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Meet Professor Moriah McSharry McGrath
Meet Professor Moriah McSharry McGrath

Instructor of Urban Studies and Planning

Working to assure that everyone has the opportunity to live in a healthy environment.

PhD, Urban Studies, Portland State University
MPH, Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University
MS, Urban Planning, Columbia University
BA, Feminist and Gender Studies, Haverford College


  • Non-tenure Track Faculty member, Urban Studies and Planning
    Undergraduate Executive Committee, Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning
    Editorial board member, Chronicles of Health Impact Assessment

Environmental justice and health equity, land use conflict, sexuality and public space, harm reduction and local drug policy, health impact assessment, community-based learning

  • UNST 220 Understanding Communities
    USP 300 Introduction to Urban Studies
    USP 324 Healthy Communities
    USP 326 Neighborhood Conservation and Change
    USP 350 Inclusive Engagement

Office: Urban Center, room 370 M
Phone: (503) 725-8743
McGrath CV
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Moriah McSharry McGrath is an interdisciplinary social scientist cross-trained in public health and urban planning.  She is an instructional faculty member who focuses on the undergraduate major in Community Development, where she emphasizes the application of scholarly ideas to confront community challenges.

Her research centers on understanding how health inequities are rooted in space, particularly as related to land use conflict and housing policy.  Her work is informed by feminist, queer, and critical race perspectives and she is especially interested in qualitative and participatory research methods.

Prior to joining PSU, she was on the faculty of the Public Health Program at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.  She also spent several years as a Research Analyst for the Multnomah County Health Department.  Previously, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar and worked on projects in several U.S. cities as well as Brazil, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Uganda, South Africa, and Vietnam.

What Professor McGrath has to say...

BEST PARTS OF JOB: Working in a dynamic urban environment, being able to walk out of the classroom to find an example of what we’ve been discussing.  And working in a diverse community, where the people in a classroom or conference room can bring personal experience to bear on the conversation.

UNIQUENESS OF THE TOULAN SCHOOL: Within a rapidly changing university in a rapidly changing city, we represent a hub that has been examining cities for quite a long time.  The publications and people of the School serve as a memory bank for Portland and repository of practices designed to better communities.

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS: Learn to communicate in multiple languages.  Take risks and embrace failure as way to grow.

APPROACH TO TEACHING: Relational, following the tradition of some of our finest community organizers!  No matter how large a class is, I try to find ways to get to know students and help them build connections with each other.  Even in online courses, we come together to learn for a reason – so we need to practice togetherness in the face of individualistic undercurrents in society.

WHAT STUDENTS SHOULD TAKE AWAY: A healthy skepticism about information they encounter, practices of methodically dissecting that information, open hearts and minds.

FAVORITE URBAN PLACE: New York – sometimes I get misty-eyed when I show my students movies about it!

FAVORITE NON-URBAN PLACE: The granite coastline of New England


All our kin: Strategies for survival in a Black community by Carol Stack
City of women: Sex and class in New York 1789-1860 by Christine Stansell
Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the imagination of disaster by Mike Davis
for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange
Heatwave: A social autopsy of a disaster in Chicago by Eric Klinenberg
Root shock: How tearing up city neighborhoods hurts America and what we can do about it by Mindy Fullilove
Queers in space: Communities, public places, sites of resistance edited by Gordon Brent Ingram, Anne-Marie Bouthillette, and Yolanda Retter
Valencia by Michelle Tea