Chiron studies operating pro bono

Chiron Studies is pretty great. It took me till my last year at Portland State to take a course, but in “Active Anthropology” we’re volunteering and gardening through local nonprofit Wisdom of the Elders. The gardening in particular has been great—there is something so satisfying about the peaceful property near Powell Butte

Chiron Studies appears under “independent studies” in the course catalog. It doesn’t count toward any degree, but the credits count as electives. Chiron lets anyone teach their own college class, providing they have a faculty sponsor and can pass other miscellaneous rigamarole.

One of the challenges the program has faced lately, according to Rozell Medina, Chiron Studies coordinator, is that PSU pulled all its funding last year. Even though Chiron courses generate tuition money, all of the instructors have been working this academic year pro bono.

Scott Gallagher, a PSU spokesman, explained the university’s position on the issue. While he’s not an expert on Chiron studies, he said, the program is still worthwhile for those students because they have the chance to teach their own course. And the university is still paying a cost for it, since the faculty advisers are giving their time, he added.

Medina wasn’t sure if the instructors were going to be paid again, since there are issues still being resolved in the faculty senate.

While it’s been difficult, we are optimistic and hoping to keep things civil,” Medina said.

Personally, I hope we can get the instructors paid again. I’ve found it worthwhile.

2 thoughts on “Chiron studies operating pro bono

  1. Thanks for writing about Chiron Studies, Isaac, and I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying the “Active Citizen Anthropology” class.

    For students who may be interested in proposing a Chiron Studies class for next year, we are currently accepting abstracts and proposals on a rolling basis for winter and spring 2014. While the proposal process is rigorous, I wouldn’t describe it as “rigamarole.” It’s a process that’s actually designed to help proposers learn a lot about their subject and curriculum design as they do it. So I would say that even proposing a Chiron Studies class is a good piece of experiential learning. Learn more at

    I find Mr. Gallagher’s comment that, “the university is still paying a cost for (Chiron Studies), since the faculty advisers are giving their time,” somewhat laughable. The tuition alone generated by our spring classes hovers somewhere around the $80,000 mark, based on conservative figures, and because the administration left us without a budget this term, that is all profit for the university. Chiron Studies faculty mentors are actually donating their time as well since we currently do not have a budget to offer them stipends; nor does the university provide Chiron Studies mentors course release for their service to Chiron. In the future, we hope that the administration will provide a sufficient budget for this valuable program so that we may offer compensation to Chiron mentors and make other necessary programmatic improvements to further ensure the quality of our classes.

    Also, I find it worth mentioning that while we are volunteering our time for Chiron Studies currently, we are doing so because we feel that we must in order to keep this 45 year-old program alive. We hope that the university will restore our funding at the beginning of the next fiscal year (in July), so that we can receive the compensation we deserve. We do this work to make PSU a more interesting and engaging place to learn, to offer distinguishing opportunities to our students, and to engage with the university’s Campus-Wide Learning Outcomes more meaningfully, as co-creators of knowledge and the primary architects of our own diverse learning experiences.

    Rozzell Medina
    Student Coordinator and Committee Chair, Chiron Studies
    Master’s Candidate, Educational Leadership and Policy
    Portland State University

  2. Isaac,

    How exciting to be in “Active Citizen Anthropology!” That was a course I wish I could have fit into my schedule this term. I am a Chiron Instructor this term, and taught “Superhero Justice.” I really appreciate that you brought attention to the defunding of Chiron Studies and that this term 14 instructors are teaching without pay.

    When my class found out that the instructors were operating without pay, many were outraged and wanted to know why they needed to pay tuition if the program was not receiving funding to compensate instructors of faculty mentor work, since, indeed, at least $82,000 of tuition money was university profit.

    I also wanted to echo Rozzell’s statement above about the proposal process in submitting a course to instruct. I am able to use my experience designing the curriculum and researching content as part of my culminating project for graduation, and I have learned so much about myself as an educator throughout the experience of creating and implementing the curriculum!

    Thank you for writing about Chiron Studies!

    Ashley Schmuecker

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