PPEH Fall 2020: Welcome back!

September 16, 2020

Welcome Back

Dear Friends,

Welcome to fall after a summer unlike any other. As we continue to navigate these strange and difficult times, it's good to be back in community, online of course! PPEH has some fascinating and important events and opportunities lined up for you this semester.

Read on to learn more about the programming designed by Topic Director, Daniel Barber, exploring the edge between Transition/Transformation. Check out the funding opportunities for publicly engaged research and the plans for a new virtual lunch series, Working Wednesday, featuring scholars and artists from around the region whose environmental research engages diverse public audiences. You can learn about this year's webinar series on ecological and climate literacy in the liberal arts curriculum, co-organized with the College Office. Scroll down to discover the new minor in environmental humanities; learn about this year’s Artist in Residence, Amy Balkin, and about how to apply for an upcoming workshop she's leading; and meet our new Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and this year’s cohort of PPEH Graduate Fellows.

Finally, we'd love to hear and share your news: publications, awards, new classes, and, amidst the run-up to the vitally important fall elections, news about how you’re organizing. If you would like your accomplishments, efforts shared and amplified, please let us know!

Sending you the very best wishes,



photo of tall grass with an industrial building in the background and a wooden building in the foreground


2020-2021 is our Year of Transition/Transformation

Topic Director, Prof. Daniel Barber has developed a truly transformational series of engagements, beginning next week, Thursday, 9/17, at 2p, with a Covid X Climate/ Rapid Response Workshop: "Pandemics, Urban Health and the Global interior", on September 17th! RSVP here to join the discussion. You can find the full Transitional/Transformational topic statement here.

Woodcut color image of a boat on the river side in tall grass


New Minor Launched, with a Co-Taught Touchstone Course and Public Research Internships

It's here! The Environmental Humanities minor is available for enrollment. The EH minor is a course of study and praxis for students looking to explore the intersections of arts-driven inquiry, public research, and the environment. The minor allows students to dive deeply into ecological and social histories across geographical and temporal scales and to learn to develop and conduct participatory research projects, curate installations of art + science, and engage in evidence-based advocacy and action.

A great way to begin the minor is by taking the "touchstone" course. Offered this fall for the first time, it's co-taught by faculty trained in distinct (distant) disciplinary traditions, introduces students to foundational theoretical frameworks in the environmental humanities, and explores the challenges and possibilities of working across disciplinary boundaries in studying and responding to environmental problems. You can find the full list of Fall EH courses here!

This is a photo of a student in a bright yellow winter jacket holding a microphone, interviewing a pair also in yellow shirts.


Public Research Opportunities

This year, PPEH is providing faculty and lecturers with the opportunity to hire undergraduate Public Research Interns. If you are a Penn faculty member doing publicly engaged research and interested in mentorship, please check out this opportunity where you will also find brief application materials. We are thrilled to be able to fund a total of nine undergraduate Public Research Interns this year. Applications are due by September 30.

this is an graphic of a hand holding a mound of earth with a plant and a gear suspended in the air above


Ecoliteracy and the Liberal Arts: Webinar Series and Climate Week

Working with the College’s Council on Undergraduate Education (CUE), PPEH is organizing a year-long series of interactive webinars exploring ecoliteracy, climate change, and the liberal arts curriculum. Live on-line events range from a panel of presentations by leaders at peer institutions to interactive student-centered workshops promoting eco- and climate literacy. A mini-lecture, “Should Climate Change Change the Curriculum?” introduces the webinar series and is also offered as part of Penn’s Climate Week, beginning on 9/21. That's also the week of the Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival, and while Penn faculty won’t be able to walk a red carpet, the re-scheduled virtual festival includes a montage of last year’s 1.5 minute climate emergency lectures. And, during Climate Week, PPEH Public Research Interns will present a participatory workshop, “Climate Storytelling: Human, More than Human,” on Thursday, 9/24, at 7p. It's designed for participants as young as 8th grade, and we’d be glad if you shared it widely with your professional, family, and school networks! Click through for program details and registration information.

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Introducing our team

This fall, we (remotely) welcome our 2020-2021 postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Rebecca Macklin. Dr. Macklin received her PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Leeds. Look for her course, Imagining Environmental Justice, in Spring 2021.

PPEH is also very pleased to introduce our Dissertation Fellow, Andrew Niess, and six Graduate Fellows: Santiago Cunial, Sherif H. Ismail, Davy Knittle, Jane Robbins Mize, Miranda Mote, and Pooja Nayak. This dynamic group brings expertise from across disciplines. Learn more about our Grad Fellows and their work!

logo of a tree with a pencil point in its roots and working wednesday text


Thickening Connections: Working Wednesdays to Foster Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) in the Mid-Atlantic

This fall, we're offering a new lunch series, Working Wednesdays, to showcase in-progress CBPR straddling theoretical and practical environmental concerns with a focus on our mid-Atlantic region. The first live event features Dr. Katie Faull presenting on her long-term work on Stories of the Susquehanna and on a new Coal Region initiative. See you on Wednesday, 9/30, 12:30-1:30. Please pre-register.

Working Wednesdays are meant to foster and thicken connections across academic and other community institutions regionally, building on past projects undertaken by members of the PPEH Faculty Working Group; by Graduate Fellows, including the project Futures Beyond Refining, documented in this linked 7-minute video; and by the collaborative Schuylkill River Research Seminar out of which emerged the 2018 summer field school: the On Water Intensive, documented in this 5-minute videoCheck here for the updated schedule and rsvp information!

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Speculative Archiving and Situated Memorialization: A Workshop with artist Amy Balkin

Join us in October for interactive art-making workshops with PPEH Artist-in-(Remote)Residence, Amy Balkin. Amy Balkin is an artist whose works propose alternatives for conceiving the public domain outside current legal and discursive systems, addressing property relations, environmental justice, and equity in the context of climate change.

With a mix of live and asynchronous activities, this fall's two-part workshop engages with speculative archives and rapid-response collecting and considers how memorials can offer resources for citizen action. Work will focus on two sites: Donora, Pennsylvania and the now-closed PES refinery site in South Philadelphia. Enrollment is limited; the workshop will take place over two Thursday evenings: October 15 and October 22, 2020. Please write to director@ppehlab.org to apply.

this is a collage of industrial buildings on a lavender field with plants and text

Working Beyond the Lab in a Summer of Pandemic

This summer, our extraordinary cohort of Public Research Interns worked remotely to develop an interdisciplinary suite of public research work that supports ongoing PPEH initiatives, including Futures Beyond Refining and My Climate Story. Interns created tools to access healthcare in our Philadelphia community during pandemic, storytelling prompts to see a bird's view of climate change, and installed a air quality monitors as part of a pilot community monitoring network. To read the Beyond the Lab blog--where you can also sign up for Public Research Intern Tsemone Ogbemi’s newsletter on environmental art, Imagination Machine--follow this link

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Join us!

Fall is always a busy time at Penn and working remotely brings an additional set of challenges. PPEH remains steadfast in our commitment to learn in community with you (online, of course). Bookmark our events page and check back often to see what we are offering this semester, both through PPEH and with our partner organizations. 

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