Carole GibbsWritten by Andy McGlashen, Environmental Science and Policy Program

Assistant Professor Dr. Carole Gibbs is jointly appointed to the Departments of Criminal Justice and Fisheries and Wildlife. She is the first faculty member hired in MSU's effort to join the two fields to create a focus on the area of environmental crime.

Gibbs decided to come to MSU because of the unique opportunity to study and develop a program on environmental crime. "MSU is innovative in creating such an interdisciplinary program," she said.

Gibbs teaches in the master's certificate program on environmental crime, which includes a sequence of three classes. The first course covers the importance of natural resource sustainability and how management strategies connect to enforcement. The second class links theories of environmental crime, committed by companies or people, to criminal justice, regulatory, and alternative strategies to reduce it. "Sometimes it's difficult for students to understand the connection of theory... but then it starts to resonate," she said. The third class focuses on international environmental crimes and risks, often linked to globalization. An introductory course on environmental crime will be offered at the undergraduate level in the fall of 2008, and an undergraduate specialization is currently available in Conservation and Environmental Law Enforcement.

"I want to expose students to a broader way of controlling behavior," Gibbs says about the curriculum she teaches. Much of it involves preventative measures instead of solely punishment (i.e. preventing the illegal wildlife trade or corporate pollution).

Gibbs would like to be a part of creating a new generation of scholars to study environmental crime, and hopes to attract those interested in the link between criminal justice and natural resources. She noted that students in multiple disciplines are interested in this new field and that it is being well received within both of her departments. In the future, she hopes to establish a connection to federal agencies and to make the online certificate courses accessible to professionals who work in environmental fields, particularly environmental management and enforcement. As part of making this connection to the outside world, Gibbs helped organize a September workshop on environmental crime and natural resources (see story on the conference).

Conducting international research is another goal. She is interested in establishing a study abroad in Africa, as well, because these regions are afflicted by diseases, pollution and wildlife management problems. "It's fascinating how it all connects" she said.

Gibbs received her Masters and PhD in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland. She began graduate school with an interest in corporate crime as well as race, gender, and justice, and always opted to work on the environmental questions connected to those topics. Examining whether and why minority and poor neighborhoods contain a disproportionate amount of environmental hazards is one of her areas of research. Her most recent research involves studying the relationship between corporate citizenship, sanctions, and environmental performance.

Her current appointment is 60% Criminal Justice and 40% Fisheries and Wildlife. The departments are searching for a second position with a complementary mix to provide a balance in the newly developing program. With the second hire, MSU may be the strongest program in this area in the United States.

Back to Faculty Spotlight