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OPEN Fellow – Dr Kim Smith










First Name



RCE Greater Portland/Portland Community College

Job Title

Director/ Sociology Instructor


Dr. Kim Smith received her Ph.D. in sociology from Indiana University in 2000, specializing in environmental sociology and social movements.  She has taught sociology at Portland Community College (PCC) since 1996 and is the Director of the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network (GPSEN), acknowledged as a Regional Center of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) by United Nations University, in 2013. Her commitment to professional development is demonstrated by her service as PCC’s Service-Learning Coordinator, Teaching Learning Center Co-Director, and Training Coordinator for PCC’s Summer Sustainability Institute (funded by NSF).  She also works closely with many non-profits, including the Northwest Earth Institute and Hands on Greater Portland, where she served on the board for six years. She represented the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) at the United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit, in 2012, and currently serves on AASHE’s Board of Directors.  She is also an International Fellow with the U.S. Partnership for ESD and a higher education envoy for UNU, and was the head of the U.S. delegation to the UNESCO World Conference on ESD.  These efforts led to her role as lead author on the Global Action Programme on ESD for the United States.  She is committed to offering hope for a sustainable future through education, professional development, and civic engagement and looks forward to making a difference by creating meaningful projects, with visionary teams.

Why am I an OPEN Fellow?

As a systems-thinker, I am deeply committed to evaluating the needs within communities and institutions and collaborating to develop effective solutions.  My work with UNESCO, UNU, AASHE, the US Partnership for ESD, RCE Greater Portland, and my own teaching institution have highlighted the urgent need for scaling up change and facilitating collective impact across sectors in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  I have appreciated the invaluable work it has taken to build and establish OPEN and have been inspired by the vision since its early stages.  I am honored to be invited to serve as an inaugural Fellow and welcome the opportunities to support the broader mission within regional and international institutions.  My own career has offered a professional trajectory that aligns well with the vision of OPEN and our collective calling in this critical time in history to facilitate innovation and the transformation of individuals and organizations.  I hope that my experience, skillsets, and contributions can help position OPEN well in the SDG arena, with a focus on higher education and the private sector, while leverage existing and new resources and relationships to build connections, advance the UN’s 5-P model (people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnerships), and help accelerate the adoption of responsible and sustainable business practices through business education and key lessons from the social sciences.

Areas of Expertise

SDGs / sustainable development;Social sustainability issues;Environmental sustainability issues;Economic sustainability issues;Strategy;Innovation;Social Entrepreneurship;Circular economy;Governance & Ethics;Change management;Systems thinking;International relations;Foresight;Social Movement Theories

My expertise in more detail

As a sociology professor, non-profit manager, UNU liaison, and professional leadership development coordinator and facilitator, I specialize in faculty and student outcomes, development, and assessment in higher education as well as in community building and engagement from the local to international levels.  My academic specialty in environmental sociology and social movements, beginning in 1990, has allowed me to observe and evaluate the evolution of regional, national, and international environmental and sustainability policies and practices, with an emphasis on how to create and implement collective action frames and social change models.  Through my teaching philosophy: “educate ~ empower ~ engage”, I am committed to educating about difficult, current topics through a lens that transforms cynicism and apathy into hope and resilience. 

I am grateful that I have been able to serve as a representative for the United States, AASHE, UNU, and other organizations, in a variety of capacities, which has allowed me to engage in the creation and implementation of the SDGs and GAP priority action areas, with an emphasis on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). More details are highlighted below, but my work and area of expertise is exemplified by my engagement in the “Education as a Driver for Sustainable Development Goals Conference”, in Ahmedabad, India, in January, 2016:



Certification Sustainability Associate, 2016, International Society of Sustainability Professionals

Ph.D.  Sociology, Minor: Environmental Policy, 2000, Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

M.A.  Sociology, 1992, Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

B.A.  Sociology, Minors:  Economics, French, 1990, Whitman College (Walla Walla, WA)

Asian Studies Development Program, 2008, East-West Center, University of Hawaii

Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), 2006, India

International European Studies (IES), 1989, Nantes, France


International Fellow.  US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), Feb. 2014 – present.

Director.  Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network (GPSEN), Jan. 2013 – present.

Sociology Instructor.  Portland Community College, Sept. 1996 – present.

Courses: Sociology in Everyday Life; Social Change in Societies; Social Problems; Sociology of Gender; Introduction to Environmental Sociology; Social Issues and Movements; Community Service and Action Seminar; Cooperative Education

Summer Sustainability Institute Coordinator.  NSF Grant, Portland Community College, 2009-2012.

