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Karen Gibson
Karen Gibson

Associate Professor, Urban Studies and Planning

Exploring the political economy of racial economic inequality in the urban setting.

Ph.D. City and Regional Planning, University of California
at Berkeley
M.S. Public Management and Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
B.A. English Literature and Creative Writing, San Francisco
State University

AT PSU SINCE: 1998

CURRENT ROLES:
  • Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning

RESEARCH AREAS:
Racial economic inequality, community development, housing policy

CLASSES:
  • USP 312 Urban Housing and Development
  • USP 410/510 Community Organizing and Social Justice
  • USP 429 Poverty in the Urban Community
  • USP 451/551: Community Economic Development
  • USP 528: Concepts of Community Development

DISSERTATION:
Income, Race and Space: A Comparative Analysis of the Effects of Poverty Concentration on White and Black Neighborhoods in the Detroit and Pittsburgh Metropolitan Areas, 1996.

LINKS:

CONTACT INFORMATION:
Office: Urban Center, Room 370J
Phone: (503) 725.8265
E-mail: gibsonk@pdx.edu

Professor Karen Gibson specializes in the subjects of housing and community development, black urban history, and economic inequality. Her courses include urban housing and development, concepts of community development, poverty in the urban community, and community economic development.
 
She is currently conducting an analysis of neighborhood change, specifically the processes of segregation, housing disinvestment, reinvestment, and gentrification, in Portland’s historic African-American community, the Albina District. Her 2007 article on the topic, “Bleeding Albina: A History of Community Disinvestment, 1940-2000,” published in Transforming Anthropology, has been widely circulated within Portland and has become a valued community resource. Her article, "Black and Blue: Police-Community Relations in Portland's Albina District, 1964-1985," co-authored with Dr. Leanne Serbulo, won the 2013 Joel Palmer Award for best article in the Oregon Historical Quarterly. A book chapter which revisits and updates Portland's 1968 Racial Justice Report appears in the edited volume "Reinventing Race, Reinventing Racism" (Brill, 2012).  Her work has also appeared in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, Cities, and Feminist Economics.

Dr. Gibson’s applied social research has involved a partnership with Home Forward (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland) from (2001-2010), in which she evaluated both their anti-poverty program (GOALS) and the social impacts of their public housing redevelopment HOPE VI projects. She appears in the film Imagining Home: Stories of Columbia Villa, which documents the transformation of Oregon’s largest public housing development, Columbia Villa into the mixed-use development, New Columbia. 

She is currently board vice-president at Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, Inc. (PCRI), a non-profit provider of affordable housing, and served on the board of the Urban Affairs Association from 2006-2012. Using documentary film and compelling case studies, Dr. Gibson introduces students to subjects that often illicit strong emotions. She enjoys watching students grow in their awareness of the historic and contemporary economic injustices faced by the poor and people of color.

As part of the Master of Real Estate Development Curriculum Committee, she is guiding the development of a new focus in affordable and sustainable housing, a specialty unique to real estate business programs. 

Dr. Gibson grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District. Throughout the course of her academic career, Dr. Gibson is proud to have juggled her professional demands with the active parenting of three--now grown--children.

What Professor Gibson has to say...

UNIQUENESS OF THE TOULAN SCHOOL:
We are unique because we combine urban studies and planning; most planning programs stand alone or are combined with architecture.  I also like that we get working class students; people who have experienced poverty. There is also a permeability between the community and the university; and I appreciate that the School values community practice. This position allows me to combine community development, research, and practice. Here, community work informs my teaching.

ON INTERACTING WITH STUDENTS:
I like students that are eager to learn, that ask questions and are curious. I appreciate it when students show emotion when learning about difficult things. The subjects I teach can elicit a strong reaction. I like to see things compute in a student’s mind and see that they have a passion for the topic. I am motivated by issues of justice and fairness.

FAVORITE URBAN PLACE:
San Francisco: my home town. I grew up there in the 1960-70’s; a great era. So much to do... wonderful parks, interesting people, great music, and the beautiful scenery of the Golden Gate or the Bay. I remember going to Aquatic Park in North Beach and Speedway Meadows for concerts in Golden Gate Park, eating burritos in the Mission, and listening to congas in Mission Delores Park during the summer. Some of my fondest memories. 

DREAM FOR FUTURE URBAN AREAS:
That they can be safe and nonviolent.

INFLUENTIAL BOOKS:
Family Properties: How the Struggle over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America, by Beryl Satter
The Undeserving Poor: From the War on Poverty to the War on Welfare, by Michael B. Katz and Manchild in the Promised Land, by Claude Brown

CIVIC ISSUES I FOLLOW:
The federal government’s response to the housing crisis, otherwise known as the great bank robbery or the Wall Street rip-off. I’m deeply concerned that rather than closing the racial wealth gap over the past few decades, fraudulent mortgage lending has helped to increase it. Justice delayed is justice denied! I also follow local urban redevelopment policy.

WHEN NOT TEACHING I...:
Spend time with my family, listen to jazz and rhythm and blues, and go for walks. 
 
HOPE TO MEET SOMEDAY:
Beryl Satter. She wrote Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black America, an influential book for me. She is a historian whose work we in urban studies don’t know as well as we should.

SABBATICAL:
Sabbatical coming up in 2015.