Benjamin Clark

Benjamin Clark
Benjamin Clark

Policy Wonk. Engager of Citizens. Black Belt in Taekwondo.

Benjamin Clark

Policy Wonk. Engager of Citizens. Black Belt in Taekwondo.


Ben Clark on Why Local Government and Engaged Students Matter

If Associate Professor Benjamin Clark could give advice to the average citizen to create positive change, it would be: Engage more with your local government and community and less with the drama that happens on the national stage.

After relocating to Eugene from stints around the world—Clark has lived in Tennessee, Colorado, Washington State, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, New York, Washington D.C., Georgia, Norway, Czech Republic, and Senegal—he came to “the realization that one of the most important things to get engaged with is not D.C., but rather with our city, with our local governments to effect change in the neighborhood where I live.” He added, “And that’s really what has driven me in my career.”

At the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management (PPPM), Clark, who is also the co-director of the Institute for Policy Research and Engagement (IPRE), teaches the Introduction to Public Policy course, as well as courses in the Master of Public Administration program. His research examines crowdsourcing, autonomous vehicles, public budgeting, finance, and management, and, of course, citizen engagement and local government.

In the classroom, Clark draws on his experiences in the field, from current local collaborations with the City of Eugene and Lane County to his time in the Senegal Peace Corps, doing county budget analysis in Athens, Georgia, and working on HIV, AIDS, and reproductive health policy in D.C.

Sometimes other stories sneak in such as acting in, or directing, a theatrical production; breaking concrete bricks with his bare hands; or teaching martial arts classes—Clark has a black belt in taekwondo.

“I try to bring [my policy and public administration experience] into the classroom now and engage my students in projects that feel a little more tangible,” Clark said. “They can go out and say, ‘Hey, I worked on this project and now we see change happening in our community, and that's pretty awesome.’ ”

Often, this engagement is through the Oregon Policy Lab, which he founded in 2017 to provide applied learning opportunities for students, while also providing a service through research and analysis to local governments and organizations. Current projects for the lab include “Cleaner Air Spaces in Lane County,” “Lane County Parks Funding,” and “Peer-to-Peer Support Network Development for People Experiencing Homelessness.”

Listen to the podcast to learn more about Clark, the Master of Public Administration program, IPRE, the Oregon Policy Lab, and how PPPM faculty and students are changing the world. Read more below about students, alumni, and faculty in the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management.

Benjamin Clark Clark with PPPM Assistant Professor Anne Brown in Hendricks Hall
black and white photo of two people with sign Clark (right) in a production from his theater days
Peace Core group photo Clark (second from right) in the Senegal Peace Corps circa 2000

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