Portland-State-University 2022-2023 Bulletin

Community Development B.A./B.S.

The Community Development major is one of just 16 such programs nationwide, and the only one of these whose campus is located in a city’s Central Business District. According to the International Association for Community Development, CD is a "practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participative democracy, sustainable development, rights, economic opportunity, equality and social justice, through the organization, education and empowerment of people within their communities, whether these be of locality, identity or interest, in urban and rural settings.” PSU’s curriculum is grounded in applied social science and incorporates a great deal of community-based learning. The program takes advantage of the wealth of resources available in the Portland metropolitan area and draws from a variety of academic disciplines.

We aim to equip our students as community activists, applying their analytical and interpersonal skills to catalyze transformative social change. Our alumni are found in community-based organizations, think tanks, City of Portland, Portland Housing Bureau, Metro (regional government), state and local transportation agencies, and community-oriented financial institutions, and beyond. For more information about careers, see the Career Center’s “What can I do with a degree in Community Development?” at https://www.pdx.edu/careers/what-can-i-do-degree-community-development.

To reach the CD major coordinator, contact CDmajor@pdx.edu.

Degree Requirements

In addition to the general university degree requirements, students in the Community Development major must complete 58 credits of coursework comprising 46 credits of required courses and 12 credits of electives.

Some of these courses have prerequisites and some are only offered once a year, so students should plan their program carefully in collaboration with their academic advisor. In particular, the field experience requires independent advance planning.

Substitution of coursework is acceptable only by permission from the CD major coordinator; consult with your academic advisor before pursuing a course substitution.

Major Requirements

Core courses (12 credits)

The core introduces students to the social, political, cultural, and economic aspects of urban life as well as the practice of community development.

USP 300UIntroduction to Urban Studies


USP 301UIntroduction to Community Development


USP 302Theory and Philosophy of Community Development


Areas of community development (12 credits)

The “areas” courses take an interdisciplinary approach to major themes in community development.

USP 312UUrban Housing and Development


USP 313UUrban Environmental Issues


USP 316Community Organizing and Social Change


Methods (16 credits)

Methods courses teach practical skills for doing community development work in the real world.  They address technical skills—such as mapping and data analysis, interpersonal skills, and ethical community practice.  

USP 350UInclusive Engagement


USP 430Participatory Research Methods for Community Development


USP 440Critical Analysis of Community Data


USP 452GIS for Community Development


Field Experience (6 credits)

An essential part of the major is pursuing personal interests and gaining experience in the practice of community development. Students identify a professional development opportunity—generally in partnership with community organization—where they can apply the skills they have learned in the major by participating in community capacity-building efforts. This experience should be completed near the end of a student’s academic program and the placement must be approved in advance.


While completing 120+ hours of “field” work, students enroll in USP 460 Community Development Field Seminar. This course serves as a community of practice for emerging CD professionals. The seminar is a variable-credit course because students may complete their field experience in one term (6 credits of seminar) or spread it across multiple consecutive terms in one academic year (for example, take the seminar for two credits in fall, winter, and spring).


See the field experience resource site for more information about the process: https://sites.google.com/pdx.edu/cdfieldexperience/home.

USP 460Community Development Field Seminar


Electives (12 credits)

Students must take 12 credits of electives, with at least 8 of these credits from courses in the School of Urban Studies and Planning (USP prefix). 


Any regularly offered USP course that is 300-level or higher can be used as an elective. Using by-arrangement and additional field experience credits would need to be approved in advance by the CD major coordinator; consult with your academic advisor.


The department also maintains a list of courses from around the university that can be used as electives. Consult with your academic advisor or the CD major coordinator about this list, or if you are interested in another non-USP course that aligns with the major’s student learning outcomes. The CD program encourages students to participate in study abroad and other intercultural experiences.


The academic advisors in the Urban, Public, and Global Affairs Pathway work with CD majors and students in other programs in the College of Urban and Public Affairs to plan their overall academic program; students should meet with their advisor regularly to make sure they understand all their degree requirements. Students who have already completed coursework in the major before Fall 2013 should be aware that the curriculum has changed. The academic advisor and CD major coordinator and the academic advisor can assist with aligning the old and new courses.

The CD major coordinator oversees the CD major and has expertise in community development and related fields, including the course offerings within the School of Urban Studies and Planning (USP); contact the coordinator at CDmajor@pdx.edu. Building relationships with the major coordinator and other USP faculty members is a valuable way to get advising and mentoring in the areas of community development, urban planning, and allied fields from nationally recognized experts. Attending USP events and introducing yourself to faculty members during office hours are great ways to get started.