Michael Smith

Professor, Environmental History and Environmental Humanities

Michael Smith

Phone: 607-274-1290

Email: mismith@ithaca.edu

Office: Muller Faculty Center 320, Ithaca, NY 14850

Speciality: Environmental History, Environmental Humanities, U.S. History


Who Am I?

About Me: Originally from Missouri, my path through life and formal education has wound through many different institutions, states, and countries. I am an avid cyclist, gardener, vegetarian cook, chorister, letter writer, and St. Louis Cardinals fan. I have taught at Ithaca College since 2001.

About My Work:   I became a college teacher for two principal reasons: to help produce liberally-educated, civically-engaged college graduates and to help build a more sustainable society.   In recent years, it has become clear that the climate emergency must be at the center of a college education. If students do not graduate from Ithaca College with an understanding of the dimensions (which includes profound injustice) and challenges of this crisis we face, and with some skills and aptitudes to adapt to and (when possible) mitigate the crisis, then we have failed them.  Since 2013, after a semester participating in and studying several sustainability initiatives in a rural community in Nicaragua, I have been writing about that experience, and returned to Nicaragua on a Fulbright grant in the fall of 2017 (for examples of that writing see the research link). 

Courses Taught

Spring 2021 Courses

ENVS 119--Intro to Environmental Humanities

HIST 272--History of the Future

Other Courses Taught (next semester offered in parentheses)

HIST/ENVS 270--History of American Environmental Thought (2021-22)

HIST 271--Global Environmental History (2021-22)

ENVS 360--Technology and It Discontents

HIST 583--Graduate Seminar in U.S. History

HIST 483--Seminar: Energy and U.S. History

HIST 112--U.S. History since 1865 (Summer 2021)

ICSM 105--Ithaca Seminar: Climates Changing

HIST 481--Seminar: History and Global Environmental Change

The Making of Modern America, 1865-1914

U.S. History to 1865

Research Projects


  • The humanities and the climate emergency: a history and a mission--this includes a participatory research project funded by the Center for Faculty Excellence, "Teaching and Learning in a Climate Emergency"
  • Fulbright-funded environmental history of Sabana Grande, Nicaragua (ongoing)
  • An environmental history of transoceanic canal schemes in Nicaragua (ongoing)
  • A book project on the history of the organized summer camp movement in American culture (ongoing)
  • The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: During the 2005-06 academic year I was a Carnegie Scholar at the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL).  This work resulted in Citizenship Across the Curriculum (Indiana University Press, 2010), a volume I contributed to (see below) and co-edited with Rebecca Nowacek of Marquette University and Jeff Bernstein of Eastern Michigan University. (completed)
  • Another SoTL project, "Untangling the Web of Historical Thinking," involved an examination of learning through the evolution of student-produced wikis for a problem-based history assignment.  This project was partially funded by an NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant. (completed)
  • The environmental history of photographic chemicals