Dr. Jennifer Sasser, human sciences chair and gerontology program director, is one of several experts who will lead Oregon Humanities' Talking About Dying Series starting in September 2015.
Pat Edwards has lived all over the world, but Marylhurst University is where he found his intellectual home.
A 2012 graduate of the university's M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies program, he quickly found a job with the U.S. Department of the Interior – specifically with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Division of Diversity & Civil Rights, where he works on environmental justice matters, civil rights complaints resolution, community outreach and recruiting to help create a more diverse organization that "looks like America."
It's a long way from New York City, where he grew up, and Japan, where he commuted between his home in Tokyo and his office in Portland for nearly 12 years. In between there was a start at college in Missouri, a stint in the Marine Corps in Hawaii and a successful career as a telecommunications entrepreneur and executive.
The founder of three companies, his business success wasn't necessarily part of his life plan. He didn't even see his first fax machine – "amazing" technology at the time – until he left the military and went to work for a brief period on Wall Street in New York City.
"I had no particular inspiration to pursue corporate life other than being in the right place at the right time," Pat said. "I started selling satellite paging services, then moved into data communications. Telecom was just taking off and I rode the wave all the way up. I had access to information and training, and the ability to sell people cutting-edge technology ideas."
And then he gave it all up . . . because he wanted to be a police officer like his father, and finish his education.
"My father is a very important man in my life. Without him, I don't know where I'd be today," Pat shared. "He taught me to make good choices. He helped me prepare myself for potential failure that may come at any point, gave me the notion that I always had to have a back-up plan.
"I was an inner city black youth. A lot of things were available to me in my community that wouldn't make a parent proud. But I made good choices for them and for me."
As part of his career reinvention, Pat returned to school, eventually finishing his bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies at Marylhurst, and then enrolling in the MAIS program.
"I wanted to attend a university with a serious learning culture where I could feel comfortable, a place that considered my many years of absence from academia. I wasn't looking for a place to party," Pat recalled. "If I was going to dedicate time, energy and money, then the learning experience had better be worth it, and a good one."
He also felt he needed a stronger foundation in both internal and external communications, another reason he found MAIS and its concentration on organizational communications such a good fit.
"Critical learning, critical thinking – that's what's fantastic here," Pat said. "Both my academic peers and my professors have inspired me, given me new perspectives on things I had a firm conviction about.
"Social justice is also huge for me – I wanted to understand that so much better. I wanted to take away intellectual perspectives on social justice and apply them in the work I do."
Since graduating with his master's, he's been pleased to learn that many of his co-workers are well aware of Marylhurst, and that friends at other universities refer to Marylhurst as "scholarhurst."
"Marylhurst has a fantastic reputation," Pat said. "We're seen as a place to be reckoned with academically."
Ultimately Pat would like to pursue a Ph.D. in human identity and public policy, and make a contribution to scholarship in that area.
"I am veteran of many things, but I do not believe I will ever be able to completely claim becoming a veteran of scholarship," Pat explained. "There's always something new to learn to elevate my education.
"I'm really caught up in human identity. There are so many different identities you create that it's difficult to be yourself, be in your own place, feel like you are somebody. It's why I'm involved in community activities that give black male youths the opportunity to learn about making choices. I need to pay it forward."
An independent thinker by nature, Pat thrives on pushing the envelope in scholarship and in life.
"If you want a good learning experience, learn to think outside the box where the books are stacked inside," he said. "MAIS gave me that."