Campus Profile: Dr. Jennifer Richter

(Photo: ASU)

Name: Jennifer Richter

School affiliations: School of Social Transformation and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society

College(s) attended: University of Maryland, College Park (B.A. in English and American Studies); University of New Mexico (M.A. and Ph.D. in American Studies)

Dr. Richter offers a new perspective on sustainable energy that most students would not usually think about. She teaches Environmental Justice and Energy Policy to address issues that we are facing around the world like climate change, reliable energy, and how to produce clean energy. However, she encourages students to not just focus on the technical innovations, but also to learn about the root causes and the decisions behind them.

"Environmental justice focuses on revealing the underlying political and cultural patterns that result in an inequitable burden being placed on the most marginalized and vulnerable populations of society," she said. According to Richter, we often think of nuclear energy as clean and reliable since it can provide energy to billions of people around the world without emitting any CO2, but we often forget to learn about the history of nuclear technology and how it was introduced into society. In reality, history has shown a number of political, cultural, and environmental issues that we still face today. "The danger is that we could reproduce those injustices by putting technology at the center of development, instead of our social and political values, such as democracy, justice, and equality for all," she said.

Richter is very active both in the ASU community and throughout the U.S. "I attend many conferences on science, technology and policy issues, which are a great way to share ideas and get feedback from my peers that I don’t see on a regular basis, but those audiences are generally small, and we have similar interests," Richter said. To mitigate this problem, she set a goal to connect students and professionals with the communities they research. "As academics, we often refer to 'the public' as this abstract concept, but really people as individuals and communities are informed by their own experiences," she explained.

To help her achieve her goal, Richter advises a group called Local to Global Justice, which is composed of both students and members of the community. Recently, the group put on a festival and forum at the Tempe campus. This year, the theme was racial justice and covered a number of key issues like approaches to equality, intersectionality and activism.

As a woman of acadamia, Richter is a exemplary figure to students on campus. During this busy midterm season, she offers advice to women on campus thinking about their future careers. "Never take anything personally, and don’t invest your self-worth in your job or research alone," she said. "Take comfort and support from your friends, your family and your supportive colleagues. Find several mentors or models for different aspects of your life (for me, it’s different mentors for teaching, community organizing, leadership and research). And make sure that you take stock of what you love about your life on a regular basis!"