Community Connections - What Makes Communities Work (at Grays Harbor)

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, and Spring 2017 quarters

Taught by

Thumbnail picture of Steven Buxbaum
political economy, community development and planning
  • UG

The purpose of this three-quarter program is to help students develop the skills needed to assess their communities, capture their observations, and articulate them in a useful form. Students will work to improve their skills in critical thinking, research methods, analytical reading and writing, and understanding across differences of socio-economic class, race and ethnicity. This program will support students pursuing advanced degrees or careers in the field of education, government and non-profit service organizations.

Students will work in teams as they learn research skills, participate in field activities, and keep a record of their progress through a variety of assignments, such as mapping, journaling, oral histories, and data analysis. One of the primary objectives of this program will be to give back to the communities we are studying by adding to historical internet archives, creating photo journals, stories, poems and published articles.

Our contextual focus will be the formation of communities in the “Harbor” – generally speaking the geographic region that is connected to the communities of Aberdeen, Cosmopolis and Hoquiam. Special emphasis will be given to how communities met their need for housing – from the settlement period through to current day challenges of creating affordable housing and meeting the needs of seniors, special needs populations and the homeless.

The communities of the Harbor will be our learning laboratory for our investigation into what makes communities work. We will use a multidisciplinary approach in the examination of how these communities evolved and the role that the private, public and non-profit sectors played in the development of housing as the region grew and developed.

Our examination of the history of the region will seek out answers to how past events inform the current issues in housing and community development policy that the Grays Harbor region is facing now and in the future. Students will learn how to work with primary source material and conduct research as a means of learning skills that are transferable to a broad range of social science disciplines.

Fall quarter will focus on settlement years through WWI. Students will learn primary source research skills as they collect information about the early development of the Harbor Region with a focus on natural resources based industries and meeting the needs of a growing labor force and diverse immigrant populations.

Winter quarter will focus on growth of federal and state housing programs during the boom and bust years of 1920s through 1980. Students will explore how housing programs were created as part of the welfare state of this period and examine their success and shortcomings based on research of how programs, projects and services were implemented in the Harbor Region.

Spring quarter will look at current housing challenges in the Harbor Region including an examination of issues related to affordability, homelessness and innovative approaches to meeting the needs of communities that are gripped by change influenced by local, state, national and international forces.

Program Details

Fields of Study

community studies government political economy sociology

Preparatory For

Education, social services, non-profit management.



Fall Conditional Winter Conditional Spring Conditional

Location and Schedule

Campus Location

Grays Harbor

Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

Sat 9a-5p. Classes held on the Grays Harbor College campus, Manspeaker Building, Room 2250.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning