Abigail E. Abrash Walton, PhD

Teaching Faculty, Environmental Studies Department; Director, Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability master's concentration; Co-director, Center for Climate Preparedness and Community Resilience
Environmental Studies

AUNE Contact Information


Highest Degree

Ph.D. in Leadership and Change, Antioch University

Other Degrees & Credentials

MSc, London School of Economics
Visiting Fellow, Harvard Law School
BA, University of Pennsylvania

Areas of Expertise

advocacy, public policy, community development, sustainability and social/environmental justice, organizational leadership/management


Abigail earned a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania, a M.Sc. in Political Theory from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Government, and a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University.

Her doctoral dissertation, Positive Organizational Leadership and Pro-Environmental Behavior: The Phenomenon of Fossil Fuel Divestment (2016), explores U.S.-based foundation leaders’ readiness to pursue fossil fuel divestment by their institutions. The study examined leaders’ motivations and actions in pursuing divestment, while simultaneously exercising their fiduciary duty to steward institutional assets.

The study extends scholarship on divestment, foundations as change agents, leadership and positive deviance, psychology of climate change, pro-environmental behavior (PEB), socially responsible investing, and the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM). Implications for theory and practice: (a) develops models of mission-aligned investing and of mission-aligned leadership, (b) builds on Stern’s PEB typology to include investing; (c) extends the TTM to include a change leadership dimension; and (d) provides analysis that can inform practitioner-designed behavior change initiatives and that may inform and inspire other institutional leaders to address climate change through institutional fossil fuel divestment. This dissertation is available in open-access at OhioLink ETD Center, www.ohiolink.edu/etd and AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, http://aura.antioch.edu/

A key goal of advocacy is to achieve purposeful results for people who are not in the public debate. Our students will become advocates who participate in the social justice and resource conservation and management decisions that directly affect their lives and the lives of others. We train them to have the analytical skills to assess a situation and develop a strategy for identifying and achieving concrete outcomes as well as the skills to implement that strategy effectively. I teach by example, and try to instill in my students the confidence that they can successfully create purposeful results and maintain the energy to do that in a sustained way.

My interest is in exploring and making connections between human rights and environmental concerns, and in advancing our collective understanding that successfully addressing these challenges is fundamental both to sustainable development and to basic requirements of peace and justice.

Current Activities

Abigail serves as founding Director of Antioch University New England’s Center for Academic Innovation, co-director of Antioch’s Center for Climate Preparedness and Community Resilience, and as faculty in the Department of Environmental Studies, where she directs the Advocacy master’s degree concentration.  Her public engagement, research, and teaching focuses on change leadership and translating values into effective action. This year, she served on the leadership team for the April 2016 Local Solutions: Eastern Regional Climate Preparedness Conference, convened by Antioch in partnership with U.S. EPA, to build the capacity of local decision-makers. She enjoys the spirit and practice of innovation and has played a central role in piloting AUNE’s Conservation Psychology Institute and Translating Research to Inform Policy workshops and in catalyzing a national-level working group to build the capacity of scientists and researchers to engage with the public policy process.  Previously, she was program director for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, principal of ActionWorks, and a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program.  Those experiences continue to inform and inspire her teaching and practice.  Abigail delights in making sense of challenging situations, and has brought this capacity to serving as a commentator for The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, “Democracy Now!” and “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” among other media outlets.

As part of her intentional global-to-local move to New Hampshire, Abigail has put into practice her Permaculture Design Certificate from the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center, working with her husband to overhaul a 100+-year-old multifamily into an owner-occupied, energy-efficient, sustainable business and beautiful living space, with perennial gardens where the driveway used to be and a network of engaged neighbors.  Board and public service highlights: serving with powerful teams as a founding board member of Project Underground, a human rights organization supporting communities resisting hardrock mining and oil & gas extraction, and of the Monadnock International Film Festival; as chair of the City of Keene’s Planning Board; and as a member of NH’s State Commission on Public Funding of Election