OPEN Fellow – Kim Smith


Ph.D. and M.A. Sociology, Indiana University (Bloomington, IN) Minor: Environmental Policy B.A., Sociology, 1990, Whitman College (Walla Walla, WA), Minors: Economics, French Asian Studies Development Program, 2008/2019, East-West Center, University of Hawaii Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), 2006, India International European Studies (IES), 1989, Nantes, France

Interests & Passions

I try to be authentic and practice what I preach. My motto: “Educate ~ Empower ~ Engage” shows up in many aspects of my life. It is a joy to learn, through reading, travel, and getting to know people. It is empowering to be able to make a difference and know that my work matters in my own life and beyond. My sustainability philosophies are reflected in our solar-powered home and permaculture garden, with native plants and wildlife habitat, as well as community projects, like our “little library”. It is fun to be a part of community development, too, with volunteer projects with non-profits addressing local needs, as well as creative time with playful friends.


Dr. Kim Smith is a sociologist, community connector, and change-maker. With a Ph.D. in sociology from Indiana University, she specializes in environmental sociology and social movements. She has taught sociology at Portland Community College (PCC) since 1996 and is a co-founder of the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network (GPSEN), a Regional Center of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCE), as acknowledged by United Nations University (UNU). She is GPSEN’s International Liaison, in addition to mentoring RCEs around the United States. She has served on the Board of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and represented UNU, AASHE, and the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development at multiple international conferences, including Rio+20 and the UNESCO World Summit on ESD. Her commitment to professional development is demonstrated in her tenure as PCC’s Service-Learning Coordinator, Teaching Learning Center Co-Director, and Training Coordinator for the NSF-funded Summer Sustainability Institute, plus collaboration with numerous non-profits. 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 co-creating meaningful initiatives, with visionary teams.

Why am I an OPEN fellow?

My teaching motto is: educate ~ empower ~ engage. As a systems-thinker, I believe deeply in the power of education and identifying how we can create change. Evaluating the needs of communities and institutions and collaborating to develop effective solutions help us all discover how we can make a difference. My local, regional, national, and international work have highlighted the urgent need for scaling up change and facilitating collective impact across sectors in order to achieve a sustainable future. The vision of the One Planet Education Network helps identify pathways for how to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and inspires me to contribute to our common cause. My own professional journey aligns well with the vision of OPEN and our collective calling in this critical time to facilitate innovation and transformation. With a focus on higher education and community development, I would like to help others discover ways to leverage resources and relationships to build connections and advance the UN’s 5-P model (people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnerships). I hope that my experiences, skillsets, and commitment can help organizations and individuals forge their own pathways forward to make a difference.

How can I help change agents?

We all need to discover why our work and lives matter. My teaching and community development efforts, often based in the lessons of Joanna Macy and the power of “active hope”, help frame our difficult times through a lens of personal empowerment and social change. As we evolve through layers of self-care, dedicated learning, enlightenment, and connection, we discover how to unpack difficult realities, identify core causes of problems, and invite ourselves to be part of the solutions. It is a pleasure to be a guide in this process.

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