The three pillars of sustainability — environmental protection, economic well-being, and social justice — tie in with the three hats Corina McKendry wears: She is director of the State of the Rockies Project, associate professor of political science, and core faculty in the Environmental Studies program.
The goal of the State of the Rockies Project is to increase understanding of and examine socio-environmental issues in the Rocky Mountain West through collaborative student-faculty research, education, and community engagement.
McKendry joined CC in 2011 and became associate director of the State of the Rockies Project last year before becoming director this fall. She is particularly interested in the ability of cities to further environmental protection in a way that is socially just. Fittingly then, the 2018-19 State of the Rockies Project will examine equity, urbanization, and climate adaption in the Colorado Front Range.
McKendry is the first to serve as the director of the State of the Rockies Project under a new model initiated this year, in which rotating faculty members serve as director for two to three years. The director of the State of the Rockies Project determines the areas of research, with summer research fellows working closely with the director on elements of a larger project. This enables directors to further their own research while supporting student scholars and the overall goals of the State of the Rockies.
“Our current research explores the relationship between urbanization, nature, and climate change across the Front Range of Colorado, with a particular focus on the politics of social equity in climate adaptation,” McKendry says.
The topic is important because Colorado’s population is one of the fastest growing in the country. Though many people are drawn to the state for its natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities, rapid growth is putting pressure on these same resources. Climate change is further straining the state’s environment, and drought, floods, and forest fires threaten many of Colorado’s communities. State of the Rockies research will strive to understand the climate vulnerabilities facing Colorado cities, what is being done to address these vulnerabilities, and how barriers to a more equitable and resilient future can be overcome.
McKendry has several goals for the program, one of which is to increase campus-wide understanding of and engagement with the socio-environmental challenges facing the region and what is being done to address these challenges. In order to help achieve this goal, an annual State of the Rockies course has been created. This course, which is taught by the director, focuses on the research area of the current project.
Other efforts to support student engagement this year include funding support for student journalism, a photo contest, and support for the Office of Sustainability’s Sense of Place trips, a collaboration with the Office of Field Study designed to foster a deeper sense of the geography and build a more connected, conscious, and resilient community.
McKendry also wants to increase community engagement, and one way to give back to communities is to share the project’s research findings. Not only does she hope to have student researchers submit their findings as academic articles for scholarly journals, much in the same manner that graduate students do, but also to share them with city leaders. “The research that student fellows conduct this summer will be written up both as policy memos for lawmakers and submitted to academic conferences,” McKendry says.
She also is looking at taking the research fellows to the Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences conference this summer in Orlando, Florida, with the goal of having some of them present their Rockies research the following year.
McKendry received her bachelor’s degree in international studies from Macalester College in Minnesota and her master’s and Ph.D. in politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has published several articles on cities and climate justice, and her book, “Greening Post-Industrial Cities: Growth, Equity, and Environmental Governance,” was published by Routledge Press in 2018.