PDXTalks 2015

When was the last time you heard someone tell a story that made you think? Or moved you to action? Or left you in tears and laughter? That's the idea behind PDXTalks, an annual event to showcase the knowledge and experiences of PSU's fearless faculty. Five speakers talked October 23, 2015 for less than 20 minutes on a topic close to the heart. This is your opportunity to hear their stories – to be inspired, enlightened and entertained. Settle in for some gourmet brain nourishment and share their videos with your friends. 

Watch the Talks

Walidah Imarisha '00
Fearless social commentator

Why aren’t there more Black people in Oregon? That’s the provocative question Imarisha poses – and then proceeds to answer. Start with the state’s original constitution, which banned blacks from living here. The law was repealed in the 1920s, but the language remained in the constitution until voters finally excised it in 2002. Oregon’s historic difficulty with welcoming communities of color has become ingrained in the state’s economic and social structures, says Imarisha, who teaches Black Studies at PSU.


Lee Shaker
Fearless communicator

Those cast-off flip phones we all used before replacing them with smart phones have made their way to developing countries in Africa, where even the poorest residents use them. Shaker, a mass communication expert and PSU professor, has found that “dumb phone” technology offers a portal to Ugandans that can help educate and elevate families on everything from national politics to public health.


Jack Ohman
Fearless cartoonist

The world reacted with revulsion and condemnation when terrorists murdered 12 cartoonists and staff members of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine. For U.S. cartoonists, the attack was a tragic reminder of the price paid for free expression, says Ohman, prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Sacramento Bee, and Portland State alum. Violence can’t suppress it, he says, nor can misguided attempts to rein in various other forms of offensive speech.


The von Trapps
Fearless musicians

Descendants of the original Trapp Family Singers, made famous by The Sound of Music, Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and August von Trapp continue the tradition. (Melanie and Amanda are PSU students.) They frequently perform with the band Pink Martini and their collaboration album Dream a Little Dream was released last year.


Hunter Shobe
Fearless cultural explorer

You can learn a lot about a city by mapping it – especially if the maps go beyond streets and delve into everything from the best way to avoid surveillance cameras to how distinct smells and car usage can be broken into districts. Shobe, a PSU geography professor, gives an entertaining look behind the new book, “Portlandness,” which he wrote with fellow PSU geographer David Banis. The maps—and Shobe’s talk—offer insight into the history, culture and myths about the city.


Evan Thomas
Fearless inventor

Every minute, a child under the age of five dies from diarrhea, while another child dies of pneumonia, Thomas begins his somber yet uplifting talk. These aren’t problems to be solved in hospitals, but through changes in the way developing countries get clean drinking water and cooking fuels. Huge sectors of the world drink tainted water and cook with wood. Thomas, a PSU engineering professor, explores his work to distribute and monitor simple but effective water filters and cookstoves to millions in Africa.

See other PDXTalks: 2014 | 2016 | 2017 | 2019