People & Expertise

James E. Crowfoot, PCCS Affiliated Faculty

Professor Emeritus,
Program in the Environment (PitE)-
U-M College of Literature, Science, and
the Arts (LSA) / U-M School of Natural Resources (SNRE);
and Michigan Community Scholars Program (MCSP)-
LSA / University Housing (UH);
and SNRE

Jim Crowfoot is Professor Emeritus of the U-M Natural Resources & Environment and Urban and Regional Planning Program (1972–1994)— a dual degree program with the U-M A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning (Taubman College), and the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). He is also Dean Emeritus of the U-M SNRE (1982–1990), and was President of Antioch College (1994–1996). Prior to retirement, his work focused on processes of organizational and social change related to socio-environmental problems and social justice. His Ph.D. is in Organizational Psychology with a master’s degree in Social Psychology and undergraduate degrees in Physics and in Theology.

Since 1999, he has taught a first-year seminar on the challenges of unsustainability—environmentally, socially and culturally. This seminar is part of the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA)’s & SNRE’s Program in the Environment (PitE); as well as a living-learning program, Michigan Community Scholars (MCSP), which is co-sponsored by LSA and University Housing (UH). Initially, and through its first phase ending in 2006, it was titled, "Environment, Sustainability and Social Change," and was taught from a scientific perspective, including both natural and social sciences. It has been described in book chapters co-authored with Ms. Susan Santone: the first, "Collaborative Learning about Unsustainability: An Interdisciplinary Seminar"; and a second chapter on the seminar’s collaborative student projects to empower learning and action. Beginning in 2007, the seminar was substantially changed, as Jim began teaching it from multiple perspectives: science, spirituality, and ultimate belief systems—particularly religions. One new addition to the seminar was several sessions of outdoor experiential learning focused on extending and deepening students' relationships with non-human (or more than human) nature and their "self-to-self dimension of relationality" (Bai, Cohen & Scott, 2013). A second new addition was that of dialogue as a mode of inquiry to deepen the students' "self -to- other human" dimension of relationality. This was done to seek transformative learning, by explicitly inviting and including participants' contemporary experiences of relationality, deepest values, and worldviews—as the seminar engages the profound challenges of unsustainability rooted in Western culture and the society in which we are living. This then is the context for learning about alternative scenarios for the human future: their differing core values and practices that provide individuals’ and collectivities’ choices—including not choosing, which is one of the scenarios. Jim has made several invited presentations based on the second phase of his seminar. Audiences have included: academics (U-M Provost’s Seminar on Teaching and Sustainability, 2010; U-M Students Honoring Outstanding University Teaching (SHOUT)'s Golden Apple Award Lecture, 2008); and professionals and volunteers seeking environmental sustainability and social justice (Detroit Bioneers, 2008; Michigan Stewardship Network, 2010; and National Quaker Earthcare Witness, 2010). He is now writing an invited book chapter on what he continues to learn with students from developing and teaching the second phase of this seminar.

For Jim, being in nature has been a central part of his life, and has led him to learning and teaching intentional psychological-spiritual means of relating to nature within the contexts of science and religions as integrally related. This teaching has focused on younger adults (ages 17–20) but has also included older adults. For the past 16 years, he and his wife have lived in Sunward, an intentional intergenerational community seeking to become sustainable environmentally, socially, and culturally.

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James E. Crowfoot
photo by Michael Young
PCCS faculty affiliate James E. Crowfoot