Teaching Philosophy and Practice

My love of teaching and student mentoring inspired me to work in academia. In classroom, field and research settings, I find it is important to not just describe the social and environmental issues we face today, but to also detail how and why economic, political and cultural forces come to produce these conditions and mediate the way we understand and respond to them.

All of my research endeavors involve educational opportunities for students – such as living in residence at Stanford University or participating in multi-week visits to rural India. I believe the best research activities activate student-learning opportunities, while the most valuable educational moments are achieved through hands-on student field-work and research.

I teach a number of classes (described here) that are structured so as to provide students with an opportunity to (a) deepen their core knowledge of past and contemporary social-environmental issues, (b) develop practical abilities (reading, writing, data collection/analysis) that will assist their future academic and professional careers, and (c) refine critical thinking skills so they are better able to question the presentation and substance of normative practices, mainstream knowledge and conventional wisdoms. 

This latter point on critical thinking is of particular importance. As a teacher I am equally interested in how students learn when outside my classes as I am with what students learn while inside them. 


Note to potential students: I actively advise a number of undergraduate and graduate students. Those interested in working with me should send an email detailing your interests.


ENVS 1342 

Introduction to Environment, Society and Sustainability

Overview of perspectives on environmental issues within the context of sustainable development and taking a systems approach. The focus is on social science approaches to explore the human footprint on the earth, environmentalism, scientific uncertainty, policy creation and social change. 

GEOG 4/5420

 The Politics of Nature

Examines how economic systems, scientific discovery, institutional policies, and environmental knowledge converge to shape the environment and mediate the way societies understand, manage and respond to environmental changes in both the United States and the developing world. 

GEOG 4/5440 

Science, Policy and the Environment

Examines the social, economic and political forces shaping scientific discovery and the development and enforcement of environmental policy. Students will examine perspectives on issues such as risk, expertise, uncertainty and objectivity that influence the problem-defining, standard-setting and policy-making process.

GEOG 4/5680 

Urban Sustainability: Perspectives and Practice

Examines various perspectives on sustainability, including ambiguities and opportunities of sustainability as a conceptual framework. Class also examines what sustainability looks like in practice, using numerous topics such as poverty and urban farming to water and climate change.

GEOG 4700/ENVS 5700 

Synthesis for Interdisciplinary Science

Synthesis is an approach in interdisciplinary research and education that links ideas, data and methods. This course develops synthesis skills through the lens of systems theory. It includes exercises for synthetic thinking, examination of integrative tools, and a service-learning project. Breadth and depth training in environmental sciences. Interest in interdisciplinary collaboration.

GEOG 6300

Foundations Seminar in Human-Environment Interactions

Seminar allows students to gain a deeper appreciation for historical and contemporary geographical approaches to understanding the relationship between society and the environment through a survey review of foundational readings, concepts, theories and debates that have shaped the discipline.

GEOG 6750

Research Design

Reviews relevant research frameworks and epistemologies for geographers and other scholars of the environment.  Reviews key steps in designing and executing high-caliber independent research, including topic selection, literature review and data collection analysis. As a final product, students will develop a thesis research proposal. 

Gregory L Simon

Department of Geography and Environmental Science

University of Colorado Denver

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