Over the past two years I have developed and taught a number of undergraduate courses at Portland State University and also develop professional courses for disaster managers through the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at the University of Hawai’i. The courses I have developed for Portland State have focused on social science and science and technology studies in the Honors College as well as a sociology of disasters course for the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning. The following is a brief description of the courses and their syllabi.
Honors 201: Urban Social Science
Urban societies, geography and economies are complex and dynamic. This is problematic for social scientists. What does it mean to be urban? Do urban sites change human relationships? Do they alter the way humans understand themselves, how they make their way through life? Or are urban systems really different at all? This course uses the urban world to both learn about social science methods and about social systems – with a focus on Portland as a case study.
This course is part of the required sophomore survey series in the Urban Honors College. The course provides a survey of social theory, methods and contemporary examples of research. The course is designed to have students conduct basic fieldwork in Portland – and to expand how they conceptualize social problems and experiences. Because the course is a requirement across the college, students that participate come from a diverse background.
Honors 407: Science, Technology and Policy
Science, technology and politics are constantly providing unique and controversial interactions. Examples include climate change, vaccines, genetic patents and wire tapping – science and technology are core to the work of government and central to many of our political debates. This senior seminar for the Urban Honors College provides an introduction to the basic concepts in Science and Technology Studies. The course is a broad ranging seminar that allows students to engage different perspectives on understanding politics, knowledge and science. The course culminates with an in-depth essay that helps hone the tools for the senior thesis Honors students must also write.
A great set of movies to include if you can get your hands on them are the BBC Four series, Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams. This series is written and narrated by Simon Schaffer. It was available on Vimeo for a while before the copyright holder ended that. I also include the PBS American Experience special on Three Mile Island for the week we read Charles Perrow’s Normal Accidents.
Urban Studies and Planning 410/510: Community Resilience Planning
Disasters are the intersection of risk, vulnerability and society. Often one hears of increasing “natural disasters” – but are they natural? Who is impacted more by these events and why? And how do societies respond to these events? This course reviews how cities and societies have developed with disasters, continue to be impacted by them, and how research and politics work to improve our preparation and responses to disaster. The course explores how various models of disasters and risk that have been deployed over time, and how new ideas around resilience, sustainability and democracy provide new avenues for thinking about disasters.
The course includes a “hands-on” component centered on a series of integrated series workshops developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The FEMA workshops overlap with class meetings and include practitioners from the community. Students can become certified in four FEMA trainings (requires extra course work and time.) Students will also learn about practical planning tools and models for use in community hazard planning.
Community Resilience: Tools for Planners
I am currently developing a new Community Resilience workshop for the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center. This course will use web mapping tools to help operationalize resilience concepts with a focus on social vulnerability. The course is designed to help take high level concepts around resilience and make them useful for city or regional planning applications.
Academic Blogging Workshop
A colleague and I have hosted a workshop for graduate students on how to set up and run a blog. Its a fun workshop focused on getting the site up and running and into a writing groove.