The world is run by those who show up, and Portland State University is no different. Will you have a cause this school year? What will it be? How will we decide to participate in our own community? Will we choose to be a part of any kind of process? PSU statistics maintain that the majority of us are past the my-whole-life’s-ahead-of-me state of euphoria, no longer fresh out of high school. One of our best-kept secrets, however, is that we are no less idealistic for our age. Just by being present at a university and attending classes, students are making an extremely bold statement about ourselves. We believe in progress.
Whether personal goals drive us to seek millionaire status, or our focus is societal and we want to change the world, all students are in a period of advancement. And for this reason, there is no escaping the fact that our presence in school is beneficial to the world around us. If you’re a student in Portland and you picked up this newspaper, you probably have a leftward-leaning view of the world. Perhaps you are not pleased with our nation’s current situation. It is your job to rectify this situation. There’s an anonymous quote from history that says, “Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everybody knows it is old enough to know better.” We are old enough to take responsibility for our future. How will you begin the process this school year?
PSU is our most valuable channel for expending idealistic energy. On campus, there are dozens of groups and organizations with structure and goals, just waiting for their next member. There are social, political, cultural, and academic groups; a wide array of choices awaits us. There is a world beyond the classroom at PSU. The proverbial Petri dish is ripe for our ideas, our passion, and our participation. There will never be a better opportunity for personal development than in one of the many subcultures of activity zealously spending our student fee money and vying for our attention. I’m trying to tell you to get involved, in any and every way you desire.
There are endless reasons to attend a meeting, fill out an interest card, or take the 10 seconds necessary to read a flier. Or, at the very least, get some of the free food usually provided, while feigning interest in the Nuke the Whales campaign.
Students live their lives in two categories of places – inside the classroom, and everywhere else. If you’re worth your weight in water-proofed Birkenstocks, you’ll accept that for at least nine months out of the year, entering and exiting through glass doorways will be a large part of your school experience. Is it not valuable to discover more than just the seat and angle at which to keep your laptop screen hidden and your MSN Messenger chat window out of your professor’s sight?
Until you pound the pavement spreading the word about your next event, or skim the emerald waves otherwise known as the Park Blocks looking for your next recruit, you may not feel the sense of ownership that transpires as soon as you begin to participate. Membership in a student group has the power to connect someone to their community. You will network and make friends that can serve you for the rest of your life. All the Facebook- and MySpace-style websites in the world will not leave you with same lasting relationships as an old college buddy or mentor. We are not mere thumbnail pictures with hyperlinked names written underneath them. We have so much to teach and learn from one other. Simply by joining a group that interests you, or starting one yourself, you find a number of dedicated people with whom you already have something in common. How convenient is that?
When I first began at PSU, I had already attended three different colleges, and knew no one in Portland. Early in the term, on one of those sunshine-filled afternoons in the Park Blocks, I was sitting alone and probably looking a little forlorn. If I had not been approached by a friendly, talkative girl, telling me about a happening on campus, a group that had the space and need for me, you might still see me on that mossy bench next week. Instead, I met some of the most inspiring and kindest people ever to cross my path. I now walk these halls, and stroll these lanes like I own the place. And you know what? I like it. I’m more confident in my role as a student. I participate more in class. I do better in my school work. I am happy with my experience and for these reasons, I have chosen to relay happiness to all of you.
I know what you’re thinking. Sounds too good to be true, right? Simply and honestly, it’s not. Once you’re graduated and gone, the chance for pleasurable campus contribution will be lost to you forever. Do not let missed opportunities add up. Aren’t you old enough to know better?