Engaged Faculty Spotlight: (Alumni) Education and Environmental Justice

October 1, 2020

This month we continue the September theme by spotlighting two community-engaged faculty who are alumni of Brown University.

David Donahue '82 MAT '85
"I credit internships and GISPs at Brown as the beginning of my interest in and commitment to community engagement as part of meaningful learning. I graduated before the Swearer Center was around, but Brown definitely shaped my perspectives on community engagement. In an internship at the Providence Preservation Society supervised by Howard Chudacoff, I first grappled with the question, "Who has a right to the city?," a question that I still think about today living in the “progressive dystopia” of San Francisco. In a GISP on urban education, I first reflected on the question of what is a “good” urban school, and the critical components of that question: “good” for whom and “good” for what?"

"As a professor of education, I have been interested in community engaged learning as part of my practice and a focus for research. In practice, it has been the core of courses in teacher education, urban education, and gender and sexuality in education, including work to make schools more inclusive of queer youth. One of my most productive community partnerships across all those areas has spanned over a decade with Frameline, the producers of the longest running and biggest queer film festival and distributors and supporters of queer media. Working with Frameline’s Youth In Motion, my students researched ways to distribute queer positive film and curriculum in states with no legal protections for LGBTQ youth. They have developed lesson plans and discussion guides to accompany films on Bayard Rustinqueer arts, and the lived experience of transgender leaders. They have compiled guides for conducting drag story hours in public schools. Their involvement motivates my own commitment to engagement, including Making the Framework FAIR, an effort by scholars to bring LGBTQ inclusion into California’s history-social science framework, and serving as a member of the state textbook adoption process to ensure materials in California’s classrooms reflect LGBTQ inclusion."

Jonathan K. London '91
Jonathan London is an educatorresearcher, and community-builder with over 30 years of experience in participatory researchrural community development, and community engaged planning. Jonathan holds a A.B. in Environmental Studies from Brown University; a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning; and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science Policy and Management from UC Berkeley. He is Associate Professor Department of Human Ecology; Faculty Director, Center for Regional Change (CRC); and Co-Director: Community Engagement Core, Environmental Health Science Center. His research addresses conflicts and collaboration in environmental management, with a particular emphasis on environmental justice in rural communities. His teaching works at the nexus of these research areas with such courses as: Youth/ Community DevelopmentCommunity Development Perspectives on Environmental Justice; and Community Development Theory. Before joining UC Davis, Jonathan worked in the non-profit environmental sector and co-directed Youth in Focus, a field-leading organization dedicated to youth empowerment and social change by youth-led action research. YIF was co-founded by Nancy Erbstein ('89) and Kristen Zimmerman ('90).

"I gained greatly from my association with the Swearer Center. I participated in a program for returned study abroad students that helped integrate our experiences with service-learning in Providence. This was co-led by Nancy Erbstein, who to my ever-lasting happiness, I married in 1994. I also received a summer fellowship that supported my work with an environmental NGO to build a database of rainforest protection organizations. This project fed directly into my senior thesis on the US rainforest movement. In turn, these experiences set me on a path towards my current engaged research on environmental justice. More broadly, Environmental Studies inspired me to pursue policy-oriented research; this has found expression in my founding and directing the UC Davis Center for Regional Change that conducts policy research on a wide variety of social justice themes and works closely with community partners to design, implement and apply these studies. I co-direct the Community Engagement Core at the UC Davis Environmental Health Science Center, where I lead efforts to connect researchers with environmental justice organizations and communities."