Two women have been named student speakers at the Portland State spring commencement ceremonies, setting the stage for the June 14 event at the Rose Garden Arena.
The two are Autumn Watts, a graduating Honors Program student, and Susi Rourke, graduating with a masters of Science degree. The appointments were announced by Wendy Endress, dean of students.
Watts and Rourke join the featured speaker on the rostrum, James DePreist, who is stepping down after 23 years as music director of the Oregon Symphony to become laureate music director.
Also honored at the commencement will be Kathryn Harrison, longtime advocate for Native American affairs. She will be presented an honorary doctorate of human letters.
Watts is a former Smithsonian intern, a recipient of numerous scholarships and awards, including the Tom and Phyllis Burnam Undergraduate Fiction Award and an honorable mention from the American Academy of Poets.
She has served three years as a peer mentor, designing and teaching interdisciplinary classes promoting diversity education, active learning, critical inquiry and exploratory discourse community for first-year students.
Next fall, Watts begins a master of fine arts program in creative writing at Cornell University, where she will remain for a two-year lectureship after completion of her degree.
Rourke was born in California and grew up in Hawaii, where she worked as a counselor for at-risk youth for seven years. She began her college career there and relocated to Portland in 1996, entering Portland State in 1998.
As an undergraduate, she served as a peer mentor for University Studies, as a teacher’s assistant in the communications department and as an individual mentor through the Community Service Assistance program.
She graduated in June 2000 and became an intern at KPTV, Channel 12, becoming a freelance associate producer and news writer. She began her master’s work in 2001.
After graduation, she will begin a yearlong volunteer program with the Clackamas County Dispute Resolution Program. Meanwhile, she will continue working at Starbucks and volunteering at the Oregon Humane Society.
Figures compiled by the university show that the youngest graduating student is 19 and the oldest 73. The average age of graduating students is 28. Females make up 58 percent of the graduating class. Residents account for 86 percent, non-residents 12 percent and international students 2 percent.
The top five states where non-resident students come from are Washington, 46 percent; California, 13 percent; Idaho, 3 percent; Arizona, 3 percent; and New York, 3 percent.
The ethnic makeup of graduates is 72 percent white, 9 percent Asian, 4 percent Hispanic and 3 percent African American. American Indians represent 1 percent, multiple ethnics almost 2 percent.
The top four countries where international students come from include United Arab Emirates, 22 percent; Japan, 17 percent; Indonesia, 13 percent; Taiwan Republic of China, 13 percent. Other countries represented are Austria, France, Greece, India, Korea, Malaysia, People’s Republic of China and Zambia.
The top five majors of graduating students include psychology, 6 percent; social science, 6 percent; marketing, 4 percent; sociology, 4 percent; and English, 4 percent. All other majors total 76 percent.
DePreist will be honored with a new PSU professorship, as visiting professor in ethnic art. His post was created and named through a lead gift of $100,000 from the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE foundation. He will continue to conduct the symphony annually and will record with the orchestra through 2008.
Harrison currently serves as ambassador for the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde. Among other assignments, she serves on the board of the PSU Institute for Tribal Government, a part of the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government. She was a key figure in the restoration of federal status for the Siletz and Grande Ronde tribes.