Abigail Abrash Walton, PhD
Teaching Faculty, Environmental Studies
Director, Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability master's concentration, Environmental Studies
Co-director, Center for Climate Preparedness and Community Resilience, Environmental Studies
Abigail earned a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania, a M.Sc. in Political Theory from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Government, and a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University.
Her doctoral dissertation, Positive Organizational Leadership and Pro-Environmental Behavior: The Phenomenon of Fossil Fuel Divestment (2016), explores U.S.-based foundation leaders’ readiness to pursue fossil fuel divestment by their institutions. The study examined leaders’ motivations and actions in pursuing divestment, while simultaneously exercising their fiduciary duty to steward institutional assets.
The study extends scholarship on divestment, foundations as change agents, leadership and positive deviance, psychology of climate change, pro-environmental behavior (PEB), socially responsible investing, and the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM). Implications for theory and practice: (a) develops models of mission-aligned investing and of mission-aligned leadership, (b) builds on Stern’s PEB typology to include investing; (c) extends the TTM to include a change leadership dimension; and (d) provides analysis that can inform practitioner-designed behavior change initiatives and that may inform and inspire other institutional leaders to address climate change through institutional fossil fuel divestment. This dissertation is available in open-access at OhioLink ETD Center, www.ohiolink.edu/etd and AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, aura.antioch.edu
A key goal of advocacy is to achieve purposeful results for people who are not in the public debate. Our students will become advocates who participate in the social justice and resource conservation and management decisions that directly affect their lives and the lives of others. We train them to have the analytical skills to assess a situation and develop a strategy for identifying and achieving concrete outcomes as well as the skills to implement that strategy effectively. I teach by example, and try to instill in my students the confidence that they can successfully create purposeful results and maintain the energy to do that in a sustained way.
My interest is in exploring and making connections between human rights and environmental concerns, and in advancing our collective understanding that successfully addressing these challenges is fundamental both to sustainable development and to basic requirements of peace and justice.
- Ph.D. in Leadership and Change, Antioch University
- MSc, London School of Economics Visiting Fellow, Harvard Law School
- BA, University of Pennsylvania
“Positive Organizational Leadership and Pro-Environmental Behavior: The Phenomenon of Institutional Fossil Fuel Divestment,” (2016). Dissertations & Theses. Paper 269.
“Conservation through Different Lenses: Reflection, Responsibility and the Politics of Participation in Conservation Advocacy,” Environmental Management, Springer New York, Volume 45, Issue 1, January 2010; Published online July 25, 2008.
Lessons Learned: Case Study regarding the Amungme, Kamoro and Freeport. Hearing on Extracting Natural Resources: Corporate Responsibility and the Rule of Law, Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law of the Senate Judiciary Committee. United States Senate. (2008).
Book Review: The Sustainable Learning Community: One University’s Journey to the Future, The Northeastern Geographer, New England-St. Lawrence Valley Geographical Society volume 2, 2010.
“Mining a Sacred Land,” Human Rights Dialogue: Environmental Rights, Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, Spring 2004 ; Series 2, Number 11.
Advocacy, public policy, community development, sustainability and social/environmental justice, organizational leadership/management
- Leadership for Change
- Political Economy and Sustainability
- Proposal Writing & The Grants Process
- Environmental Justice: Community Organizing, Extractive Industries and Human Rights Advocacy
- Advocacy Clinic
- Supervised Independent Studies
- Nonprofit Leadership & Management
- Environmental Justice in the Mississippi Delta
As a practitioner as well as a professor, I draw on real-world experience and case studies, academic scholarship and theory to provide students with a robust, concrete and practicable understanding of leadership for social/environmental justice and sustainability, advocacy, and political economy.
I view my role as being to share knowledge and professional experience and networks, to build applied skills and to create an effective container and framework that fosters student-directed learning, contextual meaning, and student interest and enthusiasm for each course’s focus. Socrates’ dictum that the unexamined life is not worth living informs my work as a teacher, and I incorporate into my courses numerous opportunities for guided reflection and meaning making. Helping students identify and understand the relevance of the subject matter to their particular professional path is my goal.
My own interest is in exploring and making connections between human rights and environmental concerns, and in advancing our collective understanding that successfully addressing these challenges is fundamental both to sustainable development and to basic requirements of peace and justice. Understanding our own unique place and spheres of influence in advancing these values is a core element of my teaching.
