Environmental Studies Director Helps Program Grow
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Carlos Davidson is the success of last fall’s national hunt for the first permanent director of the blossoming SF State environmental studies program.

Joel Kassiola, professor and dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, said Davidson brings much needed strength to the program.

“He has brought a great deal of energy to serving the wide-ranging students and making them a more unified group,” said Kassiola, who also advises for the program’s majors.

The environmental study department at SF State is in its seventh year. It currently has 150 declared majors, and recently passed a new curriculum through the faculty senate.

“Every field has its caricatures,” Davidson said. “Accountants are boring – whatever. The environmental caricature is someone who hugs trees, and that is so outdated. Environmentalism is interconnected with social justice and has to do with some of the most pressing issues facing humanity.”

Davidson is the department’s first full-time faculty member. As an interdisciplinary program, porfessors bring their knowledge from other departments to teach environmental studies courses.

“I am confident … that the innovative program will continue to grow and prosper under the able and enthusiastic leadership of Director Davidson,” Kassiola said.

The environmental studies department is searching for another full-time member for its faculty this year.

“A lot of my work is building this program,” Davidson said. “There have been a number of successes already. I think the program is growing and solidifying – to having a new curriculum, looking to hire a new full-time faculty member, having a good advising system, and providing job opportunities to students.”

One way Davidson hopes to expand the program is to help implement a minor for anyone wanting basic environmental literacy.

For those declared majors, and future majors, the director’s expectations are clear: “To have more experiential learning and to provide engagement with environmental issues in the Bay Area and on campus,” Davidson said.

He also hopes SF State moves closer to sustainability with the help and determination of students.

“In the past 15 to 20 years, environmentalism has changed radically,” he said. “But this image of an environmental movement that cares about nature but not society still persists, and that’s inaccurate. There is growing recognition that environmental issues have to do with social issues and this movement is central to sustaining human civilization and well-being.”

Davidson spent many years living in Oakland, but once he was given the director position at SF State he moved with his wife and 4-year-old daughter to Pacifica to avoid the Bay Bridge commute.

Along with his “pretty hectic” work at SF State, Davidson is working Proposition L, a local Pacifica ballot initiative, which, if passed, would allow the development of an 87-acre plot known as the Rockaway Quarry.

“This is a proposal for a luxury hotel and 355 houses on open space,” Davidson said. The development would threaten the existence of local frogs and snakes living throughout the quarry,” he said.

The environmental studies director loves frogs and spends his summers high in the Sierras and the Cascades researching possible explanations for the mysterious disappearance of its amphibians, including the feasibility of pesticide contamination.

Davidson grew up in the greater Los Angeles area and moved to the Bay Area after a two-year stint at Colorado College. Davidson graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's and master's degree in economics. Tiring of work as a labor economist for unions and cities, he decided to follow his passion of natural science and returned to school for his Ph.D. in ecology at UC Davis. Before working at SF State, Davidson taught environmental science for five years at Sacramento State.

Kassiola said Davidson embodies the true multi-disciplinary nature of this path-breaking program with his bachelor’s in economics and Ph.D. in biology.

“The fact he had an economic background really impressed me and I thought bringing a business side to the environmental field was extremely important,” said Leslie Goodyear, an SF State environmental studies and geography graduate, who participated in the hiring process of a new director two years ago.

“Carlos had such a variety of interests studied that I felt he fit right into this program which is so interdisciplinary,” she said. “All five candidates were amazing, but after the interview with Carlos, I gave him my blessings.”

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