Ian Werkheiser

Philosopher and Writer


This page is for some of my current and former. For my philosophy research, take a look at the Writing Page on this website.

Interdisciplinary Research Projects

  • Recognizing Value Pluralism among Ecosystem Services Experts and Public Stakeholders

    With my co-PI’s Christina Leshko, Samantha Noll, and Zach Piso, I received an NSF-supported fellowship through the Kellogg Biological Station’s LTER program to research the ways that different communities value ecosystem services. Our research investigated the diverse values among ecosystem management experts as well as farming communities in Michigan. Because values are informed by an individual’s social, ecological, historical, and political circumstances, no single value system is likely to capture the plurality of values held within and between uniquely situated communities. The interdisciplinary project combined philosophical analysis with quantitative and qualitative social science methodologies.

Academic Service Projects

  • University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Collaboration and Ethics

    I am the director for the Center for Collaboration and Ethics at UTRGV. The Center serves as a hub, bringing together different disciplines within academia as well as different stakeholders and groups from the wider community around shared ethical concerns. The Center also pursues projects which help various local communities develop their own capacities to address ethical issues. In this way, the enter contributes to UTRGV’s aim of serving as an anchor institution in the Valley. For more information, visit the Center’s website.

  • Eco Rio Journal of Environmental Studies

    I am on the editorial board of Eco Rio, a multi-genre, peer-reviewed journal featuring environmental research, writing, and other creative and applied works produced in or relevant to the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo border region.

  • University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Environmental Studies Program

    I am a committee member for the Environmental Studies Program at UTRGV. It is a broadly interdisciplinary program, encompassing courses from the humanities, social sciences, health and human services, sciences, business, engineering, and public policy. It enables students to identify environmental problems, communicate across disciplines, and promote sustainable solutions. Students can explore relationships between global ecology and our South Texas environment, and also examine the relationships among social inequalities, negative environmental impacts, and environmental justice.

  • Pan American Collaboration for Ethics in the Professions (PACE) Annual Bioethics Workshop

    I am on the planning committee for the annual PACE bioethics conference at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The 2016 conference is called “Beyond Reform: Reimagining American Healthcare.” This annual conference brings together academics, practitioners, students, journalists, and policy makers around questions of the American healthcare system and bioethics more generally.

  • Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project

    While pursuing my PhD at Michigan State University, I was the graduate assistant for the Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project (SMEP), which is directed by Dr. Paul Thompson. SMEP serves as a catalyst and convener of interdisciplinary dialogue and research around existing and emerging sustainability topics, and has invested considerable resources in exploring the implications of sustainability particularly for the future of Michigan. It has developed in depth conceptualizations about what comprises engaged sustainability scholarship and how that would translate into research, teaching and outreach. It has been able to clearly differentiate the types of research and knowledge where science alone can provide potential solutions (e.g. tame problems) and where the identification of potential solutions must be collaborative with stakeholders and other social actors (wicked problems). SMEP is now moving to widen the recognition of the significance of these differences for the role of science in addressing societal concerns. For more information, visit the SMEP website

  • Center For Regional Food Systems Food Justice Work Group

    While at MSU, I and Shakara Tyler coordinated a transdisciplinary work group on food justice for the Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS). This workgroup conducts and coordinates research, education, and outreach on food justice, and provides opportunities for cross-fertilization between faculty members, academic specialists, graduate students, and community partners.

  • Humanities Without Walls-Global Midwest Initiative: The New Ethics of Food

    I worked on a project entitled “The New Ethics of Food” with MSU faculty Gretel Van Wieren, Paul Thompson, and Kyle Whyte; MSU Digital Humanities Librarian Thomas Padilla; Penn State faculty Nancy Tuana; and University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty Robert Steiffer and Jesse Steinberg. This project was part of the Mellon Foundation-funded Humanities Without Walls-Globale Midwest Initiative. The project sought to build up a network of transdisciplinary research and activism centered on the emerging ethics of food coming out of the problems and potentials in the Midwest’s unique position.

  • Ethics, Development, and Global Practice Online Graduate Certificate Program for the Michigan State University Philosophy Department

    I developed a class on Environmental Ethics for MSU’s new Online Certification Program in Ethics, Development, and Global Aid. This certification program is aimed at professionals already working in or about to enter the field, and so it is bringing theory together with practice to improve both.

  • Environmental Philosophy and Ethics Graduate Specialization for Michigan State University

    I worked with colleagues in the philosophy department to design a graduate specialization in Environmental Philosophy and Ethics. The specialization is open to graduate students from other departments and colleges at MSU, and facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration and learning. There are plans to expand the specialization to a companion undergraduate minor.

  • Workshop on Food Justice & Peace

    In 2013 I, along with Samantha Noll and Zachary Piso, created and ran a workshop at Michigan State University on food justice for academic and non-academic audiences. Food justice is a growing movement that has inspired both on-the-ground community projects and theoretical articulations across multiple disciplines. This workshop aims to help scholars and practitioners identify and address the challenges and opportunities in food justice, including issues surrounding food access, food sovereignty, agricultural and environmental ethics, and agricultural sustainability. The conference typically spans three days and includes scholarly talks and visits to local environmental justice projects. This conference is ongoing, organized by a new cohort of graduate students. For more information, visit the Food Justice and Peace website.

  • Innovations in Collaborative Modeling: Addressing Complex Social and Environmental Problems Through Systems Modeling Techniques

    In 2015 I was on the planning team for the first annual transdisciplinary conference focusing on the use of systems modeling techniques in managing complex social and environmental problems, held at Michigan State University. The conference was sponsored by the Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project (SMEP). For more information about future conferences visit the conference website.

  • Integrated Network for Social Sustainability Annual Meeting

    In 2014 and 2015, I was on the planning committee for the annual meeting of the Integrated Network for Social Sustainability (INSS), an NSF-funded transdisciplinary network around social sustainability. This is the link for the INSS Website. The annual meeting of the network is seen as an opportunity to experiment with innovative conference formats, incorporating in-person meetings, tours, and internet connectivity to maximize inclusion and minimize the impact of the conference, both on the environment and on people’s lives.

Community Engagement Projects

  • Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition First Annual Statewide Summit

    In 2014, I was on the planning committee for the first annual Michigan Environmental Justice Statewide Summit, which brought together groups and individuals from throughout the state who seek to achieve a clean, healthy and safe environment for Michiganders by working with all residents to hold public and private institutions accountable to the communities for whom they serve and in which they operate.

  • Everybody Eats: Cultivating Food and Democracy

    I was on the planning committee for a yearly conference on food justice for academics and the wider public in the greater Lansing area. The conference was a large forum involving dozens of public and private efforts – farms, farmers markets, gardens, food hubs, coops, restaurants, numerous nonprofits – who came together to discuss what it means to be self-sustaining and equitable, especially with regard to the processes being used and policies being developed for changing the food system landscape in Lansing. The conference formed a part of an on-going public conversation about maintaining an inclusive, democratic, and ethical food system.


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