Robert McDonald II – Portland State University
After attending Portland Community College, Robert transferred to PSU to study math. He says that he “rather feels as if this subject chose me as its conduit.”
Portland State University, Class of 2020
Mathematics – I chose this, or rather feel as if this subject chose me as its conduit. I have personally struggled with this topic in the earlier stages of my own educational path where marginalization and oppression were prevalent. History has shown just as our current times continue that this oppressive mentality has long breached the doors of our American educational institutions. I feel as if I have long sat idle, watching from the flank as students of color continue to struggle and grapple with the procedures and processes of mathematics. This is one of the reasons I feel as if I have been chosen by this subject, to assist students through my own struggles and victories in the understanding and comprehension of mathematics. I intend on passing on to my future students the simplicity of mathematics and to assist in their procurement of a firm understanding and comprehension of this topic.
What did you think about college before you attended?
I chose other avenues after graduation and 20+ years later re-entered the educational process where I have enjoyed every struggle and stride. The marginalization and oppression still exists but now I have gained and nurtured a voice which brings this type of pedagogy into question as to its validity and service. So, once where I believed college was not for me, I’ve discovered it is through this conquest that I am enlightened and prepped to engage a mis-education and to assist in the re-educational process where every and all culture is included in their contributions, specifically to the area of mathematics. Once where fear of the unknown (college) had me frozen now propels me further than I could have ever dreamed possible.
How do you think being a first generation student has affected your college experience?
Not having any footsteps to follow in left me with no one to look up to, so being a first generation student has had its strains and disappointments, but it has also revealed so much that had I not pursued this path I don’t know where I would be right now. What I do know is that had I not followed this path which has unfolded out in front of me I would have never discovered what I believe to be my purpose. The college experience has been one that I had not been prepared for and it has been a struggle to remain but here I am, still standing through it all and am entering into graduate school to become a licensed educator in the field of (secondary) mathematics. I have experienced a scary transition but now it is coming to a close and so many brilliant minds full of curiosities await my arrival, I feel blessed to be able to contribute what I have endured ad have learned to be able to help others , to be able to serve in an area that I am passionate about. I have been blessed by something greater, blessed with an ability to have gained a gift (experiences) which are transferable and highly relatable assist the connection between mathematics and students.
What do you love about PSU?
That it is almost over, that the hallway filled with many doors has flown open to my assist in learning how to navigate the college experience. I love the change that is currently taking place on the inclusivity of all people and culture.
What is your favorite subject or class you’ve taken?
All areas of mathematics, more specifically my math cluster has been very enlightening and impactful toward the formation of my style of pedagogy. It has revealed that all of my life’s experiences are transferable and can be used to reach students who are hard to connect with and that education is a team process we need to step closer in on.
What has been the most impactful experience during your time in college?
The personal experiences of systemic and institutional racism that II have had to endure along this process and the educators who saw this and came to my aid in navigating these biases.
What does it mean to you to have been chosen as a Renaissance Scholar?
This means a lot to me, not only to feel as if I am important enough for someone to have taken a chance on but the inclusiveness of something so much greater than its individual components (scholarship recipients). It has helped to alleviate some of the financial strains of the cost of education and its necessities and also has helped to provide time to concentrate on school by alleviating some or parts of the personal financial aspects which has freed me from having to work as much to sustain a roof above my family’s heads. I am grateful for the opportunity to have had the assistance provided to me, and that I could never fully repay the freedom that being a member of this scholarship program has afforded to me.
Any advice for students applying for the Renaissance Scholars program?
Keep a firm grip on your passion, do what you must but be unafraid to question everything. Above all, practice self-care and try to remain humble throughout the scholastic process. It gets rough but smooths out only to repeat this process. Love and believe in yourself as well as your dreams.