Welcome to Learning in Action

Course Description

In our courses, we gain a wide variety of knowledge about community issues/needs. However, often we lack sufficient opportunities to directly engage these issues and miss out on the unique and important experiential learning inherent in such work. This course is a 4-credit, 300-level UNST course that fulfills one of your UNST Cluster requirements through an applied learning experience based on the approaches, theories, and practices of your cluster. The clusters eligible for this class are: Popular Culture; Interpreting the Past; Leading Social Change; Knowledge, Values, and Rationality; Gender and Sexuality; and Families and Society.

As part of this course, you will participate in a relevant community internship (in the form of a traditional internship or a volunteer placement). You may continue pre-existing work you are doing with a community organization if you are already engaged in such. In addition to the direct experience of working on one of the many issues raised in the course of your studies in your UNST Cluster, you will also participate in an online class space with your instructor and peers. This complementary experience will allow you to reflect on your experience, inquire critically about social issues, and integrate what you’ve learned from your experience with what you’ve learned in your coursework.

This course is a space to reflect on and look at the community internship work you are doing so that we can better participate in that work, create community to support one another, develop plans for continued engagement at and beyond the university, and understand the connections between the work and larger UNST and Cluster goals. Students will be required to find a community internship before the course starts and should use this website to explore resources in the For Students section for assistance. Students who have not found an appropriate volunteer position or internship by the end of week 2 must drop the course.

Community Internship

A Community Internship is a form of experiential learning that can take place within a nonprofit, community-serving organization, an educational institution, or governmental agency.  It is a short-term work experience, most likely as a volunteer, that allows students to integrate the knowledge and theory learned through their academic coursework with practical, hands-on experience in a real-world setting.  Community Internships are meant to include substantive learning and engagement opportunities and provide the intern with an in-depth understanding of the organization and the communities it serves. For the purposes of this course, community internships will be those that work to address specific community issues with their efforts.

Community internships may be paid or unpaid, and in either case will be highly educational in nature and supervised or mentored by a professional.



Portland Housing

HousingLogoOnlineBannerby Thanh Nguyen UNST399U

Winter 2016

The Portland housing rate is rapidly increased for renters: “During the third quarter of 2015, Portland saw 15.4 percent rent hikes” according to Andrew Theen of the Oregonian. Three of the causes to the raise in housing costs are from developers’ strategy, migrants from other states, and banned inclusionary zoning. First, condos have better selling prices and less maintenance  comparing to apartments, so developers built more condos and took rental units out from the market. A data from real-estate brokerage Marcus & Millichap shows that in 2014 “the number of apartments available for rent at any given time hit a record low of 2.8 percent.” Most of people in Portland still need to rent houses, but in 2014 only about 4,413 construction for rental units are built to supply for the addition of 30,500 jobs. This shortage in rental units is the big cause for the raising cost in renting. Second, Portland now is the 10th-highest rate of domestic migration out of the 50 largest urban areas by the Census Bureau estimated and almost 50% of the growth is from domestic migrant. Portland welcomes people all around the world, but the fast increase in population forces the increase in housing demands which leads to the raise in renting costs. Third, Oregon and Texas are the only two states that bans cities from mandating inclusion zoning- a policy for developers to make a specific percentage of all developed areas to poor and working class people. The ban of the inclusionary zoning with the strategy of developed condos for benefits totally go against the dramatic increase in Portland population.

Out of the three main reasons for raising housing prices, the increase in population is the one that could not change because less likely politicians can stop people from having kids or moving to Portland. That is too involved to the freedom in America. However, the politicians can requires developers to slow down their benefits regarding to the huge renting expenses of poor and working classes by changing Portland zoning code, so that any new constructions will have more renting units for low to moderate income people.

As a renter, we can protect ourselves by knowing our rights. Therefore, please check out the two links below to learn more.






Trillium Family Services is an incredible non-profit organization that houses children ages 7-17 with mental illness that yield their ability to lead a normal life. I have had the privilege of working in the ‘healing garden’ where the children come to experience the healing benefits of nature.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 44 million Americans experience mental illness every year. Coping with a child’s mental health illness and finding the appropriate treatment are difficult tasks when a family is under stress. You are not alone.

