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Student empowerment and belonging drives fall virtual panel series

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For students of color at any educational institution, being truly seen and understood by faculty and administrators is critical to their academic success and happiness. And when those students see people in positions of authority that look like them and reflect their cultural experiences, it further illuminates their own potential.

This understanding is the motivation for an upcoming virtual panel series designed to enhance transfer opportunities for students of color at Portland Community College. Hosted by the Rock Creek Campus Multicultural Center, the series will give PCC students a unique opportunity to engage with current students, staff, and alumni from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). 

Virtual Panel Series
  • Oct. 27 (2 – 3 p.m.) — Interest Meeting
  • Nov. 3 (1 – 2:30 p.m.) — Jackson State University
  • Nov. 10 (2 – 4 p.m.) — Northwest Indian College 
  • Nov. 17 (2 – 4 p.m.) — Oklahoma Panhandle State University
  • Dec. 1 (2 – 4 p.m.) — Prairie View A&M University

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Center coordinator Jeff Hall said he often fields questions from students about HBCUs, HSIs, and TCUs, and decided they would benefit from hearing directly from the institutions themselves. However, Hall said the intent of the series goes beyond standard information about the transfer process. 

“The objective is to not only provide another transfer option, but to help our students discover and explore campus communities aligned with the idea of fully empowering them to become confident and uplifted,” he said. “In many ways, the panels will empower our audience because it will be the first time our students interact with institutions that have someone who looks like them in an administrative role.” 

Hall said the pandemic has exacerbated feelings of loneliness, imposter syndrome, and fears of a lack of workforce preparation for many of the students he serves. In response, they have expressed a desire to deepen their connections to their Black, Latinx, or Indigenous communities. 

“They felt that there was more community learning that needed to happen and felt that attending an institution they could better identify with culturally would allow them to be further empowered,” Hall said. 

Hall, who joined PCC from the University of Oregon in October of 2020 and has worked exclusively in a remote environment, said the pandemic-inspired feelings students described resonated with him as well. 

“Although my experience so far has been positive, working during the pandemic brings a level of precariousness that can become discouraging,” he said. “However, my colleagues and fellow MC coordinators have been extremely supportive in assisting me in navigating this virtual environment.”

Hall said the Rock Creek Multicultural Center staff has responded to the environmental challenges by leaning into more creative approaches to its work, including social media platforms such as Instagram and Discord that have allowed for even greater student interaction. 

And while he said he’s eager to be around students and staff in campus spaces once again, Hall’s work with remote events like the virtual panel series has helped reinforce community connections and center student belonging when it’s needed most.  

About Alfredo V. Moreno

Alfredo has served PCC's westside communities in both a community engagement and public relations capacity since September of 2018. Born in the border city of El Paso, Texas, Alfredo grew up in the timber town of Roseburg in Southern Oregon... more »