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Commencement 2013: Car sales to med school via PSU

Five years ago, Nicholas Robbins lost his auto sales job as the U.S. economy tanked. On June 16, he will graduate from Portland State with a full diversity scholarship to Oregon Health & Science University’s medical school.

Robbins is among an estimated 6,180 graduates in the class of 2013, the largest in PSU’s history. Commencement has grown so big that for the first time there will be two ceremonies on the same day at the Rose Garden Arena.

When Robbins was laid off after 12 years in auto sales, he decided to pursue his dream of going into medicine, starting with a biology degree from PSU. A scholarship from The Ford Family Foundation helped make it possible.

He chose PSU for its pre-med advising program, which provides medical school prerequisites and the guidance that many aspiring physicians need. Over the past several years, an average of 23 percent of OHSU’s incoming MD class last attended PSU. Robbins is one of three PSU students who received full scholarships to OHSU’s med school this year. These scholarships show OHSU’s commitment to preparing its health care graduates to address the needs of rapidly diversifying communities.>

At PSU, Robbins volunteered as a mentor to other students interested in science, technology, engineering and math fields through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

With the scholarship from OHSU, he hopes to someday teach medicine, continuing to give an extra hand to other students who need it.

“Everyone’s afforded the same chance and can get to the same finish line, but not everyone starts in the same place,” Robbins says.

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE live on PSU's Facebook page, on Twitter and Instagram at #2013PDXGrad, or post your photos on Flickr.



WHEN: Sunday, June 16
10 a.m. Liberal Arts and Sciences
3:30 p.m. Everyone else
WHERE: The Rose Garden Arena


  • The University will award approximately 4,425 bachelor’s, 1,675 master’s, and 80 PhD degrees.
  • Top bachelor’s degrees: social science, psychology, criminology & criminal justice
  • Top master’s degrees: social work, business administration & special education
  • Graduates come from 50 countries and every state except Delaware.
  • The youngest graduate is 16, and the oldest is 72.


Commencement ceremonies will be webcast live June 16 on as well as broadcast on OPB Plus live at 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (Comcast ch. 310, Verizon ch. 470).