Unfortunately, the stigma of mental health often discourages people from seeking help. If a child has leukemia, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or asthma, the family gets support and compassion, but families of mentally ill children hear accusations and judgment from all sides. At Trillium, we strive to help families combat this stigma and seek the care that will allow their children to lead happy, healthy lives.Standing up and speaking out about mental and behavioral health, acknowledging that we are all affected by the two, and understanding that our struggles are often at the root of our power, reduces stigma and gives strength to those who may be feeling isolated by their own experiences in the world. Sometimes it only takes a little compassion to save someone’s life.


However, there is one important difference between mental health and physical health: a mental illness manifests itself through behavior and mood. Even today, mental illness is often looked upon as a character flaw rather than a treatable condition that can be effectively managed. But we do know that mental illness IS treatable, especially in children.

What if we treated physical illness like we treated mental illness?

Trillium Success Story (https://www.trilliumfamily.org/success-story/dougs-story/)

Doug walked in the door, and his grandparents could see the results of a tough day.

His frustration was building. His grandparents feared the family was returning to square one, and the more frightened they grew, the more frightened Doug became, starting a downward spiral.

The last time Doug’s family was at square one was six months earlier. When Doug and his grandparents were referred to Trillium Family Services, Doug was a 10- year-old boy suffering from deep depression and threatening violence. Doug couldn’t make or keep friends. He was disruptive in school and at home. His tantrums were the kind you see in a 2-year-old, only in a 10-year-old body.

Our treatment team assessed Doug’s needs and designed a complete treatment plan. Therapy staff learned that Doug’s depression stemmed from a chemical imbalance that was exacerbated because he couldn’t sleep. Treatment staff addressed Doug’s sleep problems early. By sleeping well, Doug gained the physical strength to begin the therapy process.

Other medication helped with the depression, and he built his self-esteem through positive experiences, such as participating in our therapeutic horse program. Family therapy involved the grandparents in the process, and in-home skills trainers taught the grandparents how to manage Doug’s condition.

When Doug returned home to stay, the turnaround was remarkable. He improved at school, began making and keeping friends, and took part in activities once closed to him.

Trillium takes both a preventative and a treatment based approach so that there is no relapse when the treatment is over. I will remain a community partner and hope to get a job working in one of the children’s units when I return to Oregon in the Fall.


Heart2Heart Farms

            Heart2Heart is a family owned, community driven farm in Sherwood, Oregon, that practices environmental stewardship, ethical treatment of animals, and empowerment in bridging the gap in many people’s lives between their food and where it comes from. Relaying my experience there is difficult to do merely with words, as the past six months have been incredibly eye opening and soul filling. Constantly working alongside the passionate, knowledgeable, and loving folk who run it as well as interested and diverse community members, I have grown in unmeasurable ways. The work there reconnects one back to the basics of coexistence, living amongst that which nourishes you, and in turn respecting the thing from which it came- the people, the animals, the planet.
             Taking this class alongside my work there has created another environment in which to discuss what I’ve been learning, hear about other people’s community work , and spread the word about the opportunities of the farm. We have participated in discussions on the roots of perpetual issues and how we implement actions in our daily lives that aid in creating a more sustainable and just social model.

Alicia Louise Markey-Fessel

It’s A Small Small World

Hello! I am Lifia Teguh, a piano performance major at Portland State University from Indonesia. I am also the President of PERMIAS PDX (Indonesian Students Association of USA-Portland) and an International Cultural Services Program (ICSP) at PSU.

Being involved in sharing my culture to the community through those two organizations have been unforgettable to me. It is such a privilege to be an ambassador of my country. It is also very fun because not only I can talk to other people about my background, but I can share the experience of making Indonesian music together.

Here are some of the highlights working as an agent of diversity:

  1. Taught around 200 audiences to play angklung at Indonesian Night 2016: SEJARI which was organized by PERMIAS PDX.


2. Compose and arrange Indonesian traditional music and collaborated with Americans to play them!


3. Had a gig at Lansu Chinese Garden as well as having fun with your peers while doing something meaningful: sharing the joy of playing music with others.

