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Vanessa Adel

Research Affiliate in Environmental Science and Policy



Vanessa is currently working on a qualitative research study about corporate environmentalism with Leslie King, professor of sociology and environmental science and policy at Smith College. This interview study seeks to understand how people within corporations (employees, managers, and CEOs) who are committed to integrating sustainability in their companies, articulate and negotiate the contradictions between profit-motives in a growth-oriented economy and the imperative for industries to reduce carbon and ecological footprints in order to ensure a viable planetary future.

Vanessa’s research focuses on race, education, activism and climate change. In her dissertation research for example, she sought to understand the barriers and opportunities for successful activism in communities responding to climate change. This research focused on the role of knowledge production; the contradictions of discursive frameworks; and race and class stratification in climate change organizing.

Vanessa has also researched discursive frameworks in dismantling white privilege; and engaged in ethnographic fieldwork that examined JROTC programming in public schools. She has been an evaluation researcher at the Donahue Institute, researching the effectiveness of specific programming in local schools; and she has worked as a researcher for the Social and Demographic Research Institute (now ISSR) to develop research for a local planning commission in order to understand the mismatch in local technology labor skills and labor force demands.

She is a committed educator with over two decades of teaching experience in a range of educational settings including the college classroom, art workshops with children, diversity trainings in organizations, and more recently, climate education trainings for educational institutes, academic departments and non-profits. Her teaching is informed by social justice theorists such as Paolo Freire and bell hooks; as well as by creative approaches from her experience with theater improvisation, poetry, spoken word, and storytelling. In the last few years, she has focused especially on connecting the dots between social justice, environmental justice and the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity depletion.

Recently, Vanessa has taken a step back from teaching as an adjunct at Smith College where she has taught many students between 2005 and 2022, in the Sociology of Climate Change, Introduction to Sociology, Family and Society, Sociology of Race and National Identity, and Sociology of Education. Currently, she is focusing on research, writing, and community climate education, as well as homeschooling her youngest of four children.

Vanessa holds a B.A. from Friends World Program of Long Island University; an M.A. in Intercultural Relations from Lesley University; and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She lives in Northampton with her partner, her youngest two children, a dog named Phoenix and a cat named Marmalade.


Ph.D., M.A., University of Massachusetts Amherst
M.A., Lesley College
B.A., Long Island University