Haley Soller – Portland State University
Haley is a business management major and moved to the big city of Portland from her hometown of Koloa, HI. She is studying to gain the knowledge and skills to succeed in the tourism and hospitality market.
Portland State University, Class of 2022
Degree: Business Management Major
Why did you pick your area of study?
I have always had a very outgoing personality and tend to take on leadership roles, so I figured it was a good fit. I grew up in Hawaii where tourism plays a huge role in our economy. I think that going into management and hospitality will give me opportunities to display my skill in many areas back at home.
What did you think about college before you attended?
Before attending college, I thought of it as a place where you instantly become an adult and know exactly what you’re doing with yourself. I learned that it is not like that at all. College is full of ups and downs and learning through your experiences.
How do you think being a first-generation student has affected your college experience?
Being a first-generation college student has given me a sense of pride and strength that I don’t think I would have if I wasn’t a first-generation student. It is definitely not easy because I don’t have my family’s experiences to assist me but being successful in my studies has taught me that I can make it regardless of the background I came from.
What do you love about PSU?
I love Portland State University because it is so unique compared to other universities. They put a huge emphasis on sustainable practices which I really respect and the options they give their students are endless. The community engagement sector is very strong and the activities that they offer extend to every student.
How was the experience of starting somewhere new?
Starting somewhere new was initially very difficult for me. I am from Hawaii, so the weather difference was a shock, but culturally it was even more difficult. I grew up in a very tight knit community where we treated everyone as family. It was difficult to go about daily life in Portland not knowing anybody or even recognizing anyone. After about a term, I started getting use to the environment and was able to make the best out of it. Home is very beautiful, but I was able to discover the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and that was really cool.
What is your favorite subject or class you’ve taken?
I enjoyed my Freshman Inquiry class a lot. It was called Health, Happiness, and Human Rights. I developed a lot as a student and person throughout that class. It was a yearlong course, so I was able to get to know my classmates really well also.
What has been the most impactful experience during your time in college?
Last year I volunteered at an auction with Northwest Association for Blind Athletes. I was given this opportunity through a school organization. At the event, members of the organization shared their stories and testimonials. It was inspiring to hear so many young athletes talk about their experiences. All of the children that spoke are partially or fully blind and shared their struggles growing up. This organization gave them opportunities that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. This event opened my eyes a bit and reminded me of my privilege. It changed my outlook towards many things, and I think it has helped me become more aware of other people’s experiences.
If you have ever attended our scholarship brunches, how did those go for you?
I have attended all of the brunches since I was awarded this scholarship about a year and a half ago. I enjoy them so much! The founders, Stephanie and Irving, are so friendly and have a true passion for philanthropy. I love talking with them and getting to catch up. All of the committee members are amazing as well. It is so comforting to know that all of these people truly care about my success.
What does it mean to you to have been chosen as a Renaissance Scholar?
To be chosen as a Renaissance Scholar means that I am a part of something bigger. I feel special knowing that I was chosen from a large pool of students by people who genuinely care about me. I feel that I am held accountable to the foundation and will always be able to represent it.
Any advice for students applying for the Renaissance Scholars program?
When applying for this award and program, the best thing to do is to be yourself. I would recommend being as real as possible. The people reading your applications are so amazing and are genuinely interested in what you have to say. Rather than saying things you think they might want to hear, just speak from your heart be honest.
Anything else you’d like to share?
The Renaissance Foundation is one of the most unique programs I have ever experienced. The founders have a true passion for what they do and genuinely care about their students. I feel like I have a big role in their lives as well, they meet up with us a few times a year for a brunch and to catch up. I look forward to those events for months!