Rob Bailis

Associate Professor

Teaching Statement

I teach courses that explore the human dimensions of energy, resource utilization and environmental change with a focus on developing regions. I draw on multiple disciplines to help students better understand the complex nature of interrelationships between human society and the environment. I have several objectives that I try to achieve through teaching: to challenge students to think across disciplinary boundaries, make students comfortable with different analytical methods so they can question the assumptions, and debate, critique, or justify the use of various methodologies, and help students identify their strengths and weaknesses as they define their own unique career pathways.


I combine lectures with in-class discussions and student-centered activities such as role-playing, debating, and oral presentations. I utilize multiple approaches to evaluating student performance including short written responses to weekly readings, class participation, and modeling exercises as well long-form writing assignments like policy memos and term papers. My current course offerings include:


Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptation, and Mitigation – this is a survey course that introduces students to the science and policy of climate change and examines vulnerability, adaptation, and mitigation strategies. The course focuses on climate change at different scales, and on multiple divides that exist: between least developed countries and newly industrializing countries of the global South and between the various blocs of developing countries and the industrialized North. This course has evolved since I first taught it in 2007, as the international climate regime itself has changed. It remains a popular course – in Fall 2013 it had its largest enrollment yet with 45 students.


Energy Issues in Developing Countries – this course covers advanced topics in energy as it pertains to developing and emerging economies. The course spans local, national, and global scales. Each scale is introduced through relevant theoretical issues, which are supported by one or two case studies that explore how theory plays out in practice.


Contemporary Environmental Challenges in Africa - this course is designed as a graduate seminar that exposes students to a wide range of environmental challenges in Africa.  Topics include climate change, environmental conflict, land degradation, biodiversity, and urbanization drawing from history, ecology, economics, anthropology, and political ecology.


Future teaching directions

In line with our evolving MEM program, I have led the development of the curriculum for our Energy Specialization. One major component of the specialization is the energy “capstone course”, which I will teach beginning in Spring 2015. The course is still under development, but I envision it as a project-based course with real-world clients. Students will work individually or in pairs. The project itself should focus on applied problem solving and require the application of knowledge, methodological approaches, and techniques gained from courses taken during the prior three semesters of study.