Regulatory policy wasn’t on my mind when I decided to become a historian. I liked environmental history and I thought I’d study environmentalists, or maybe their polluting foes. But somewhere along the line, I realized that the regulators standing in the background in every narrative had their own stories that hadn’t been told.
As I pawed through dusty archival boxes and interviewed dozens of former civil servants, it became clearer and clearer to me that what had happened inside regulatory agencies mattered as much as any law passed by Congress or mandate sent down from the White House in determining what pollution control actually meant in the real world. I ended up writing my dissertation about the history of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) embedded within the cultural landscape in which the agency evolved - exploring the changing values, assumptions, and aspirations that shaped the air we breathe today. I'm currently working on a book that uses EPA's story to consider the ascent of economics in policymaking in the twentieth century.
From 2017 to 2019, I taught courses on the environment, regulation, and United States history more generally as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Wesleyan University. When I was an undergrad at Lewis & Clark College, one of my favorite professors was also a yoga teacher and she often said that yoga was about pushing yourself right up to the breaking point and then getting stronger there. I don't do yoga, but I like the idea and applied it in my teaching - mostly by forcing my students to study regulatory history.