A lifetime of learning

Not only is 70-year-old adjunct professor Margi McCue the eldest graduate to receive a degree this year, she is the first student to receive an interdisciplinary master’s degree.

McCue – who teaches classes on domestic violence, sexual violence and oppression – began working towards her master’s degree in 2001 and focused her studies within the women’s studies, conflict resolution and sociology departments.

She describes being the first to receive an interdisciplinary degree as “challenging, simply because I was the first. It was like building a ship as you sail it. It was probably good it was me rather than someone who gets discouraged by bureaucracy and red tape easily.”

McCue has developed a project through interdisciplinary studies that has been adopted as a 32-credit certificate in domestic abuse and sexual violence that undergraduate students will be able to earn in addition to their degree. Next year the Oregon State University System will look at the proposal and determine whether to implement it statewide.

In part, McCue credits her success to the support that she received from both colleges and departments.

“When you have that kind of support from colleges, it’s good. I think just feeling a part of this whole community is very rewarding for me,” she said.

Much of the work McCue has done both at Portland State University and outside it has centered on domestic violence. Currently, she is in the midst of planning an annual conference. The theme this year is sex trafficking and will be held July 15-17 on the PSU campus.

“I’ve been the coordinator of the conference every year. People always have favorable responses to it,” she said.

McCue has also led trainings in the community on the effects of domestic violence. “Policemen and people from the community attend because they really want this information. Especially on how domestic violence affects children. A lot of people are amazed at how profoundly they are affected,” McCue said.

Before teaching at PSU, McCue published a book and developed “No Punching Judy,” a puppet show used in Oregon schools to advocate against violence. She traveled to the island of Mauritia to train local law enforcement in how to respond to domestic violence. She was also the director of a program for battered women and abused girls in San Fransisco.

“This is my passion. I am a survivor. I believe that education is the key to stopping and ending violence. I think we should all know about the issue, because we are all going to know someone who is affected by this issue,” McCue said.

Despite the many things McCue has done, she still values the degree she will receive and the time she has spent at school. “It’s really valuable; it’s not just a piece of paper. That sense of accomplishment has been very rewarding. I’ve grown a lot, learned a lot, as old as I am. Being the oldest person hasn’t bothered me. I don’t think age makes that big a difference. If we quit learning we atrophy,” McCue said.