Certificate in Public Interest Design

“This program represents major progress and is a monumental benchmark in the emerging area of public interest design. PSU and its Center for Public Interest Design have five leaders in this field with decades of field and teaching experience who will provide a needed concentration of study for those interested in effectively advancing their own understanding, abilities and practice for the public good.” -Bryan Bell, Founder of Design Corps

PSU Center for Public Interest Design: Certificate in Public Interest Design from Portland State Architecture on Vimeo.

The Graduate Certificate in Public Interest Design has been created as a means to prepare future leaders in architecture, urban planning, sustainability, community development and other fields to aid currently underserved populations through sustainable, human-centered design methods. The Certificate will provide an educational foundation for entry into the emerging field of Public Interest Design, through academic studies and hands-on experience in the field, working directly with communities in need to address issues such as inadequate shelter, food and water scarcity, disaster preparedness and recovery, and economic well-being.

The Certificate in Public Interest Design will be offered to both graduate students and professionals in Portland and beyond. The certificate consists of 18 credit hours of course options from several disciplines, with a focus on the “triple bottom line” of sustainability (social, environmental and economic), ranging from Social Entrepreneurship to Environmental Sustainability to Creating Collaborative Communities . The coursework is anchored by a seminar in public interest design and culminates in fieldwork or practicum on a real-world public interest design project.



The course of study for the Certificate in Public Interest Design will be divided into credits for COURSEWORK and FIELDWORK, resulting in a minimum total of 18 credit hours. 



Required course for all Certificate participants:
Contemporary Issues Seminar: Public Interest Design in Practice (Arch 533) 4 credits


SOCIAL (1 of the following courses)
  • Design Thesis (Arch 585) [w/ PID focus] (Architecture Students Only) 6 credits
  • Design Thinking for Social Innovation (MGMT521) [ONLINE] 4 credits
  • Creating Collaborative Communities (PA543) 3 credits
  • Concepts of Citizen Participation (USP550) 4 credits
  • Urban Poverty in Critical Perspective (USP552) 3 credits
ENVIRONMENTAL (1 of the following courses)
  • Building Science Research Topics (Arch 563) 4 credits
  • Environmental Sustainability (ESM588) 4 credits
  • Urban Ecology (ESM528) 4 credits
  • Sustainable Cities (Geog 532) 4 credits
  • Sustainable Development Practices (USP588) 3 credits
ECONOMIC (1 of the following courses)
  • Topics in Professional Practice (Arch 543) [w/ PID focus] 4 credits
  • Grantwriting for Nonprofit Organizations (PA525) 3 credits
  • Social Entrepreneurship (PA541) 3 credits
  • Money Matters for Social Innovation (MGMT 522) [ONLINE] 4 credits
  • Political Economy of Nonprofits Organizations (USP580) 3 credits
  • Green Economics and Sustainable Development (USP590) 3 credits
(Arch 541) 4 credits
Fieldwork will provide students with real world experience in the practice of public interest design through immersed applied-learning opportunities. Fieldwork may be achieved through participation in rotating programs at the Center for Public Interest Design that offer opportunities for engagement and action within a community, or through an approved practicum working with a firm or organization engaged in public interest design work. As the culmination of their certificate, students will submit a thorough portfolio of the work they participated in to complete their fieldwork, containing a thoughtful reflection of their experience within the realm of public interest design and how it can inform their careers going forward.


Examples of CPID projects in which a student might engage in fieldwork include current design-build projects in Haiti, Inner Mongolia and Buenos Aires, planning and development work with disinvested neighborhoods in California’s Central Valley and along the U.S. Mexican border, resiliency planning and design for U.S. Plains Indian tribes, and housing projects in the United States and abroad.



Entry into the Certificate in Public Interest Design program is competitive. The program is open to graduate students and professionals wishing to build an educational foundation to work in the field of public interest design. Those who are interested in applying to the certificate program are invited to contact cpid@pdx.edu.

For applications and additional information, please visit: