I entered PSU at 17 years old in the fall of 2005. I had been living on my own since the beginning of the year, having left a home in Springfield, OR that wasn’t feeling safe and nourishing. I applied to schools and scholarships on my own and chose PSU because it was inexpensive and located in Portland, where I was already living. PSU also accepted almost all my AP credits from high school, so I entered as a Sophomore. As a first-generation college student, I had no idea how school worked, so I signed up for random courses that sounded interesting.
I stayed on that path for the next few years, taking time off for personal reasons here and there. I declared at least 3 majors while at PSU, but didn’t pay much attention to it until my senior year when I was approaching 180 credits. At that point I asked the advisors what I should declare on my transcript, based on my mish mash of sociology, education, Spanish, ethnic studies, and Literature courses. By that time I knew I was heading in the direction of education in English Language Arts/GED and that I would have to get a Master’s anyway. Because of this hodgepodge approach, I now hold a BA in Arts & Letters and Liberal Studies with minors in English and Spanish.
My Capstone course, Enhancing Youth Literacy, helped solidify my decision to work in schools and led me to pursue further coursework in teaching and education during my last couple of terms at PSU. The practicum component helped me see how education policy was playing out in classrooms and served as a litmus test: Did I like serving in schools or not? Did I have a passion for this deeply challenging work? I learned that yes I did, but not with such small children. The course helped me discover how deeply I cared about and valued education, how radical my politics were around the emancipatory power of education, and who should be in charge of this powerful institution!
Post-Capstone, I continued to volunteer at alternative schools in the community and landed my first job after college as a GED teacher and social worker at local nonprofit SE Works. After a few years doing similar work, I am now licensed to teach English Language Arts and English for Speakers for Other Languages and work at Wilson High. I am also a founding member of the Critical Educators Collective, a local grassroots group of public school teachers who organize for social justice in our classrooms, schools, and communities. We recently hosted the Teaching in a Time of Trump Teach-In at Lincoln High, where over 450 educators gathered to hear from community leaders and develop networks and action plans to resist the hateful policies of the current administration.
UNST Courses Taken
No FRINQ -- transfer student
- UNST 421 Cap: Enhancing Youth Literacy – Fall 2009
- BST 412U: Oregon Afr-Amer Hst – Fall 2010
- BST 351U: African/Amer Lit – Spring 2010
- CHLA 301U: Chicano/Latino Comm – Fall 2006
- UNST 228U: Family Studies – Winter 2009
- UNST 224G: Environmental Sustainability – Fall 2008
- UNST 212I: American Studies – Fall 2006
To this day I still cast my mind back to that classroom of children, who I tried to coax into making pizza. The lesson, in all honesty, did not serve my students well. But selfishly, it served me. It helped me understand how different the needs can be of people from backgrounds that differ from mine. It helped me build active empathy. It helped me see a concrete, microcosmic example of the societal systems we had been studying in Educational Equality. For the first time, I was experiencing the material we were studying, firsthand.
I transferred to PSU, like many, from a community college, still in the mindset that a course should be merely about mastering content. I was really reluctant at first to get out into the community. My 22-year-old self thought it was just fluff. Years later, when I reflect back on that classroom experience in Educational Equality, I know that I learned more from that class then perhaps any other single course in my undergraduate career. Better still – those experiences have played a large part my development as a citizen, and as a functioning adult. I now know that the UNST Capstone program is perhaps the single best example of PSU ‘letting knowledge serve the city.’
UNST Courses Taken
- UNST 421: CAP: EducationAL Equity – Spring 2010
- TA 468U: UG Modern Theater II – Spring 2008
- MUS 301U: Survey of Music Lit I – Fall 2009
- GER 441U: UG Major Works: Nazi Culture– Winter 2009
My name is Monique Ybarra and I transferred to PSU fall of 2015, having already declared my major as psychology. I will be graduating this June with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology. As a non-traditional age student, deciding to return to school was a big decision as it meant a sacrifice of time and income. Prior to coming to PSU I had my own massage practice and through seeing numerous patients I had witnessed the link between mind and body health. This is what prompted my desire to complete a degree in psychology and go on to obtain a license in counseling to better serve my future patients.
As an older student, I was not too thrilled that I had to take additional courses in University Studies that would prolong my graduation. However, now that I am at the end of my undergraduate career I can say that I am so glad the University Studies courses were a required part of my academic career. I chose the junior cluster Global Perspectives and these courses: Racism, History of the Soviet Union, and Intro to Nonviolence and believe they have truly given me a different perspective on the world. I think it is important to note that prior to taking these courses I had traveled to fourteen different countries, spanning five continents and yet I still saw the world in a particular way. In these courses I was exposed to ideologies that questioned the greatness of America and the American way. One of the main ideas I learned in my courses was how colonialism has impacted our global world in economics, culture, and the structure of power. I am so thankful for the insight this has given me into reality.
I also took the senior capstone, Social Justice, in K-12 Education (Fall 2016) and this helped me understand the complexities of school funding and disparities and federal policy and classroom impact. In this course I was able to work with Upward Bound and North Gresham Elementary and had the opportunity to come alongside some everyday heroes who are a part of the solution to the injustice that exists.
My experience in University Studies has impacted me beyond the classroom as I continue to engage in community work with vulnerable populations such as at-risk youth, the homeless population, refugees, and those here in Portland who are affected by racist policies and practices.
UNST Courses Taken
No FRINQ -- transfer student
- UNST 421: CAP: Social Justice, K-12 Education – Fall 2016
- BST 414U: Racism – Winter 2016
- CR 306U: Introduction to Nonviolence – Winter 2016
- HST 377U: History of the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia – Winter 2016