Abigail E. Abrash Walton, MScTeaching Faculty, Environmental Studies Department, and Director of the Center for Academic Innovation
As a practitioner as well as a professor, I draw on real-world experience and case studies, academic scholarship and theory to provide students with a robust, concrete and practicable understanding of leadership for social/environmental justice and sustainability, advocacy, and political economy.
I view my role as being to share knowledge and professional experience and networks, to build applied skills and to create an effective container and framework that fosters student-directed learning, contextual meaning, and student interest and enthusiasm for each course’s focus. Socrates’ dictum that the unexamined life is not worth living informs my work as a teacher, and I incorporate into my courses numerous opportunities for guided reflection and meaning making. Helping students identify and understand the relevance of the subject matter to their particular professional path is my goal.
My own 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. Understanding our own unique place and spheres of influence in advancing these values is a core element of my teaching.
A key goal of advocacy is to achieve purposeful results for people who may not be empowered to act in the public debate. I aim to teach students to become advocates and leaders who participate in the social justice and sustainability decisions that directly affect their lives and the lives of others. My focus is on training 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 work 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.
Effective student learning relies on active engagement with and understanding of the relevance of a course subject. I create a host of opportunities for experiential education in each course I teach, providing students with the space to work with and learn from one another and from me, as the instructor. Through direct one-on-one understanding and assessment, I take a developmental approach to guiding each student through the learning experience. By design, my course assignments are meant to be accessible to a variety of learning styles and temperaments.
I value the potential of each student and remain actively engaged with and interested in students during and after their course experience with me. I view my role not just as an instructor for a particular course subject, but also as an active participant in students’ professional networks. Responsiveness and encouragement are hallmarks of my approach to continuing to support student learning and advancement beyond the course container; this includes writing letters of recommendation and providing professional guidance. I also proactively reach out to students and graduates to alert them to professional opportunities and to check in with them about their lives and careers. I am constantly inspired by each of their successes and consider myself privileged to be able to know and work with them, as an instructor, mentor and learning partner.