Celebrating PSU student success, spring term 2020
Author: Currently
Posted: June 8, 2020

In support of the first goal of Portland State’s five-year strategic plan — elevating student success — Currently now features student success each term, acknowledging achievements such as publications, scholarships, grants, presentations and more. Here are some of the resilient and creative students who made us proud during this unusual spring term. Want your students to appear in our next roundup? Send information to


Portland State recognizes students for excellence in sustainability

Michelle Bates, urban and public affairs student, and Laihha Moss-Novak, geography student, received Inspiring Student Awards during the 2020 Excellence in Sustainability Awards. As an officer for PSU’s Environmental Club, Bates helped lead PSU’s Earth Day events and other special projects, such as gathering support for a divestment campaign and running service events in the community. Moss-Novak acted as a steward for natural spaces on campus through her work as the garden coordinator with the Student Sustainability Center (SSC), bringing hundreds of volunteers to the PSU community orchard for educational and service events. 

College of the Arts names Kamelia Massih prize winner

Emma Josephson, film student, was awarded the The Kamelia Massih Endowment for the Arts prize for bringing innovation to her discipline, demonstrating excellence in performing or fine arts and exemplifying PSU’s commitment to community engagement. An ambitious young filmmaker, Josephson has involved herself in numerous career-building projects, which include producing her own short films, directing student-produced feature-length films as part of PSU-TV, the campus’s student filmmaking group, and internships and freelance work with groups such as Uncage the Soul Productions, NW Documentary Arts and Media, Koerner Camera and more. 

Senior wins PDX Hillel’s inaugural Future Leader award

Cole Keister, graphic design student, was awarded the inaugural Future Leader award from PDX Hillel for his years of leadership and dedication to the Jewish community on the Portland State campus. 

Campus Rec honors an emerging leader

Vanessa Lanning, environmental studies and sustainability student, was given Campus Rec’s Emerging Leader Award for her peer mentorship and work as office assistant and business operations student lead at Campus Rec.

Undergraduate wins Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize 

Leah Maldonado, art and design student, was honored with the 2019 Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize. She received a $5,000 first-place award and her work, GlyphWorld, was displayed in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at PSU.

Portland State recognizes outstanding student employees

Each Spring, Portland State recognizes and celebrates the student employees who play a critical role in recruitment, engagement, research, advocacy, community service and generally keeping our campus services running. Veronica Roderick is 2020’s Portland State Student Employee of the Year. She continues a 10-year streak of Portland State University’s top award winner also winning the statewide award, Oregon Student Employee of the Year, from the Western Association of Student Employment Administrators. Roderick works in Student Activities and Leadership Programs as the co-director of the Portland State Programming Board and in Admissions and New Student Programs, where she currently works as a student ambassador and held former positions as orientation team lead and orientation leader. 

Other PSU students recognized included Julia Strunk, planning, construction and real estate employee and psychology student, who received the Rising Star award; Taylor Allen, geography employee and student, who received the Key Contributor award; Bobby Smallwood, PSU Food Pantry manager and mathematics and statistics student, who received the Outstanding Advocate award; Emily Price, Campus Rec, who received the Leadership award; and Laihha Moss-Novak, Student Sustainability Center garden coordinator and geography student, who received the Incredible Service award.


Sebastian Busby, geography Ph.D. student, appeared in “Climate Connections,” produced by Yale University, to discuss the severe wildfires that are transforming ecosystems in the Cascade Mountains.

Sarah Guldenbrein, sociology master’s student, presented “There’s No Going Back: Practicing Empathy for Students after the Pandemic and a Syllabus of Alternatives to Capitalism” at PSU’s Innovation Showcase in celebration of the 2019/2020 Lead Graduate Assistants, a subsection of the Certificate of Innovation in College Teaching.

Sonja Taylor, sociology Ph.D. student, published “Digital Learning Archives: Beyond ePortfolios” in AePR: The AAEEBL ePortfolio Review.


We want to celebrate your students! Email submit student success items to and include the following information: 

  • The student’s full name
  • The student’s year and area of study (example: Jane Doe, a junior studying art history)
  • Student’s job, volunteer or research position if applicable. For example, if a student won an award for their work as an employee with the PSU Residence Hall Association, their position with residence life would be necessary for the write-up
  • The full name of the award, honor, scholarship or fellowship the student received
  • The date the award was given
  • Any other relevant information about the award, such as length of fellowship, total scholarship amount, location of award ceremony
  • A horizontal image, if you have one
  • Links to any other additional information you would like to be included in the write-up, such as news stories; web pages or documents for the awards/scholarships/fellowships; and accessible pages for publications (such as the Amazon listing for a student book available for purchase, or the article's journal web page for an academic publication)