Grads set to make their mark on the world

Portland State will send nearly 5,800 students off with newly minted bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees on Sunday, June 12.

Most are headed for the workforce to become teachers, engineers, artists, social workers, architects, history professors – you name it.

As a whole, they make up one of the biggest and most diverse graduating classes in Oregon. As individuals, they represent the promise of a generation. Here are three of their stories.



WHEN: Sunday, June 12

10 a.m. Liberal Arts and Sciences

3:30 p.m. Professional schools and colleges

WHERE: MODA Center, Rose Garden Arena




  • The University will award approximately 4,150 bachelor's, 1,550 master's, and 85 doctoral degrees.
  • Top bachelor's degrees: psychology, health studies, social science, criminology and criminal justice
  • Top master's degrees: social work, education, electrical and computer engineering
  • The youngest graduate is 19, and the oldest is 80.


Commencement ceremonies will be webcast live June 12 on as well as broadcast on OPB Plus live at 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (Comcast ch. 310, Verizon ch. 470).



Get instant access to commencement social media feeds. Join the conversation by posting to social media with the hashtag #2016pdxgrad: give shout-outs, send best wishes, ask questions, and share photos and videos.


For Jayme Causey, the motivation to earn an education master’s degree was rooted in his upbringing.

“I wanted to teach and help out in the community that helped raise me,” says Causey, a graduate of Portland’s Grant High School and first of his family to earn a college degree.

It didn’t come easy. He delivered pizzas to help cover tuition, later becoming a supervisor in the Pizzacato branch across the street from his former middle school. When his father died, he lost one of his biggest supporters but not his drive to finish.

“Instead of leaving me feeling defeated and hopeless, it motivated me to work harder and more focused than ever,” Causey says. “I truly realized how fragile life is, and to make the most of any opportunity.”

He got his start in higher education at Portland Community College, transferring to PSU after two years. He took a year off to volunteer and mentor students at Beaumont Middle School, where he had once been a student.

“I worked with students who were struggling with their classes and needed someone to spend some one-on-one time with,” Causey says. This term, he was a student teacher at the same middle school.

Causey, one of approximately 300 getting degrees this year from PSU's Graduate School of Education, recently accepted a job offer from Portland Public Schools to teach English language arts at Jefferson High School – not far from where he grew up. 

“I’m excited to be graduating,” Causey says. “But it’s really just the start of something larger.”


Already an accomplished singer in eighth grade, Madison Shanley received the invitation of her dreams – to sing the National Anthem at what was then PGE Park, home of the Portland Beavers baseball team.

Her knockout rendition led to more offers and by high school she was a regular at Portland Timbers soccer matches, belting out the difficult tune before each game. When the Timbers went pro, they kept Madison behind the mic.

“They just blew up into this huge team, and I just kind of grew up singing with them,” she says. She’s also sung for the Portland Trailblazers, the Portland Winterhawks and the Seattle Seahawks. “It’s been really cool to gain a little recognition.”

Madison says she was considering attending college out of state, but was offered a part in a local musical so decided to complete her first year at Portland State.

“I loved my first year, loved the atmosphere at PSU,” she says. Four years later, she’s leaving with a theater degree and a dream of acting in movies. 

And she’s singing the National Anthem at Commencement on Sunday, June 12.

Madison has signed with an agent and hopes eventually to move to Los Angeles. For now, she’s looking to audition locally and hopes to produce her own album.

“My goal isn’t to be famous,” she says. “I just want to do what I love.”


When Lady Gaga performed her tribute to David Bowie at the 2016 Grammys, the big mood rings on her fingers changed colors with the music and her movements. They attracted lots of media attention, and put a smile on Cody Gabriel’s face. He designed them.

Gabriel, who graduates this term with a master’s in electrical and computer engineering, was an intern at Intel at the time and the wizard behind the rings’ electronics.

He was on the sound stage for a couple of days at Universal Studios while the famous singer practiced the tune, although he didn’t get a chance to talk to her. “She was very focused,” he says.

Like many PSU students, Gabriel took a nontraditional route to his graduate degree. After graduating from Canby High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he spent five year, including two tours in Iraq. There, he worked on mobile radios and became interested in electronics.

After his discharge, he enrolled at Clackamas Community College for two years, then started at PSU. He got his bachelor’s in engineering and kept going.

“I just plowed through,” he says. He leaned on the Veterans Resource Center to help cut through financial aid bureaucracy, and instructors at CCC and PSU to help him catch up on the math and writing skills he lost during his five-year academic pause. 

His internship at Intel landed him a job offer at the electronics giant, and he plans to start soon after graduation.

“PSU’s hands-on approach really works,” Gabriel says. “Understanding the theory is one thing. Taking the theory and building something just gives you that much more to work with.”

– Harry Esteve