Emory Neer – Portland State University

<b>Emory Neer</b> – Portland State University

After finishing up at Portland Community college, Emory transferred to finish up her degree in community health. She aspires to become an Epidemiologist to research and make an impact.

Portland State University, Class of 2021

Degree: Community Health, minor in Geographic Information Systems

Community Health with a minor in GIS- I want to become an epidemiologist and help create research informed policies that minimize health disparities in marginalized communities.


What did you think about college before you attended?

I didn’t think I would go to college in my wildest dreams. I thought only wealthy people from “good” families got to do that. I also did not realize how going to college expands your thinking, which changes how you experience the world; I thought it was just a paper.

How do you think being a first-generation student has affected your college experience?

I got to college learned everything through failing first. I didn’t even know what a FAFSA was or how to fill one out. I showed up at the community college thinking I just sign up somewhere. I didn’t understand my financial aid awards, what to accept, what the different loans and grants meant, that you can run out. It was a huge learning curve. I also learned the hard way how to study and manage time to stay on top of my assignments, readings, and other responsibilities. I didn’t know about skimming or reading with a purpose. I imagine everyone has to learn those things, but it’s probably easier when you have a parent that can use their experience to give advice or guidance. I also didn’t get encouraged or empowered by family to go to college. I have some friends whose parents went to college. Their parents made sure they had childhood experiences that prepared them, like going to prep or private schools, helping them with homework, going to museums or events, explaining the types of degrees you can get, even just impressing the importance of education. Their parents treated and talked to them in a way that assumed they would one day go to college. It seems small but those things do impact a person’s feeling of efficacy and their understanding of the academic culture. For a person who doesn’t have those things, it’s just a lot of generational knowledge you don’t get. First gens are still here and doing it though!

What do you love about PSU?

I love that it’s pretty low cost and has lots of programs to help with tuition that I have benefited from such as Transfers Finish Free and Build EXITO.

How was the experience of starting somewhere new?

The community college has more of a sense of community, so I miss that here at the university. I have had a lot of really great professors though that encourage me to keep going and connect me to professional and academic opportunities.

What is your favorite class you’ve taken?

I loved communicable and chronic diseases with Dr. Claire Wheeler. She focuses on nutrition and how it impacts disease which is a really cool take on the subject.

What has been the most impactful experience during your time in college?

I think winning my scholarships last year. I had never applied for scholarships; I am not a very good writer. I just spent a lot of time in the tutor and writing centers at PCC. I worked so hard and it meant so much when it actually paid off. I just felt really accomplished and like I could do anything. Plus, I learned a lot about writing that has helped me in my classes.

If you have ever attended our scholarship brunches, how did those go for you?

It’s really nice! First of all, I am so thankful for any time someone feeds me. Free meals are one less meal I have to worry about, and I really appreciate it. Additionally, it’s nice to meet with Irving, Stephanie, Diana, and Shayna. I get a chance to thank them personally because they enable me to have one job instead of two so school can be my top focus. You also get to learn things about their professional development and experience which is helpful, especially if you don’t have family members able to do that.

What does it mean to you to have been chosen as a Renaissance Scholar?

I was running around my house dancing and screaming. I think I even told Diana “HOLY BANANAS!” when she called to tell me. It just feels good knowing someone has your back and believes you can see this through. You have those moments where you’re like “Mann, what am I even doing here?” but then you remember you have all these people supporting you and that you’ve been given this great opportunity that not everyone gets. It helps me to stay motivated and push harder through the low times.

Any advice for students applying for the Renaissance Scholars program?

Be as honest as you feel comfortable, really dig deep into the obstacles you’ve faced. Specifically focus on how you overcame them. You are a boss and you have special, unique skills from overcoming those things that make you the best kind of college student. Those skills and characteristics are what is going to show to scholarship readers that you have what it takes to keep going if they give you the support you need.