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Meet Professor Ethan Seltzer
Meet Professor Ethan Seltzer

Professor Emeritus of Urban Studies and Planning

Incorporating sense of place into planning practice and plans

Ph.D. City and Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania
M.A. Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania
B.A. Biology, Swarthmore College 


RESEARCH AREAS: Regions, planning, and place, Cascadia region, regional planning, and regional and community development

Citizen Participation in Environmental Planning: Context and Consequence; 1983


Professor Seltzer is fascinated by the importance of context in shaping a region. He teaches interdisciplinary courses on themes of regions, planning, and place. Dr. Seltzer is a recognized authority in the subjects of regional planning, regional development, and the region of Cascadia. His current research continues to focus on citizen participation in planning, specifically the use of crowdsourcing as a participation tool, and on the development of a “region ethic” as a way to contextualize local and regional planning.  Students in his graduate classes frequently work on projects addressing contemporary regional issues, including a series of projects on the “Cascadia Ecolopolis” and a new project to identify an interconnected regional system of recreational trails throughout northern Oregon and southwestern Washington to be used as a community economic development tool.

In 2011, he co-edited Regional Planning in America: Practice and Prospect published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and co-edited Toward One Oregon: Rural-Urban Interdependence and the Evolution of a State published by the Oregon State University Press.

Awarded the Newsmaker Award by the Portland Daily Journal of Commerce in 2010, Dr. Seltzer provides spirited leadership in local visioning and planning efforts. He serves on the Central City 2035 Advisory Committee and as an advisor to the Portland Plan. Recognized for his contributions to local and regional planning in the Portland area, Dr. Seltzer speaks at conferences and events around the world. Also engaged in matters of art, culture, and the environment, Dr. Seltzer advises Orlo, the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA), and served on and led the boards of the Oregon Environmental Council, 40-Mile Loop Land Trust, and PICA.  

Dr. Seltzer served as the founding director of the Portland Metropolitan Studies, director of the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, and as president of the City of Portland Planning Commission. Prior to academia, he acted as land use supervisor for Metro Regional Government during the historic adoption of the Regional Urban Growth Goals and Objectives. Working for the City of Portland, Dr. Seltzer assisted Portland City Commissioner Mike Lindberg with park system planning and coordination, land use planning, and budget. His time in Portland’s regional, political, and planning institutions has shaped his fundamental belief that having a sense of place truly matters for individuals, places, and planners. In Portland since 1980 and at PSU since 1992, Dr. Seltzer enjoys watching Portland evolve in utilizing its strengths on behalf of its present and future residents. 

What Professor Seltzer has to say...

UNIQUENESS OF THE TOULAN SCHOOL: There are so few barriers between the university and the community. The community is a textbook for all that we do here, and the school is a resource for the community and the jurisdictions. There are no limits to addressing issues of real consequence.

VISION FOR THE TOULAN SCHOOL: To make important contributions to the quality of life in the Portland region, Oregon, the state, and the region of Cascadia.

APPROACH TO TEACHING: My goal is to enable students to take responsibility for their own education, to reward curiosity. I hope they take away ways of knowing and learning.

WHAT STUDENTS BRING: Idealism. One of my great concerns is that we not snuff out the idealism that students bring.


DREAM FOR URBAN AREAS: To become effective at enabling people to be as human as they can be.

Design with Nature, Ian McHarg
Escape from Freedom, Eric Fromm
Islandia, Austin Tappan Wright

PC OR MAC? Mac, definitely. Early adopter.