Joy W. Ackerman, PhD

Core Faculty, Director of Self-Designed Studies Concentration
Department of Environmental Studies

AUNE Contact Information


Highest Degree

PhD, Antioch University New England

Other Degrees & Credentials

MS, Environmental Geology, Colorado State University
BA, Geology, cum laude, Mount Holyoke College

Areas of Expertise

ecological thought, sacred geography, 'sense of place', ecological identity, ecotheology, environmental ethics


I’ve always been fascinated by the land, especially running water, and for 20 years my career focused on landscape impacts and environmental protection from a physical science perspective. As an environmental geologist, I consulted on runoff management, taught hydrology and geomorphology, and volunteered as a conservation commissioner and conservation district supervisor. At midlife, I began to explore my growing interest in the ‘inner landscape,’ and my work shifted to focus on people and place from a human science perspective. I studied and taught environmental history and philosophy, and learned how to research power, place and space through narrative, material culture, and discourse. Now, as a sacred geographer, I investigate the ways that human values, especially spiritual practices and religious beliefs, shape the landscape; and I explore the power of place to shape our values and beliefs.

I’m fascinated by the cultural context of environmental work, and draw on the approaches of humanistic geography and critical ecology to explore cultural practices in relation to landscape and environmental values. Language is a vital aspect of environmental thought and action, and I enjoy working with students who want to develop their written voice. Effective communication and dialog require more than expository skill, and should be grounded in understanding the variety of cultural and conceptual frameworks within which people relate to the natural world.

Broadly stated, my interests encompass environmental ethics and philosophy, religious environmentalism and eco-theology, ecological identity and narrative, and eco-criticism as applied to reading the landscape. Pilgrimage is a central theme in my research and practice, as it draws together landscape/place with spiritual belief/practice. I am currently working on a book about Walden Pond as a place of pilgrimage, in which I explore the power of place through pilgrim experience and the politics of place through landscape and discourse.

Hear Joy in the panel discussion, “Perspectives On The Future:”

(5:41, 12:07, 15:16)
Click here to listen or download podcast