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Above left: The gateway to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Northeast Portland includes a quote from Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech: "...they will be judged not by the color of the skin, but by the content of their character." Previously known as Union Avenue, the street was renamed after the civil rights activist in 1989. Right: Portland's Q Center aims to create a safe space to support and celebrate LGBTQ diversity, visibility, and community.

Students in each degree program will examine issues of equity and diversity from a variety of perspectives. Additionally, several specialized and elective courses include a strong focus on equity-related issues. The following are a sample of courses offered in the MURP, MUS, and PhD programs: 

USP 410/510: The Black Urban Experience Through Documentary Film (3 credits)

This course explores the history of Black urbanization in the United States over the past century.  Between 1890 and 1960, the African American population transformed from being roughly four-fifths rural to four-fifths urban. The largest internal migration in the United States occurred between 1950 and 1970, when five million African Americans migrated to cities. This course uses film to trace the historical development of Black urban communities, focusing specifically on migration and community formation, housing, work and economic competition, civil rights struggles, and urban policy. Films about cities such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Tulsa, Memphis, Birmingham, Oakland, New York, Detroit, Miami, and Portland provide the lens through which we uncover the economic, political, and social processes of urban development. An underlying theme is the quest for full and equal citizenship within the context of racial discrimination and oppression.

USP 410/510: Community Organizing and Social Justice (3 credits)

Community organizing seeks to involve people in collective action to address issues of social justice. This course situates organizing within an historical context, primarily focusing upon the rise and fall of the American labor movement in the 20th century, to enlighten students about the key contemporary challenges of community organizing.  We will cover the basic philosophy and goals of community organizing and the various elements of the organizing process (analysis and strategy development, action plans, organizational development, and leadership roles).  We will also survey various types of organizing models. This course is an elective for the Community Development major.

USP 445/545: Cities and Third World Development (3 credits)

Critical survey of historical, economic, cultural, political, and urban aspects of Third World development, starting with the colonial era. Historical patterns of integration of the Third World with the emerging world market system. Covers problems of the post-independence period, focusing on urban sectoral issues and policy alternatives.  Specific topics include trade, investment, industrialization, finance, technology transfer, political participation, land use, housing, transportation, information infrastructure, population growth, social services, militarism, and cultural conflict.

USP 526: Neighborhood Conservation and Change (4 credits)

The dynamics of neighborhood development, including economic and institutional factors in neighborhood change; neighborhood definition and image, residential choice; residential segregation; neighborhoods in the political process; and neighborhood conservation strategies. Prerequisite: junior standing. Graduate students undertake a substantial independent project in addition to other course requirements.

USP 528: Concepts of Community Development (3 credits)

Broadly defined, community development implies a set of activities and processes designed to improve the quality of life in a neighborhood, city, or region.  It often refers to strategies which attempt to respond to the conditions found in disinvested neighborhoods: high levels of unemployment and working poverty; a shortage of decent, affordable housing; limited access to commercial and retail services; inadequate public services such as transportation and parks; and limited access to capital.  In this course we will explore the origins and context of community development, concepts and strategies employed in practice, and current issues and debates in the field. USP 312 recommended. Graduate students undertake a substantial independent project in addition to other course requirements. 

USP 541: Dynamics of Plannign Practice (3 credits)

In this course, we examine the planner’s role and the extent to which the individual planner bears responsibility for decisions and choices that are made during planning activities. We look at different conceptualizations of the planning process and the planner’s ability to help to structure it, differing notions of why the public should be brought into planning discussions, and how issues of diversity are, or are not, addressed. The objective of the course is to increase the awareness of the ethical consequences of planner’s actions, to begin to develop a framework for systematic analysis, and to encourage a personal reflection on values.

USP 547: Planning for Developing Countries (3 credits)

The nature of the urban and regional planning process in developing countries. Tools, approaches and/or improvisations utilized in regions where date and information are unreliable or insufficient. Relationship of planning process to the economic and political realities of developing nations. The impact of rapid social change and social conflict on the urban and regional development process. Differences between poor and rich countries in planning approaches and expectations.

USP 551: Community Economic Development (3 credits)

This course explores the economic challenges facing low-income people and places, and strategies to increase income, earnings, and wealth. Community economic development is situated within the context of traditional state and local economic development policy, and their underlying theoretical perspectives are compared. It explores community economic development goals, organizations, strategies, and planning processes. It also analyzes the politics of economic inequality and economic development. Policy strategies and tools for doing neighborhood revitalization; business, workforce, and asset development; and equitable physical development are examined. We will also examine the political economy of the current economic crisis. 

USP 552: Urban Poverty in Critical Perspective (3 credits)

Examines historical, empirical, and theoretical perspectives on urban poverty in the United States. It addresses the politics of poverty discourse by examining why explanations and policy prescriptions have emphasized morality and behavior: race, family and culture and dependency and responsibility rather than systemic economic inequality.

USP 567: Urban Housing Policies (3 credits)

Review of the history and the role of public policy in the housing sector. Study of past and current trends in the delivery of housing services in urban areas. The basic philosophies related to the supply of housing are analyzed and examined relative to current trends in the delivery of housing services in urban areas. Critical review of the role of the federal government and the construction industry. Equal attention to the role of public housing and the impact of urban renewal. Active participation in discussion and a research paper are required.

USP 582: Poverty, Welfare, and Income Distribution (3 credits)

Looks at the problem of poverty in the United States and the various programs designed to alleviate or reduce the level of poverty. Looks at the measurement of the poverty level, the competing theories of poverty, and the related problems of racial discrimination. Looks at the rationale behind our anti-poverty programs and assesses how well those programs are meeting their intended goals.

USP 612: Community Planning and Ethics (3 credits)

An introduction to the history and theory of community development in North America, the theory and practice of urban development in North America, and to the ethics of civic and business practices linking the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The course will focus on plans as the outcome of political processes with specific consequences for different constituencies within the city.

USP 616: Cities in the Global Political Economy (3 credits)

Focuses on the transformation of Western and non-Western cities and urban life arising from the forces of globalization and the new international division of production and labor, particularly with respect to work conditions, environmental policy, cultural and political sovereignty, and social protections in housing, health, education, access to job opportunities, and intellectual freedom.