More information about PERMIAS PDX can be found at Facebook: PERMIAS PDX, Youtube channel: PERMIAS PDX, instagram and snapchat: @permiaspdx, and more information about my works can be found at lifiateguh.weebly.com.



This term I had a great opportunity to work with my community partner, New Season Christian Church. Before I used to think church people were religious but working with my community partner I came to realize that they are not religious but they live to preach the good news to all men kind. They do so through love and showing the same grace that was granted to them. They are one of the most down to earth people that I have ever come across to. Working with my community partner showed me how wrong I was about many things in life.

They have been around for a long time. They have people who are really educated with PhDs and masters degrees. Many of them work at the well-known company like intel, Microsoft, apple, the government, and so forth. Looking at them I kept asking myself what was the reason why they would come to church. They told me the church is a hospital for messed up, people.  This was true because most of the people who came there to get help were really destroyed physically and internally. This really fascinated me because I always thought Christian were these weird people who are just unethical. But, I came to realize that I and most of the people in this generation are wrong for making that assumption.

For this reason, is why I decided to continue on with this subject of why we need our fathers back for my public project. One thing I learned at my community partner is order. Everything they do is in order, whether at their home or at work. Even in their families, they have a structure, father, mother, and kids. So, I asked them why can’t women be a leader in the house? They answered who told you women are not a leader? They explained and said this generation has gotten everything backward. They gave me a simple example and said physically between man and women who’s stronger? I said a man and they asked me why? I said because they have bigger muscles. Then they told men are the head of the house they have muscles to protect, guide, lead, and serve the family. They are the foundation of the house. If anything in the house is destroyed is because lack to fulfill their responsibility. They also told me that women are also leaders but in a different way. But, for the house to stand you need both men and women to agree. So, I came to see that the reason why there are many divorces, and a broken marriage, and families are because many men have failed to do their responsibility.

The reason why I have written this paper is to try to illuminate people on why we need fathers/men back home. Speaking from a personal experience, we are living in a most confused generation ever. Men are confused if they are men, and women are confused if they are women. We have confused emotional, sympathetic, generation, where people get offend by anything. This is not good for our generation moving forward. I remember growing up my mom always used to be the “homie”, or best friend. Even though I knew I did something wrong I can run to my mom and she will be more emotionally supportive. But, dad was the law enforcer in the house, because if you messed up you had to get the punishment that you deserve and it did not matter how bad it looked. But, he did it all in love. My dad set the standard in the house of how a man supposes to live, act, dress, and even think. So, my dad was my hero someone who I wanted to become like when grew up. He was really tough on us, and that toughness really translated as we have grown into men and women. We can now withstand anything because we have a great authentic foundation. Mom also played a huge role in our lives, but dad got us back in order.

Now looking at people in this generation its just a joke, people do not know how to treat men or a woman. Young men and young women do not know how to be authentic to their gender. According to Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics, state that “kids from fatherless homes are more likely to be poor, become involved in drug and alcohol abuse, drop out of school, and suffer from health and emotional problems. Boys are more likely to become involved in crime, and girls are more likely to become pregnant as teens. “This illustrate the result of not having a father in the house. This is not to show that fathers are better than the mother, but they play a vital role in the house.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stated that “children living in female-headed families with no spouse present had a poverty rate of 47.6 percent.” This statement helped me to think back on what my community partners told me. They said poverty sometimes can be the factor of evil in many families. No matter how loving the family is if poverty rules, the future of the family is uncertain.  People only think about the poverty of not having food and place to sleep. But, many people are poor in the mind. They have no tradition and are not accountable to anything. Fathers do the dirty work, dig the ground plant the seeds. But, mothers come and water the plants with care and love. This is the reason why we need our fathers back. Their so many young men and young women who are not broken yet, because in order to grow, you have to be broken.

