Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

February 27, 2003

Poverty and Racial-Inequality Expert Melvin Oliver to Kick Off Community-Development Lecture Series at Whitworth

In a concerted effort to address poverty in Spokane through a new method called "Asset-Based Community Development," Whitworth College, in collaboration with Bethel A.M.E. Church, is hosting a spring 2003 community-action lecture series at the college's northside campus. The series, "Alleviating Poverty and Building Assets for the Development of World-Class Communities: Partnerships and Collaboration," will feature three nationally recognized community-development experts.

The March lecture will feature Melvin L. Oliver Jr., vice president of the Asset Building and Community Development Program at the Ford Foundation. Oliver's lecture, "Alleviating Poverty, Building Assets for World-Class Cities," will take place on Thursday, March 13, at 6 p.m. in Seeley Mudd Chapel at Whitworth College. Admission is free. For more information, please call 777-4577.

In addition to his evening lecture, Oliver will participate in a March 13 luncheon at noon in the Hixson Union Building at Whitworth. Admission is $8 for the luncheon; reservations are required. For reservations, call 777-3270 or e-mail bbrodrick@whitworth.edu.

The Asset Building and Community Development Program at the Ford Foundation helps to build human, social, economic, environmental, and interpersonal assets among poor and disadvantaged individuals and communities throughout the world. The program focuses on four areas: finance development and economic security; workforce development; community development; and environmental development.

Under Oliver's leadership, the asset program has developed pioneering grant initiatives including the $50 million Self Help-FannieMae Program, which secured home mortgages for 35,000 low-income households and changed the way banks evaluate applications for home mortgage; and the Leadership for a Changing World Program, a recognition program that identifies and supports leaders and highlights the important role leadership plays in improving people's lives.

Oliver holds a bachelor's degree from William Penn College, in Iowa, and a master's degree and doctorate in sociology from Washington University, in St. Louis, Mo.

An expert on poverty and racial and urban inequality, Oliver is the co-author of the award-winning book Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality (Routledge, 1995). He is also the co-editor of Prismatic Metropolis: Inequality in Los Angeles (Russell Sage Foundation, 2000).

Oliver was a member of the faculty at UCLA from 1978-1996 and has received a variety of awards for his popular and effective teaching style. In 1994, he was named the California Professor of the Year for his "extraordinary dedication to teaching and commitment to students," and was the winner of the Harriet and Charles Luckman Distinguished Teaching award from the UCLA Alumni Association.

On April 4, the lecture series will feature Hector Garza, who will speak on "Community and Educational Partnerships: Advancing Opportunity to Become a World-Class Community." Garza is president of the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships.

The lecture series is part of Whitworth's "Lives of Commitment Project," which was launched in 2001 when the college received a $1,014,000 grant from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. The five-year program, which is overseen by Professor of Politics & History Julia Stronks, is based on new research that identifies tools for helping college students develop a robust worldview that becomes a way of life after they graduate. The project supports visiting speakers, research seminars, faculty-development programs, and other initiatives to integrate worldview issues and civic engagement into the college culture and curriculum.

"The One Spokane summit raised our awareness of the challenges our city faces, and we're now in a position to learn about other techniques and best practices to meet these challenges," Stronks says. "Asset-based community development assumes that even the poorest neighborhood has underutilized resources. This lecture series will help us strategize about new ways to form partnerships that tap into these resources and develop leadership in the communities that are struggling the most."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The college enrolls 2,200 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.


Julia Stronks, professor of Politics & History at Whitworth and director of the Lives of Commitment Project, (509) 777-4577 or jstronks@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information specialist, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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