College of Integrated Science and Engineering

ISAT welcomes Larissa Mark


SUMMARY: New faculty member, Larissa Mark, brings knowledge and real-world experience in environmental policy to JMU's Integrated Science and Technology Program.

By: Daniel Vieth, Creative Services

Environmental science is made up of a number of interconnected fields that work together to promote concepts like sustainability. Students in this field must understand not only how the environment is changing and what technologies can be used to combat this, but what policies must be created to actually enact changes. Fortunately for JMU’s Integrated Science and Technology (ISAT) program, new faculty member Larissa Mark brings knowledge Photo: Larissa Markand real-world experience in environmental policy. Mark’s passion for application-based teaching helps students see how environmental policy is applied in the field.

Mark began her career teaching environmental science to middle and high school students, and feels that she has never left education. After returning to school to earn her M.S. in environmental policy from Virginia Commonwealth University and her Ph.D. in environmental policy and social science from George Mason University, Mark applied her passion for education to the environmental field. “I still did education, only instead of teaching students I was educating adults on environmental concepts, policies, or principles,” said Mark. “It is just teaching in different capacities.” During this time, Mark worked as an environmental policy analyst for the Science Application International Corporation (SAIC), an environmental systems analyst for Tetra Tech Inc. and as an environmental policy program manager at CSRA, working directly on environmental issues like water quality, endangered species, green development, and coastal safety. 

Mark formally returned to teaching in 2012 when she became an adjunct faculty member at JMU. “When the opportunity to be a part of JMU availed itself, I thought it would be great because it would be something different, interesting and rewarding,” said Mark. “Additionally, you don’t often see the environmental technology component in other schools, especially in Virginia. This is one of the few programs to try to do an integrated science and technology program.” Mark joined ISAT in a full-time role as visiting assistant professor this year.

Along with her experience in the field, Mark’s research focuses primarily on environmental policy. For example, Mark studies sustainability and community resilience, particularly to climate change. “Sustainability has been a core concept in environmental studies since 1987,” said Mark. “Resilience adds on to this by taking into account our changing environment and climate, our changing communities, and how at-risk communities can survive through this change.” As Mark explains, resilience could look at the communities in New Jersey impacted by Hurricane Sandy, or cities like Greensburg Kansas which was devastated by a tornado in 2007, and see how they can rebuild and be prepared to face future threats. “Resilience looks at when and how communities rebuild, what technology must be developed, and what policies should be required,” Mark continued. “For example, policies that mandate storm shelters, stricter building codes, and better infrastructure.”

Through her teaching and research, Mark emphasizes the application of concepts. “I wanted to use my experience in the field as a way to really educate students, not just on theoretical principles, but how those are applied,” Mark continued. “My goal is that when students get into the job market, they can see how these concepts are used.” According to Mark, this was one of her main draws to JMU’s ISAT program, as many other undergraduate programs do not offer the opportunity for students to apply the concepts they learn. “Most programs are just trying to teach the core pieces of information, and they don’t try to intermingle them as much as they should,” Mark continued. “Here at JMU it’s about application, taking these varieties of principles and combining them.”

This semester, Mark has been teaching the introductory course to ISAT, providing students with the foundational knowledge for the program along with how these concepts are applied to real-world settings. “These concepts have chemical implications, environmental implications, human health implications and societal implications,” said Mark. “I try to take it from a holistic perspective so students can see how the lessons are relevant to them.” Next semester, Mark will also be teaching a course specifically on U.S. environmental policy. “I also plan to incorporate more international perspectives of our policies, such as the treaties and international agreements the US abides by, and others we don’t,” Mark continued. “It’s one of my favorite classes to teach!”

In addition to teaching and research, Mark is a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur, looks forward to working with ISAT students on their capstone projects, and hopes to start participating in a Professor-In-Residence program that helps at-risk high school students in Richmond by introducing students to college concepts. “I have always strived to be as available as possible to my students, as well as prospective students,” said Mark. “That is why I’m here.” 

Published: Friday, December 16, 2016

Last Updated: Friday, December 16, 2016

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