Winter 2005

UNST 220:  Understanding Communities

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Dr. Martha J. Bianco


503-706-8641 (cell)


Web Page:


URBN 370-B: Urban Center Building, 506 SW Mill, 3rd Floor


URBN 370-A

Office Hours:

By arrangement

Class Time:

T and Th, 8-9:15 a.m.


CH 103


 Jake Hardwig,

Mentored Sessions:

T, 10-10:50; R, 10-10:50; R, 11-11:50            Held in CH 154


Course Description and Objectives:

This course looks at the evolution and nature of human communities from the perspective of several different academic disciplines. We focus on the following:


Community and Urban Development.  The fields of history and sociology help inform our investigation. 

Community and Class. The fields of history, sociology, political science, and economics contribute to our study. 

Community, Identity, and Space. Sociology, political science, urban planning, gender studies, and social justice inform our discussions. 

Community and Power. History, political science, economics, and urban planning help us understand where we’ve been and where we might want to go. 


City Lights: Urban-Suburban Life in a Global Society by E. Barbara Phillips and Katherine Phillips (Oxford University Press, 1996).  

There are also recommended online readings for each module, listed on the lecture guides.

Hodges' Harbrace Handbook , 14th edition, by John C. Hodges et al. (Heinle, 2000).  

Lecture Guides:

Lecture guides, which provide an outline of each class lecture and WWW links to relevant sites are at
NOTE: These will not be handed out in class (except for the first day), so you are responsible for printing these out and bringing them to class.

Learning Goals:

This course places a special emphasis on the following skills:

Inquiry, analysis, and critical thinking 

Communication, through writing, numeracy, graphics, and other visual and oral means, including technological  

Understanding human diversity, across gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, and economic class 

Ethics and social responsibility as members of a larger intellectual and social community


Assignments and Exams:

Detailed instructions for each assignment will be presented in mentor sessions.

  1. Using On-Line and Library Data Sources (VOLT). Worth 50 points. 
  2. Module S.E.C.R.E.T.s: Write one 2- to 3-page SECRET (Synthesize-Explain-Critique-Reflect-Expand-Theorize) for each module, for a total of three.  Worth 100 points each (total of 300).
  3. Field Research Project: Conduct a field study of a Portland neighborhood, using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, and write up your findings. Worth 200 points.
  4. Film Reflections: Write two 1- to 2-page film reflections regarding the films shown in mentor session or in class. Each film reflection must discuss at least three films screened in class or in mentor sessions by the reflection due date.  Worth 50 points each (total of 100).
  5. “Adopt a Persona”: Each student will be assigned the “role” of a person (hopefully unlike their actual identity) to “adopt” and then record experiences from that person’s point of view as he or she interacts with the built and social environment. A special “challenge” exercise will also be provided.   Worth 100 points.
  6. Final Exam:  This consists of two parts.  One is a take-home essay (similar to a S.E.C.R.E.T.), worth 100 points.  The other is a comprehensive final exam, including short answer and multiple-choice. Online review provided; one-page “cheat sheet” allowed in class during exam.   Worth 100 points.
  7. Mentor Sessions: Each mentor session is worth 5 points for a total of  50 points for the entire term. Attendance is worth 1 point at each session, while the remaining 4 points are awarded based on participation.


In general, students are graded as follows:


95.0-100%                             A

90.0-94.9                                B-

87.0-89.9                                B+

83.0-86.9                                B

80.0-82.9                                B-

77.0-79.9                                C+



73.0-76.9               C

70.0-72.9               C-

67.0-69.9               D+

63.0-66.9               D

60.0-62.9               D-

     < 59.9               F

Students will be graded on a curve if it is more advantageous for the majority of the students.  In that case, the above scale will not apply.


Role of attendance on grades:  For each absence, students lose one percentage point (for example, from 94% to 93%).   After the first three absences, students lose two percentage points per absence (for example, from 80% to 77%). 


Other Requirements:

The following are the expectations for this class:


       All assignments must be turned in on time unless there are emergency circumstances 

       You must actively participate in class and group projects 

       You must subscribe to the class electronic discussion listserv (set up at first mentor session) 

       You should try to stay in contact with the instructor to discuss any concerns related to this class

Cell Phones and Pagers:

The use of cell phones and pagers in class is very disruptive. Please set phones to silent.

About Attendance:


Attendance is expected in each class and mentor session.  See the section on Grading for how your grade is affected by absences.  If you have a planned or excused absence, please contact me.  Exceptions will be made in emergency circumstances.


Unless you make prior arrangements with the instructor or mentor, please refrain from arriving late or leaving early, as these behaviors are disruptive to some students. 

About Plagiarism:

Portland State University defines plagiarism, a form of academic dishonesty, as:

the act of claiming someone’s work as your own through copying it without giving the creator of the work credit. Plagiarism can also include using another person’s theories, ideas, or phrases without proper attribution. The simplest way to avoid plagiarizing is to always cite the sources from which you gather information or develop arguments. Plagiarism is a serious issue and is a violation of the PSU Student Conduct Code [quote from].


