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Portland State UniversityDilafruz Williams

Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy in the Graduate School of Education

Professor of Public Administration in the Mark O’ Hatfield School of Government


Dr. Williams is founding director of the Leadership in Ecology, Culture, and Learning program and of the Learning Gardens Laboratory at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon ( She also co-founded the Environmental Middle School (6-8) in 1995 which has now expanded to K-8 Sunnyside Environmental School in Portland Public Schools ( These successful initiatives have been designed with the goal of addressing the ecological and cultural underpinnings of education in K-12 schools and in higher education and build strong community-school-university partnerships.   

Dr. Williams was elected city wide to the Portland Public School Board in 2003 and again in 2007 ( She is recipient of the prestigious Ehrlich Award for Faculty Service-Learning in 2001 and has recently been selected to the Fulbright Senior Scholar Roster, 2007-2012. She is also selected to the “100 District Leaders for Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Network,” by the Education Commission of the States National Center for Learning and Citizenship. She is frequently invited to give seminars, workshops, and talks both nationally and internationally.  

Dr. Williams is the co-editor of Ecological Education in Action: On Weaving Education, Culture, and the Environment. She has authored over 50 chapters, journal articles, and curriculum resource guides and has given over 100 invited lectures, symposia, and/or conference papers.  She has graduate degrees from Bombay, Syracuse, and Harvard Universities in the Sciences, Public Administration, and Philosophy of Education.


  • Community-Higher Education-Schools Strategic Partnership Development
  • Civic Engagement/Service Learning; Professional Development: Curriculum and pedagogical integration; Teaching reflections; Scholarship of engagement; Partnerships and diversity; Assessment
  • Sustainability Education; Environmental Education
  • Learning Gardens-Based Education: Curriculum Design and Research 
  • K-12 Public Policy

Years of relevant experience: 20+

Relevant Publications:

Smith, G. A. and Williams, D. R. (Eds.) (1999).  Ecological education in action: On weaving education, culture, and the environment.  Albany, NY: SUNY.

Book Chapters
Williams, D., Kecskes, K., Carey, C., Smith, A., Reynolds, C., & Ronnie Craddock. (2006). Student Leadership Models at Portland State University: Partnerships with Faculty and Community for Curricular Civics Engagement. Pp. 181-192. In Zlotkowski, E., Longo, N., and Williams, J. (Eds.). Students as Colleagues: Expanding the Circle of Service-Learning Leadership. Providence, Rhode Island: Campus Compact/Brown University.

Collier, P. & Williams, D.R. (2005). Reflection in action: The learning-doing relationship. In Cress, C.M., Collier, P., & Reitenauer, V. (Eds.). Pp. 83-98. Service and Learning: A student workbook for community-based experiences across the disciplines. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Williams, D. R. & Bernstine, D. O. (2002).  Building capacity for civic engagement at Portland State University: A comprehensive approach.  In Simon, L.A.K., Kenny, M., Brabeck, K., & Lerner. R, M. (Eds.). Pp. 257-276. Learning to serve: Promoting civil society through service learning. Norwell, Massachusetts: Kluwer Press.

Williams, D. R., Patton, J., Beyler, R., Balshem, M, & Halka, M. (2002).  Inquiry as a mode of student learning at Portland State University: Service-learning experiences in first-year curriculum. In Zlotkowski, E. (Ed). Pp. 91-105. Service-Learning and the First-Year Experience: Preparing Students for Personal Success and Civic Responsibility.  University of South Carolina: National Resource Center for the First Year Experience.

Journal Articles
Williams, D. R. (2008). Education for democracy: Preparing undergraduates for responsible political engagement. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 14(1): 92-97.

Williams, D. R. (2008). Listening to nature: Cultivating ecological literacy through Learning Gardens. Oregon English Journal, 30(1): 12-15.

Williams, D. R.  (2008). Sustainability Education’s gift: Learning patterns and relationships. International Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 2 (1):45-50.

Williams, D. R. & Kapoor, P. (2003). Higher Education’s imperative: Rising to the challenge of educating citizens. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 9(1): 70-75.

Zlotkowski, E. & Williams, D. R. (2003). The faculty role in civic education. Peer Review, 5(3): 9-11.

Williams, D. R., Shinn, C., Nishishiba, M., & Morgan, D. (2002). Toward an understanding of civic capacity: An anatomy of community issues that matter to students. Journal of Public Affairs, VI: 241-263.

Williams, D.R. (2002). Political engagement and service-learning: A Gandhian perspective. Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice 15(2):6-13.

Williams, D.R. (2001). Participants in, not spectators of, democracy: The discourse on civic responsibility in higher education. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 7: 158-164.

Williams, D. R. & Driscoll, A. (1997). Connecting curriculum content with community service: Guidelines for student reflection. Journal of Public Service & Outreach 2(1):33-42.

Williams, D. R. (1997).  Dis-embedded discourse: Challenge to civic education.  In S. Laird (Ed.).  Philosophy of Education (pp. 348-351).  Urbana, IL: Philosophy of Education.

Williams, D. R., Youngflesh, A., & Bagg, B. (1997). Enhancing academic understanding through service learning: Listening to students’ voices. Expanding Boundaries: Building Civic  Responsibilities Within Higher Education, Vol. II:74-79.  Columbia, MD: Cooperative Education Association, Inc.
Williams, D. R. (1994). Re-embedding community.  In A. Thompson (Ed.),  Philosophy of Education (pp. 90-97).  Normal, IL: Philosophy of Education Society.  Also in Philosopher’s Index (1995). 

Williams, D. R. (1993). The modern quest for civic virtues: Issues of identity and alienation.  In N. Noddings. (Ed).  Philosophy of Education (pp.114-116). Normal, IL:Philosophy of Education.


Contact Information:
Telephone: (503) 725-4676    
Fax: (503) 725-3200