2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Suburban Nation?


Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 quarters

Sarah Ryan labor studies/history, industrial relations , Nancy Parkes creative writing, sustainability, public policy
Fields of Study
community studies, cultural studies, environmental studies, history, law and public policy, literature and sustainability studies
Preparatory for studies or careers in
history, literature, environmental studies, planning, government, public policy

Is the United States a “suburban nation?”  Why do we have a unique pattern of urban/suburban development that contrasts with that of other nations?  What do we need to know, and what do we need to do, in order to create more sustainable, equitable, and livable communities?  This program will look critically at historical, sociological, and environmental aspects of suburbs, including the role of the federal government and financial institutions in structuring our landscape and living environments.  Our work during both quarters will be centered in the historical study of suburbanization.  During fall, we will look at the critique New Urbanists make of the configuration of suburban space and evaluate local areas as examples of problems or solutions.  We will also acquaint ourselves with quantitative analysis through evaluating the story that census data tells.  During winter, our focus will move toward the way suburbia is reflected in literature and film, and how this shapes us individually and collectively.  During both quarters, students will continually have opportunities to consider proposed solutions as suburbs shift and change that will better meet challenges for housing, social equality, and both social and ecological sustainability.

Our goals include an immersion in the historical roots of policies that resulted in suburbanization and an examination of the economics, class, race, and gender systems that underlie many urban/suburban problems.  We will strive to understand how current suburban configurations shape popular culture, political power bases, transportation policies, ecological consequences, families, and educational opportunities.  We will investigate successful alternatives to current suburban developmental norms and consider obstacles that inhibit individuals and communities from adopting more sustainable and socially just practices. We will examine whether suburbs establish islands of privilege that reject urban complexity and diversity and whether the laws and policies encouraging home ownership still meet the needs of individuals and communities. Our program will include a rich mixture of readings, interactive workshops, and lectures by both faculty and guests as well as opportunities to explore suburbanization in our own and nearby communities.  Students will also have opportunities to strengthen their research, collaborative, and writing skills. 

Students registering for 12 credits will take on an individual project, connected to a group study of a specific suburban community, that will involve substantial historical, sociological, or geographical research, writing, and an interactive presentation. 12-credit students should expect to spend an additional 10 hours per week on this work.  Students registered for 12 credits will also meet Mondays from 6-8 p.m.

Students registering for 16 credits must have at least 20 daytime hours per week available to devote to an internship in land use planning or community development, in addition to the 20 hours per week for required for class and study time. The faculty have arranged some internships with local municipal government bodies that require references, referrals, and conferences with sponsors.  Students are also welcome to arrange their own 20-hour internships in planning and community development in collaboration with faculty.  Faculty signature is required for this registration option; please contact the faculty if you are interested or would like more information.

Advertised Schedule
6-9:30p Wed, 9:30a-5p Sat (fall: Oct. 8, 22, Nov. 5, 19, Dec. 3; winter: Jan. 21, Feb. 4, 18, Mar. 3, 17), plus 6-8p Mon (12 credit students only)
Online Learning
No Required Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$45 fall quarter for train fare to Portland
Internship Possibilities
Students enrolled for 16 credits will devote at least 20 hours per week to an internship with an organization, agency, or government entity that works in the area of land use planning and community design. Faculty approval and signature is required, and the internship must be committed to by all parties before the quarter begins. Faculty will arrange a limited number of internships that will be assigned after interviews; students are encouraged to arrange their own internships in consultation with faculty.
Offered During
Evening and Weekend

Program Revisions

Date Revision
December 13th, 2011 Changed Advertised Schedule to show 12 credit students meeting Monday beginning week 1 not week 2.
September 2nd, 2011 Additional class time added for 12 credit students.
July 21st, 2011 12-credit option added and description updated
May 4th, 2011 Description updated