Robert Foran




  • Environmental Studies Department
  • Environmental and Social Justice Education


  • MS Environmental Studies, San José State University
  • BA Human Culture and Environment, SUNY Empire State College


Robert hails from Northern New York State and has lived in New York City, Germany, Wisconsin,  Long Beach and San Francisco, CA, and presently calls Santa Cruz, CA his home. He is an environmental and social justice educator, community activist, and youth leadership advocate. He believes that our youth are the most important and valuable asset in making real and sustainable change in our world through the multifaceted areas of education, civic engagement, and social justice action. Being a recent graduate from the Environmental Studies program at SJSU, Robert brings his experience in developing curricula for after school programs at Oak Grove High School in East San José and at Soquel High School in Santa Cruz, CA.  Both programs focused on the voices and writings of youth experience and a mentor-driven curriculum seated within an environmental justice framework. These after school programs eventually gave rise to 2 consecutive public educational forums at San José State University exploring the links between poverty, race, food, water, community-based activism, and green space accessibility in 2016 and 2017. Later that same year at Soquel High School, Robert worked with a team of educators and artists to develop and co-teach a multi-media community-based educational forum/public performance that incorporated film and theater and focused on youth-led research through the lens of immigrant student experience.

Being an environmental and social justice educator, Robert’s pedagogical lens employs three elements that encompass 1) community-based education and engagement, 2) mentorship-driven research, and 3) activism and advocacy. This three-pronged approach creates the foundation that fosters strong ties between student youth civic engagement, academic scholarship & research in a university setting, and the communities that are tied to the complex intersecting issues that arise out of social and environmental injustices. With curricula developed through the framework of critical and creative thinking, community-based collaborative effort, and place-based experiential learning; the research shows that our youth are at their best and fulfill their greatest potential when they are invested and involved in 'on-the-ground' real time creation of solution-based outcomes.

Courses Taught

  • ENVS 158: Environmental Education
  • ENVS 150: Introduction to Environmental Thought & Philosophy

Research Interests

Public education through social & environmental justice activism and how the issues of race, socio-economic status, cultural heritage, and history impacts coalition-building strategies between primarily white-led community-based organizations and those organizations led by BIPOC.  My focus is in the exploration of the phenomenon of whiteness within the fields of education and activism, which is all at once (in)visible, socially produced, and institutionally reinforced.


Master Thesis: The Whiteness of the Elephant in the Room, How White Guilt, White Fragility, and Colorblind Racial Ideology Shape Environmematl and Social Justice Activism in Santa Cruz County