Metamorphosis Inside and Out: Transformative Learning at Portland State University


  • Vicki Reitenauer Portland State University
  • Katherine Elaine Draper-Beard Portland State University
  • Noah Schultz Portland State University



community-based learning, community engagement, general education, prison education, service learning


In this article, the authors (a faculty member and two former students) describe the trajectory that Portland State University has taken over its history to institutionalize transformative learning opportunities within its comprehensive general education program, University Studies. Following a description of the institutional changes that resulted in the community-based, experientially focused courses at the heart of University Studies, the authors explore one particular community partnership involving both a state agency and the national Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, dedicated to offering transformative experiences in which incarcerated and non-incarcerated students learn together inside correctional facilities. Finally, each author shares a reflective essay about the personal transformation experienced through these Inside-Out courses and the implications of these changes on their lives.

Author Biographies

Vicki Reitenauer, Portland State University

Vicki L. Reitenauer serves on the faculty of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department and the University Studies program at Portland State University, specializing in developing and teaching both discipline-specific and general-education courses, including community-based learning experiences; building and sustaining community partnerships; facilitating relational faculty support processes; and co-creating faculty-led assessment practices. She has co-authored numerous works on these topics, including Learning through Serving: A Student Guidebook for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement across Academic Disciplines and Cultural Communities (Stylus, second edition, 2013).

Katherine Elaine Draper-Beard, Portland State University

Katherine Elaine Draper-Beard is an undergraduate student at Portland State University majoring in Liberal Studies. She is a fervent reader, a novice gardener, and an overprotective pet owner. She has participated in the Inside-Out program with Portland State both as a student and a teaching assistant at Columbia River Correctional Institution in northeast Portland. She spends her free time indulging in CandyCrush, assisting documentary film production, and being of maximum service to adolescents in her community who struggle with addiction.

Noah Schultz, Portland State University

Noah Schultz is a social innovator, public speaker, and poet/author who is passionate about bringing services to underprivileged youth. In 2009 he was sentenced to serve 7.5 years under Oregon’s Measure 11. He dedicated this time to personal transformation and education. While incarcerated, he attended his first Inside-Out class through Portland State University and went on to graduate as a double major from Oregon State University. He now works in Portland, Oregon, following his passion to implement change within the juvenile justice system.


Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Astin, A. W. (1992). What really matters in general education: Provocative findings from a study of student outcomes. Perspectives, 22 (1): 23-46.

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniv. ed.). London: Bloomsbury Academic.

The Inside-Out Center. (n.d.). Problem statement. Retrieved from

Kerrigan, S. M. (2016). Sustaining change: Successes, challenges, and lessons learned from twenty years of empowering students through community-based learning capstones. Metropolitan Universities Journal, 26 (3): 11-31.

Oliver, M. (1990). House of light. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Portland State University. (n.d.). Portland State University History. Retrieved from

Ramaley, J. A. (1996). Large-scale institutional change to implement an urban university mission: Portland State University. Journal of Urban Affairs, 18 (2): 139-151.

University Studies. (n.d.). Metamorphosis: Creating positive futures--Inside Out at MYCF. Portland State University. Retrieved from

University Studies. (1998). University Studies 1994-1997: A progress report. Portland State University. Retrieved from

White, C. R. (1994). A model for comprehensive reform in general education: Portland State University.” The Journal for General Education, 43 (3): 168-237.