Liberal arts offers another look at sustainability initiatives through SoGES Resident Fellows Program

It’s no secret that Colorado State University is renowned for its sustainability initiatives, but what might not be as well-known is the role of liberal arts in sustainability.

Through the School of Global Environmental Sustainability, three faculty members from the College of Liberal Arts were selected for the 2018-2019 resident fellows program.

The goal of this Fellowship program aims to provide funds for interdisciplinary research that addresses innovative sustainability studies. These faculty are working to research sustainability and environmental challenges, both internationally and in local communities, to foster a better understanding of these complex issues.

Marcela Velasco
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Research Focus: Ethno-territorial Governance: How Ethnic Groups Adapt to Institutional Reforms in Post-conflict Societies

In light of recent peace negotiations in Colombia’s Pacific coast, Marcela Velasco is working on collecting interviews on ethno-territorial governance in the Pacific Coast, one of the areas worst affected by armed conflict. Since receiving the Fellowship, Velasco has been working with leaders from indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and is collaborating with Jenzerá Work Collective – an experienced non-profit organization consisting of both indigenous and non-indigenous activists and volunteers.

“Interethnic School for Conflict Resolution” 2018 cohort.

Velasco’s research focuses primarily on the socio-political and environmental resilience of communities in Colombia’s post-conflict era. She is working with the “Interethnic School for Conflict Resolution,” organized by Jenzerá, to conduct interviews and gather data on communities in this “biodiverse hotspot,” as she refers to it.

Participants in the 2018 School for Conflict Resolution cohort helped develop a questionnaire that, with the permission of their community leaders, helped them collect data from more than 50 people in 12 different communities. These open-ended questions covered several topics from main economic activities to the state of the environment and natural resources in each community.

2018 school participants discussing the questionnaire and doing mock interviews.

“In sum, most respondents argued that local organizations were debilitated by conflict and lack of government support,” said Velasco. “They worry that traditional economies based on extraction are no longer environmentally sustainable.”

Building on the research gathered in 2018, Velasco and her team have developed a new questionnaire to be used by the 2019 school cohort. Participants began meeting in February to continue this research through the rest of the year.

Anders Fremstad
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics

Research Focus: Carbon tax dividends for Colorado

An assistant professor in the Department of Economics, Anders Fremstad is interested in using economics to design equitable policies to sharply reduce carbon emissions and address climate change.

Last September, Fremstad and Mark Paul, assistant professor of economics at New College of Florida and a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, published A Progressive Case for a Carbon Dividend: Disrupting the Dirty Economy. This People’s Policy Project shows that a carbon tax disproportionately burdens low-income households, but that the policy can be made progressive by rebating 100% of carbon revenues to Americans in equal carbon dividends.

The SoGES Fellowship has allowed Fremstad to apply the model from his project to distributional impact of carbon taxation across Colorado. Implementing a carbon dividend at the state level presents some specific challenges. However, like a national tax, a state carbon tax can be made progressive by returning carbon revenues to residents in equal payments. Such a policy would protect the purchasing power of most Coloradans. The policy would slightly reduce the purchasing power of most high-income households, which (directly and indirectly) emit much more carbon than low-income households. However, the dividend would exceed the price increases paid by most low-income households.

Fremstad is also collaborating with the Roosevelt Institute to assemble a collection of policies designed to build a carbon neutral economy. “Economists overwhelmingly support carbon pricing, and this paper will make the case that government regulation and public investment are also necessary to rapidly and effectively reduce emissions,” argues Fremstad.

“While the challenge of climate change is daunting, I am hopeful that the research at SoGES, CSU, and beyond will help us address our climate crisis.”

Doug Cloud
Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition, Department of English

Research Focus: Changing representation of scientists in public deliberation surrounding climate change

How can we not just argue about sustainability, but also argue sustainably?

That is the question guiding Doug Cloud throughout his SoGES Fellowship. He became a Resident Fellow in 2018-2019, and since 2015 has offered an annual workshop for SoGES to help early-career scientists learn to communicate controversial science with potentially skeptical audiences.

As a Resident Fellow, Cloud studies how scientists are portrayed in public deliberation about climate change. His research focuses on one portrayal in particular, which he calls the “corrupted scientists.” “I’ve found that arguers with a variety of different positions on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) portray scientists – both those who support the consensus on AGW and those who don’t – as corrupted by financial and political interests,” says Cloud.

He argues that nearly all scientists accept funding and have political views, but both are used in public deliberation to portray scientists as less reliable or trustworthy. “These accusations could lead the public to think that any funding or political affiliation should disqualify a scientist,” Cloud argues. “And these views may not be healthy for our democracy in the long-term.”

Resident Fellows 2019-2020

Resident Faculty Fellows for 2019-2020 have recently been awarded and will start their fellowship on July 1.

Jason Frazier, Department of Art & Art History, will examine the role of visual communications in public discourse as it relates to issues of climate change and the environment, through a series of new creative works that focus on renewable energy, climate change, and the spirit of future technologies for creating a better world. It recalls, and builds upon, the pivotal visual communications work from the time of the great American mobilization – the New Deal – with the goal to further a meaningful and progressive conversation on the challenges the entire world faces today.

Laura Raynolds, Department of Sociology, will investigate how a sustainable livelihood approach is used to pursue social and environmental goals in non-governmental certification, focusing on Fair Trade’s program in plantation products, and the synergies between these efforts and government policies, focusing on Ecuador’s pioneering Buen Vivir (good living) and Pachamama (rights of nature) policies. The fellowship will support desk and field-based research and lay the groundwork for future collaborations.

Joshua Sbicca, Department of Sociology, will study the potential for prisons to advance food justice through gardening and food production in the United States. This will include creating the first-ever complete list of federal, state, and county correctional facilities run by government entities with horticultural initiatives. With this in hand, Sbicca will design and conduct two surveys with corrections officials and incarcerated participants in horticultural initiatives to understand how they envision, experience, and carry out socioecological sustainability in the context of mass incarceration.


The SoGES Resident Fellow program opens for faculty proposals each December with a deadline in January the following academic year. For more information on what is expected of successful proposals, visit the Resident Fellows page.