I am dedicated to preparing students to address social, political and environmental issues—from the roots of food systems inequities to the effects of climate change on communities and society. Knowledge formulation is dialectical, and my teaching approach is to move from a dichotomy between teacher and student toward a process that values all individuals as co-creators of knowledge. This page describes courses that I teach at The New School and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
The New School (2010-present):
Leadership for Sustainability and Environmental Policy. This graduate level course in The New School’s Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management program explores environmental policy and its interconnection with sustainability leadership. In it, we examine how environmental policy has evolved within US contexts as well as US participation in global environmental governance. We explore how environmental policy drives sustainability management within organizations; the process by which leaders incorporate policy into development and implementation of sustainability policy; and how some groups are integrating social and environmental equity into such policies. Course readings and discussions help us to understand diverse actors in environmental policy making, from government agencies to grassroots environmental movements to individuals and sociocultural groups who engage in policy making and environmental leadership through everyday actions. Throughout the semester we discuss frameworks for understanding environmental policy; theories of environmental leadership; and the importance of diverse, and often-under-recognized forms of environmental knowledge and action in addressing environmental, including environmental justice, challenges. Theoretical concepts are supported by case studies of organizations leading the way in sustainability and environmental policy, enabling us to contextualize such theories are applied ‘on the ground.’
Social Justice in Sustainable Food Systems. This combined undergraduate/grad course explores social justice dimensions of today’s globalized food system and considers sustainability in terms of social, in addition to environmental indicators. We develop an understanding of the food system that includes farmers and agroecological systems; farm and industry workers; business owners and policymakers, as well as all who consume food. Based on this understanding, we examine how phenomena such as racism, gender discrimination, and structural violence surface within the food system in United States and globally, drawing examples from such diverse sectors as agriculture, labor, public health, and international policy. We discuss conceptual frameworks—such as food justice and food sovereignty—that farmers, activists, critical food scholars, humanitarian agencies, and policy makers are using to create food systems that are both sustainable and just. We also investigate how current ideological debates about the intersections of food, agriculture, and social justice shape policymaking and activism at multiple scales. Throughout the semester we explore our own position(s) as university-based stakeholders in the food system. Students are encouraged to integrate aspects of their own scholarly and/or activist projects into one or more course assignments
Urban Food Systems. This undergraduate course examines sustainable urban food systems from farm to fork, including the social, political, economic, and environmental dimensions of food production, distribution, marketing, consumption, and wastes. We develop an understanding of historical and contemporary relationships between agriculture and cities, and we critically assess current alternative food movements such as local food, urban agriculture, food justice, and sustainable agriculture. Considering phenomena including climate change, rising inequality, and farmland loss, we explore the roles that urban consumers, activists, farmers, food workers, policymakers, scholars, and students play in transforming the conventional food system into one that is more environmentally sustainable and socially just. At the end of the course, students will have a deeper understanding of the complexities of urban food systems, the politics of food in urban settings, and the potential for cities to advance food system sustainability.
Green Roof Ecology. (co-taught with Timon McPhearson) This undergraduate course links urban ecology, urban agricultural development, and urban design through a civic engagement project at a rooftop farm. Green roofs are examples of green infrastructure, often seen by policy makers and community members as a way to increase biodiversity in cities, mitigate urban heat island effects, and absorb stormwater. Yet, there is less research-based evidence quantifying these ecological benefits in the context of a rooftop urban farm, and therefore limited information about how they can be enhanced to produce environmental benefits. In this course, the first in a two-semester suite, we examine specific ecological and environmental aspects of urban agriculture and learn urban field ecology and participatory research design techniques in partnership with Brooklyn Grange, a worldwide pioneer in rooftop farming with large-scale green roofs in Brooklyn and Queens. We connect scientific knowledge with design skills as we study urban wildlife needs and urban rooftop ecology.
