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Community spotlight: Q&A with Val Holdahl

Who are you?

My name is Val Holdahl, my full name is Valerie Rose Holdahl, but I have always preferred “Val.” I am a fourth year student at Portland State, my major is psychology, and I am double minoring in criminal justice and sociology. I am originally from Russia and was adopted at age three to a family in Dundee, Oregon, which is where I lived until I graduated from Newberg High School in 2010. Service learning has always been a passion of mine—when I was 11 years old, I started walking all the dogs in my neighborhood and fundraising for a new animal shelter.

What are you working on right now?

Throughout my time at PSU I have dabbled in a few different things; I started as an Auxiliary Services retail employee where I got to know the “ins and outs” of Smith Memorial Student Union. 

Eventually I met an adviser from the psychology department and he recommended that I apply to be a psychology peer adviser. So I became a peer adviser, and also joined Student Leaders for Service as a student liaison. By mid sophomore year, I applied to be a student ambassador and continued my work with Student Leaders for Service.  

Now, here I am as a senior and I can proudly say that I am a part of two amazing departments on campus, I work for the Sustainability Leadership Center as the volunteer coordinator and I am a peer mentor for University Studies. 

One area I would like to be more involved with is the Campus Sustainability Office and its waste management initiatives. I enjoy reading the assessment, processes, and integration around our campus wide sustainability. I come from a background where a yogurt cup is not even recycled due to lack of knowledge around waste management and its greater global impact. I hope to gain more knowledge and use this as another form of improving my own personal sustainability as well as those around me.

What’s the one thing you want the sustainability community to know about what you’re doing?

I am here to learn and listen. I really enjoy having conversations around sustainability and its “three E’s.”  One of the most important things to me is engaging in all areas of PSU and sharing that knowledge with others. I am new to the Sustainability Leadership Center, but I have no doubt that I will be learning so much throughout this year and sharing that with the broader PSU and Portland community. I’m excited about helping my peers understand that sustainability impacts all aspects of our lives, and encouraging them to get involved with the awesome sustainability programs on campus!

What’s your favorite thing about being a part of Portland State?

My favorite part of Portland State is the environment that surrounds our campus. I use the word environment because it means several different things to me. Portland State is an urban campus, but also has a lot of hidden greenery that surprises many people. The other part of our environment that I greatly appreciate is our access to community organizations, researchers, and city/government departments. We as a university have a unique privilege to host public conferences, protests, and events known world wide that have a significant impact on our everyday lives.

If you could have lunch with one famous person—alive or dead—who would that be and why?

This was a very tough decision, but lately Margaret Atwood has been on my mind (it was a close tie with Betty White from the Golden Girls TV series). If it were not for my Freshman Inquiry course in 2010, I would have never discovered Atwood’s thrilling trilogy: “Oryx and Crake,” “The Year of the Flood,” and her newest, “MaddAdam!”  Her books are inspiring because she focuses on a number of issues that intrigue me, such as sex trafficking, affluenza, heteropatriarchy, and environmental degradation. The best part is that her books are set in a post-apocalyptic world. Give me any type of book with an apocalyptic setting and I will devour it! I would love to have lunch with her and hear about her passion for ecofeminism and her reasons for writing this trilogy. I would also want her to give me advice about if there ever were to be an apocalypse and how to be prepared for it.  She seems like one of those influential writers who can simply give you a look and make you cry because she is that mindful and genuine.