In the past, I’ve taught a number of courses in environmental policy, sustainability, conservation biology, and complex adaptive systems, among others.  Below, I’m attaching syllabi that people can feel free to modify and use in their own classes.  I’ve also attached a statement of my teaching philosophy.  Increasingly, I have tried to add elements of project and problem-based learning to all of my classes with the hope of increasing the real world application and better prepare my students for life beyond the university.  I have also taught a few of these courses online with slight deviations as necessary to deliver content in this format.


My first university-level teaching was in a 200-level general management class in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Indiana University.

V-241 Management Foundations

The next course I taught was in my main area of research and one of the most fun classes that I’ve taught.  This course, People and the Environment, was a 100-level introductory class that looks at challenges emerging at the interface in coupled social-ecological systems.

E162:  People and the Environment Syllabus

This next syllabus is for a mid-level undergraduate class for sustainability science majors that is one of my regular core courses.  It is an introduction to domestic and global environmental policy.  I have also taught this course online.  My favorite part of this course is the semester-long “consulting” project that the students divide into groups of 4-5 and deliver recommendations and options to address a real, ongoing sustainability problem with their client.  We have worked with over 15 municipalities in the Phoenix metro area as well as state agencies in Arizona.  The students deliver their final recommendations to a panel of representatives from their client.  They often also have opportunities to present to city council meetings and other public venues.
SOS 321 syllabus

In line with my PPBL work, I coordinated a course entitled Transformative Sustainability Research, but it is better seen as Project Management for Sustainability.  In this course, graduate students with a real world sustainability project recruit undergraduate students for the class and the specific project.  The undergraduates then take ownership of the project under the guidance of their graduate instructors.


My other regular core undergraduate course for the School of Sustainability is a 200-level class on Systems Thinking.  This is offered every fall.  This is my favorite course of all time.  I have developed an online version of this, which is delivered every semester – just not by me.  I continue to revise this syllabus, so contact me if you want to see the most current version.

SOS 220 Systems Thinking Syllabus

At the graduate level, I regularly offer a course called Social-Ecological-Technical Systems.  This is a 500-level course that is required from all MA and MS students in sustainability.  It is also highly recommended for Sustainability PhD students.  Lately, it has had a number of graduate students from our public programs school, community development, ecology, biology and society, future of innovation in society, and design school. The course is structured around an expert-led discussion on one aspect of SET and how it relates to the others.  For instance, an urban ecologist comes and discusses urban ecology and how it relates ecology, society and technology.  These expert-led classes are followed by student-led classes that discuss additional readings and expand on the previous class.

525 SETS Syllabus

Last semester, with Candice Carr-Kelman, I offered a graduate seminar on conservation and collaboration.  It had students from several schools across campus.  It did not follow a traditional perspective in conservation biology, but it added aspects of sustainability science and delved deeply into research on collaboration and governance.

SOS 591 syllabus

In the past, I have also regularly taught the social sciences module of a Master’s in Conservation Biology program at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.  This is a two-week, intensive all-day, five days a week teaching engagement with high-caliber students from all over the world.  The literature covered and the program overview are available on request.

Teaching Philosophy

Below is a sample of my teaching philosophy and agenda that was prepared for my third year review.  It includes a list of some of the courses that I can teach as well as some quantitative and qualitative results from past class surveys.

Teaching Agenda and Statement of Teaching Philosophy

In addition, I include a bit on how my teaching philosophy has grown. My teaching focuses on providing students with two opportunities often lacking in university curricula – a systems approach and real-world learning opportunities. I tie both of these activities directly back to my research agenda and emphasize them further through my service.

My courses emphasize systems thinking through theories of resilience and complexity. I underpin these classes with institutional analysis as a means to bind the class content together with required culminating projects in which students research to define and bound a social-ecological system and then use institutional analysis to understand governance challenges of the system.

I have placed an emphasis on problem and project-based learning (PPBL) in my classes. I’ve used this in my undergraduate Policy and Governance course for the past several years, creating student “consulting” projects for external clients, socially embedding project teams in real-world, applied projects. The clients have ranged from local NGOs to municipalities to State of Arizona governmental agencies. Both clients and students view these as real consulting engagements as opposed to student assignments. Second, I have “flipped” the classroom to allow students to move from textbook theory to real-world problem-solving through the discussion of case studies.

I see strong links between the PPBL courses and my advisory role with the Greenlight Solutions student consulting organization, which has consulted for many clients including the World Wildlife Fund, General Dynamics, and Arcosanti. Many students experienced this type of stakeholder engagement in my classes and are interested in building their experience with real world stakeholders.


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