Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Human Rights Sarah Lashley was selected to participate in a State Department-sponsored transnational environmental exchange in the Middle East this summer. The program, Across Borders: Managing Trans-Boundary Environmental Resources in the Middle East and the United States, is a highly selective, four-week trip for emerging young professionals who will visit Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Egypt during June and July.

Lashley will be at the halfway point in her postdoctoral fellowship at Colby, where she taught Environment and Social Inequality last fall and is teaching Diversity and Inequality in the Environmental Movement in the spring term. Both courses are cross-listed in environmental studies and sociology.

At a Sociology Department lunch for students and faculty in March, Lashley described the path that led to her joint appointment at Colby. It began in environmental studies and forest ecology, she said, and took detours through the hallways of economics, psychology, and political science. “If,” she concluded, “environmental problems are social problems, then sociologists have a role to play.” Sociologists, she said, have the tools to understand and manage the human responses and dynamics that play a role in most if not all environmental controversies.

The title of her most recent publication makes her point. “Why Can’t They Work Together? A Framework for Understanding Conflict and Collaboration in Two Environmental Disputes in Southeast Michigan” (in the journal Research in Social Problems and Public Policy) examined two neighborhood organizations that couldn’t manage to work together even though they both were fighting a common foe, Continental Aluminum.

Lashley earned a master’s and Ph.D., both in natural resources and environment, at the University of Michigan. She praised the two-year Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at Colby as an excellent stepping stone to a continuing faculty position at a liberal arts college. It also provides her the luxury of developing and teaching one course at a time while continuing her scholarly research, she said.