The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in prisons, 93.4% of 2.2 are men. This is not safe for a nation moving forward. We do not want to have a nation full people who are educated but do not value life. Studies also show that “Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s.” Once again all these examples are trying to illustrate the importance of the father in our society. Society will not be strong and grow without fathers. I don’t believe that men and women are equal because as an engineering student who have to take chemistry and biology I can prove that this is wrong. Men and women are both special and different. We as a nation we can not afford to put men and women in the same category because it’s like trying to mix water and oil, saying they are the same because they are all liquid. What I want to do in this paper is to illuminate people on how both men and women need to play their authentic role in order to diminish, the poverty, violence, incarceration rate, and increase the well-being of people. No country runs with this country to be stronger and better.



Works Cited

Source: Teachman, Jay D. “The Childhood Living Arrangements of Children and the Characteristics of Their Marriages.” Journal of Family Issues 25 (January 2004): 86-111.

Source: Hendricks, C.S., Cesario, S.K., Murdaugh, C., Gibbons, M.E., Servonsky, E.J., Bobadilla, R.V., Hendricks, D.L., Spencer-Morgan, B., & Tavakoli, A. (2005)

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; ASEP Issue Brief: Information on Poverty and Income Statistics. September 12, 2012




Aging Gracefully

Having spent this past term volunteering at Cascade Park Retirement Community has given me a new perspective on the elderly living in a retirement community. The key to running a successful retirement home in which both staff and residents are benefitted mutually takes a great deal of communication on behalf of the staff members. While staff members went about their daily doings with the residents, I was fortunate enough to have some one on one time with a few of the residents. I found that their experiences in life were full of wisdom about growing up and the different stages that go along with maturing.

The day-to-day tasks performed by the 30 staff members are well planned and executed each day. They are highly focused and goal-orientated, each performing specific duties. I noticed the amount of communicating taking place between pharmacists who would triple check dosages of medication for example, or having check-off sheets between each other to make sure they were being as productive as possible. In being so efficient in their specific work, I found that there wasn’t much time for conversation between residents and staff. Human interaction is so vital for our mental health at any age; perhaps if there were more staff members or even volunteers, there would be a lot more conversation flowing. The facility has done a great job in setting a high standard for the code of ethics and policies for their employees, but they should just as equally focus on the family aspect of working at such a place.

During the 8 hours I would spend at the retirement home each week, I would often have the chance to listen to some thought provoking experiences the residents had. They were beautiful in how honest and human they were. Some had a lesson associated with it; others were incredibly funny in their irony. The one common trait all of these stories shared was how vividly they were able to recount specific details. They would create a visual for the listener through the words they spoke. I think that is profound in showing just how valuable human experiences are, and how much of an impact they have on us when we get older.

I’m grateful for this opportunity that was given to me. It was a departure from my usual interactions with people. I don’t typically find myself speaking very much with older individuals. My concerns of not having anything to talk about or being too shy to have a full conversation were put to rest in this environment. This is so because it forced me to get out of my own comfort zone and partake in meaningful conversations with older people. In that sense, I feel I benefitted from having volunteered at the Cascade Park Retirement Community.

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Diversity Training and Education


By Hayley Greening UNST399U

Winter, 2016

Diversity is vital in the development and progression of our communities. Many communities today lack diversity, or more accurately lack the understanding of its meaning and benefit and place within a community. By implementing diversity training and various education programs surrounding diversity we can bring about awareness as well as tolerance for all different backgrounds, opinions, and perspectives.

Embracing diversity practices can help people from all over the world feel safe and included. When people feel safe and include they’re more inclined to be active and involved in the collaboration within the community. By incorporating the ideas of everyone rather than idealizing those of the privileged select few, we can solve many of the problems that society faces.

“Not having diversity leaves us poorer intellectually, creatively, and culturally” (Bergland).  

When we exclude the cultures and opinions of others we expel potential solutions to society’s challenges and miss out on all that they can bring to the table. It’s pertinent that we educate ourselves and our communities about diversity, not only to help people feel safe and accepted but also to benefit off of the collaboration, ideas, and solutions that they have to offer. By teaching diversity we can create a community where we recognize and celebrate each others differences.

Spreading the Word: We All Need Help!

