Appendix I: Oral History Methods

From 2018 to 2019 I conducted oral history interviews with Portland Community College staff, faculty, students, and alumni. The narrators for this project were primarily my colleagues and students at Portland Community College.  Some narrators were suggested to me by others.  It is not a proportional sample of the nations represented at Portland Community College, nor is it meant to be.

Most of the interviews were conducted on one of the four Portland Community College campuses, often in a private room at the library.  They generally lasted about an hour.  I created a set of standard questions to use for each interview, but the interviews varied in length.  Each interview included the narrator’s early life, circumstances in their home countries that led to migration, proximity to family, aspirations and motivations, safety, the immigration process and cost, thoughts on citizenship, and experiences with xenophobia. I started each interview with the same general list of questions, but I allowed the narrator to direct the story in a way that fit their experiences. I asked follow-up questions throughout the interview. After the interview I took a few portrait photographs.

I then transcribed and edited the interviews.  I edited out my questions and some of the false starts, disfluencies, and fillers.  I also lightly edited the photographs to adjust tone and brightness.  Then I submitted both the photos and the oral histories to the narrators.  Some narrators made few corrections, others made a lot of changes.  At times I went through three or four rounds of edits with a particular narrator.  My priority in this project was not to produce a literal transcript, but rather a readable story that the narrator felt was true to their experience.  Understanding this editing process helps to explain why some of the stories have a different feel than others.

My experience as an oral historian includes graduate coursework, my dissertation research, the University of California, Berkeley Bancroft Library Advanced Oral History Summer Institute, and employment at the Regional Oral History Office of McHenry Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz.