistance by flashing anything red at a police officer.

Portland State grads are in demand

Employers want the kind of independent, innovative and motivated graduates who get their degrees at Portland State. That's one of the reasons our alumni earn an average of $42,900 after graduation—among the highest in the state.

Saving her family to saving lives

Keeley McConnell, a high school dropout, became a single mom of three when she fled from her children’s abusive father. Now she’s in PSU’s EXITO program, working toward a career as a physician’s assistant.

First in his family

The oldest of six brothers, freshman Uber Hernandez is the first in his family to go to college. He is working hard to pay his own way and succeed in Portland State's business marketing program, but the example he is setting for other Latinos is never far from his thoughts.

From poverty to pre-med

As a child of a single mom in the military, Willow Wallace witnessed the hardships that disease placed on low-income families. Now she’s intent on becoming a doctor and working her way through the new OHSU-PSU School of Public Health.

Working up the corporate ranks

Rising through the male-dominated ranks of one of the largest truck manufacturers is only one of the hurdles Lori Heino-Royer has overcome in her unconventional career path. As a single mom, she juggled work, childcare and MBA classes at PSU before being named head of business innovation at Daimler.

Helping Stephen Hawking speak

Growing up with dyslexia made Pete Denman doubt his abilities. But an accident that left him quadriplegic enabled him to find the power in his dyslexia, and to help the world’s most famous theoretical physicist communicate.

Powering her way to management

Didem Karpuzcu puts her Portland State MBA to work in the power tool industry as Global Product Manager for Blount International.

On the set of Portlandia

Barking orders, lugging equipment and placing props. And a bunch of them are Portland State students or alumni. Film majors Julie Lew and Will Whitley, and recent grad Briauna McKizzie gained invaluable career experience – and rubbed elbows with stars – as interns on the set of the quirky TV show.

Research fights air pollution problem

PSU environmental science professor Linda George has the lead role in a collaborative effort to test and track air quality in Portland. George’s research comes on the heels of alarming reports of toxic metals in local neighborhoods.

Increasing diversity in health careers 

Carlos Crespo, director of the PSU School of Community Health, directs EXITO, A $24 million grant-supported program that recruits and supports diverse students to pursue health research careers. Students receive academic advising, mentorship, and even funding to advance their research interests over their four-year degree.

Four siblings, one mission

Watching their parents be a constant support to family and friends inspired Demetrio, Leroy, Lorena and Ricardo Sanchez to get their master’s degrees in social work from PSU. Now they’re taking that spirit of caring and paying it forward.

Engineering a green future

Brook Thompson, a Yurok Tribe member who grew up in Portland, could have gone to any university with her full-ride Gates scholarship but chose PSU for its focus on sustainability. She’s studying civil engineering and wants to ease the impact of cities on the environment by designing green buildings. At Portland State University, we believe knowledge works best when it serves the community.

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist

Jack Ohman, ’99, history, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartoons that skewer wayward politicians and champion artistic freedom.

Baking better bread with an MBA

Fearless graduate Gabe Alvarez is using his new MBA from Portland State to help run Gabriel’s Bakery, a family business named after him. PSU’s part-time program allowed him to continue to work at the bakery and immediately apply what he was learning to everything from the bookkeeping to delivery routes. At Portland State University, we believe knowledge works best when it serves the community.

Teaching women to be leaders

Former Gov. Barbara Roberts helped fearless young women navigate the path to political power as one of the founders of PSU’s Center for Women’s Leadership. She made history in 1990 when voters elected Oregon’s first female governor.

Putting her compassion to work

Fearless PSU speech and hearing major Chelsea Oostman helps youngsters with disabilities explore their sense of adventure and empowerment as a counselor at Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp. At Portland State, we believe knowledge works best when it serves the community.

Saved Intel millions

Nabil Mistkawi, a fearless Intel engineer who earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at PSU, developed an innovative chemical process that helped create smaller and faster computer chips.

An activist for accessible design

Fearless PSU grad student Ashley Schahfer studies architecture with a goal of designing spaces that invite and accommodate everyone, regardless of ability. 

Portland State and Intel

More than 1,400 Portland State alumni work at Intel, making it the No. 1 private employer for our graduates. Intel’s close partnership with PSU stretches back years, ensuring our engineering students to get valuable hands-on experience as interns, and allowing professionals to take intensive computer programming courses to change careers and move into

Educating Oregon's teachers

Portland State makes a big impact on the region’s school districts, educating the teachers, counselors and principals who work in our schools and prepare our children for college. PSU’s Graduate School of Education is the most comprehensive program of its kind in Oregon, and our alums win statewide awards for their work.

