Looking back on an amazing journey

I was 22 years old when I started attending Portland State. I was still a freshman after more than four years of bouncing from one community college to another.

Why PSU? It was in Portland. I was in Portland. Why not PSU?

I dropped out of high school at the beginning of my junior year, but went back after a year “hiatus,” working through the local adult learning program to get my diploma. I didn’t have to – at that point in my disruptive youth, no one really expected me to finish high school. No one, including myself, had any idea what would become of my life.

After high school I moved to Portland and escaped the suffocating culture that is Salt Lake City, Utah. I worked for five years in small offices and customer service positions and seemed destined to be an office manager for the rest of my life even though I hated offices and everything that goes along with them. Even my flirtations with junior college classes were just supplementation for the mind, occupation of my free time.

And then there was PSU: so inexpensive, so conveniently located, such a beautiful campus – inviting for a commuter student like me.

Now, four years later, I am graduating, the first of five children – all older than myself – to do so.

In August I am off to New York City for law school and right now I am overwhelmed. Not with the move or the prospects so much, but with the looking back.

I didn’t do this alone. This journey was completed as a result of the many people in this community who touched my life and guided me along the way. It is extraordinarily touching to remember the names and faces of those individuals who sometimes held my hand, regularly inspired me and often convinced me I could take chances I never would have taken on my own.

My year as a University Studies peer mentor introduced me to nearly 30 amazing and very cool students and even more mentors who often left me speechless at their dedication, commitment and passion, not to mention Candyce Reynolds, the director of mentor programs, and Greg Jacob, my faculty partner, both of whom have had tremendous influence in my life.

After three years at the Vanguard, one as a news writer and two as editor-in-chief, I can barely imagine my life without this office, these friends and the constant learning inherent in this experience.

Judson Randall, our adviser, has become like a father to me and will be a lifelong friend. He gave me the confidence to take risks, trust in my own judgment and ethics and to be a leader among peers.

My experience at the Vanguard has taught me about law, politics, student government, journalism, pedagogy, community and so much more. I have been challenged beyond any point I thought possible and had moments of such extraordinary bliss that I thought it could never get better than this job.

And then, of course, there were classes. Good classes, bad classes, throwaway classes – we all have them. But it isn’t the subject, generally, that determines the value we associate with a class, it’s the person who guides us through the subject and I have had more than my share of great professors.

Shakespeare with Lorraine Mercer made me laugh every day and she still makes me laugh every time I see her.

Ann Mussey introduced me to Queer Studies, the subject I plan to expand upon in law school, and is an inspiration to me.

Most recently I have developed an academic obsession with Marcia Klotz as a result of her immaculate instruction of Foucault and Freud in Queer Theory and ability to make me almost understand Marx, Adorno and Horkheimer in the Frankfurt School.

There are so many more people – especially other students – who have made my four years remarkable and memorable (thank you, ASPSU, for keeping this year interesting), but you all know who you are.

These years will probably not be remembered as “the best of my life,” like we hear from our cynical parents, but they have shaped the rest of my life. And, frankly, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it anywhere else.