Richard L. Wallace
Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies
I arise in the morning torn between the desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
- E. B. White
PO Box 1000
Collegeville, PA 19426
Ph.D., Environmental Studies, Yale University
Master of Environmental Studies, Yale University
B.A., Environmental Studies, University of Vermont
Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies, Ursinus College, 2012-present
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Ursinus College, 2006-2012
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Ursinus College, 2002-2005
Founding Director/Chair of Environmental Studies, Ursinus College, 2002-2009
Assistant Professor and Co-Coordinator of Environmental Studies, Eckerd College,
Before I entered academia, I worked for the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission (MMC), a small government agency with a huge mandate to oversee all federal programs for the conservation of marine mammals.
What I teach
I teach both core environmental studies courses and electives in several areas. My pedagogy - including courses that are topically focused, theory-based, and those that involve applied projects - is designed to help students learn interdisciplinary critical thinking skills in multiple problem oriented contexts. In the Ursinus Environmental Studies (ENV) Program, we rely heavily on interactive learning strategies, where our students get practical, hands-on experience working on real problems.
My current slate of courses includes the following:
Intro Core Course:
ENV 100, Issues in Environmental Studies
Interdisciplinary "Synthesis" Courses:
ENV 272, Marine Mammal Conservation and
ENV 340W, Food, Society, and the Environment
ENV 360, Conserving Biological Diversity
ENV 430W, Advanced Critical Thinking in
ENV 452W, Applied Conservation and the
Some thoughts on research and practice
My two areas of research also concern the application of interdisciplinary theory and method. They are species and ecosystem conservation, and the nature of interdisciplinary critical thinking in environmental studies. In my work on species and ecosystem conservation, I analyze the influence of people's values and perspectives on conservation decision making. One of the great fallacies in modern society is that we have an ability to separate who we are and how we feel from the work that we do. It isn't true! Many great conservation successes - and failures - have been influenced by the values that people hold. In my work I explore and analyze the values that influence people's behavior, such as the desire to obtain or limit power, respect, knowledge, skill, affection, well being, rectitude, or wealth. These sorts of influences can have a profound effect on conservation outcomes (for example, think about the role that power struggles, or competition for resources, or rampant disrespect among colleagues, or control of data, can have on the way people do their jobs). In my work on interdisciplinary critical thinking, I am exploring the history and prospects of environmental studies in the United States, as well as developing and implementing strategies for teaching and training current and future leaders and analysts who will be adept at confronting problems of great complexity and uncertainty. Many professionals in the environmental realm are trained in disciplinary approaches to problem solving, e.g., in biology, policy, economics, ethics, and many other areas. Their disciplinary expertise is the foundation of understanding complex problems, but workable solutions require the integration of disciplines towards pragmatic and realistic goals. For example, can any one disciplinary approach help us solve problems associated with global climate change? Not likely. Can several disciplinary approaches, operating on parallel but separate tracks, do the trick? Also not likely. Might the answer be in the integration of disciplinary approaches into a problem solving methodology that better reflects the complexity of the problem? Much more likely! These integrative methods are the subject of my teaching and research, and my work organizing professional conferences, symposia, and workshops.
I arrived at Ursinus College in 2002 to build an undergraduate environmental studies program from the ground up. In the past decade, I have had the pleasure of designing courses (and the overall Ursinus ENV curriculum) according to the principles of interdisciplinary problem solving. In so doing, I have strived to provide opportunities for our students to develop both critical thinking skills and practical experience in applied contexts. I believe that what is most distinctive about our approach is the combination of theory and practice we have been able to employ by establishing several long-term applied programs in which students are given the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and stewardship. Among the programs I have developed or helped to create of which I am most proud are:
• a 3-acre, student-run organic farm on the Ursinus campus;
• a local producer/grower farmers’ market, established with the assistance of my ENV-340W students partnering with the Collegeville Main Street Program;
• a land stewardship initiative for Collegeville’s municipally-owned natural area, established by my ENV-452W students in partnership with the town and Pennsylvania Horticulture Society;
• riparian restoration projects along two tributaries of the Schuylkill River, involving students in ENV-452W in partnership with the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy and other local government and non-governmental organizations; and
• the development of a constructed wetland storm water basin on the Ursinus campus.
These programs help our students learn the necessity of interdisciplinary critical thinking in practice - and no greater challenge faces them as they prepare to become professional problem solvers in the environmental arena.
The following selected publications reflect the work described above. For a full list of my publications, see my c.v.
