Assistant Professor, Urban Studies and Planning
Changing the world one student at a time
PhD, Urban Studies, Portland State University
MUS, Urban Studies, Portland State University
MDiv, Old Testament, Emmanuel School of Religion
BA, Pastoral Studies, San Jose Christian College
- Assistant Professor of Urban Studies and Planning
- Coordinator, University Studies Community Studies Cluster
- Administer, PSU International Sustainable Community Development Fund
Urban social structure, social justice, community organization and development, international community development, urban faith-based organizations
- UNST 220 – Understanding Communities
- UNST 234 - Healthy People/ Healthy Places
- USP 302 - Community Development Methods
- USP 303 - Community Development Field Seminar
- USP 317 - Introduction to International Community Development
- USP 407 - International Community Development Field Seminar
- USP 407 - International Community Development Field Practicum
- USP 426 - Neighborhood Conservation and Change
- USP 450 - Public Participation
Faith, Hope. and Leverage: the Attributes of Faith-Based Community Organizations, 1996.
- PSU International Sustainable Community Development Fund (ISCD)
- To make a donation to the ISCD Fund
- Cultural Encounters journal for the Theology of Culture
Office: Urban Center, room 370D
Phone: (503) 725.4046
Professor Richard White brings a sense of calling and service to teaching. He strives to expand the worldview of students by engaging them in matters of social justice and equity. Professor White teaches undergraduate courses in the University Studies Program and the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning. His courses cover healthy communities and healthy places, community development both nationally and internationally, and public participation. He administers the PSU International Sustainable Community Development Fund, a fund that provides student travel scholarships to Nicaragua and Uganda.
His current research interests include barter and trade economies of the global south, where up to eighty percent of the residents function entirely outside the cash economy through exchange. He is interested in how capacity-building for so-called informal economies can be linked to micro finance and micro enterprise systems to allow local residents more opportunities to increase their own quality of life. His research explores collaborative international sustainable community development practice that helps address conditions of extreme poverty, works from community strengths, and builds local capacities to meet local needs.
Dr. White works with a variety of capacity-building organizations in Nicaragua and Uganda including, among others Esperanza en Accion and Habitar (community development corporation) in Nicaragua; and RuwenZori View Guesthouse and Mountains of the Moon University in Uganda. Each summer, Professor White facilitates a seminar abroad that fosters new partnerships between educational institutions and community organizations.
For twenty years prior to joining PSU faculty in 1999, Professor White served as a pastor in rural and urban communities across the United States from North Carolina and West Virginia to the Klamath Basin and Northeast Portland. His interest in social, political and economic justice led him to pursue a doctorate in Urban Studies. He was able to combine investigation of justice, community and community development with a Christian theological perspective.
Professor White has taught urban studies and urban ministry courses for bible colleges and seminaries including North Portland Bible College a non-denominational African-American Bible College, Western Seminary, and George Fox Evangelical Seminary. He was executive director of CUME-NW, a collaboration of six colleges and seminaries to advance urban ministry education. He is a contributing editor of Cultural Encounters, the journal for the Theology of Culture, serves on the editorial board of Community Development Practice, an online journal of the Community Development Society, is a member of the international community development committee of the Community Development Society, and a member of the standards and practices task group of the International Association for Community Development.
In the classroom, Professor White deeply appreciates the fearlessness students show in asking big questions and confronting assumed ways of doing things. Each class renews his sense of hope for the future.
What Professor White has to say...
UNIQUENESS OF THE TOULAN SCHOOL:
It’s nice being in a collegial atmosphere with a community of scholars. The people here are intelligent, insightful, and use their skills to enhance the quality of life for the community. As a fixed term faculty, I am treated as a full member of the faculty, I appreciate that.
ON TEACHING IN PORTLAND:
I believe that what I do here at PSU has meaning. When I’m investing in my students, I have a sense that when they leave this place, they will be engaged in things that matter. That’s good.
VISION FOR THE TOULAN SCHOOL:
To become more international in our focus. What is our role and relationship to the broader world in which we live? That conversation is starting to take place. My vision is to develop a clear statement about who we are in relation to the world and set about institutionalizing that in some meaningful way. I want the Toulan School to help students take what they are learning here and contextualize it in radically different places—especially in the global south.
HOW I FIT INTO THAT VISION?
If we are going to address and resolve some of our most entrenched problems, it will be done in a global frame, not just in U.S. cities, and not just in Portland. At the undergraduate level, we are working to impart a worldview. When our students go into work, I want them to carry with them the sense and sensibilities of community development, and for these values to hold true in a global setting—to engage globally and think in a larger frame.
APPROACH TO TEACHING:
Reflective, participatory, capacity-building, democratic, and informed.
WHAT STUDENTS SHOULD TAKE AWAY:
A strong sense of ethical responsibility in research and practice with knowledge and skills to address the social, political, and economic injustices of the world. Students should have tools at their disposal to help address the uneven distribution of society's risks and resources.
Ultimately, to be skilled in reflection and action.
ON INTERACTING WITH STUDENTS:
As an undergraduate instructor, I necessarily spend a great deal of time hanging out with young people. They frequently ask blunt and direct questions. I appreciate that they challenge the “textus receptus,” the assumptions of our field, and ask jarring questions that I have be able to answer. The students force me to deal with the foundations of things, and make me question why I believe what I believe?
Our students are explorers, they look at ideas differently. They bring little treasures that open up the world for me. Even the most unsophisticated group project will highlight something I never thought about, a part of the city that I haven’t explored. I get to interact with many students from their sophomore through their senior year. I watch them develop, think, and grow. It produces hope in me.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS:
Read broadly and not just what’s required. Read in the sidebar. Develop your own sense of curiosity and chase it. Learn to write, write frequently, share your writing with others, develop your skills, and get some critique.
DREAM FOR FUTURE URBAN AREAS:
To find new ways to reduce the inequities. To improve the quality of life for all people, especially the voiceless who’ve been shoved into the margins. For our cities to become increasingly democratic. For city governments to do what is in the best interest of all citizens...even if it means irritating the few that have the most.
WHEN NOT TEACHING I...
Garden, read, or tinker in my wood shop.
Some favorites in International Development:
- Rural Development, Putting the Last First, by Robert Chambers
- Whose Reality Counts? Putting the First Last, by Robert Chambers
- Development as Freedom, by Arartya Sen
I also enjoy books on faith and engagement:
- Life Together; Letters and Papers from Prison; and Ethics, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- The Waiting Father: Sermons on the Parables of Jesus, by Helmut Thielicke
- The Cross of Christ; Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, by John R.W. Stott
- The work of Eugene Peterson