Rebecca Summer, Ph.D.

Rebecca Summer, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Urban Geography
Office: UH 206  |  Email:
PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2019

On the PSU Faculty since 2019


I am an urban and historical geographer, with a focus on U.S. cities. I study the history of American urban landscapes, and what this history can tell us about contemporary urban policy, inequality, property systems, and culture. I am especially interested in how people use and understand the small urban landscapes in their daily experience: front yards, neighborhood parks, abandoned factories. My dissertation research was about the history of alleys as cultural, legal, and built landscapes in Washington, D.C. I studied the roles they played in urban development, social life, and neighborhood change across the twentieth century and through present day. This research, funded by the National Science Foundation, involved several months of archival research in Washington, D.C., as well as site visits to D.C. neighborhoods and interviews with urban planners, architects, developers, and residents. I have also conducted research about the impact of historic landmarks in urban neighborhoods in both Madison, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. Other broad research interests include American cultural landscapes, the built environment, environmental history, the politics of public space, and the spatial implications of racially discriminatory policies. I am thrilled to be at Portland State University, working with the students in the University Honors College. 

Select Publications

"'This is Ivy City': An Iconic Building's Impact on Gentrification and Neighborhood Identity," Buildings & Landscapes 25(1), 2018

With Garrett Dash Nelson. "Making stories significant: Possibilities and challenges at the intersection of digital methods and historic preservation," Area 2017.

"Black Branding and Gentrification in Washington, D.C." (book review of Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City) Edge Effects. 2017

"The Itchy Ecology of Segregation: A Conversation with Dawn Biehler." (podcast interview) Edge Effects. 2017.