I am an environmental sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My research interrogates the relationship between the mobility of capital and the relative stability of social life. Through contemporary qualitative and historical research, I ask how the political economies and ecologies of capitalism inform lived experiences of identity, work, and home. Specifically, I am interested in how working-class communities impacted by natural resource extraction, processing, and/or transportation adapt to globalizing economies and changing environments.
My research interests are rooted in my early experiences growing up in a former coal mining village in Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Mountains. I experienced how past economic projects continued to impact the wellbeing of the region when the rivers ran orange from iron oxide mine waste. And I saw the frustration of neighbors who loved their rural hometown, but found it increasingly emptied of jobs, grocery stores, and habitable houses.
From this personal experience, I pursue a research agenda that links the stories people tell about their places and their people within broader patterns of environmental and economic change. My field work has taken me from homesteads in Swaziland, to kitchen tables in dairyland Wisconsin, to red-dirt roads post-war northern Uganda, and most recently, to urban and rural Rust Belt communities.
These communities are participants in their own knowledge creation. I design and disseminate research using methods and mediums that are transparent, accessible, and theoretically engaged. I pair academic publications from my research with podcasts, photography, and long-form essays to connect stakeholders’ experiences with broader patterns of historical, cultural, and spatial change. Review my publications and methodologies pages for more details on this public sociology.
As a teacher, I aim to illuminate structural patterns of injustice, giving voice to underrepresented communities, and encouraging students to pursue thoughtful strategies for social change and engagement. My courses tend to center on human-environment interactions as impacted by globalization–from the birds-eye view of agricultural commodity chains, to the localized experiences of laborers and consumers. I design courses not only with substantive aims, but with skill-building in mind: I integrate question-asking, research, writing, and public speaking into each class. Review my past syllabi or classroom exercises to learn more about my commitment to teaching.