Teaching (old)

I teach a range of subjects aimed broadly at providing students with tools for understanding the tangled causes and uneven consequences of environmental problems, the social and political relations that underpin these problems, and the predicaments of those now trying to address them.

My goal is to enable students not only to comprehend the theoretical frameworks I offer them but to forge connections that regularly engage this theory with their own experiences and with the broader urgencies of the world around them. To this end, my teaching emphasizes vigorous dialogue as a means of advancing student learning: dialogue with each other, with me, and with the wider social worlds in which my students are implicated, locally and globally, personally and professionally. That entails trying to challenge my students to be mindful about their intentions as they define themselves as thinkers, as emerging professionals, as young leaders, and as agents of social change facing important dilemmas in their lives and careers.

I conceive of education as a process of personal and intellectual transformation whose rewards far exceed the acquisition of new knowledge or new skills. As an educator, I am committed to helping my students navigate the difficult work inherent to this process and steering them toward the vital experiences of insight, wonder, and empowerment it makes uniquely possible. Education in my view is not only an individual but a social, collective endeavour–a crucial tool (when it works!) for envisioning and enacting more just, sustainable futures in the present.

dan_gesturing1I have benefited tremendously from the guidance of thoughtful and engaged teachers, who helped instill something that has endured through practically everything I’ve done up to and including my PhD: a commitment to learning, understood less as the acquisition of new skills and information and more as a social process of intellectual and personal transformation. Teaching for me is about finding ways of instigating this type of learning and fostering the fun, nerdy excitement that is made possible through the little spaces we get to create at universities: shared places to celebrate the small joys and challenging work of finding things out.

A few recent highlights:

  • Last summer I helped teach International Environmental Politics at Berkeley as the course’s graduate student instructor with Dr. Wil Burns. We led students through a simulated week-long international environmental negotiation modeled around the then-upcoming Paris Climate Change Conference. Curiously, the process culminated in (simulated!) plenary decisions to dramatically expand funding for geoengineering research and to create a new “Annex III” for rapidly developing countries.
  • From 2014-15, I completed two semesters as a Berkeley Connect Fellow, where I designed teaching modules for environmentally-focused undergraduates, led small-group discussions among them, and provided more intensive one-on-one mentoring. The level of talent and energy my students bring to the classroom has never failed to amaze me, but it was a real treat to engage them on a more personal level in this kind of setting about their lives, their futures, and how they were making sense of things. I recall one theme which we revisited often. After graduation, students envisioned going in their separate directions and fanning out “into the world” where they would join an established field of institutions and walk what they felt were already clearly grooved pathways (i.e. careers) that would channel their actions and trajectories. I learned a lot listening to how they were sorting through the dilemmas they anticipated having to navigate–how they struggled to reconcile the pragmatism which they felt their futures would demand of them and the idealism we seem to have taught them to nurture in our corner of campus.
  • While at Berkeley, I have also led undergraduate discussion seminars in political ecology, bioethics, and the political economy of food and the environment.
  • At the University of Toronto, I provided TA support to courses in environmental studies and resource management theory.