Fall 2020


Tryon Creek: Cultural and Ecological Education (SUM) Erin Cathcart, erin@tryonfriends.org.  *COVID-19 Update* Students enrolled in the Summer and Fall 2020 Capstone course will participate in remote learning that supports youth education and interpretive programs facilitated by Friends of Tryon Creek State Natural Area.  Today’s youth have fewer and fewer opportunities to interact with the natural world, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that the need for accessible ways to connect with local ecosystems has never been more important.  FOTC programs are designed to develop personal connections to the living earth and explore our relationship to the natural world.  Capstone students will have the opportunity to unpack these themes and collaboratively develop culturally relevant, accessible strategies for remotely engaging the extended Tryon Creek community during times of restricted access to community spaces.  Although the park may be open to the public, in-person programming is on hold and both Summer and Fall 2020 courses will not include any required on-site activities.

Anti-Bias K12 Education (online)

The Black Lives Matter at School week of action and call to anti-racist curriculum year round was initiated by Seattle educators in 2016 in response to bomb threats by white supremacists toward students and teachers wearing Black Lives Matter/We Stand Together t-shirts at John Muir Elementary School.  Inequity in curriculum, curricular violence, bias in textbooks, lack of access to diverse authors and representation in school libraries all contribute to the “achievement gaps” that both federal and state education departments often focus on in their initiatives and data tracking.

Meditation and Service

Meditation and mindful awareness encompass a philosophy of living with a quiet mind, open heart, and in service to others; they are our primary practices in this capstone. We will explore mindful awareness and meditation as foundations for personal, community, and global health and well being. Our meditative practices, ancient Eastern philosophy, racial equity, and social responsibility will inform how we engage in service learning. By serving with non-profit community partners we will practice empathy and compassion while deepening our understanding of housing and houselessness and their intimate connection to health and well-being.

Food Insecurity: PSU & Beyond

Food insecurity is a challenge for students, children, parents, migrants, long-term citizens, old, young, and all other label you might apply to someone. In this online course students have the opportunity to do their "25 hours of service" in a food-scarcity-related organization in their own community. The service component of the course offers an important connection and correlation between the course materials and the validated and verified aspects of food insecurity. Students often reflect on their service as a crucial and valuable component of the course that connects students with their own community as well as tying together the topics of the course.

Higher Education in Prison

Drawing on poetry, political theory, sociological texts, film, and personal narratives, this course offers an introduction to prison and its critiques, as well as the power of education to transform individuals and societies. This hybrid course meets once a week at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF); Capstone students will study together with women enrolled in higher education at the women’s prison, about 20 minutes south of PSU in Wilsonville. Successful background clearances are required in order to participate.


Sustainable Food Systems and Educational Farms at Learning Garden's Lab Site

The time is ripe to be part of the growing sustainable food movement! This class addresses the current food issues that face urban citizens by holistically engaging students in the many layers of Portland's local food and farm culture.  Students will critically analyze the state of our current food systems while being engaged in positive solutions to agricultural-related issues. The community partner and classroom is the Learning Gardens Lab, where students will gain hands-on farming experience, experientially explore their personal connection to food and the land, participate in the Learning Garden programs, and positively contribute to food security in our greater community.

Immigration and Refugee Resettlement in East Portland (REFUGEE YTH IN PDX)

According to Communities of Color in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile, “In total, people of color in 2008 (by traditional Census Bureau counts) comprise 26.3% of the population of the county. When we add the Slavic community to these data, […] the size of the community totals over 200,000 residents." A large number of these residents are immigrants and refugees. The Coalition report finds that these communities face sharp disparities compared to whites in education, income, poverty, and other metrics. The report states that “our pathways to effective practice lead us to prioritize service delivery that stretches far beyond the framework of ‘cultural competency’ into ‘culturally-specific services.’”

Creating Global Citizens

Global citizenship is of utmost importance as our societies are increasingly becoming more connected through media and technology. There is a growing disparity in the American school system that allows only the privileged students to participate in meaningful and engaging cultural learning. Schools that receive funding and support are able to facilitate cultural exchanges in person for students and faculty, while the majority of students in the public system receive little financial support and are left without any type of cultural exchange or enrichment program. This capstone will provide this needed and valuable cultural exchange.

Leadership and Mentoring 

The mentoring of young people takes many forms. Some young people are fortunate to grow up with a caring parent, relative or adult ally who serves as a mentor to them. Other young people do not enjoy the benefits of a strong mentor in their lives.  Research shows that mentoring results in a myriad benefits for both the mentor and the mentee. For all involved, these include the development of leadership skills, increased interpersonal communication, improved relationship-building skills, and increased self-awareness. Armed with these skills, a young person has greater potential for success in many settings.