Announced on August 29, 2022
Join us in welcoming Patrick Hunnicutt, Ph.D., to Schmid College as an assistant professor for Environmental Science & Policy!
Dr. Hunnicutt received his doctorate at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, and formerly was a USIP Peace Scholar Fellow. His research investigates the political effects of shortages in environmental goods and services, such as clean water and reliable electricity, and how to design institutions that strengthen the government’s capacity to provide environmental goods and services.
We asked Dr. Hunnicutt a few questions to get to know him and his research!
Q&A with Dr. Patrick Hunnicutt
What is your current area of research and how did you become passionate about this area?
I’d call myself a political scientist who studies environmental problems. My research more narrowly focuses on two questions: 1) How do environmental problems affect different forms of political mobilization?, and 2) How do different forms of political mobilization shape the extent and severity of environmental problems? I tend to study these questions as they manifest locally, but my work draws on evidence from dofferent settings all around the world. For example, one of my current projects estimates the impact of particulate matter pollution on political participation (e.g., turning out to vote) in the United States, while another investigates whether United Nations peacekeepers help advance climate adaptation in Central Africa and the Sahel. You can read more about this work on my website: www.phunnicutt.com.
While I didn’t realize that I wanted to be a political scientist until a few years into graduate school (motivated reasoning?), my passion for understanding the connection between environmental and political problems first grew out of a thesis on large hydroelectric dams and development I wrote as an undergraduate. That experience really clarified to me how political forces both create and are shaped by environmental problems. I’ve only doubled down in my passion for research since my undergraduate studies, largely because I’ve had the privilege to conduct fieldwork about the politics of environmental service provision (e.g., providing drinking water) alongside some Liberian scholars. It’s really invigorating to use research as a vehicle to amplify the expertise, perspectives, and preferences of the communities experiencing the topic of study, and I hope to continue this kind of research throughout my career.
What’s your favorite thing to being a professor?
Well, this is my first go at it so it’s hard to choose yet, but I’ll say that I’m looking forward to engaging students in the research process. I think undergraduates’ creativity can help solve difficult analytical problems and bring a breath of fresh air to otherwise stale research projects. I’m also inspired by undergraduates’ willingness to use research as a tool for engaging with the pressing problems facing us today (e.g., climate change). It’s exciting to have the opportunity to facilitate students’ personal journeys through research over the coming years.
Schmid College believes that the best science happens when diverse individuals are supported, included and empowered to share their voices as a part of scientific discovery. Please share with us what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you and why they’re important.
The values of diversity, equity, and inclusion are integral to my research and teaching. Conducting fieldwork in a space that is not my own requires constant reflection on my positionality, and I am dedicated to co-creating research with scholars and communities who actively experience environmental problems like mismanaged solid waste. In the classroom, I strive to create an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere for students to discuss the origins of environmental problems. This involves drawing on work from a diverse group of scholars to explain why environmental problems occur in some places but not others. Conventional narratives on environmental problems often ignore the intersectionality of race, North-South relations, and other identities. For example, some argue that socioeconomic status alone explains where polluting infrastructures (e.g., oil refineries) are sited, since these infrastructures reduce the value of surrounding properties. The courses I teach on environmental politics use the framework of critical environmental justice to complicate this perspective, instead suggesting that the siting of polluting infrastructures follows institutionalized practices of racial discrimination like red lining in American cities.
Share a fun fact about yourself!
I was a rather serious flute and piccolo player growing up. A decades-long rock-climbing habit has all but ruined my ability to play both instruments, but they still inform my rather eclectic taste in music.
Welcome to Schmid College, Dr. Hunnicutt!