Proctor, J.D., S.G. Clark, K.K. Smith, and R.L. Wallace. In press. A manifesto for theory in environmental studies and sciences. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. (PDF)
Clark, S.G. and R.L. Wallace. 2012. Interdisciplinary environmental leadership: learning and teaching integrated problem solving. In D.R. Gallagher, N. Christensen, and R.N.L Andrews, eds. Environmental Leadership: a Reference Handbook. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California. (PDF)
Clark, S.G., M.M. Steen-Adams, S. Pfirman, and R.L. Wallace. 2011. Professional development of interdisciplinary environmental scholars. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 1:99-113. (PDF)
Clark, S.G., M.B. Rutherford, M.R. Auer, D.N. Cherney, R.L. Wallace, D.J. Mattson, D.A. Clark, L. Foote, N. Krogman, P. Wilshusen, T. Steelman. 2011. College and university environmental programs as a policy problem (Part 1): integrating knowledge, education, and action for a better world? Environmental Management 47(5): 701-715. (PDF)
Clark, S.G., M.B. Rutherford, M.R. Auer, D.N. Cherney, R.L. Wallace, D.J. Mattson, D.A. Clark, L. Foote, N. Krogman, P. Wilshusen, T. Steelman. 2011. College and university environmental programs as a policy problem (Part 2): strategies for improvement. Environmental Management 47(5): 716-726. (PDF)
Wallace, R.L. and K.A. Semmens. 2010. Social and institutional challenges in species and ecosystem conservation: an appraisal of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission. Policy Sciences 43:203-228. (PDF)
Clark, T.W. and R.L. Wallace. 2006. Keys to effective conservation. Pages 221-236 in F.W. Davis, D. Goble, and J.M. Scott, eds. The Endangered Species Act at 30: Renewing the Conservation Promise. Island Press, Washington, D.C. (PDF)
Wallace, R.L. 2003. Social influences on endangered species recovery: Lessons from U.S. marine mammal programs. Conservation Biology 17(1):104-115. (PDF)
Kleiman, D.G., R.P. Reading, B.J. Miller, T.W. Clark, J.M. Scott, J. Robinson, R.L. Wallace, R. Cabin, and F. Felleman. 2000. The importance of improving evaluation in conservation. Conservation Biology 14(2): 356-365. (PDF)
Some of my other work
I am proud to be involved with a number professional organizations that share my interests in interdisciplinary environmental problem solving. I am deeply involved - with many other individuals - in building the definitive professional organization in interdisciplinary environmental studies, the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS). (You can also visit AESS on Facebook and AESS on Twitter.) AESS provides identity, collective voice and continuing education for individuals engaged in environmental research, teaching, problem solving, and service to society. In spring 2011 AESS unveiled the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences (JESS), published by Springer. JESS is the flagship journal in the field of environmental studies and sciences, and I am proud to have served on its inaugural editorial board. I also had the honor of chairing the 2011 AESS annual conference, which brought together more than 400 professionals and students in environmental studies and sciences for a fun and rewarding exploration of our collective interests. In the summer of 2011, I was elected (by a vote of the membership) to a two-year term on the AESS Executive Council.
When I was a doctoral candidate, I had the great honor of being selected as a Morris. K. Udall Doctoral Fellow of the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation. That honor led to a long and lasting relationship with the Udall Foundation. It is a relationship that I treasure due to our shared devotion to undergraduate education in environmental studies and sciences which, for the Foundation, is embodied in its undergraduate scholarship.
I am also a long-time member of the Society of Policy Scientists (SPS), a professional organization devoted to promoting interdisciplinary problem solving methods in the interests of advancing human dignity. I have served several terms on SPS's executive council, and have four times been an officer of the society. I have served both as an associate editor and a book review editor of SPS's journal, also entitled Policy Sciences.
I have also had a long relationship with the Society for Conservation Biology, particularly its Social Science Working Group, which I served as vice president from 2005-2011. I am also the moderator of the listserver for the North East Environmental Studies (NEES) Group, an active but informal community of faculty and other professionals interested in sharing ideas about environmental theory, pedagogy, and praxis. I sit on the board of the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, a small but intensely productive organization that puts interdisciplinary problem solving methods to work on challenging cases of natural resource conservation.
And last but not least, I enjoy my involvement in the life of the town in which we live. I am on the steering committee for the aforementioned Collegeville Farmers' Market, a producer/grower market we have established in our hometown to support local food systems. The farmers' market is an offshoot of the Collegeville Economic Development Council and was established by devoted civic volunteers, with the substantive assistance of the students in my fall 2010 food & society class. As well, in fall 2011, the students in my land ethic seminar and I began a partnership with the Collegeville Borough government to guide stewardship of Collegeville's 27-acre natural area, Hunsberger Woods (shown in the photo at right). My students and I continue to work on ecological restoration or upland and riparian habitat, fundraising, and other initiatives at Hunsberger Woods. Currently we are partnering with the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (PHS) on grant-based restoration activities, including the installation of a rain garden. It's been especially rewarding to work with the Borough, PHS, and my students to practice environmental theory in the areas of sustainable agriculture and land conservation.
Other Important Stuff
My wife, Shannon Spencer, also works for Ursinus College, where she is the school's Campus Sustainability Planner. She is in charge of overseeing implementation of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment for our school and is also integrally involved in institutional sustainability programs, highlighted on the UC Green website. Both of my brothers are creative types as well, and I can't help but point you to their work: Joseph Wallace is an author of many works of non-fiction, short stories, and the novel Diamond Ruby. Jonathan Wallace is a playwright and blogger.
My family ↓
The Final Word
And the final word goes to...
"The Peace of Wild Things"
When despair for the world grows
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.