Faculty Profile: Brennan Lagasse


Laura Ethans, Reporter

Brennan Lagasse, sustainability department chair and associate professor at Sierra Nevada College, is back on campus and on a mission to educate the minds of his students, all the while creating a conscious coalition to defend Earth from those who would rather exploit its resources.

“I really believe in academic spaces and what we have here on this campus,” Lagasse said. “We have the ability to work on some of those small things that can then grow into these bigger ideas.”

Lagasse’s call to adventure and passion for the great outdoors helped him develop a passion for the sustainability movement. With a bachelor’s in sociology and anthropology, a master’s in environment and community, and a PhD in sustainability education, Lagasse strives to use his education to empower those who want to make a better future possible. Whether it is presented in a Socratic seminar in the classroom or during a ski expedition on the peak of a mountain range, he finds that education is the world’s best defense.

“The power of education is real and making knowledge available to folks who haven’t had access to that previously has the potential to further these ideas,” Lagasse said.

After taking a two-year break from SNC, he plans to incorporate his connections with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into future curriculum and has ambitious ideas about what the sustainability department should offer.

“I’d like to go back [to the Arctic Refuge] and bring SNC students or have the college more involved in that again,” Lagasse said.

Though his work as a freelance writer and expedition ski guide was the initial connection to the circumpolar coalition, he feels that SNC offering the Arctic Refuge-based holistic field sustainability course was pivotal to cementing that rapport of solidarity with the indigenous people of the area.

“Because SNC supported the idea of a field course and it ran for three years, that’s how I was able to deepen that relationship and understand that when you do sustainability work and especially when you identify as a coconspirator to creating and fostering change in this world, you’re committed to it,” Lagasse said.

Lagasse recalls questioning why there are so many environmental issues around the world and why those problems existed in his younger life.

“That’s essentially what’s lead me down this whole path, I just kept asking why,” said Lagasse.

Lagasse quickly learned the answer to his question was not a simple one.

“The deeper I went, the more I realized that I was missing the human aspect of things and that’s the pivotal moment that really changed things,” Lagasse said. “When that knowledge came available to me, that changed my whole direction.”

For the majority of his life, Lagasse’s focus has been on preserving and protecting the refuge.

“To me the Arctic Refuge has multiple layers that represent just about any topic in sustainability that you could imagine,” Lagasse said. “There’s indigenous rights, human rights, climate justice, economic subsistence, there’s ‘keep-it-in-the- ground’ movements, there’s the idea of the circumpolar north and geopolitical reality of the last slice of land that exists like this in the world.”