Professor of Urban Studies and Planning
Understanding how history shapes the future
Ph.D. History and Geography, University of Chicago
M.A. History, University of Chicago
B.A. History, Swarthmore College
AT PSU SINCE: 1978
- Professor of Urban Studies and Planning
Urban history, urban revitalization policy, downtown development, regional development, science fiction
- USP 427/517: Downtown Revitalization
- USP 510 Suburbs and Sprawl
- USP 510 Cities and Catastrophe
- USP 595 Reshaping the Metropolis
- USP 614 History and Theory of Urban Studies
- USP 611 America’s Changing Neighborhoods
Boosters and Businessmen, Popular Economic Thought and Urban Government in the Antebellum Middle West. Greenwood Press, 1981
- Portland in Three Centuries: The Place and the People (2011)
- How Cities Won the West: Four Centuries of Urban Change in Western North America (2008)
- Frontiers Past and Future: Science Fiction and the American West (2006)
CONTACT INFORMATION:Office: Urban Center 370P
Phone: (503) 725-5171
Professor Abbott brings a deep appreciation and understanding of urban history and the interrelationships among cities and regions. At Portland State since 1978, Dr. Abbott teaches classes in historical and evolving urban patterns from early urbanization and suburbanization to redevelopment and the changing metropolis. He enjoys writing about urban theory embedded in science fiction including how futuristic cities are depicted, the likely subject of his next book.
Close to home, Dr. Abbott authored Portland in Three Centuries: The Place and the People (2011), a comprehensive character study of Portland with an emphasis in civic capacity building. Dr. Abbot’s other recent books include How Cities Won the West: Four Centuries of Urban Change in Western North America (2008) and Frontiers Past and Present: Science Fiction and the American West (2006). Dr. Abbott is currently contributing to a popular history of cities in America and the North American chapter in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Cities in History.
Dr. Abbott is currently investigating how cities and regions are expressed in fiction. From utopian futures to apocalyptic imaginings, Dr. Abbott finds the futures described by science fiction writers fascinating and insightful. His next book is tentatively titled Science Fiction Cities: Seven Ways That We Imagine The Metropolitan Future.
In the classroom, Dr. Abbott helps students find ways to structure information and apply theory to real world situations. He encourages students to participate in community projects whether city initiatives or neighborhood associations.
Serving the academic community, Dr. Abbott acted as the president of the Urban History Association and is the current co-editor of the Pacific Historical Review and the Journal of the American Planning Association. As a civic leader, Dr. Abbott lends expertise to community groups as a guest speaker and contributes to the Oregon Encyclopedia project, Portland Monthly, and the Oregonian. Dr. Abbott worked with the U.S. Department of Education and the Beaverton School District to rethink how the teaching of American History could reach--and relate--to students.
Dr. Abbott is the current president of the Pacific Coast branch of the American Historical Association, an esteemed professional post. A highlight of his distinguished career includes watching the Toulan School grow in size, influence, and quality.
What Professor Abbott has to say...
BEST PART OF JOB: The reciprocal nature of education: learning things from my students. I also like writing things at all scales from books to newspaper op-ed columns.
APPROACH TO TEACHING: Enthusiastic. relaxed. inviting. I like questions that trigger digressions but I like to think that I can always circle back to the original topic.
WHAT STUDENTS SHOULD TAKE AWAY FROM MY CLASSES: A love of cities as places for intellectual adventure.
ON INTERACTING WITH STUDENTS: Students bring a wealth of relevant experience to the classroom. Whether it is MURPs who have worked in other countries or returning middle-age students who have been community activists or...
FAVORITE NON-URBAN PLACE: Hood River Valley: I’m a mountain person rather than an ocean person. We have five acres and a small house in Dee, which we like because it is a working landscape rather than end-to-end resort.
Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs
Mars Trilogy, by Science Fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson
WHEN NOT TEACHING I: Read, take my golden retriever to the dog park, go to movies and concerts, enjoy Portland restaurants, hike in the mountains. Doesn’t that sound awfully, “Portlandy”?
HOPE TO MEET SOMEDAY: We could use someone to zap the carpenter ants at our Hood River cabin, so Sigourney Weaver might be good if she brought along some of her flamethrowers.
GREAT VACATIONS: Renting a canal boat in England. A month in an apartment in Sevilla. Sailing with friends between Vancouver Island and the BC Mainland.