Environmental Justice

Program Overview

Environmental Justice students learn why environmental harms and benefits are inequitably distributed, and how communities are organizing to regenerate the health of our ecosystems as much as the integrity of our social fabric, for the two are intimately connected. Investigating both cutting-edge and time-tested approaches to systems change, this program equips learners with tools to appreciate the histories that birthed this moment, and skills to create a liberatory future.

The program explores structural inequalities in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and beyond, examining patterns of privilege, power, and oppression. Coursework is interdisciplinary; our approach to scholarship, field work, and community organizing reflect the breadth and diversity of the global environmental justice movement as students interface with dozens of change-makers. These environmental justice experts include artists, scientists, policy-makers, farmers, activists, educators, architects, energy specialists, politicians, and medical professionals, all working toward food, water, and/or climate justice. The program is multi-place-based, occurring in sites of historical significance, contemporary contestation, “sacrifice zones,” food production, and regenerated ecologies across the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. In this way, students learn stories of the land by the land. Because HECUA approaches each student as an agent of change, we make measurable contributions to the environmental justice movement all semester long, both through individually-designed internships that leverage student skillsets and career goals, and through class-wide engagement projects.

Past internship sites include MN350, Growing North, Representative Frank Hornstein’s office, and Lily Springs Farm. Students leave prepared for leadership at the intersection of environmental and climate justice.

Program Structure

Class meets two-three times a week. Students engage a different expert in the climate, food, and environmental justice movements each day. Students begin their internship placement sites during the second week of class, and can expect to spend 12-15 hours per week at their site.

Topics & Themes

History, theory, science, and art of environmental justice. Anti-colonial, interdisciplinary field methods and research practices. Systems-thinking to grow student capacity for change-making. Internship to apply program themes to student educational and career goals.


Twin Cities & outstate region

Terms & Dates
Fall 2021 (Sept. 7 - Dec. 17), Spring 2022 (TBD)

16 credits


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Michelle Garvey

Dr. Michelle Garvey (she/her/hers) is an interdisciplinary scholar-activist, specializing in environmental justice (EJ) theory, history, and activism. Addressing its interconnected fields—climate justice, food justice, and reproductive justice among them—Michelle educates through community-engaged projects that channel student scholarship into the EJ movement. She has collaborated with several EJ partners, including Tamales y Bicicletas, Project Sweetie Pie, The Women’s Environmental Institute, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Mashkiikii Gitigan Urban Farm, Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy, and MN State Congresspeople. Garvey also mentors the UMN student group Voices for Environmental Justice, and as an Institute on the Environment Educator, collaborates across UMN colleges to promote EJ research and community partnerships.

Most recently, Michelle served as a teaching specialist in Sustainability Studies at the University of Minnesota and Environmental Studies at Macalester College, and a food justice curriculum writer for Minnesota Youth Story Squad. She holds a Ph.D. in Feminist Studies from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, an M.A. in Women’s Studies from San Diego State University, and a B.A. in Philosophy from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University.

Hindolo Pokawa

Community Faculty

As a child in Sierra Leone, Hindolo Pokawa experienced the brutal violence, economic destruction, and social disintegration of civil war. After finishing high school as an adult in Zimbabwe, where he fled once the war escalated, he later entered the United States on a student visa and earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science and Global Studies, with a Minor in African-African American Studies, focusing on Peace and Governance. As the Founder and Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy, Hindolo’s role has been to build local communities’ capacity to see themselves as part of the solution to socio-economic problems, producers of knowledge, and agents of change. Hindolo is a 2018-20 ZERO TO THREE Fellow.

Lindsay Rebhan

A Certified Permaculture Designer, Ecological Design Partner and ecological consultant, Lindsay Rebhan is passionate about seeing land alive with life, employment, learning and nourishment. A specialist in land use, land design and land management, Lindsay works with farmers, food nonprofits and organizations to increase the ecological, human, animal and economic wealth of land over time. A graduate of Environmental Studies at the University of St. Thomas, Lindsay studied food systems and culture in Bangladesh, Cuba and Guatemala. She is a former Program Director at Permaculture Research Institute Cold Climate, a Program Coordinator at Renewing the Countryside and a speaker on land regeneration issues. Lindsay has worked with Lily Springs Farm since the project started four years.

Drew Slevin

Drew is the on site Farm Manager at Lily Springs Farm. He farms, manages farm staff and community relations. Drew manages the livestock, guiding the prescribed grazing and agroforestry on the farm, as well as the perennial fruit, vegetables and pasture. Drew oversees the farm team responsibilities including Event Coordination, Education Programming and Community Partnerships. Drew is passionate about regenerative agriculture, healing the land and healing our bodies. If he’s not working, he’s hanging with his sweet dogs Pete and Ringo, practicing kung-fu, riding his bike, playing guitar, birding or mushroom hunting.

Paula Westmoreland

Founder of Ecological Design, published author of This Perennial Land: Third Crop, Blue Earth and Road to Restorative Agriculture. She has been a permaculture designer since 2001. Paula really loves staying focused on two things: healing the land and healing the relations of people and land. We bring the land and our selves.  back to life in a regenerative way with healing design. Paula loves connecting with people from divers backgrounds, and cultures to engage in cutting edge collaborative problem-solving.

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Climate & Environmental Justice (4 credits)

History & theory of climate and environmental justice social movements to end inequities in environmental/climate benefits & drawbacks.

Socio-Ecological Systems Change (4 credits)

Critical approaches to systems change: learning diverse interventions in systems of oppression and environmental destruction at reformist to radical, personal to political, and local to global, scales.

Field Methods (4 credits)

Encounters with and critical evaluations of diverse field methods in sustainability aimed at producing liberatory partnerships and outcomes in interdisciplinary research.

Internship (4 credits)

Concentrated practice: students apply theoretical learning to hands-on experience in an EJ field tailored to individual learning and career goals.

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Lily Springs Farm

Lily Springs is a 100-acre farm using regenerative agricultural practices informed by permaculture design elements. The farm focuses on regeneration, education, and celebration. They use livestock and perennial plants to achieve a system of climate-appropriate, carbon-negative agroforestry with zero chemical inputs typically seen in commercial agriculture. The HECUA student intern worked with the full-time farm manager to maintain and run major aspects of the farm. This included harvesting herbs and berries, creating paddocks for the goats in the forest, and learning about regenerative agriculture.

Growing North

Growing North Minneapolis is a community-driven collaboration with the University of Minnesota, which focuses on youth and their communities. Through intergenerational mentorship and urban agriculture, they advance environmental, social and racial justice in North Minneapolis.


Growing North Minneapolis is a community-driven collaboration with the University of Minnesota, which focuses on youth and their communities. Through intergenerational mentorship and urban agriculture, they advance environmental, social and racial justice in North Minneapolis.