Society for Human Ecology (SHE) president Robert Dyball, left, SHE executive director COA academic dean Ken Hill, center, and past SHE president and executive director Rich Borden, the COA Rachel Carson Chair in Human Ecology, after the opening ceremony of the XXII SHE International Conference.Society for Human Ecology (SHE) president Robert Dyball, left, SHE executive director COA academic dean Ken Hill, center, and past SHE president and executive director Rich Borden, the COA Rachel Carson Chair in Human Ecology, after the opening ceremony of the XXII SHE International Conference.Kira West MPhil ’18 joined academic dean Ken Hill, psychology professor and COA Rachel Carson Chair in Human Ecology Rich Borden, and trustee Jay McNally ’84 at the five-day conference, which, with 300 attendees from 24 countries, was the largest-ever international conference held at the University of the Philippines.

“I’ve gone to all the human ecology conferences, but this one was really the most exciting one,” Borden said. “There really is a bona-fide, collegial network of people working this way around the world, and it’s really coming together now. We now know each other. In another ten years, this will jump to some other level.”

Kira West MPhil '18, right, hams it up at the SHE XXII social media photo booth with Australia National University Ph.D candidate Federico Davila. The photos behind them are from the campuses that past SHE conferences have been held at.Kira West MPhil '18, right, hams it up at the SHE XXII social media photo booth with Australia National University Ph.D candidate Federico Davila. The photos behind them are from the campuses that past SHE conferences have been held at.Borden has been much more than an attendee of those 22 conferences – he is a founding member of the Society for Human Ecology (SHE), a past president, and a former executive director. Hill now holds the latter role, while West has been working as network manager for the group, keeping the Society’s 2,400 contacts organized and in touch.

Taking an active role in the conferences “shares the colleges mission and standing in the broader field of human ecology with colleagues worldwide. It not only celebrates what we do here, but it shows that other people see us as a leader,” Hill said. “We also go there to learn what other colleges are doing. So, it’s a way to enhance our curriculum, a way to stay current, and a way to make connections.”

While there, the COA group gave a joint presentation about the history and pedagogy of COA, from the origins of the college to today. McNally spoke about his time at COA in the early 1980s and how his transdisciplinary education led to entrepreneurial success; Borden, one of the early faculty members at COA, spoke about the founding of the College in 1969 and how it developed over its first decades; Hill reviewed how sustainability is spread throughout COA’s operations and curriculum, and talked about the importance of partnerships to the survival of small schools; and West reviewed the COA graduate program, which offers a Master of Philosophy in Human Ecology.

“I spoke about how the work that we’ve done here isn’t just thesis work, but out in the field, in our own respective ways,” West said.

College of the Atlantic trustee Jay McNally '84, from left, with Dr. Koichi Kimoto, Dr. Hiromi Nagao, and COA academic dean Ken Hill. Kimoto and Nagao are currently <a href="/live/news/1247-human-ecology-lab-takes-root-in-japan">working with COA officials, including Hill, to establish a higher-educational platform</a> in Osakikamijima, Japan.College of the Atlantic trustee Jay McNally '84, from left, with Dr. Koichi Kimoto, Dr. Hiromi Nagao, and COA academic dean Ken Hill. Kimoto and Nagao are currently working with COA officials, including Hill, to establish a higher-educational platform in Osakikamijima, Japan.The COA group was able to catch many presentations by others and spend ample time meeting like-minded folks from around Southeast Asia and the globe.

“I thought that it was amazing,” she said. “I got experience presenting in a conference setting, and I got experience making professional connections with individuals from all over the world, which I’ve never done before. And I got to learn what it really takes to put a conference together and go off without a hitch.”

West said that with so many human ecologists in one place, the conference was energizing and inspiring.

“To feel connected to a larger network of critically thinking graduate students who are also doing really interesting projects, and getting an opportunity to connect with those individuals from all over the world and learning about what they’re doing kind of reinvigorates me to come back…and hit the ground running with my thesis,” West said. “I feel really great. I’m really glad I’ve had the opportunity to go.”

For Borden, the conference helped reaffirm the idea that interdisciplinary approaches are necessary for solving the complex problems of the world, he said.

College of the Atlantic M. Phil candidate and SHE network manager Kira West, right, with two of the student volunteers at the XXII SHE banquet after the opening ceremony.College of the Atlantic M. Phil candidate and SHE network manager Kira West, right, with two of the student volunteers at the XXII SHE banquet after the opening ceremony.“One of the reasons COA was founded was to address two problems – one problem was the compartmentalization of knowledge in colleges and universities, the so-called ‘silo problem;’ and the other problem was that the relationships between humans and their environments are really complex. So, COA’s aim has always been two-fold: you have to be interdisciplinary, and human ecology is the reason why,” he said. “The SHE conferences validate the idea of human ecology itself, and exemplify how that notion has inspired other people in other places to use the same idea and develop it in their own context.”

West said she will continue to play an active role with SHE, and that the annual conferences are extremely important events well worth putting the time and energy into. Even in today’s hyper-connected world, there is no substitute for intensive, in-person experiences like the ones she had at the 22nd SHE conference, she said.

SHE XXII closing ceremony selfie by Australia National University Ph.D candidate Federico Davila. SHE XXII closing ceremony selfie by Australia National University Ph.D candidate Federico Davila. “I think that we can try to put it into words…but I don’t think that that’s any replacement for what it’s like to have a conversation with somebody who might be doing something completely different topic-wise but you are both getting at the same problem, or, the same solution,” West said. “And that’s really valuable. I think first-hand experience of the conferences is absolutely necessary.”

SHE is an international, interdisciplinary professional society that promotes the use of an ecological perspective in research, education, and application. The Society’s goals include providing a forum through which scientists, scholars, educators, and practitioners may exchange ideas and information; looking ahead to the consequences of human action on our social, natural, and built environments, and building cooperative arrangements among human ecology programs and organizations throughout the world.

College of the Atlantic Rachel Carson Chair in Human Ecology Rich Borden, from left, COA academic dean Ken Hill, Kira West MPhil ’18, and trustee Jay McNally '84 pose for a photo under the delegation banner displaying the 26 countries represented at the 22nd International Society for Human Ecology conference.College of the Atlantic Rachel Carson Chair in Human Ecology Rich Borden, from left, COA academic dean Ken Hill, Kira West MPhil ’18, and trustee Jay McNally '84 pose for a photo under the delegation banner displaying the 26 countries represented at the 22nd International Society for Human Ecology conference.

The 22nd Conference brought together global and regional experts, researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and academia to discuss contemporary research and practices in promoting a just and sustainable future. The event’s theme was, “Envisioning Pathways to Just and Sustainable Futures” with a focus on: health, aging, and demographic change; sustainable cities and landscapes; food and water systems; and communities in transition, with implications for rural resilience, biodiversity, and tourism.

“The challenges faced in achieving just and sustainable futures are the kinds of issues that are the central concern of human ecology,” SHE President Dr. Robert Dyball said in his opening message to conference goers. “This conference will showcase the unique capacity of human ecology to understand the complexity of these challenges and to suggest points of leverage whereby they might be overcome.”