Education

  • Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley
  • M.P.P. Harvard University
  • A.B. Princeton University

Areas of Expertise

  • U.S. Politics
  • Environmental Politics and Policy
  • Citizenship and Deliberative Policymaking
  • Eco-Labels and Sustainability Ratings
  • China / East Asia

Background

Having grown up in Washington, DC, I was exposed to politics from an early age, and perhaps as a result I have a longstanding interest in better understanding how the political process can contribute to solving the critical problems facing our society and world.  This interest falls into four main areas:

  • Polarization: The recent polarization of politics around the world has impeded our ability to tackle our greatest challenges as a society. I am dedicated to better understanding this polarization and finding ways to reduce it so that widely-supported progress can be made on these issues.  I have taught a course on the topic, Partisanship and Polarization in US Politics, and am conducting research on it as well.  I am also serving as a Co-Convener and the Faculty Director of the Deliberative Citizenship Initiative, which is designed to foster more productive democratic discourse as one of many ways to bridge our current partisan divide.
  • Public Policy: Even as the social and political polarization of both elites and the public continues, specific policies must be designed and implemented to tackle problems at the local, national, and international levels. I have published articles on how these policies are developed and how they can be improved, both generally and in the particular context of environmental challenges.  And I help students learn how to analyze different policymaking approaches in my courses on American Politics, US Environmental Politics and Policy, Global Environmental Politics, and Business and Politics.
  • Sustainability: Governments, civil society, and businesses have increasingly turned to “information-based” governance strategies to tackle our most pressing sustainability challenges. In my book, Green Grades: Can Information Save the Earth?published by MIT Press in 2017, I examine the dynamics and effectiveness of these strategies, which include both product eco-labels and corporate environmental ratings.  As Director of the Sustainability Information Lab, I have worked with several Davidson students on researching the politics, psychology, and performance of this form of governance in a range of different contexts, such as organic food, higher education, and electronics.
  • Chinese Politics: With the world’s largest population and second largest economy, decisions made in the People’s Republic of China are hugely consequential. Having spent nearly five years living and working in China, I have a longstanding interest in understanding the Chinese government and people.  I served as the Resident Director of the Davidson in China Program in 2018, and currently serve as its Program Director.  I also teach a course on Business and Politics in China, and have mentored several students on research projects related to China’s environmental challenges.

Theory to Action

I also have a strong interest in citizenship, consumerism, leadership, and entrepreneurship, and have led seminars on these topics as well.  These courses are informed not only by my research in these areas, but also my experience as a co-founder of a social venture startup, GoodGuide.com, and as the Ecotourism Coordinator for The Nature Conservancy’s China Program. In all of my classes, I try to connect the world of ideas with real world problems like those I grappled with as a practitioner.  My website, Theory to Action, provides some examples of how students have made these connections in several of my courses.

Interdisciplinarity

All of my teaching and research has roots in my interdisciplinary academic experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student.  I completed my PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley, and have a Master in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  My undergraduate degree is in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (with a Five-Year Certificate in East Asian Studies) from Princeton University.  The sciences, humanities, social sciences, and the field of policy studies therefore all inform my approach to understanding and analyzing environmental, social, and political issues.  

When I am not doing research or teaching, I enjoy hanging out with my wife Sally and our two sons, Jordan and Asher, playing basketball, going on hikes, and catching up on TV shows like Westworld, Silicon Valley, and The Americans.

Teaching

  • American Politics (POL 111)
  • Methods and Statistics in Political Science (POL 221)
  • US Environmental Politics and Policy (POL 228)
  • Business and Politics (POL 229)
  • Business and Politics in China (POL 249)
  • The Politics of Information (POL 328)
  • Global Environmental Politics (POL 398)
  • Leaders vs. Entrepreneurs (POL 452)
  • Citizens vs. Consumers (POL 472)
  • Environmental Social Sciences (ENV 202)