Tania M. Schusler (PhD)Adjunct Faculty, ES PhD Program
Department of Environmental Studies
My teaching goal is to create a participatory learning community in which students actively develop critical, interdisciplinary understanding of sustainability (including its environmental, economic, social, cultural, and equity dimensions) within the context of their personal lives, local community, and global society. As an instructor, I view my role as providing the structure for students’ active participation in a collaborative learning process integrating academic rigor, real world experience, and personal reflection.
Embracing the words of Kurt Lewin, “there is nothing so practical as a good theory,” I incorporate conceptual frameworks from research in the human dimensions of natural resources into my teaching. To make these theories accessible and relevant, I use illustrative case studies, ask students to apply theoretical concepts to practical situations, encourage students to connect theory to their own experiences through personal reflection, and engage students in experiential service-learning.
My commitment to experiential learning arose from my own undergraduate education at the University of Illinois, where I participated in campus and community initiatives around solid waste management and environmental justice as a member of “Students for Environmental Concerns” and
“Alternative Spring Break.” The understanding and skills I developed through these experiences complemented knowledge acquired through coursework and proved influential in developing my worldview and indispensable to my professional career.
I aim to create such developmental opportunities for students by connecting classroom learning with pertinent local issues and engaging students in projects that “make a difference.” For example, students in my courses at Antioch University New England have participated in collective projects, including (a) piloting inquiry methods to understand stakeholders’ interests in education on behalf of the Monadnock Ecological Research and Education project, a partnership dedicated to the appreciation and informed use of southwestern New Hampshire’s iconic Mount Monadnock, and (b) assessing agricultural labor and infrastructure needs and opportunities in collaboration with the Cheshire County Conservation District. Involving students in community-based projects can be challenging, but I believe the rewards far outweigh the challenges due to the increased relevance and meaning of such learning experiences for students.
I also strive to place students’ learning in global context through discussion and written reflections on
readings, radio programs, and videos presenting perspectives and case studies in conservation, community development, and sustainability from around the world. Considering students’ diverse learning styles, I integrate more familiar methods like readings and writing with techniques, such as role-playing, debates, field trips, and visual representations like concept mapping. I use information garnered through frequent mini-assessments of student learning and a mid-semester course evaluation to adapt my teaching to students’ needs and interests.
Graduate teaching also occurs outside of formal courses, particularly through advising theses and dissertations. I view learning as mutual in the advising relationship. My advisees have introduced me to new bodies of literature, questions, and ideas, while I have provided them with mentoring and guidance in reviewing literature, developing researchable questions, designing research, writing proposals, publishing, presenting, and networking professionally.