For Naomi Krogman, Simon Fraser University’s new dean of environment, moving frequently during her upbringing ignited a lifelong curiosity for environmental sustainability.

Faculty and Staff

SFU welcomes Naomi Krogman, new dean of the Faculty of Environment

July 12, 2019
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By Pam Lim

Being the new kid on the block can be challenging. But for Naomi Krogman, Simon Fraser University’s new dean of environment, moving frequently during her upbringing ignited a lifelong curiosity for environmental sustainability.

“A big part of why I became an environmental sociologist was recognizing how resourceful people are with a lot less material wealth than I saw in the United States,” says Krogman.

She joins SFU from the University of Alberta (UA) where she was most recently associate dean in the Faculty of Graduate Studies. During her 22-year career with UA she also served as director of Sustainability Scholarship and Education in the Provost’s Office.

“I feel very privileged to join SFU and the Faculty of Environment,” says Krogman. “I’m thrilled to work with an interdisciplinary faculty.”

Krogman holds degrees in sociology from Northern Illinois University (BA), Utah State University (MS) and Colorado State University (PhD). She is a leader in environmental sociology and sustainability research. Her research into how people respond to and organize around environmental challenges related to forestry, oil and gas, wetland protection, consumption practices, and small-scale agriculture, has taken her around the globe. She has been involved in studies in India, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Mongolia, Lesotho, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Her scholarship has been recognized with a McCalla Professorship and she has held three grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

“Dr. Krogman has a strong reputation for delivering on assignments, including leadership in advancing excellence in mentoring and supervision,” says SFU Peter Keller, vice-president, academic and provost. In 2011, Krogman received the Killam Award for Excellence in Mentoring.

Krogman has also been very engaged in her community. She established the Sustainability Scholars program with the City of Edmonton, developed an embedded undergraduate certificate in Sustainability for 10 faculties at UA, and served as a board member with the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance from 2009 – 2013.

Over the next five years at SFU, Krogman will work towards building a more sustainable future through her teaching, research and community engagement.

Meet Naomi

We are thrilled to welcome you to the SFU community. What are three things should we know about you as you settle in?

First, I’m really excited to be working with an interdisciplinary environmental faculty that is already practicing so many ways in which to make their research relevant to different partners. That interdisciplinary focus combined with community-engaged research is very exciting for me because I think it allows the academy to have a more positive and lasting impact.

Second, I want to do a lot of listening. I hope to meet with every member and hear about what they do and what they care about. I really want to understand what motivates people and what makes people excited and hopeful about the future.

And third, I am patient and persistent. The successes in my career have sometimes required two or three years to see something to fruition because of the level of collaboration and governance. I am willing to invest in things that have long-term positive consequences.

What motivated you to pursue a career in academia?

I lived in several states growing up and I also lived in Java, Indonesia. A big part of why I became an environmental sociologist was recognizing how resourceful people are with a lot less material wealth than I saw in the United States. I became really interested in the relationship between the natural environment and subsistence, and how people build their livelihoods wherever they are.  I continue to be interested in sustainable livelihoods in the context of a changing resource base and climate change.

How can we be more engaged in environmental issues and solutions?

Many people argue that you start with the individual. Within your life and your capacity, what can you do to minimize your ecological footprint? The other side of the debate is to look at systemic shifts. We have to look at the way homes, roads and energy systems are built, the way groundwater and waterways are supported, and the way transportation systems are embedded into a region to serve all peoples’ needs.

I would like to see us continue to emphasise the individual, but alongside that there’s far more work to be done on the infrastructure through which consumption is normalized, and the political decision-making that allows sustainability transitions. We need to build and develop all new policies with the environment in mind. There is only so much that well-meaning individuals can do. There has to be a more significant shift in the way we live.

What do you see as your biggest challenge?

One challenge may be to understand how to work most effectively with external partners because I’m new to British Columbia. I don’t have any pre-conceived notions about what is not possible, and sometimes that naivety allows a person to take chances that have positive outcomes.

In your work, what motivates you or brings you joy?

It’s the students. I’ve had 32 graduate students finish under my supervision, and I’ve worked with thousands of undergraduate students. I am inspired by the Millenial and Next Gen generations. To be a part of higher education is such a privilege. We’re part of a catalyst, a node, an exposé of alternatives that can come from the past, from other countries, from experiments on the ground here in B.C. and across Canada, from vision and imagination. It wasn’t my influence that made these students successful but being a part of their exposure to an academy of ideas, knowledge and hope was a critical part of their journey.

Do you have any advice for students who are interested in environmental studies?

You cannot go wrong. Every single field will be connected to the environment or climate change in the coming years. Every person’s life will be affected by the material and biotic state around use and climate change. Every business, institution or community organization will have to put in place a different way of doing things to cope and adapt to climate change. The kinds of jobs that are going to be available are proliferating. It is such an important and fruitful way to spend a career because there are so many opportunities to be a part of a positive transition.