First generation alumna publishes her first children’s book
Raina Hassan ’02 grew up locally in Grants Pass but decided to take an extended gap year in Portland between graduating high school and attending college. Like many SOU alums, she was the first in her entire family to attend college. When she decided to return to the Rogue Valley, she looked immediately to SOU because it was close to her family but far enough removed to get the degree of independence that she desired.
On campus, she blossomed with the small class sizes and support system. She majored in English and writing and tutored in the Writing Center for Peggy Cheng. “Mada Morgan, Ed Battistella and Alma Rosa Alverez were all great teachers and mentors who always went out of their way for their students,” said Raina. She worked in the Writing Center for two years then graduated with her bachelor of arts in English and writing June of 2002.
Raina got her first full-time employment opportunity in the SOU Publications Office soon after graduation. There, she edited the quarterly Raider magazine and other campus publications. In 2005, she moved back to Portland to work in the Communications Department for Oregon Humanities. It was there that she decided on a career pivot to mental health counseling but first needed to earn a graduate degree. “With Alma Rosa Alverez’s encouragement, and letters of recommendation from Peggy Cheng and Mada Morgan, I beat the odds and was accepted to the very competitive Master’s in Mental Health Counseling graduate program at Portland State University (PSU),” she said. She earned her master’s in mental health counseling in 2013 from PSU. “On graduation day, I emailed Alma and thanked her for the encouragement while I was on campus at SOU. I will always cherish her positive guidance.”
After finishing graduate school, she started a mental health counseling practice in 2013, Raina Hassan Counseling, which she continues to this day. She also worked for Lutheran Community Services, helping new immigrants cope with the challenges of resettling in a new country. “As a first-generation college student and daughter of Arab-American immigrants, I’m passionate about getting new Americans the help that they need to build a solid foundation in our country,” said Hassan.
After having her first child six years ago, she decided to put her training as a writer to use by self-publishing her first children’s book, I Love You Monster! In 2022, her book won a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. The book helps children learn to acknowledge and befriend their fears, set healthy boundaries and build social-emotional skills like compassion, courage, and flexibility. “A couple of therapists have contacted me and said that this was the book they needed when they were children. I’m a mom and I’ve seen my son go through the difficulty of the unknown so I’m happy that the book can help other parents and children,” she said.
“I can’t imagine having a better undergraduate experience than the one I had at SOU. The small class sizes, personalized guidance from instructors, and beautiful setting were just perfect for me. I consider myself lucky to have attended SOU, and I’m proud that it’s my alma mater.”
Learn more: Playful Magpie and Raina Hassan Counseling