Tony Lamb is a first year graduate student studying community development in the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University. Tony is the unique student who has been successful combining his academic interests with his passion for community engagement. While an undergraduate, he attended school full time and worked in the VISTA program, where he applied his course work to issues that matter to him: gentrification, displacement, equity, and economic development. While he was working on his Bachelors Tony used his grant writing skill to raise enough capital to start a social enterprise that now employs five community members. During this period, he also served on advisory committees, developed partnerships for the new organization, transitioned to full-time employment, and completed his degree. Now in his graduate program, Tony has been working with College faculty on a project with the Portland Development Commission and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability looking at supporting makers and manufacturing businesses in Portland.
I first began work on issues of community development and social justice by serving on a reintegration round-table in Waco, Texas. The purpose being to remove barriers to success in housing, employment, community perception, and the criminal justice system for those returning home from incarceration in order to avoid recidivating. During this time I discovered the field of community development and applied to Portland State University's (PSU) undergraduate program. I applied to an AmeriCorps VISTA position while in school to address issues of gentrification, displacement, equity, economic development, and place-making. While serving as a VISTA, I helped write and win over $275,000 in grant funding, started a social enterprise that brought in over $30,000 and employed five community-members, served on numerous advisory committees, built over fifty new partnerships for the organization, transitioned to full-time employment, and completed my Bachelor's degree. Despite the success our grassroots organization was having, I began to realize that change needed to happen on a larger scale within the city. I am currently enrolled in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning at PSU with a focus on economic development as a means to co-create equitable livable cities with low-income and communities of color.