GPSEN Fellow Profile: Zahra Golshani

GPSEN Fellow Profile: Zahra Golshani

Zahra Golshani is a research fellow and the co-chair of GPSEN’s Research & Curriculum Committee. In her own words…. I got to know the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network (GPSEN) in mid-2016 and fell in love with its mission and activities. I joined as a research fellow in early 2017 and it has been a great journey so far. GPSEN provided me the opportunity to extend my research and contribute to the local community while working as a research associate with the State University of New York (SUNY) research foundation.

I developed a research proposal that received a grant by Clackamas County to study minorities’ participation in river conservation. In the first phase of the project, I worked with different minority groups in Clackamas County, including Bosnian, Afghan, and Iranian communities. The result of the study was shared with the directors of diversity and inclusion of more than twenty conservation organizations to help them extend their work to diverse communities.

I am currently affiliated with the Institute of Health and Environment at SUNY, collaborating on international training of trainers program as an instructor, course developer, facilitator, and student supervisor. The program provides master-level training that includes three courses: environmental health, sustainable development, and leadership. I was the instructor for the sustainable development course. I also mentored and supervised students to develop proposals to address local sustainability issues in their communities. The proposal covers a variety of topics such as climate change education, empowering local communities participation, and studying motivating factors for land use change. We are currently evaluating the whole program and have started the next phase of the project. In this phase, we are offering a mentorship course and training those participants who finished their own projects to mentor their peers.

As a researcher, I am an interdisciplinary scholar with more than ten years of experience in conducting different types of research, ranging from short-term course projects to longer term and in-depth rigorous PhD level research. I developed an interdisciplinary dissertation that integrated environmental economics and communication to study public preferences for attributes of urban storm-water management strategies.

My research journey continued as a post-doctoral fellow at Cornell University where I conducted my first international training and studied public participation in community-based environmental conservation. The study resulted in a book chapter that was published recently. You can check out the book “Grassroots to Global” here:
http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140105934660

My research broadly addresses the human dimension of environmental policy and management. It is problem-oriented and audience-focused. While trained as a researcher and graduated from a top research-oriented university whose main focus was on research and training competitive researchers, I believe in the importance of application and action, hence asking how knowledge can be used for transition toward sustainability. I also believe that research should be community-based and address community issues.

As the co-chair of the Research & Curriculum Committee at GPSEN, I am working on building capacity for community-based research in the Greater Portland area. The committee is working on strategies and actions that can bring scholars and practitioners together to transfer and exchange their knowledge, with benefits for Fellows that can help them engage in meaningful ways in our communities.