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Student Perspectives

The following testimonials are from alumni who wanted to share their experience in the program and how it influenced what they are doing now.

PLACE Informational Video: Student-filmed and edited

Hello to Portland Again
A program reflection written by Nicholas Bellos for the Catlin Gabel Caller


Madeline, 2006 alumna
My experience in the program opened my eyes to in the inner workings of the city. I learned to hear different points of views and look at multiple factors in solving an issue. The group environment, questions, and discussions made me think and question the way the city operates and how we respond to social issues. I came away from the program with a desire to learn and follow local issues and realized what the impact everyday actions could have on the lives of others.

I am currently at Scripps College in California. I am interested in a lot of topics but am leaning towards focusing on economic development and social issues at a national or global level. I took a semester off my freshman year and, in that time, completed various internships and independent projects in Portland. For example, I assisted in creating a manual for school administrators as part of the Farm to School program with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. This summer I plan on staying in Portland to expand my knowledge of urban planning and social issues in the city by interning at Metro, local nonprofits, or the mayor’s office.

Ben, 2006 alumnus
The program taught me the skill of focused interaction with senior level professionals, investors, and public servants and fundamentally changed the way I experience the urban setting. I am able to sleuth out the function of apparently invisible city physical systems with an eye to the details of traffic, electrical, water, and information flow. Above all, the program informed me in the motivations and strategies of the players seeking to shape our interaction with the city.

Following completion of the program, I trained in Nashville with Al Gore to present the slideshow version of "An Inconvenient Truth," subsequently speaking to over 2,500 high school students. I am currently a sophomore at Swarthmore, where I have worked as a botanical collection-mapping assistant for the Scott Arboretum and spent a week researching at the University of California office of the president, assisting sustainability manager Matthew St. Clair.

Sabrina, 2007 alumna
For me, the urban leadership program was the first time I truly learned about this city in which I have been living in for the last 17 years. It was the perfect course because it focused on various aspects that Portlanders experience and see everyday, but never truly understand. Now I have a much better appreciation for not only the strategies and planning that go into building something such as the streetcar, light rail, or MAX, but also fully appreciate and understand the different communities from N Mississippi to the South Waterfront.

I feel that it was the best course I have ever taken and I recommend it for anyone with interest in design, transportation, architecture, city planning, environmental laws, the Portland homeless, or just learning about Portland in general.

Jasmine, 2008 alumna
My experience in the Oregon Urban Leadership Program meant exposure to a whole new world of interest. When I signed up for summer of 2008, my intention was to learn more about Portland’s city government and about sustainability. The curriculum of the program surprised me by incorporating the fundamentals of urban design, the roots and effects of gentrification, the philosophy of designing pubic spaces, the challenge that rainwater presents to a city, and many other things that I hadn’t expected.

My final project was a presentation on the conversion of NW Couch and W Burnside, two two-way streets, into a couplet of two one-way streets. This project included many of my areas of interest: urban design, city politics, and the influence on the community of city planning. Fielding through a sea of information, I walked away with a comprehensive understanding of project development.

Coming away from the program, I entered my US history course with the purpose to investigate the changing political tides that influenced the design of cities. Looking to the future, the experience developed my interest so that when someone asks, “What do you want to study at college?” I can respond, “I want to learn about urban design!”


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