Graduate Focus Area

Community Psychology

Aerial view of tiny homes

Area Description and Philosophy

The Community area faculty and graduate students share an interest in Urban Health and Community Well-being. We define health broadly to encompass work promoting mental and physical health, as well as healthy social outcomes and remediating negative influences like discrimination. Specifically, our research promotes healthy relationship, group, and community functioning and well-being, with many projects addressing issues relevant to underrepresented and disadvantaged groups. Our work also addresses numerous pressing social issues, including intimate partner violence, prevention of sexual violence and assault, and homelessness. We conduct research in diverse communities and across international contexts that translates into theory development, practical solutions and effective social policy. Our program provides leadership in the national movement of academic-community partnerships, whereby graduate students work together in teams with community partners, faculty members and other collaborators on research projects. In many cases, given the complex nature of social issues we study, our collaborations are interdisciplinary in approach. Through close or collaborative work with diverse community partners, we develop theoretically-based social science intervention research to address important social issues.

We share a commitment to research that makes a difference in the world and that situates findings in the context of lived experience. This research examines individuals in their varied social and cultural contexts and settings (i.e., dyads and social groups, organizations, communities, and institutions including their historical practices and current social or legal policies).  Such psychological phenomena span multiple levels of analysis and thus require the use of methodologies appropriate to such challenges (e.g., HLM of within and between person changes over time and of individuals embedded in groups; intervention programs or other settings; field experimentation; geographic information systems and mapping; qualitative analysis of individual and community narratives). Thus, our graduate program provides training in a creative mix of research methods, both qualitative and quantitative, and theories of the person-in-context.

Students in the Community Psychology track study the definition and conceptualization of social problems, social ecology and social systems, models of intervention and change (e.g., empowerment, prevention), human diversity, social support and mutual aid, and sense of community. Students pursue research and action projects in community settings in which these core theories, concepts and methods are applied.

Research and training in Community Psychology are aligned with PSU's Community partnerships, Diversity, Internationalization, and Sustainability Initiatives, and the Social Determinants of Health Initiative.


Core Faculty

  • Keith Kaufman, Ph.D.
    • Focus: Prevention of child sexual abuse, assessment/treatment of juvenile sex offenders.
  • Eric Mankowski, Ph.D.
    • Focus: Intimate partner violence and masculinity, efficacy of male self-help and support groups, qualitative research methods.
  • Greg Townley, Ph.D.
    • Focus: Community mental health, housing/homelessness, social-environmental research methods.

Emeritus Faculty

  • Janice Haaken, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

Affiliated Department Faculty

  • Kerth O'Brien, Ph.D.


University Partners: Criminology and Criminal Justice, Community Health, Sociology, College of Urban and Public Affairs, Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies, School of Social Work, OHSU-PSU School of Public Health

Community Partners: Central City Concern, Oregon Department of Justice, Oregon Nurse’s Association, Portland Community College, Native American Youth Association, Sexual Assault Resource Center, Emanuel Hospital’s CARES Program, Oregon Department of Human Services, Multnomah County Department of Community Justice, Boys Advocacy and Mentoring, Tri-County Batterer Intervention Providers Association, p:ear, Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, Greater Portland Pulse

National and International Partners: National Child Advocacy Centers, Vision of Hope Fund, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, American Psychological Association, University of Maryland Baltimore County, ManKind Project, Boys Council, Athens Centre, South Carolina SHARE, Mental Health Commission of Canada, The Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities, University of South Carolina.


Our curriculum was developed to provide students with strong theoretical and methodological perspectives. In particular, the purpose of our substantive courses is to examine contemporary social issues, as they occur in their varied social contexts, while considering the appropriateness and relevance of community psychological theory. We consider theoretical approaches from a multilevel perspective, incorporating theory related to self (intrapersonal), interpersonal relationships, intergroup relationships and phenomena, community-level phenomena and their reciprocal influences. We simultaneously highlight successful examples of applied psychology in health, environment, and legal and criminal justice systems, to name a few. Integrative to our coursework is an appreciation and thoughtful engagement of diversity.

Core Community Psychology Courses

  • PSY 514/614 Advanced Applied Community Psychology
  • PSY 440/540 Group Process
  • PSY 571 Health Psychology
  • PSY 510 Ecological and Environmental Psychology
  • PSY 510/610 Place-Based Research
  • PSY 510/610 Program Evaluation
  • PSY 510/610 Social & Community Interventions
  • PSY 518/618 Ethics and Professional Issues in Applied Research and Practice

From a methodological standpoint, our aim as an area is to deepen students’ knowledge beyond the required quantitative methods sequence that our first year graduate students take in univariate and multivariate statistics and applied research design. Our specific focus is on working with students to cultivate a broad range of methodological tools upon which to draw in their community-based work. Area students take methodology courses offered both inside and outside our area/department.

Methodological Elective Courses

  • PSY 537/637 Qualitative Research Methods
  • PSY 586/686 Social Program Evaluation
  • PSY 597 Applied Survey Research
  • PSY 523/623 Factor Analysis and Covariance Structure Modeling
  • PSY 510/610 Hierarchical Linear Modeling
  • PSY 510/610 Applied Experimental Research
  • PSY 510/610 Developmental Quantitative Methods

Practica and Internships

Applied Psychology graduate students may complete an internship as part of their course of study. This offers an opportunity for graduate students to tailor their training to particular areas of interest and to enhance their applied skills and expertise. Internship projects often involve work in core skills areas including: program conceptualization and development; research planning and implementation; and/or program evaluation.

Our graduate students have worked with a broad array of local community partners including those in the areas of public health, health research, criminal justice, social welfare, rehabilitation, and disability services. Past internships have included the American Psychological Association, Rand Corporation, Oregon Department of Justice, the Oregon Health Sciences University's Center for Community Accessibility and School of Nursing, Vera Institute of Justice, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, RMC Research Corporation, the Northwest Education Training and Assessment, Clackamas County Department of Juvenile Justice, the Center for Partnership Evaluation (University of Nevada, Reno), Psychologists for Social Responsibility (Washington, D.C.), the Arc of Multnomah/Clackamas Counties, L'Arche Nehalem, and Incight. Graduate students select internship settings as well as practicum sites in consultation with their advisor and in an effort to maximize professional development opportunities.

Where Our Alumni Go

Students who earned their Master's or Ph.D. in Community Psychology work in diverse settings as researchers, program evaluators, and academic faculty including: California State University, Long Beach, Western Oregon University, WestEd, the Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation & Leadership Training, RMC Research Corporation, CareOregon, David Heil & Associates, Inc., Foundation for Accountability, George Fox College, Institute for Social Research (The University of Michigan) Kaiser Center for Health Research, Mountain Measurement, Inc., Multnomah County Health Department, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, NPC Research, Oregon City Public Schools, Oregon Department of Corrections, Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Health & Sciences University, Oregon Health Division, Portland Community College, Portland State University, Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University of Cyprus, Walter Reed Medical Center, and Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.