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President's Progress Report 2014: Our People
Author: University Communications
Posted: March 3, 2014

Visualizing a roadmap for Washington
For a planner, Portland State alumna Lynn Peterson's path to Washington Secretary of Transportation has been unplanned, forged by her interest in both the engineering and community aspects of transportation systems. "Transportation to me is a tool," says Peterson. "You don't do a project; you accomplish an overall goal." After earning her Master of Urban and Regional Planning in 1995, Peterson worked in the public sector and as a transportation consultant until she was elected to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. In 2008 she earned a second master's degree in civil and environmental engineering and was elected at-large as Clackamas County's first-ever board chairperson. The post set her on a path through the Oregon governor's office and to a top appointment in Washington. "I have this need to work with communities to problem-solve," she says. "Every community is unique and every solution is unique; there's no one-size-fits-all."


Every picture tells her story
While still in school, professor Kate Bingaman-Burt started tracking consumption by photographing everything she purchased. After graduation, that awareness led her to hold herself accountable for her spending by drawing her credit card statements. "I picked drawing because I didn't feel comfortable with it," says Bingaman-Burt, now a graphic design professor at Portland State. "Debt was crazy for me and drawing was punishment." Or so she thought. As it turned out she was a skilled illustrator with a distinct style that caught the eye of Target, Baby Gap, Real Simple Magazine and The New York Times. "I try to be an active maker and an active educator," she says. Three illustrated books about personal consumption and a TED Talk later, Bingaman-Burt encourages her students to push themselves like she did.


Dream catcher for Native people
In the 1970s, Portland State was one of the only schools in the country that recruited American Indians for its School of Social Work, recalls alumnus Terry Cross MSW ’77. "PSU really empowered those of us who went there," Cross says. "We would have classes with 40 American Indian students interested in social work. That's an experience you don't usually get to have." In 1983, Cross, a Seneca Nation of Indians member, founded a Northwest-focused institute to provide training and consultation for American Indian social workers. Over a decade it grew into the National Indian Child Welfare Association based in Portland. "The organization has had a dramatic impact on tribal equality and education across the country," Cross says, training many thousands of American Indian social workers. "I feel lucky. Very few people get to see something they dream up become such a vital part of their community."


Student, veteran, leader apasionada
Portland State student Pam Campos-Palma says it sounds cliché, but she believes in living to serve the greater good. "It's the way I've been my whole life; that's just the way it is when your culture is communal instead of individualistic," says Campos-Palma, 26, whose mother is a first-generation Honduran immigrant. After four years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, Campos-Palma, in her third year as a reservist, headed to Portland State as a political science major, minoring in civic leadership. She hopes to improve campus life as director of the Latina student organization Las Mujeres de la Raza and as a member of the University's Board of Trustees, a new governing board that will provide strategic leadership and stewardship to PSU. "As a woman of color, a veteran and a returning student, I run the gamut of different student traits," Campos-Palma says. "I look forward to bringing a unique and beneficial perspective to the board."


Guilding experiments in space
Professor Mark Weislogel's specialty is weird shapes with a purpose—designed to control the flow of liquid in zero gravity. Most recently, the PSU mechanical and materials engineering professor, with his research team and an astronaut on the International Space Station, created a coffee cup that allows astronauts to drink in space. Its teardrop-shape utilizes surface tension to direct liquid to the edge of the cup. In his engineering lab at PSU, there are six live video channels from the space station. They allow Weislogel and his research team—which includes "rock-star" students whom he recruits—to communicate with astronauts on the space station and conduct experiments in true zero gravity. "With ready access to the space station and 20 astronaut friends," he says, "we get the chance to design systems that are much more robust than what we have now."


From hardship to OHSU
On the day of Eddie Ramirez's orientation to Portland State, his mother came to him in tears, devastated to tell him that his financial aid had fallen through and they couldn't pay for college. "I hadn't even started, and already I had to drop out and settle for what I could afford," Ramirez, 21, remembers. But a teacher from Ramirez's high school, where he was valedictorian, paid for his first year of college, setting the PSU senior on a path to the elite dentistry school at Oregon Health & Science University. He starts in August. Ramirez, first in his family to finish high school, later won diversity scholarships and the Mount Hood Medical Center Foundation Healthcare Professional Scholarship. He's been working to pay his fortunes forward, in part by recruiting Latino students for PSU; his goal is to help Latino students overcome economic and documentation issues to advance to higher education.