Innovator for equity

Cat Goughnour (’08) forms communities from the inside out. At Washington, D.C.-based Prosperity Now, Goughnour is the Associate Director of Racial Wealth Equity for the organization’s Racial Wealth Divide Initiative. She also led Prosperity Now’s African American Financial Capability Initiative, where she strengthened the organization’s partnerships with communities of color and built nonprofit community economic development capacity.

Building capacity is a specialty of Goughnour’s. Her drive to eradicate systemic oppression is fueled by her rise above difficult circumstances and her love for her mother. “These are dreams that my mom had too,” Goughnour says. “My mom is my rock. She’s a wickedly brilliant woman and that set me up academically. It’s been a very interesting journey.”

Weaving Experience and Education 

Born and raised in rural Oregon, Goughnour’s high school advisor discouraged her from further education and dreams of a career despite her exceptional student aptitude. She dropped out and became a waitress to help her mother support her younger brothers. In her mid-twenties, she ended up in New York City during 911. “It traumatized me, but it also piqued my curiosity about the foreign policy factors that contributed to it happening,” Goughnour recalls.

She started vocational school and took critical thinking classes. Although Goughnour obtained an associate’s degree, her subsequent income was well below the poverty line. She decided to further her education and joined PSU as a first-generation student at age 30.

During her bachelor’s degree coursework in Social and Political Philosophy, Goughnour studied ethics and morality. “I took a deep dive into the African American experience,” she says. “I had learned firsthand growing up about power differentials, inclusion, and exclusion. I examined different eras of oppression and how that drove the economic engines of this country.”

She then earned her master’s degree in Sociology: Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies at the London School of Economics.

Social Justice Advocate

When she returned to Portland, she found her family had lost their home. “The Black community in Northeast Portland was being displaced, and my mom had been made homeless while I was away,” she says.

Goughnour was catalyzed toward action. In 2014, she launched Radix Consulting Group and worked with city, regional and state governments to redress the root causes of disparity and social injustice.

As a result of her work, Goughnour authored the award-winning Right 2 Root™ campaign, which couples affordable housing and human rights advocacy with economic development to mitigate gentrification. Released by the Institute for Policy Studies, Right 2 Root uplifts women’s and children’s wellbeing to overcome trauma caused by forced displacement.

“Right to Root gives Black women a place to live where they can feel safe and creates a pipeline so women have choices,” Goughnour says of her work. “I found my purpose and my passion. Now there are opportunities to build things within communities that have never been seen before.”

Photo by Tory Campbell