Ron Oakerson

Part time Professor of Political Science


  • M.A., Ph.D., Indiana University (1973, 1978)
  • B.A., Taylor University (1966)

A member of the Houghton faculty since 1992, he served as academic vice president and dean of the college at Houghton from 1999 to 2006. His interests center on local and regional institutions related to governance and civic engagement in the U.S. and around the globe.

A former senior analyst with the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, Professor Oakerson is a recognized authority on issues of metropolitan governance. His book on this subject,Governing Local Public Economies: Creating the Civic Metropolis, was published in 1999. He is also known for his work in rural and environmental policy, especially the study of natural resources used as a “commons.” In this connection, he served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Panel on Common Property Resource Management, as well as the National Rural Studies Committee sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. His work has frequently taken him to Africa, where he has served as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development on issues of democracy and governance. Presently, Professor Oakerson is pursuing interests in the governance of protected areas, such as New York’s Adirondack Park, and the “urban commons”–the study of urban space and its uses.

Professor Oakerson teaches courses in American politics and international development. Among his most popular course offerings are “An Introduction to Democracy and Governance,” designed for first-year students, and “American Constitutional Law,” favored by pre-law students. Most recently, Professor Oakerson has focused on developing field-based courses that allow students to combine reading and discussion with field visits to relevant sites, including extended conversations with practitioners. His course in “Urban Governance” takes students to Buffalo to visit diverse neighborhoods and interact with neighborhood leaders and city officials. Similarly, his course in “Environmental Governance” includes field visits with both citizen activists and government officials.

In May 2009, he led a team of students to Sierra Leone for a three-week study of decentralization.

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