avatar for Neva Hassanein

Neva Hassanein

Environmental Studies - University of Montana
Missoula, MT
In 2000, I joined the UM Environmental Studies Program in large part because of its long-held commitment to engaged, interdisciplinary scholarship and to civic participation in environmental affairs. I brought with me a professional and academic background that reflects my fundamental interest in the theory and practice of social change with respect to solving our urgent environmental and social problems.  All of my degrees are in Environmental Studies (St. Lawrence University, BA, 1985; University of Oregon, MS, 1989; University of Wisconsin-Madison, PhD, 1997). I have also gained experiential education and professional training through my work in the non-profit sector (as an organizer, lobbyist, and volunteer), as well as my service in the public sector.

Much of my research, teaching, and civic engagement revolve around food and agriculture, which are central to all of our lives and to the health of the planet. I am also interested in land use planning, organizational development, environmental policy, and gender studies. In addition, I facilitate students’ learning of relevant professional and civic skills, and I teach qualitative and participatory methods of social research.
My scholarship includes the book, Changing the Way America Farms:  Knowledge and Community in the Sustainable Agriculture Movement (University of Nebraska Press, 1999). That book traces how alternative farmers in two organizations, the Ocooch Grazers Network, and the Wisconsin Women's Sustainable Farming Network, have exchanged their own personal, local knowledge as a basis for moving toward an agricultural system that is ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially just agriculture.

My more recent scholarship focuses on the concept on "food democracy," the idea that people can and should actively participate in shaping the food system, rather than remain passive consumers on the sidelines. Food democracy is about citizens, not multinational corporations, having the power to determine agri-food policies and practices locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. In addition, my work has explored specific policy issues regarding topics such as food safety, pesticides, water pollution, the national organic program, and agricultural biotechnology.

Within the Environmental Studies Program, I coordinate our emphasis on sustainable food and farming with Josh Slotnick. We and our students have contributed to a variety of regional food and agricultural initiatives through research, internships, and projects. These provide excellent opportunities for students to learn-by-doing and be involved in community-based action research, as well as supporting the efforts of our partners. Faculty are able to connect students with these opportunities because we are actively engaged in the community.

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