Focus Awards empower students to build foundation in international topics

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The 2024 Global Studies, Communication Studies, and Asian Studies Focus Awards provide recipients with a good foundation for their future endeavors.

This spring, Portland Community College Internationalization Initiative awarded six certificates in Global Studies, five in Communications Studies and four in Asian Studies at an event at the Sylvania Campus. These are awards of distinction recognizing students who are well-prepared with a foundation for international studies or political science or communications, for example. Above all, the curriculum enabled these students to develop a multidimensional perspective on the world, its many cultures, as well as their own life experiences.

Owen Dowden

Owen Dowden.

Owen Dowden of Beaverton-Aloha received an associate degree and three focus awards: Global Studies, Asian Studies, and Communication Studies.

I was able to take a variety of classes that helped me figure out an educational path for myself,” said Dowden, who at first was trying to focus on engineering. “Luckily, I found areas of study that I’m more passionate about but can also apply into my manufacturing career.”

Owen, 34, did his studies online and said, “It’s never too late to better yourself through education. I had already spent many years investing in my career but found that going back to school could help me excel even further.”

Hillsboro’s Andrea Cid, who is a former foster youth, earned a Global Studies Focus Award and is currently working on a associate’s degree at PCC, planning to transfer to Portland State University to enroll in their globalization program next year.

“During my time at PCC, I have encountered some of the most authentic and inspiring instructors, and taken so many classes that have shaped how I want my future to look like,” she said. “PCC is incredibly important to me because it has allowed me to pursue higher education, exposed me to so many different resources, and pushed me out of my comfort zone. My favorite part of PCC is all of the available resources. It is unique from other community colleges, or online colleges in that there is a college atmosphere. 

“After graduation, I want to enter the nonprofit sector and give back to my community,” added Cid, who is the first in parts of her families to graduate from high school and first to pursue college.

Andrea Cyd

Andrea Cyd.

She also said that PCC’s Global Studies Focus Award fosters a rich understanding and appreciation of the diverse cultures of the world.

“It is a reminder of everything I’ve gone through and how I persevered,” she continued. “In earning this award, I developed what I want to pursue in college, and where I want to go post-graduation. In all of the classes I’ve taken, I’ve gained a better understanding of people, the world, and the way our world develops relationships with each other.”

The awards position students to apply these perspectives and to demonstrate cultural understanding to prospective employers and transfer colleges. Dowden, who worked full-time while taking six to nine credits a term at PCC, plans to continue his studies.

“My post grad plan is to continue online studies through University of Memphis to get a B.A. in communications and hopefully minor in project management,” he said.

Communication Studies Instructor Karina Bjork delivered a poignant keynote address at the ceremony celebrating Dowden, Cid and several other recipients.

“It is essential that we cultivate cultural humility,” Bjork told the students. “We must recognize the value in diverse perspectives and enrich our own experiences and foster a more inclusive society. A simple act of kindness can bridge the gap between differing viewpoints, values, beliefs, and soften the hardest of hearts. The value of kindness multiplies—fostering an environment of mutual respect.”

She also shared gratitude as the ceremonies were well-attended by a mix of family, friends and staff. Bjork, who has been with PCC for five years, was heart-warmed by the amount of conversation that happened after the ceremony.

“So many of the students were engaged with the ceremony and with each other,” she added.

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About Misty Bouse

A Portland Community College public relations specialist, Misty Bouse has been working in college advancement for a decade. A graduate of University of Oregon, Misty has worked as a managing editor for BUILDERNews Magazine and as a contribu... more »