Jeff Sellen

Jeff Sellen

Professor of Environment & Sustainability, Director of Colorado Water Workshop


B.A., Wartburg College, English, 1980, M.A., University of Nebraska-Omaha, English, 1985, Ph.D., Washington State University, American Studies, 2007


How did you discover Western?

I had known about Western for many years before applying to work here. One of my colleagues in my doctorate program at Washington State University had been an undergraduate here and later joined the faculty. I secretly harbored a hope to teach here, and when the time was right …

What are some of the highlights of your career?

Advisor at Wartburg College (my alma mater) for several years where I worked with many outstanding students from around the world, including the current Malaysian ambassador to the United States. I taught in Tokyo for several years before going back to school to get my Ph.D. Tokyo is a great city.

While working on my Ph.D., I co-founded an environmental nonprofit organization in Pullman, Washington, dedicated to environmental restoration. As the current director of the Colorado Water Workshop, held annually at Western, I am able to play a role in the ongoing discussion of the most significant natural resource in the West, water.

And, most important, for a teacher, the highlights accumulate in small portions over the years, working alongside the future leaders of the nation and the world.

What most excites you about your field?

As we address the most challenging issues of the day (climate change, wealth inequality, biodiversity loss, global poverty, to name a few) we are required to think in terms of fundamental change. I remain optimistic, but committed (along with my students) to making this fundamental change. Our work at the School of Environment & Sustainability at Western is not merely academic; it is the work that is necessary to change the world.

What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?

People first. Water second. Mountains third. Not always in that order.