Sarah Hamilton selected as new director of the Academic Sustainability Program

Dr. Sarah Hamilton, Auburn University

Dr. Sarah Hamilton joined the faculty in the Department of History in 2014 and has already amassed an impressive list of awards. Over the past year alone, she has been named Auburn Plainsman’s Favorite Professor (2019), Honors College Professor of the Year (2019), and received the SGA Award for Outstanding Faculty (2020). She was on the ballot to give Auburn University’s esteemed “Final Lecture,” and received international and regional awards for her first book, Cultivating Nature: The Conservation of a Valencian Working Landscape.  Hamilton teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses on environmental and world history. Her courses integrate active pedagogical methods, especially the extended role-playing games of the Reacting to the Past program. 

Hamilton will now have a new accolade to add to her already impressive list of accomplishments. She has been selected as the new director of the Academic Sustainability Program at Auburn

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to promote, support and enhance the work being done at Auburn towards a more livable world for all of us – humans and non-humans – far into the future,” Hamilton said. 

The mission of the Academic Sustainability Program is to support and encourage interdisciplinary teaching and research that incorporates sustainability principles in all academic units on campus, and to enhance interaction between campus operations and academic activities in sustainability. Hamilton replaces Dr. Nanette Chadwick, who served in this position for almost 10 years before her untimely death in March, 2020.   

Adding new responsibilities among these uncertain times is undoubtedly challenging, but Hamilton took time to talk about her new role in a brief Q&A, below. 

What are you looking forward to most as the newly named director of the Academic Sustainability Program at Auburn? 
I’m most looking forward to getting to know students and faculty across the university and working to build a community of like-minded folks. The beauty of an interdisciplinary program like this is that it can serve as a bridge between otherwise unconnected departments and colleges, generating innovative ideas and solutions to contemporary problems.

Why is sustainability important to you?
Sustainability is the idea that nature, economies, societies, and individual wellbeing are all intrinsically connected, and that they are all essential to global health. Academic research in sustainability not only shines a light on how these connections work, but also suggests ways for individuals, corporations, and states to contribute to a more livable world in the long term. I’m excited to have the opportunity to promote and enhance the work being done at Auburn towards this goal, and especially to empower students to find their own passions and paths towards a more sustainable future.

What are some of your new responsibilities? 
In my first few weeks on the job I’ve worked on reorganizing the minor, getting to know the advisory committee and affiliated faculty, adding new electives and affiliates, revamping the website, and working with our instructor, Dr. Miriam Wyman, on the curriculum for our core class, SUST 2000. In the longer run, I want to continue to grow the community of affiliated faculty, to get to know the students in the minor, and to run course development workshops for faculty so we can expand our offerings into new topics and departments.

What is the difference between the academic program and the office of sustainability? 
The academic program deals with the Interdisciplinary Sustainability Studies Minor and with teaching and research in sustainability-related topics across the university. The Office of Sustainability is much larger and deals with the sustainability of the university as a whole – everything from energy use and water management, to the bike share program, to film and speaker series. I’m looking forward to working closely with the Sustainability Office, though, as our underlying goals are the same and some of our activities overlap.

What will your new schedule look like? 
Since I took on the position, I have spent 100% of my work time on the Sustainability program. I came in with a lot of ideas about things I wanted to improve, and I’ve thrown myself into getting as much of that done over the summer as possible so we’re ready for the students in the fall. Once classes resume, I’ll be teaching two classes a year for the History department and the Honors College and continuing my research on the global history of groundwater development, in addition to the new administrative responsibilities.


Last Updated: June 02, 2020