I grew up in southern Connecticut, where I saw forest patch after forest patch eliminated for the next housing development or strip mall, where a scare of hyperdermic needles washing up on beaches in Long Island Sound made summer days less relaxing, and where my local beach still showed signs of having been a landfill. Armed with a BA in Ecology and Environmental Biology, and about to embark as a Peace Corps Volunteer working on conservation issues in Uganda, I started on my path to protect environmental resources. Or so I thought... Working alongside dedicated, smart and passionate Ugandans, I learned that everyone comes to the table with their own knowledge and values, and that working together might take longer and the outcomes might be different than what I was expecting, but that doing so could accomplish more significant and lasting outcomes that both protected resources and met people's needs.
I've learned and experienced much since those years in Uganda, but my interests remain the same: How can people work together to solve complex challenges?
The field of sustainability is ripe for this type of question. Sustainability issues are complex. They always have a component of social well-being, such as improving equity and increasing social cohesion. There is always an aspect of economic well-being, such as ensuring healthy and resilient local economies. And there is always the need to protect the environmental resources on which we all depend, now and in the future. Sustainability issues are all around us, in all sectors of society. To address these challenges, whether locally or globally, it is essential to bring together the different types of people who are impacted and who can influence what happens.
My research centers around these collaborative efforts: how to facilitate them; how diverse stakeholders can value each others' knowledge and perspectives; and, most importantly, how to ensure that action results from these intensive efforts. I bring to my research a deep knowledge that comes from over 10 years of working as a natural resource planner at municipal and state levels in Maine.
Meanwhile, I discovered that I love teaching. In fact, many of the theories behind facilitation of collaborative efforts can be applied to the classroom. To the best of my ability, I try to democratize my classroom in the same way that collaborative efforts can value and give voice to all the members of the group. Further, because sustainability is an emerging academic field, I've recently begun conducting research on sustainability education itself. I'm thankful that my students are willing to engage with me in continually experimenting and adjusting our exploration of sustainability in and out of the classroom.
In 2019, I created a website for the sustainability capstone students to document their projects and reflections.