A key goal of advocacy is to achieve purposeful results for people who may not be empowered to act in the public debate. I aim to teach students to become advocates and leaders who participate in the social justice and sustainability decisions that directly affect their lives and the lives of others. My focus is on training them to have the analytical skills to assess a situation and develop a strategy for identifying and achieving concrete outcomes as well as the skills to implement that strategy effectively. I teach by example, and work to instill in my students the confidence that they can successfully create purposeful results and maintain the energy to do that in a sustained way.
Effective student learning relies on active engagement with and understanding of the relevance of a course subject. I create a host of opportunities for experiential education in each course I teach, providing students with the space to work with and learn from one another and from me, as the instructor. Through direct one-on-one understanding and assessment, I take a developmental approach to guiding each student through the learning experience. By design, my course assignments are meant to be accessible to a variety of learning styles and temperaments.
I value the potential of each student and remain actively engaged with and interested in students during and after their course experience with me. I view my role not just as an instructor for a particular course subject, but also as an active participant in students’ professional networks. Responsiveness and encouragement are hallmarks of my approach to continuing to support student learning and advancement beyond the course container; this includes writing letters of recommendation and providing professional guidance. I also proactively reach out to students and graduates to alert them to professional opportunities and to check in with them about their lives and careers. I am constantly inspired by each of their successes and consider myself privileged to be able to know and work with them, as an instructor, mentor and learning partner.
August 19, 2014 — Interview with United Nations Environment Programme’s Keith Alverson, head of the Climate Change Adaptation and Terrestrial Ecosystems Branch. Video
October 18, 2013 – Environmental News Service: Swedish Pension Funds Divest Freeport McMoRan Holdings
October 7, 2013 – Sydney Morning Herald (and Fairfax Media Group) news story: West Papuans: ‘tortured, terrorised’
Abi Abrash-Walton – November 16, 2011 interview on NPR. Listen to the show and/or read the article. In Indonesia, Anger Against Mining Giant Grows
Abi Abrash Walton, interviewed by Earth Matters, a radio program out of Melbourne, Australia.
Abi Abrash Walton, ES faculty member and chair of the Sustainability and Social Justice Committee, was interviewed by Earth Matters, a radio program out of Melbourne, Australia.
This two-part program (which also included John Ondawame, West Papuan National Coalition for Liberation; academic John Braithwaite; Pius Ginting, Friends of the Earth Indonesia; academic Richard Chauvel; Global Witness campaigner Diarmid O’Sullivan; and PhD research student Kylie McKenna) focused on the environmental and human rights impacts of the Freeport gold and copper mine in West Papua (Indonesia).
Abigail serves as founding Director of Antioch University New England’s Center for Academic Innovation, co-director of Antioch’s Center for Climate Preparedness and Community Resilience, and as faculty in the Department of Environmental Studies, where she directs the Advocacy master’s degree concentration. Her public engagement, research, and teaching focuses on change leadership and translating values into effective action. This year, she served on the leadership team for the April 2016 Local Solutions: Eastern Regional Climate Preparedness Conference, convened by Antioch in partnership with U.S. EPA, to build the capacity of local decision-makers. She enjoys the spirit and practice of innovation and has played a central role in piloting AUNE’s Conservation Psychology Institute and Translating Research to Inform Policy workshops and in catalyzing a national-level working group to build the capacity of scientists and researchers to engage with the public policy process. Previously, she was program director for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, principal of ActionWorks, and a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program. Those experiences continue to inform and inspire her teaching and practice. Abigail delights in making sense of challenging situations, and has brought this capacity to serving as a commentator for The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, “Democracy Now!” and “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” among other media outlets.
As part of her intentional global-to-local move to New Hampshire, Abigail has put into practice her Permaculture Design Certificate from the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center, working with her husband to overhaul a 100+-year-old multifamily into an owner-occupied, energy-efficient, sustainable business and beautiful living space, with perennial gardens where the driveway used to be and a network of engaged neighbors. Board and public service highlights: serving with powerful teams as a founding board member of Project Underground, a human rights organization supporting communities resisting hardrock mining and oil & gas extraction, and of the Monadnock International Film Festival; as chair of the City of Keene’s Planning Board; and as a member of NH’s State Commission on Public Funding of Election.