Jane Dawson is not only the Virginia Eason Weinmann '51 Professor of Government and Environmental Studies but she is notably the current Karla Heurich Harrison '28 Director of the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment. We caught up with Jane at a local vegan restaurant, as her lifetime love of animals has shaped her food choices and beyond.
Jane grew up in Ohio where around age five the neighborhood boys introduced her to snakes. She started not just owning them but volunteering for the local nature museum so she could interact with reptiles, birds of prey, and many other creatures. She quickly worked her way through the ranks of Junior Explorer, Junior Naturalist, etc. until she was a curator giving full blown tours. In college there was no environmental studies major at that time, so at Bryn Mawr she majored in chemistry and science. At Harvard pursuing her Masters in physical chemistry, she felt disconnected being in the laser lab for three years searching for a hidden energy level that seemed to want to stay hidden. She took time off and started teaching high school chemistry and physics, all the while taking Russian language classes and studying then even visiting the Soviet Union. She decided to make this political hobby her career so she headed back to school at John Hopkins to get her Masters in International Relations and Soviet Studies, then on to Berkley to get her Ph.D. in the same topic. Here she met her now husband Robert Darst, where they both traveled to the Soviet Union and wrote articles together on waste and environmental justice issues surrounding nuclear power. At GNCE, Jane says she teaches and advises students to "wake up" the next generation on why they should care about social, political and environmental issues. She loves learning from Center students and their projects, and the students love the semester end sustainable potlucks she hosts in her home with her beloved cats. Jane went vegetarian over a decade ago, and is frequently biking or kayaking and traveling, even going on an African safari a few summers past. She continues to write and teach on environmental justice and animal welfare and the intersection of us, other species, and the planet, bringing her formative years full circle.
The Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment at Connecticut College
a special community of students, faculty and staff, promotes student led and faculty guided interdisciplinary research on environmental issues