I am an Ecosystem Ecologist, who teaches Environmental Science at a community college in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area in Texas. After working in environmental consulting and academia for a number of years, I found my professional home teaching and conducting research with undergraduate students at Collin College. Many of my students are non-traditional students: veterans, international students, and first-generation Americans, who are working and supporting families while completing course work; many of them are the first in their families to do so.
I have been teaching Environmental Science (first and second semester courses) at Collin College full-time for four years. Each semester, I teach multiple sections of two courses (first semester and second semester Environmental Science) to mostly non-science majors. In these courses, we discuss everything from basic Chemistry to Environmental Racism. My biggest challenge is keeping the course from becoming “Why Humans Are Bad 101” and focusing our discussions on solving the immense (self-inflicted) challenges that face us. I try to do this by providing my students with data and opportunities to use those data to develop their analytical and problem-solving skills.
The Black Lives Matter Movement has given me a sense of urgency about focusing my students’ attention on Environmental Justice issues and promoting discussions about addressing the injustices that have been allowed to persist in our communities despite decades of efforts by many very brave people. Because so many of these injustices are rooted in how we have organized and created our communities, I use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools and spatially related data to introduce students to environmental justice issues and to promote discussion of solutions for these issues. This Fall 2022, my goal is to incorporate Service Learning opportunities into my courses, so that students can put the data to work in their own communities.