Kate Darby

Associate Professor · she/her


My work is driven by three goals: 1) To teach my students to think critically about environmental and social issues, while providing them with tools for moving forward in their lives and careers, 2) To conduct research that helps explain why and how society ends up with conditions of environmental and social injustice, and 3) To connect this work to relevant stakeholders to improve the condition of communities in which I teach and conduct research. As a graduate student, I focused on understanding how and why environmental injustices are produced, and my doctoral dissertation applied this lens to the communities surrounding a metals smelter in El Paso del Norte. Over the last few years, my work has begun to focus more on understanding the lived experiences of those facing environmental injustices and exploring how these experiences can inform practice and instigate socio-environmental change. I am exploring how sensory claims – those based on experiential knowledge related to sight, sound, smell or taste – have been asserted by environmental justice communities, and taken up in decision-making processes. Much of my recent teaching, scholarship, and service has centered on questions and applications of food justice and sovereignty. I am also interested in how to teach climate change in a way that provokes action and engagement rather than despair and inaction; to do so, I developed a new GUR, ENVS 115: Hope and Agency for a Climate-Altered World.

I hold a B.S. in Chemical Engineering (minor in Science, Technology and Society) from Penn State, an M.S. in Environmental Studies and Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management from University of Oregon and a Ph.D. in Anthropology (Environment, Science and Technology and Urban Ecology focus) from Arizona State University. My academic training has been punctuated by sustainability work in the private sector with environmental consulting companies and NGOs. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time outdoors with my husband and kids (Emmett and Sasha), running on our beautiful regional trails, cooking and creating things, reading fiction, and contemplating and visiting dystopian landscapes.

Are you interested in having me supervise your senior thesis, senior project, or honors thesis? Would you like to ask me for a letter of recommendation? Please read this document before contacting me.


PhD Anthropology, Arizona State University; MS Environmental Studies and Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management, University of Oregon; BS Chemical Engineering, Penn State

Research Interests

Social and environmental justice, environmental justice pedagogy in higher education, food justice and sovereignty


Selected Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles (* indicates student author):


Darby, K., Hemmer, L., Holt, R., Kempton, T., del Rosario, M., Stubblefield, J., & Webster, G. (2023). From food access to food sovereignty: Striving to meet university student needs. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 12(2), 97–117.



Darby, K., Hinton, T*, Torre, J.* “The motivations and needs of rural, low-income household food gardeners ” Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 9(2), 2020



Plano, C.*, Darby, K., Schaffer, C. Jadud, M. “"Considering Public Transit: New insights into job and healthy food access for low-income residents in Baltimore, MD" Environmental Justice, 8(3), 2015



Darby, K., and C. Atchison. “Environmental justice: insights from an interdisciplinary instructional workshop”. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 4, 2014, 288-293


Darby, K. “Lead astray: scale, environmental justice, and the El Paso smelter”. Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability 17(8), 2012


Teaching Schedule

Fall 2023: ENVS 302: Navigating Environmental Studies

Winter 2023: ENVS 467: Power, Privilege, and the Environment

Spring 2024: ENVS 467: Power, Privilege, and the Environment and ENVS 499D: Readings in Environmental Justice