Building bridges to school success

Fearless bilingual educator Andreina Velasco connects parents and children with literacy, leadership and early childhood programs in one of east Portland’s most diverse schools.

Sharing a commitment to education

The first in her family to go to college, Floricel Negrete shares her fearless commitment to learning by teaching language immersion to Beaverton kindergarteners.

Clean water for millions

Fearless innovator Evan Thomas is distributing water filters and efficient cookstoves to reduce deadly childhood illnesses in the world’s poorest countries.

Acclaimed jazz musician

PSU jazz studies professor Darrell Grant teaches fearless young artists to find their voice and share it with the world.

Designed the Nike swoosh

Carolyn Davidson was a PSU design student when she had a fateful hallway meeting with a tall, well-dressed man who was teaching an accounting course- Phil Knight. He hired Davidson to design a stripe for an athletic shoe and she came up with the Nike “swoosh,” now one of the most identifiable brands in the world.

Exposing e-cigarette health risks

When PSU scientists James Pankow, David Peyton and Robert Strongin set out to study the vapor from e-cigarettes they weren’t sure what kind of results they would get. Their findings of high formaldehyde levels made international headlines.

Designing healthy classrooms

Caty Head-Skogland, '12, was part of the team that developed SAGE, the award-winning, sustainable alternatives to portable school structures.

Mike Richardson

Founder of Dark Horse Comics

Former Viking Mike Richardson ‘77, founder of Dark Horse Comics, credits being an art major as the key to his business success.

Tesca Fitzgerald

Teaching robots to think

At age 16, Tesca Fitzgerald ’13 became one of the youngest students ever to graduate from Portland State University, wowing professors with her coding skills and earning a degree in computer science.

Mark Weislogel

Guiding experiments in space

A former NASA researcher, engineering professor Mark Weislogel and his students manage zero-gravity experiments aboard the International Space Station and communicate with astronauts in real time.

Ericka Guynes

PSU alumni make an impact

At 165,000 and growing, PSU graduates make a huge impact on the state and regional economy, and on their alma mater. They mentor students, become community leaders, and serve as role models.

Ahmed Abidine

Challenging the fashion industry

Ahmed Abidine ’12 started elkarti, a successful ethical fashion line making luxury bags. By preserving traditional Moroccan craftsmanship he is challenging the global fast-fashion industry.

Kate Jensen

Nurse in the making

Alumna Kate Jensen '14, found inspiration from Molly Lindquist, a cancer survivor she interviewed for her OHSU oncology internship. Jensen is now enrolled in an OHSU nursing program and on her way to a career in patient care.

Kevin Truong

Photos confront gay stereotypes

Kevin Truong ’04, is on a mission to create the world’s largest collection of photos of gay men. He travels the world, capturing thousands of images with a goal of breaking down misconceptions.

Lina Menard

Big ideas for small living

Urban Planning alumna Lina Menard '13 built one of the dwellings at Caravan Tiny House Hotel in northeast Portland. Her passion for simple living and small homes inspired her to start Niche Consulting.

Kate Bingaman-Burt

Every picture tells her story

Graphic design professor Kate Bingaman-Burt draws on her own experiences—literally. Her illustrated book about her life launched a successful art career and is an inspiration to her students.

Terry Cross

Dream catcher for Native people

Social Work alumnus Terry Cross ’77, a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, created a national organization to train Native American social workers to protect Native children and preserve Native culture.

Ryan Jenson

Invented precision drones for farms

Engineering alumnus Ryan Jenson '05, '08 invented a precision agriculture drone during a conversation about spraying wheat crops. He's now CEO of Honeycomb and sales have gone national.

Eddie Ramirez

From hardship to OHSU

A first-generation student, Eddie Ramirez '14, lacked role models and resources. He overcame these obstacles, graduated with honors and started dentistry school at OHSU.

Nat Parker and Michael Gray

Developed ticketless app for transit

Master of International Management alumni Nat Parker '10 and Michael Gray '11 developed the mobile ticketing apps for TriMet, Portland Streetcar and other major metro areas through their company GlobeSherpa.

Kayin Talton Davis

Popularizes Black community art

Alumna Kayin Talton Davis ‘05 founded Soapbox Theory as a creative outlet while studying mechanical engineering. Her products feature striking and positive images of Black culture.

Saving lives with surgery

Dr. Daniel Petrisor, who got his start at PSU’s Honors College, tackles some of the most complex head and neck cancer cases as an OHSU surgeon.

Painting a brighter world

Gretchen Schauffler, founder of Devine Color and a PSU alumna, is creating colorfully pleasing environments for aging adults. She is also helping improve lives through Devine Color’s support of the Alzheimer’s Association®.