Volunteering at Kaiser Westside has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had. When coming into this community, I thought that volunteering would be simple, and was another requirement fulfilled for school. However, with the various readings that we were given, and connecting it to volunteering, it helped made my experience much more meaningful.

As a volunteer on the Med-Surg floor, my job was to answer calls from both the main line of hospital and the specific floor line of the hospital. It was also my job to open the door for visitors and for people who are exiting.

Most of the time, it was a very hectic and stressful environment because I wanted to help all the patients as immediately and as well as I can, but I can’t always do that, because there were so many other tasks that had to be accomplished. This experience made me realize that there was a huge need for volunteers at Kaiser Permanente. Although it seems like a hospital may attract a lot of volunteers, it is quite the opposite. The lack of help and staff members makes it hard to give enough attention and care to each patient, as well as help each patient as much as possible. For example, if I were to leave my position at the CPA desk to find someone else, another person could come in, and I would miss the opportunity to help them.

Overall, it was still pleasant experience. Both the hospital staff and patients was so kind to me and my interaction with them helped me learn how to communicate with them. I learned that every small task accomplished lightens their load. The staff has so much to take care of, and plenty of things to remember. So having a volunteer helps them out a lot.

My favorite part about volunteering at the Med-Surg floor is being able to interact people. I had a patient who thanked me for helping her. These kind of interactions made my day and gave me a reason to come back and volunteer. At the end of the day, I will most likely come back to and volunteer again and will continue to do so. Knowing that I want to go into medicine, being a volunteer at a hospital gave me a way to contribute to the community and the healthcare.

Oregon Food Bank

It’s hard to tell that food waste and hunger is an issue especially if you never experienced having to use food stamps, lack of access to food and being unable to afford food. In every community, there are families that struggles to pay bills, struggle to get an education, struggle to get food and struggles to keep everyone well fed and healthy due to low income, lack of accessibility, the affordability, and lack of support because they simply don’t have the “money” or “privilege”. The Oregon Food Bank, a local organization strives to end hunger and food waste in the world but they also strive to make food more accessible to those who need and can’t afford it; one community at a time.

When I first started volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank, I wasn’t sure what to expect and what I would learn besides how to garden and how to package food. I wasn’t aware that world hunger and food waste was an actual issue because I personally never experienced it myself due to being born into a middle-class family who can afford and access food whenever; it felt like it was unlimited for me and that I would never have to worry about being hungry compared to others. As I became a regular volunteer at the organization, I started to become familiar with the types of people who lives in my community that struggles to afford or even access food and relies on programs like the Oregon Food Bank and food stamps just to get by for the day. Through interaction within the food repackaging program I learned that the Oregon Food Bank isn’t just solely focused on world hunger and food waste but the politics and laws regarding it; they want to spread awareness while making affordability and access more fair to all the income classes and are taking action starting from schools to community programs such as reduced lunch for students with families below, near or at the poverty line.

I can’t express how valuable and important this course is for any individual due to the idea that you’re required to go out and volunteer at organizations that aims for social change. The experience you receive, as boring or tedious as it sounds to volunteer is, is something you’ll take with you for life; it’ll enlighten you, change you and even motivate you to do more. This course offers the opportunity and time to go out to these organizations and volunteer rather than making it another assignment to pile up with others, in fact, it allows you to interact with your classmates and professors more than other classes because of discussions that allows you to talk about what you did and receive feedback from other classmates. As someone who was completely blinded to the issues around me, this course helped open my eyes and allowed me to be more aware of what’s going on around me and the opportunity to be part of a social change, the opportunity to get involved.

This course is entirely an online class and the assignments allows more reflection as an individual which I personally found beneficial because it allowed one to see what one did and if they could improve or learn something from an experience that they would never think twice of after leaving the program. You’ll get feedback from both the professor and your classmates that it’ll turn into a normal interaction rather than just another assignment, learning more about others and yourself while in the process. This course is definitely worth taking and I would recommend any student who’s beginning their upper division cluster to take this class not only because it’s beneficial, a graduation requirement or even “easy” but because it’s also fun and enlightening in more ways than one for yourself as an individual.