Spotlight: Quadruple Scholarship Winner Alexis Atwood
Author: Jillian Daley
Posted: September 10, 2019
Most students are lucky to receive one scholarship, but Portland State University’s Alexis Atwood has earned four of them.
Atwood won three scholarship earlier this year and just received the brand-new $5,000 Barbara Ruben Award for the Secondary Dual Educator Program (SDEP).
“I wrote a lot about equity and inclusivity in the classroom in my scholarship application, and the fact that I wrote about that and people heard that and wanted to support that is really incredible,” Atwood said.
The Ruben Award is for SDEP students. SDEP is a full-time, two-year graduate-level program for future teachers in the PSU College of Education (COE). SDEP grads receive a master’s degree in education and dual licensure in special education and a middle- or secondary-level content area, such as health.

Barbara Ruben, a PSU professor emeritus, said her mom donated the money for the award to honor Ruben’s role in creating SDEP in 2006, Ruben said. The SDEP co-founders were fellow professors: Ann Fullerton (emeritus), Stephanie McBride, and Sue Bert. The other three Ruben Award winners are: Kenneth Harris, Pierre Espino and Brent Georgeson, and Ruben said all three submitted competitive, excellent applications.

“Teacher candidates who choose this more intense, more extensive two-year master’s program do so because they are determined to be truly inclusive teachers,” Ruben said.

Atwood heard about SDEP from PSU alumna Kesia Micheletti, now a special education teacher at Roosevelt High School. Atwood, a graduate of Oregon State University and Portland’s Cleveland High School, was a lead advocate for the Step Up program, which has a presence at Roosevelt.

Supported through the local nonprofit Open School, Step Up involves advocating for students who are at risk of not graduating: helping them get assignments, complete homework, and stay connected to their school. While working with Step Up at Roosevelt, Atwood asked Micheletti how she got into special education, and the answer was SDEP at PSU.

“I hope that more people like her come along to become educators because we really need some dynamic and driven educators,” Micheletti said.

Atwood is on her way. She left Step Up in June to enroll in PSU, but she will continue on at Roosevelt as a student teacher through the SDEP program. Atwood will enter the COE this fall with almost $10,000 in scholarships in-hand.

“I think she’s a promising candidate with really amazing experience in mentoring high school students,” Prof. Sue Bert said. “We’re just really excited to have her.”

Bert said Atwood shone as a candidate, sharing the statement of purpose essay in her application for the COE, which presented a focus on equity and inclusivity for historically marginalized groups.

“I want to have a classroom that is equitable and culturally responsive,” Atwood wrote. “I want to create a classroom where I meet students where they are at academically and emotionally, a space where all kids are able to learn.”

Tracy Williams-Murphy, a senior advisor-recruiter for the Department of Special Education, said that Atwood’s hard work in her application “exemplifies her tenacity and spirit.”

“I am ecstatic that the College of Education has offered Ms. Atwood four distinct scholarships that will help support her on this exciting new journey towards becoming an extraordinary future educator,” Williams-Murphy said. “Congratulations, Alexis."

Photo: Alexis Atwood is a four-time scholarship winner. Photo by Jillian Daley

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