EDRAite of the Month - Dan Stokols
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Dan Stokols, PhD, School of Social Ecology - University of California, Irvine

October 2014

Dan Stokols

I arrived in Chapel Hill NC during August 1969 to begin my doctoral studies in social psychology at UNC-CH. I felt fortunate to join an outstanding Ph.D. program and vibrant psychology department, working closely with my principal mentors, John Schopler and John Thibaut. But as I began my fall semester classes in psychology, I realized that I still harbored strong interests in interdisciplinary, environmentally-oriented research, which I had developed as a college student at the University of Chicago. There, I had taken courses in urban planning, sociology, anthropology, public health, and history, along with the required classes for my psychology major. During my first year in grad school, I read Bill Michelson’s 1970 book presenting a broad interdisciplinary perspective on people-environment relations--and I discovered the rapidly emerging field of environment-behavior studies from reading the works of Irv Altman, Don Appleyard, Roger Barker, Hal Proshansky, Bill Ittelson, Robert Sommer, Jack Wohlwill and others.

Given my interests in environmental design and planning, and the fact that UNC’s Department of City and Regional Planning (CRP) is located next door to the Psychology Department, I strolled over to the CRP building one day and met Sidney Cohn, who with Henry Sanoff, had just co-chaired the very first EDRA conference in Chapel Hill. My conversations with Sid led to my taking his Urban Design Studio, as well as courses with Stuart Chapin and Robert Mayer on urban activity systems and social planning. I wound up pursuing a split-minor in CRP and in Sociology, where I also was fortunate to take Amos Hawley’s course on Human Ecology. As well, I worked as a research assistant in UNC’s School of Public Health. Sid Cohn’s mentorship during graduate school was instrumental in my decision to join EDRA in 1970. In my last year of graduate studies (1973), I drove to Blacksburg VA for the EDRA 4 conference, where I had the exciting opportunity to finally meet personally so many of the environment-behavior scholars whose works I had read earlier. Later that summer, I embarked for UC Irvine where I joined the newly established, interdisciplinary Program in Social Ecology as an assistant professor.

My earliest experiences with EDRA during graduate school were formative, and indeed pivotal, in my discovery of an interdisciplinary organizational “home” where I could cultivate my interests in EDR topics throughout my career and collaborate closely with fellow EDRAites—as a member of the EDRA Board, at subsequent EDRA conferences, and through research collaborations with fellow EDRA members. Together with APA’s Division of Environmental, Population, and Conservation Psychology, EDRA has been an enduring source of encouragement and collaborative synergy for me over the course of my career as I’ve pursued a variety of “transdisciplinary action research” topics. I am truly grateful for these invaluable benefits of membership in EDRA throughout my career, spanning my graduate school days at UNC to my four decades of experience as a faculty member at the University of California, Irvine.

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