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Meet Professor Charles Heying
Meet Professor Charles Heying

Professor Emeritus, Urban Studies and Planning

Exploring artisan economies in a global world.

Ph.D., Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
M.C.R.P., City and Regional Planning, Iowa State University
B.A., History, and Art, Creighton University


  • Professor Emeritus of Urban Studies and Planning

The interrelationship of private, nonprofit and public sectors in market economies, community engagement, institutional network analysis, and artisan economies

Civic Elites, Civic Organizations, and the Urban Growth Dynamic




Professor Charles Heying explores alternative economies of the post-industrial age, including Portland’s artisan economy. He teaches courses in the subjects of green economics, sustainable development, urban social networks, localization, community development, and the sociology and politics of urban life. He is fascinated by the ways people live and work in an increasingly global world. He questions if place still matters and if place is powerful enough to be self-sustaining.

In 2010, Dr. Heying penned Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy, published by Ooligan Press. Dr. Heying enlisted student writing and research and purposefully addressed a broad audience. The book describes Portland’s artisan economy where craftspeople create, produce, and market one-of-a-kind items from microbrews to custom bikes to fashion. It frames the old-fashioned approach many Portlanders take to carve out a living on their own terms. Dr. Heying chronicles this movement’s direct response to globalization and displeasure in sameness. The result is a location-based identity of superior design and quality and an intentional snub to mass consumer society. However, he argues the downside includes mounting competition with other artisans and a lack of separation between life and work. He started the Artisan Economy Initiative blog to explore these themes further online.    

Engaged personally in the artisan economy his whole life, Dr. Heying spent years as a potter, farmer, and wood craftsman. As a cabinet maker in Los Angeles, Dr. Heying learned how to get along, collaborate, and unionize, lessons he brings to his teaching practice.

In the classroom, Dr. Heying takes an intentionally unconventional approach. He designs courses so that students teach each other and himself. Coursework requires students to read heavily, present findings in front of peers, bring in guest speakers, and orchestrate field trips or other experiences for the class. He facilitates extensive classroom discussion and welcomes the challenging of his own ideas to shed new light and offer new ways of thinking. 

Dr. Heying sits on the board of Cafe au Play, a nonprofit coffeehouse that serves diverse families and encourages relationship building in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood. He helped start the organization with his daughter in a once derelict building with a checkered past. Rebuilt from recycled materials, the coffeehouse showcases green design and serves as a positive model of community involvement. A long time political activist, Dr. Heying actively advocates against the capping of the Mt. Tabor reservoirs as part of the Friends of the Reservoirs organization.

What Professor Heying has to say...

I get paid to think! It’s an incredible privilege to read and think. What percentage of people get to do that? I get to explore ideas and develop new frameworks for understanding the world. However, it’s a blessing and a curse. You’re doing it all the time, you never stop thinking. You get to enhance your cognitive aspects, but not always your spiritual disciplines. To really understand your subject, you need to turn off your thinking at times, so you can actually hit the target...

First, I appreciate the young and active faculty. We recently hired some very dynamic faculty, which add to our already engaged faculty. Together, I think we are on the cutting edge of important thinking for many issues in our field. Second, I appreciate the legacy of Nohad Toulan. He built a truly unique program. During his tenure, the School grew and prospered. He knew how to command resources and assemble those resources in a creative way.

Portland is a great city in which to teach. I enjoy the mix of first generation college students, it’s rewarding to see them.

The subjects that most interest me now include: the new economy, the cultural and artisan economy, how work and life are changing in a post-industrial era, the economy as if community matters, the importance of place and the paradoxes of place and a place-based community in a global world.

Similar to the methods of permaculture, I approach teaching with a desire to achieve multiple benefits through minimal effort. I learn from students, so the more I can do to learn from them, the more they benefit, and the more they get to learn what they need to know. I allow both structure and flexibility in my courses. I continue to develop in how I guide classroom discussion--like an interview, you never quite know where the conversation is going. In general, I strive to make sure each class has an “a ha” moment.

I especially like students that are critical of what I’m doing. I count on graduate students to bring the best of ideas that force me to think in new ways. I intentionally craft my courses so that students will be teaching me. As part of my course design, I have students bring in resources, speakers, and take the group on field trips.  

Design with Nature, by Ian McHarg