First Stop Portland: The Professors' Professor

Last week, First Stop Portland hosted a delegation of Fulbright Scholars studying in Oregon this year. Their
three-day visit to Portland served as the “urban” component of a three-part enrichment program sponsored by Oregon State University, the World Affairs Council of Oregon, and Portland StateUniversity to help the visiting scholars develop a sense of the place they'd be spending their year.

So what did these scholars from a range of disciplines (including law, community health, public administration, education, forestry) and homelands (including Tunisia, Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand), think about Portland after learning about it from PSU faculty and touring it from Marquam Hill to Expo Center?

When asked what most surprised them about their time in Portland, the Fulbright Scholars replied:

 It's amazing how much difference a single person can make. I'm inspired to try things myself back at home.
  • Communication and negotiation is important to making healthy changes.
  • Urban individualism can be offset by building community. Growing together is possible, but it starts with relationships.
  • Consistency between the data suggesting people come to Portland for "quality of life" and the amenities found here. "It's a human friendly place," one visitor commented.
  • Creativity is a way of life here.
  • People are proud of their city. 
  • The spiritual value expressed by many of Portland's undertakings shows an appreciation for the value of a good life.
  • Having an urban area so close to the city is very desirable.But the contradictions here are a little overwhelming.

Contradictions? What contradictions?
  • Love for all things "retro," but very little respect for "traditions." 
  • Some of the more innovative designs look "childish" almost like "rubbish." Once you hear the story behind the informality, though, it starts to make sense why people love these things.
  • People are friendly, but at the same time anti-social.
  • The mainstream media doesn't seem to portray the positive things going on in Portland.
  • High priced condos with homeless people outside. 

So what did these bright minds recommend for our city?
  • Foster intergenerational relationships through use of urban space.
  • Focus on remedying income disparity.
  • Maintain high levels of public participation in governance of the city.  Teach the young people why civic engagement is important.
  • Protect "the commons"--people need to maintain a feeling of "ownership" of the city if they're going to continue to care about it.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments and deliberate heartily (if not always quickly) about the challenges.
A special hello to our very own Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Sheila Martin, Director of the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies who is spending the 2012-13 year abroad at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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