Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative class roster: Spring 2015

This spring, 15 Portland State classes are working on community issues in four targeted areas across the city through PSU’s Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative, which aims to coordinate, concentrate, and expand student and faculty engagement in local sustainability issues in order to enhance our community impact. Read about them below.

Classes working with Living Cully

Count a Critter

Students in Jeff Gerwing’s Sustainability Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) course will be working with members of Living Cully to support the Cully Critter Cruise on Saturday, May 16. This event will be the first ever community-led nature and wildlife inventory in the Cully neighborhood. Residents of all ages will walk the neighborhood with the support of volunteers from a variety of environmental organizations, and learn to identify and record the plants and animals along their route. Students from the Freshman Inquiry course will be assisting with documentation of the event, data recording, and participant engagement. 

Classes working with Foster Green

Flood Mitigation in the Lents Neighborhood

This term, building on some initial research conducted by students in last term’s Urban Environmental Issues course, students in Thad Miller’s Sustainable Cities Capstone class are partnering with the Bureau of Environmental Services to lay the foundation for future work to mitigate the negative impacts of flooding for residents of Lents neighborhood living in the 100 Year Floodplain. Students will be creating a demographics and vulnerability assessment, a community survey, and an analysis of community awareness. This important work will be a jumping off point for BES employees wishing to continue flood mitigation work in the Johnson Creek Floodplain in Southeast Portland.

Digital Storytelling with the Living Garden Lab

Students in Annie Knepler’s Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) class are partnering with the Learning Gardens Laboratory (LGL), a 12-acre garden education site located in Southeast Portland that provides K-12, university students, and community members hands-on and place-based education in sustainable gardening, healthy nutrition, and permaculture. Students in the FRINQ class, which focuses Portland as a theme, will create digital stories that highlight LGL’s various projects and goals. FRINQ students will interview students, teachers, and community members who work at the garden, and spend time at LGL participating in activities. 

Let’s Make an Orchard

For the third consecutive term this academic year, students from Public Administration’s Intro to Civic Engagement course are partnering with Green Lents and the Friends of Malden Court Community Orchard. Lead by professor Rita Sumner, students will canvas in the Lents neighborhood to gather community input and increase local participation in creating a shared vision for a new community orchard. During the first two terms students helped generate enthusiasm among the community members by issuing invitations to community orchard design meetings. This final term students will again canvass local neighborhoods to invite community members to the community orchard design unveiling—the final step before breaking ground this spring or summer. Students knocking on hundreds of doors and volunteering at community events this spring will add much needed capacity to the local grassroots organizations involved and ensure that the project is a success.

Community Supported Agriculture in East Portland

This term Charles Klein’s Perspectives in Medical Anthropology students are collaborating with staff from Zenger Farm to evaluation their SNAP Match Program. This collaboration will include students playing a lead role in developing a survey, creating presentations to visualize past evaluation data, and conducting background research on year-round farmers markets. Students may also have the exciting opportunity to pilot test the survey they develop at the Lents International Farmers Market, which is managed by Zenger Farm.

Who is Lents Grown?

A group of students from Melissa Appleyard’s Business Strategy Capstone course are partnering with Lents Grown, an emerging business association in the Lents neighborhood of Southeast Portland. Students will help Lents Grown answer some important questions, such as who is Lents Grown and what value can they add to local businesses? By developing a business plan, outreach strategy, and value statement for the newly developing organization, PSU students will help set up this exciting organization for success.

Community Based Mapping

This term, graduate students from Vivek Shandas’ Public Participation GIS course are partnering with three different communities in Portland on community-based mapping projects. Mapping projects are a great way for communities to create visuals that geographically represent their communities and can be used as effective educational and advocacy tools. Students in this class are partnering with Livable Lents on mapping data from their listening projects in the Lents neighborhood; PSU’s Campus Planning Office and Transportation and Parking Services to understand students’ perceptions of bike routes to campus; and with Living Cully to assist with mapping related to their Living Cully Walks program.

Classes working with SoMa

Survey for Sustainability

Communications graduate and undergraduate students from Lee Shaker’s Public Opinion Survey class are working with four clients—SoMa, The Halprin Landscape Conservancy, South Auditorium Greenway Environs (SAGE), and the PSU Sustainability Leadership Council—to create and administer a dynamic survey for a diversity of stakeholders. Information gathered will be used to inform stakeholder’s sustainability efforts, building their individual and collective capacity, as well as the overall success of the ecodistrict.

Let’s Build a Parklet

Last school year, students in B.D. Wortham-Galvin’s Design Studio course worked with SoMa to design plans for a parklet—or miniature park—in front of the food carts on SW 4th Avenue. After a successful crowdfunding campaignthat raised more than $15,000, nearly 20 architecture students are working hard this term to build the parklet, which is expected to be completed in late May. 

Conflict Resolution 

Graduate students from Rachel Cunliffe’s Peacemaking and Conflict Studies class are mapping assets in the SoMa neighborhood and working with SoMa staff to strengthen the institutional memory of the organization. Through qualitative data collection, key stakeholder interviews, and working closely with SoMa, they are helping to inform future collaborations, placemaking and programming, and information sharing.

Waste Alternatives in SoMa

Students from Darrell Brown’s Strategic Cost Analysis class are providing SoMa with a greatly needed cost benefit analysis of waste alternatives and materials management for the area. With technical assistance from Community Environmental Services and the Campus Sustainability Office, their analyses will include monetary and environmental benefits breakdowns that will be used in future work to advance district-wide waste management efforts.

Preservation of the Halprin Blocks

Urban and regional planning graduate students in Matthew Gebhart’s Downtown Revitalization class are working with The Halprin Landscape Conservancy to inform and strengthen their voluntary Local Improvement District (LID), an innovate way to fund the restoration and preservation of the historic Halprin Blocks, which will turn fifty years old in 2016. 

Classes working with Lloyd EcoDistrict

Sustainable Business in the Lloyd EcoDistrict

Students in Rodrigo George’s Business Environment class are partnering with the Lloyd EcoDistrict, a nonprofit aimed at encouraging sustainable development within the Lloyd District. There are 10 student projects working on green business projects that include writing business plans for food industries, energy efficiency, sustainability, budget growth, and engagement. Students are rethinking the Lloyd Mall's food court to incorporate sustainability and analyzing the broader district to inventory food businesses and future sustainable development, including a feasibility analysis for the NE Holladay Green Street Plan. This class is also working with building owners to encourage tenants in sustainable business practices and collaborating with Benson High School students to engage in sustainability projects with the Lloyd EcoDistrict.

Classes working across the city

Filming Stories about Portland Superfund Site

Students in Erin Gooding’s Justice, Environment & the City are working with the Portland Harbor Community Coalition (PHCC), which aims to ensure that working-class households and communities of color benefit rather than suffer from cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund Site and other land use decisions in the city and region more generally. Students are working with PHCC leaders and members to facilitate StoryCorps-style interviews and produce a short film. This film will offer an introduction to the Portland Harbor Superfund Site from PHCC's perspective and feature stories and perspectives of those disproportionately impacted by contamination and cleanup. PHCC plans to use this film to recruit new members and supporters, as well as communicate PHCC's perspective with government officials and funders.

Interviewing Sustainability Leaders

Students completing PSU’s civic leadership minor this term are taking Kevin Kesckes’ Integrated Seminar, where they are interviewing local sustainability leaders at organizations like Hacienda Community Development, Multnomah County Health Department, the city of Portland, and others working to make Portland a healthier, more equitable place to live. 

Read about the Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative's fall 2014 classes and winter 2015 classes.

Interested in getting involved? Visit the Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative webpage to learn more.