Introducing Prof. Tiffany Grobelski Posted on November 4th, 2019 by

Prof. Tiffany Grobelski is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography. She recently interviewed with student Tori Franciosi (’21):

Where did you study for your degrees?

As an undergraduate, I studied at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL– about an hour north of where I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago—and got a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences. I did my graduate work at the University of Washington, Seattle.

How did you become interested in Geography?

Since I was in high school, I had a concern for environmental issues that stemmed in part from love of being outdoors and in part from trying to understand why most people I knew didn’t care much about environmental health.  I was always someone who was curious and exploring the world (essentially doing my own form of field research), all the time.  One of my undergraduate mentors at Northwestern University, geographer John C. Hudson, recognized this and encouraged me to get institutional support for my projects.  He steered me toward Geography, hired me as an undergraduate research assistant to work on mapping projects, and eventually helped me navigate the decision to go to graduate school.  Geography turned out to be an ideal fit or me, someone who has always been curious about why the world is the way it is but never felt like I “belonged” in any major.  Geography has an integrated, interdisciplinary lens which spans the physical and social sciences.  It has the tools I sought to study political aspects of environmental issues.

What do you like about Gustavus so far?

I like that it is a small liberal arts college where faculty and students connect across the disciplines.  I am enjoying getting to know students and reflecting on how best to enhance their learning.  Smaller class sizes and the college’s commitment to quality teaching means I can get to know my students and develop a more meaningful teaching practice, in conversation with students; as an educator that’s very important.  The Kendall Center is a remarkable unit on campus helping faculty grow as scholars and educators; I have attended several sessions that have been immensely helpful and generative.

I like that social justice is an integral part of the college’s mission and vision. I was blown away by the Nobel Conference and the way it enacted a liberal arts perspective on our changed climate. I look forward to the Building Bridges and May Day conferences as further opportunities to have deep and difficult conversations as a community.

What does your research address, and how did you come to research it?

My doctoral research looked at how environmental advocates in Poland have mobilized law to further their goals, and why it matters–even if they lose formal legal cases.  Poland’s legal system is rather open to environmental advocates, so many types of people—not just lawyers—try to use the legal system. Along the way, individuals and groups learn about the structure and functioning of the government and its commitments (or lack thereof).  As this motley crew of legal practitioners share their experiences, they become part of a growing social movement that’s not just about environmental issues, but also about bigger questions: what democracy looks like and how it could be improved.  Environmental struggles are a window into how democracy has been built and contested in Poland. My research is relevant to scholars who are interested in how law can be a tool for social and political change.

How did I come to research this?  To make a very, very long story short, my study of Polish language and culture as an undergraduate, based on a personal exploration of my own roots as the daughter of Polish immigrants, ultimately led me to this larger intellectual project.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Yes, I want to say it’s been a real pleasure to explore Minnesota, and so far, the place and people have left a wonderful impression on me, not least because it has some solid public radio stations! I am a community radio enthusiast. If you ever need a pick-me-up or some tunes, you can go to my faculty profile page and check out some awesome community-supported radio stations that I have become acquainted with over the years! One of my favorite shows airs live every Saturday morning on the Seattle station KEXP from 9 to noon Pacific Time (so 11 to 2 PM MN time): Positive Vibrations, the reggae show.


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