Meet the Dean

August 22, 2023

Welcome to Western Washington University's College of the Environment. I'm Teena Gabrielson, Dean of the College, and I'm so grateful for your interest. Whether you're a current student or an alum, a prospective student or engaged parent or supporter of one of our students, or one of our community or campus partners, I am happy you're here to learn more about us.

Since its founding in 1969, the College of the Environment has continually evolved to build a national and international reputation as a regional powerhouse dedicated to socially relevant environmental research, outstanding undergraduate and graduate education, dedicated community partnerships, and innovative thinking. One thing that hasn’t changed in the last 50 years though is our mission -- we are still a forward-looking, interdisciplinary College focused on educating the next generation of environmental leaders. And this mission has never been more important.

We are committed to empowering students with the knowledge, skills, and experience they need to adopt solutions-oriented approaches and work collaboratively across a host of fields to be ready to address the complex environmental challenges we now face. Our Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, and Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy departments offer robust degrees that prepare students for a wide range of careers. Our students study marine science, climate change, urban planning, environmental justice, terrestrial ecology, environmental education, Indigenous ecological knowledge, disaster resilience, data science, toxicology, environmental policy, geography, journalism, food and farming, water resources, energy studies, and the list goes on!

Our entire team of staff, advisors, and faculty cares deeply about student success at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Our faculty brings active, world-class research agendas, a vast network of collaborators and partners, and material support and teaching practices designed to inspire learning. In the last year, our faculty and students published countless research papers, presented at conferences around the world, and were called upon as experts in their fields by media nationwide. A few examples of the great work coming out of the College include:

  • The Learning Environment Action Discovery (LEAD) program, led by Environmental Studies graduate students Ava Stone and Brandon McWilliams, collaborated with community organizations and the City of Bellingham to build a mini forest on a small, overgrown lot on the north end of campus. 
  • The Washington State Legislature dedicated new funds to the education and development of urban and environmental planners.
  • Environmental Sciences Associate Professor Dr. Marco Hatch received a coveted 2023 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. Through this fellowship, Dr. Hatch will help create a collaborative network of Indigenous community members and researchers throughout the Pacific Northwest aiming to support Indigenous-led restoration of ancestral sea gardens. 
  • Associate Professor of Geography Dr. Aquila Flower accepted Western's Excellence in Teaching Award this year. This prestigious university-level award goes to a faculty member who shows vision and innovation in teaching and inspires and engages students. 
  • Dr. Troy Abel and graduate students Drew Slaney and Allison Hayes led a team that won third place in the first and honorable mention in the second phase of the EPA’s Environmental Justice Video Challenge for a community-involved project that used data mapping to identify sources of air pollution in a South Seattle neighborhood.
  • “Pink snow,” or snow algae, has had a buzzworthy year. Dr. Robin Kodner spoke about the Living Snow Project, a citizen science effort to collect data about pink snow, at several venues and was interviewed by numerous media outlets. Dr. Alia Khan authored new work showing that snow algae blooms can contribute to snow melt in the North Cascades.
  • This fall, we are introducing two new certificate programs through our Environmental Studies and Environmental Sciences departments in collaboration with Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA), a local non-profit. These certificates combine academic learning, hands-on training, and paid internships to prepare students in fields supporting salmon recovery. 
  • Undergraduate Elena King received a Sustainability, Equity & Justice Fund (SEJF) grant through the Sustainability Institute to support quarterly community-building events for underrepresented students in Environmental Sciences. 

This last example represents something especially important to us. The College of the Environment is committed to increasing student access and creating a welcoming, respectful, and inclusive space for learning. In my first year as Dean of the College, we learned that in addition to preparing students academically, we need to spend more time building an inclusive community. Community provides the infrastructure for people to work together across differences and do difficult things. But community doesn't magically appear; it takes effort. Building community requires investments of time, energy, and resources. To this end, we will focus on programs, speakers, stories, and collaborations that bring people together, spark curiosity, and support our students' education and development as environmental leaders. 

We at the College of the Environment invite you to join us as we use our strengths in environmental research, teaching, service, and outreach to prepare our graduates to tackle complex and critical issues. We hope you will stay connected and learn more about our work by tuning in to our free (virtual and in-person) Environmental Speaker Series and Toxicology and Societies talks, following us on our social media channels, and supporting our students and faculty during alumni and fundraising events. I look forward to collaborating with you to support our students in the making of rich and vibrant futures.

Teena Gabrielson, PhD
Dean and Professor

Western Washington University
College of the Environment
516 High St, MS-9079