This definition is not always clearly understandable to all students. Please read Earl Babbie’s comments at

If you are unsure whether you are committing plagiarism, please ask me.  If I suspect you have plagiarized, I will ask to meet with you.  A student who has been found to have committed plagiarism is subject to the following sanctions:

       F on exam or assignment involved

       Disciplinary reprimand

       Disciplinary probation

       Loss of privileges

       Required community service

       Suspension from PSU for up to two years

       Dismissal from the University


All students in this class are expected to write at university-level standards. These include the following:

       Proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, etc.  

o        See “Helpful Links” below 

o        Use your word processor’s grammar and spell-check 

o        Proofread! (Do not rely solely on your word processor to find errors!) 

       Proper citation format. You may use APA, Chicago, MLA, or any other university-accepted format. Note: 

o        You may use footnotes and a bibliography or parenthetical references and a reference list. 

o        If you use footnotes or parentheticals, you must include a bibliography or reference list at the end, even if it contains just one entry. 

o        You must use proper citation format for all Internet sources, including web sites and electronic mail. See “Helpful Links” below. 

       Legible paper presentation: 

o        Use 12-point font 

o        Use one-inch margins on all sides 

o        Double-space all papers. 

o        Always include page numbers. 


For writing assistance, consult with the class mentor or the Writing Center ( at or by phone at 725-3570. They are located in CH 188F.  Always use the Writing Checklist at when writing anything for my courses.


Helpful Links for Writing

Elements of Style:

Study Guides and Strategies:

Guides to Historical Research:

PSU Library’s Page on Citations and Plagiarism

A Student’s Guide to Research with the WWW

Chicago Documentation Style:


Class Schedule

Lecture Topics and Due Dates


Jan. 4-25

Community and Urban Development:   

       Concepts of Community and City in Time and Space

       Rural-Urban Typologies

       From Preindustrial City to Edge City

Films shown for this module include clips from The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces and Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World.

Preface and
Chapters 1-5

Online Readings on Lecture Guide

Jan. 13

VOLT (Viking Online Library Tutorial) quiz results due in class


Jan. 1

S.E.C.R.E.T. for Module No. 1 due in class


Jan. 27-Feb. 10


Community and Class

       Causes of Poverty 

       Immigration and Migration  

       Changes in Economic Production

       Theories of Social Stratification

       American Economic Stratification  

Films shown for this module include clips from Metropolis, Roger & Me, and Avalon.

Chapter 8 and 10 and pages 159-162


Online Readings on Lecture Guide

Feb. 10

First film reflection due in class


Feb. 17

S.E.C.R.E.T. for Module No. 2 due in class


Feb. 15-Mar. 1


Community, Identity, and Place versus Space

       Theories of Place and Space

       Individual, Group, and Global Identities 

       Concepts of Belonging and Alienation

Films shown for this module include clips from Do the Right Thing, Before Stonewall,  and Edward Scissorhands,

Chapters 7, 9, 11, 15, and pages 145-159 and 451-474

Online Readings on Lecture Guide

Feb. 22

Field Study Report due in class


Feb. 24

Persona Challenge & Journal due in class


Mar. 1 -Mar. 10

Community and Power

       Power and Politics

       Political Action Theory

       Utopian Visions

       Global Cities in the Information Age

Films shown for this module include clips from Blade Runner, Escape from New York, and Road to the Future.

Chapters 12, 14, and pages 474-484 and

Online Readings on Lecture Guide

Mar. 3

S.E.C.R.E.T. for Module No. 3 due in class


Mar. 10

Second film reflection due in class


Mar. 17

Take-Home Portion of Final Exam (S.E.C.R.E.T. No. 4) due in class.
Final Exam (multiple-choice and short-answer) given in class.

(8 am-9:50 am)


Mentor Sessions

Week of:


January 3

Join class e-mail list at This is a hidden, closed, and moderated discussion list. Your subscription is required during this term; you will automatically be unsubscribed at the end of the term.

Instructions for Viking Online Library Tutorial: (

Instructions for S.E.C.R.E.T.s (

January 10

Instructions for Field Observation (

Instructions for Adopting a Persona (

January 17

Help Session:  Mentor sessions this week are for students who need extra assistance understanding any of the course assignments or requirements, including writing assignments, field observation and persona exercises, and computer exercises such as use of Excel for the field report project.  All students must attend; students who do not need assistance will be assigned to work with other students who do.  If no one needs any help, film clips will be shown.

January 24

First Field Observation Meeting

January 31

Film clips

February 7

Second Field Observation Meeting

February 14

Film clips

Persona Challenge Given

February 21

Film clips

February 28

Film clips

March 7

Help Session:  Mentor sessions this week are for students who need extra assistance with any of the remaining projects and/or preparing for the final exam.  All students must attend; students who do not need assistance will be assigned to work with other students who do. If no one needs any help, film clips will be shown.