Teaching Learning Center Co-Director.  Portland Community College, Sept., 2006 – 2008.

Service-Learning Faculty Coordinator.  Portland Community College, Sept., 2001 – June, 2004.


Ph.D. Dissertation:  Yellow Ribbons: Framing the Timber Conflict in Oregon.

M.A. Thesis:  Successful Recycling: The Movement, Program Designs, and Behavior.

B.A. Thesis:  Wartoys in America:  An Examination of their Glorification.


Smith, K., Rowe, D, Adriance, P., McKeown, R., Nolet, V., and Vorva, M. 2015. “UNESCO Roadmap for Implementing the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development in the United States: Implementation Recommendations for the United States of America,” U.S. Department of State: Washington, D.C. Submitted to UNESCO, December, 2015.

Smith, K. Adriance, P., Mueller, A., McKeown, R., Nolet, V., Rowe, D., and Vorva, M. 2015. “The Status of Education for Sustainable Development in the United States: A 2015 Report to the U.S. Department of State,” U.S. Department of State: Washington, D.C. Submitted to UNESCO, December, 2015.

Smith, K., Nuutinen, A.M., and Hopkins, C. 2015. “The Promise of RCEs: Collaborative Models for Innovation, Sustainability, and Well-Being,” Orchestrating Regional Innovation Ecosystems – Espoo Innovation Garden.  Urban Mill: Espoo, Finland.


“The Role of Higher Education in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.” International Sustainability Symposium, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan, October, 2016.

“Connecting Higher Education to Agenda 2030.” AASHE Conference Workshop, Baltimore, MD, October, 2016.

“The Transformative Power of Hope and the Triumph of the Commons.” Portland State University, Portland, OR, April, 2016.

“Creating Sustainable Communities: The Transformative Power of Learning and Collaboration.” Cultivating the Globally Sustainable Self Summit, Harrisonburg, VA, April, 2016.

“Establishing Green Campuses Linked with Local Communities.” International Symposium for the Establishment of Sustainable Campuses, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, February, 2016.

“Higher Education Recommendations on Implementing the SDGs.” Education as a Driver for Sustainable Development Goals Conference, Ahmedabad, India, January, 2016.

“The UN’s Global Action Programme, Sustainable Development Goals, and You.” AASHE Conference Workshop, Minneapolis, MN, October, 2015.

“Engaging Across Boundaries: The Power of Civic Engagement.”  AASHE Webinar, September, 2015.

“The Transformative Power of Reframing the Tragedy of the Commons.”  Oregon Ecopsychology Symposium, Portland, OR, June, 2015.

“Bridging Together Learning and Knowledge for Sustainability- Innovative Institutional Development.”  International Conference on Higher Education for Sustainable Development, Nagoya, Japan, November, 2014.

“Regional Centers of Expertise on ESD: Increasing Impact Through Collaboration.” Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Portland, OR, October, 2014.

“Beyond Rio+20: Combating Environmental Crises through Education and Action.” Portland Community College, Portland, OR, April, 2013.

“Aiming Higher: Unlocking the Potential of Tertiary Education to Accelerate Sustainable Development.”  United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June, 2012.

“The Forest Economy and the Triple Bottom Line.” Northwest Earth Institute’s National Gathering, Bellingham, WA, September, 2011.

“Framing Career Technical Programs within Social Frameworks.” Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Denver, CO, October, 2010.

“Service-Learning Course Construction.”  Western Region Campus Compact Consortium Continuums of Service Conference, April, 2008.


ONLINE COURSE: Introduction to Environmental Sociology

Given that I teach courses and workshops on-campus, on-line, via webinars, in the community, for government agencies, at conferences, and internationally, these can come in many forms and depend on the needs of the OPEN Community.

Selections of courses can be adapted from:

Sociology in Everyday Life; Social Change in Societies; Social Problems; Introduction to Environmental Sociology; Social Issues and Movements; and my Community Service and Action Seminar.

Current workshops are available on:

The History of UN Policies and the Sustainable Development Goals

The Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development

Connecting Higher Education to Agenda 2030 and the SDGs

SDG Inventories and Community Development

Increasing Collective Impact for a Sustainable Future through Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (

Building Hope and Resilience

Facing Climate Change

Creating a Triumph of the Commons (

The Forest Economy and the Triple Bottom Line (

Development of Curriculum and Partnerships for Service-Learning Programs

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