Assistant Professor


Dr. Sarah Surak

Office: Fulton Hall Room 280F
Telephone: 410-677-3879
Fax: 410-677-4805

Bio Information

  • Sarah Surak (assistant professor) holds a joint appointment in both the Political Science and Environmental Studies Departments. She holds a BA in political science and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a Ph.D. is in Planning, Governance and Globalization from Virginia Tech. Before returning to school to complete her Ph.D., she worked for five years coordinating campus greening activities at the University of Tennessee--first as a recycling coordinator and then as the sustainability manager.

    Institutions Attended

    • Ph.D. Planning, Governance and Globalization, Virginia Tech
    • M.P.A., Public Administration, The University of Tennessee
    • B.A., Political Science, The University of Tennessee

    Areas of Interest

    • Environmental Policy, Public Policy, Environmental Political Theory, United States Policy Process, Comparative Politics, Public Administration, Modern Political and Social Theory, Industrial Ecology, European Politics, Politics of Germany 

Teaching - Courses Offered

  • POSC 101 Introduction to Politics
  • POSC 110 American Government
  • POSC 360 Environmental Policy
  • ENVR 300 Environment and Society: Method and Analysis
  • ENVR 305 Garbage and Everyday Life
  • ENVR 499 Environmental Issues Senior Seminar


      Area of Focus

My research uses the everyday concern of waste, more accurately described in my work as waste/ing, as a lens though which to examine the relationship among environmental degradation and economic, political, and social structures.

My academic interest and research program is inspired by professional experience. After working for several years writing and implementing recycling and sustainability policies and programs I returned to school to study structural barriers in the formation, implementation, and effectiveness of sustainable development. Although I enjoyed my previous work greatly I quickly understood that while implementing programs on a local level is important and necessary, causes of environmental degradation are interrelated and global. My research is an attempt to understand environmental politics within this context. I have presented my work in a range of forums including political science, waste management, political theory, and international development conferences. 

I am interested in the study of waste both theoretically and and in practice and believe and understanding of both is beneficial to my academic and professional work. I have served as a consultant for local, national, and international organizations regarding waste management policies and practices. I also have participated in long range waste management planning for municipal governments.

My current book project, Governing waste: politics, process, and public administration (Routledge, 2015) assesses sustainability, waste management, and the public administrative experience.