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Jon Jensen '89

Associate professor of philosophy and environmental studies

Director of environmental studies

First year teaching at Luther: 2002

Post-college adventure: Canoed the Seal River from northern Manitoba to Hudson Bay.

Research interests: Environmental ethics and education for sustainability.

Since Jon arrived back at Luther, campuswide awareness of environmental issues has grown rather organically--no pun intended. "I was teaching at Green Mountain College in Vermont--where the entire curriculum has an environmental focus--and I saw the position in Luther's philosophy department as an opportunity to develop an environmental studies program here," he says, citing Luther's unique natural surroundings and the notion of stewardship embedded in the college's mission.

The blossoming environmental studies program--an academic major was approved in 2006--has helped develop campuswide recycling initiatives, encouraged the purchase of hybrid cars for Luther's fleet, led an investigation of biodiesel that resulted in the processing of waste cafeteria grease for use in campus maintenance vehicles, and spearheaded the planting of an organic garden to supply campus dining services.

Ongoing campus sustainability research helps the college incorporate wind and solar power alternatives and establish better connections with local food producers (over 20% of all food at Luther comes from local producers).

In the classroom, Jon likes sharing what he has learned with students. "One of the Paideia courses I teach is called 'Food and the Environment,'" he says. "We study the complexity of the larger food system and it really gets students thinking about their own eating choices and how it has a direct connection to their lives."

When he's not on campus, Jon is often on his bike (he has a half-hour commute to work) or on the water, canoeing the Upper Iowa and other local waterways at least once a week in the summer. He also coordinates outdoor experiential programs for area schoolchildren and teachers, often incorporating Luther students as instructors and programming collaborators.

"The Decorah area just attracts people who care about the outdoors and beautiful places," Jon says, emphasizing that the community is willing to examine its own interaction with natural resources. "I hope students leave here with a very real sense of place, too."

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