Designing Urban Agriculture: Gardening, Cities, and Democracy. Design points us beyond surface level understandings of urban agriculture’s ecological, social, and public health benefits toward an integrated approach that can help create more democratic food and environmental systems. Through field trips, class discussions, and interdisciplinary readings from design and the social sciences, this undergraduate course investigates how urban gardens and farms can be connected to larger transformations of social and material structures in our cities. Course themes include ecological, social, political, infrastructural, cultural, and educational design elements of urban agriculture projects. These concepts are contextualized through New York City’s expansive and networked urban agriculture system, with discussions of corollary work in cities throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Students engage with the complexity of urban agriculture as they reflect on their own relationship to gardens, food, and cities.
Urban Agriculture and Food Activism. This undergraduate course explores urban agriculture’s role in the urban environment, in the United States and in international contexts. As a class, we examine various forms, functions, organizational models, and motivations for engaging in city farming and gardening. We consider how forms such as community gardens, community farms, school gardens, and commercial urban agriculture have been integrated into the urban fabric to produce social and environmental benefits. We examine challenges faced by practitioners, and ways in which urban agriculture can reproduce social injustices and environmental risks. Links between urban agriculture and contemporary social movements for urban sustainability and justice are also examined. Throughout the semester we explore our own positionality as university-based stakeholders in the local urban food system. These concepts of urban agriculture and food activism provide grounding for a scholar-activist project conducted in partnership with community-based urban agriculture organizations. The course includes guest lectures and field trips, as well as participation in the community project.
Food and the Environment. This undergraduate course examines the relationship between food and the environment, covering production, distribution, consumption, and waste management, from the local to the global scale. We learn about key issues including the connections between climate change and global food security; food waste and composting; food supply chains; urban food environments; genetic engineering and genetically modified foods. Throughout the semester we explore how different frameworks, from agroecology to environmental justice, and different analytical methods, from life cycle analysis to health equity assessments, help us design strategies to make the food system more sustainable and resilient. We also participate in a module on GMO identification at The New School’s University Science Lab as a part of the course, and we examine connections between science and policy. For the final project, students research a food system-related environmental problem and prepare a policy or design brief to address that problem.
Women, Food, and Agroecosystems. In this undergraduate course we learn about women’s important roles in food production, procurement, and preparation, and women’s positions as community leaders in the food system. We also explore women’s historical and contemporary contributions to conservation and biodiversity through agroecological practices, and the importance of interconnectedness between each of these systems. Course topics readings and discussions are put into context through film, guest speakers, and visits to women-run organizations focused on food, farming, and the environment.
Action Research and Urban Agriculture. In this combined undergraduate/graduate course we explore histories and contemporary applications of action research, urban agriculture, and their multiple roles in the community. Action research (AR) is an approach to research that integrates theory and practice with a vision to create social change. Several schools of thought underlie the AR approach, many of which are grounded in environmental justice and critical theory (e.g., critical race, critical feminist), as well as a commitment to democratic participation. AR is used in a diversity of settings to address social and environmental issues through community and individual empowerment. Examples include community-based anti-toxics action research; student-led participatory action research on racial segregation in schools; and youth-led community food/health assessments in low-income urban districts. Throughout the semester we explore action research through readings and class discussions, and engage in a hands-on project with non-profit organization partners working for sustainable food systems and community empowerment through urban agriculture.
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (2013-present):
Social Justice in the Food System. This graduate-level course explores social justice dimensions of today’s globalized food system and considers sustainability in terms of social, in addition to environmental indicators. We develop an understanding of the food system that includes farmers and agroecological systems; farm and industry workers; business owners and policymakers, as well as all who consume food. Based on this understanding, we examine how phenomena such as racism, gender discrimination, and structural violence, and neoliberalization surface within the food system in United States and globally, drawing examples from such diverse sectors as agriculture, labor, public health, and international policy. We discuss conceptual frameworks—such as food justice and food sovereignty—that farmers, activists, critical food scholars, humanitarian agencies, and policy makers are using to create food systems that are both sustainable and just. We also investigate how current ideological debates about the intersections of food, agriculture, and social justice shape policymaking and advocacy at multiple scales. Throughout the semester we explore our own position(s) as university-based stakeholders in the food system. The course includes guest speakers and students are encouraged to integrate aspects of their own scholarly and/or activist projects into one or more course assignments.