Nya Mbock didn’t start her college career at Portland State University, but once she transferred in 2019, it quickly became her home.
“It’s been a really great fit for me,” said Mbock, the new Associated Students of Portland State University’s President. “It was a happy accident that the school I heard about growing up was totally right for me.”
Although Mbock was born in Portland, she spent much of her childhood in Cameroon before returning to the U.S. around age 10. Her French accent “definitely comes back out with family,” she said, despite the years she’s spent trying to lose it.
Since joining PSU to study communication, Mbock has become involved in programs that speak to both her past and her future. Before being elected to serve as ASPSU President, she worked as a student ambassador, as a volunteer and employee with the Women’s Resource Center, as a peer mentor and served as International Student Affairs Director.
“I've worked a lot with our international student communities and put together events, town halls and different kinds of opportunities for them to express the really specific challenges they faced with COVID,” Mbock said. “Now serving as ASPSU President, I’ve been able to build on that work.”
Navigating needs for international students speaks to Mbock’s interest in pursuing peacekeeping and international relations with the United Nations — if she doesn’t take the professor route and earn a Ph.D.
Serving the larger student population while still in a remote setting has proven to be challenging, but Mbock isn’t letting those barriers deter her efforts to ramp up ASPSU’s involvement in campus life and ensure a student voice in university decisions.
“We really firmly believe, especially when the university is working with a student-facing idea, program or initiative, there should be a student there to offer that immediate feedback,” she said.
Working more closely with the Office of Academic Innovation also tops Mbock’s priority list — specifically when it comes to providing feedback to faculty and streamlining the process to improve the post-COVID learning environment for students.
“There’s really a disconnect between admin and faculty; faculty and students; students and admin because we’re not working together,” she said.
Mbock spent the summer attending as many university committee meetings as possible with the goal of integrating the student perspective into the decision-making process and hopes that involvement can continue as fall term begins.
To help students better prepare, ASPSU is hosting class-finding tours for the first time this fall.
“After this last year's isolation, we're almost having to relearn how to talk to people and how to put ourselves out there,” Mbock said. “So we thought of holding tours with six to 10 students in each where you walk around campus with other students, get to know each other, find your classes and maybe even connect with someone who will be in the same class.”
This year underrepresented students will also benefit from a new BIPOC Student Success pilot program in partnership with Global Diversity & Inclusion thanks to a $50,000 grant that will launch in Winter term.
“We’re working really closely with a bunch of different departments to look at how we can approach student success holistically and make sure that the students who will graduate out of the [Student Success] cohort will have career help, academic assistance, emotional assistance, community building opportunities, professional developments, all those really good markers of student success,” Mbock said.
ASPSU is also trying to integrate volunteer opportunities, ways to get involved and student resources into one place and host an information hub of sorts.
“We know that because we're such a big school it's really hard for students to sometimes find information,” she said. “We want all students to feel like we're a resource to them and treat us like we're a universal resource.”