Karen Oropeza Fernandez – Portland State University

<b>Karen Oropeza Fernandez</b> – Portland State University

Karen enjoys the independence and balancing act of college life. As a criminal justice major, she has a passion for working to serve her communities.

Portland State University, Class of 2022

Degree: Criminology and Criminal Justice.

I have always been interested in working to serve the people and my community. I hope to make the world safer and help those in need of rehabilitation, and if possible, I hope to make it to be a detective in the future.


What did you think about college before you attended?

I thought college was going to be extremely overwhelming, but a part of me knew that I could use my organization and time management skills to my advantage so that was one thing that helped me keep calm. I also thought that I should’ve been applying to more colleges, but I got into the one I wanted so I looked at the situation more logical level which helped me digest the whole process more.

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

There are pros and cons to being a first-generation student. The cons can be the feeling of ” I have no clue what I’m doing or how to begin.” many times it can feel overwhelming, especially in high school because you have to be the one vouching for yourself and no one in there to tell you when to do what and what steps to take first. Luckily, I was in the Trio program and they are extremely helpful, they help you get into college, tell you what scholarships to apply for. Another benefit of being a first-generation student is that since you know you don’t know a lot you ask more people more questions which can lead you to more opportunities that others may not have known because they didn’t ask. There are many more, but the last pro is that It has made me way more independent than I already was because I know for a fact that no one is going to do this for me, or tell me what to do next if I don’t go out and look for it myself.

What do you love about PSU?

There are many things about my University I love, one that really standing out is how friendly everyone is and accepting. I would say as a whole PSU is a very open university that isn’t afraid to speak out by bringing up controversial topics which I believe is great to get people talking and making change.

How was the experience of starting somewhere new?

The experience was great. Getting a fresh start is always nice. Getting from class to class was in some cases a whole max ride but I think it’s fun to experience different school forms than high school. Also, the commute has taught me even more time management skills.

What is your favorite subject or class you’ve taken?

So far, I would say CCJ 240 Punishments and Corrections. This class has not only taught me the history of corrections but more interestingly why we do what we do, how we it in relation to the justice system. I like this class because it challenges why I think what I do and strengthens other beliefs that I have along with completely changing my mind on some topics. This class has made me a more informed voter and this information is very useful in my day to day life, knowing exactly what the consequences of my actions may be.

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

The most impactful experience during my time in college has been being for the most part on my own as fair as getting a job, transportation, consistently volunteering and managing to balance social life, with school and work.

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

I have this most recent one in the spring and I would say that there were only positive outcomes. Talking to other people and making connections with more experienced students was eye opening as well as listening to their learning experiences that I could put in my toolbox. One specific memory that I have from the most recent brunch was the variety of major within in the foundation of the students and thinking how much good is coming out of this foundation helping so many people through different avenues.

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

This is easily one of my biggest achievements within the last two years. I remember thinking that this opportunity was very competitive and that being chosen would mean the world, but it wasn’t until I got chosen for the second round that I started to feel more achievable. Even after the interview I felt like I had given my all and whatever the outcome would be I would try to see the good side of it. Being chosen as a Renaissance Scholar means that my mom and I are no longer the only ones involved in my success and holding me to a higher standard. This means that I have more reasons to be successful and will have more pride once I do achieve my goals.

Any advice for students applying for the Renaissance Scholars program?

My advice for applicants of this Scholarship would be, have a solid plan even if it’s not concrete, know what your possibilities are and what you plan on doing for the next four years and know why you should get the scholarship.