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Morals in transition: imaginaries and American national identity through three energy transitions

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This dissertation explores the functional purpose of imagination as it is enacted in the context of shaping large transitions in sociotechnical systems. Large sociotechnical systems undergoing profound transitions embody instantiations where societies experience profound changes in the ‘rules of the

This dissertation explores the functional purpose of imagination as it is enacted in the context of shaping large transitions in sociotechnical systems. Large sociotechnical systems undergoing profound transitions embody instantiations where societies experience profound changes in the ‘rules of the game’ that underpin the conduct of daily life. The forms of imagination that guide these transformations, known in the political theory literature as ‘imaginaries,’ play a profound yet undertheorized role in transition of sociotechnical systems from one configuration to another. Expanding on this relationship, the study draws on three case studies of energy systems change in the United States during 20th and 21st century. Each case study explores unique element of how actors at a variety of levels – transnational governance, regional electrification, and in-home energy marketing – define and the possibilities for ideal human and technological action and interaction through a transition. These actors defining the parameters of a new form of systems operation and configuration are as equally focused on defining how these new configurations shape fundamental ideas that underpin American democratic sensibility. Moreover, in the process of articulating a new configuration of energy and society – be that in terms of managing global resource flows or the automation of energy use in a residential home – questions of what makes an ideal member of a society are interlinked with new contractual relationships between energy producers and energy users. Transitions research could and should pay greater attention to the normative commitments emergent systems actors – as it is in these commitments we can chart pathways to redefine the parameters that underpin emergent transitions.

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2018

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Disconnected: investigating the social and political conditions shaping Mexico City's air quality regulatory environment

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Mexico City has an ongoing air pollution issue that negatively affects its citizens and surroundings with current structural disconnections preventing the city from improving its overall air quality. Thematic methodological analysis reveals current obstacles and barriers, as well as variables

Mexico City has an ongoing air pollution issue that negatively affects its citizens and surroundings with current structural disconnections preventing the city from improving its overall air quality. Thematic methodological analysis reveals current obstacles and barriers, as well as variables contributing to this persistent problem. A historical background reveals current programs and policies implemented to improve Mexico’s City air quality. Mexico City’s current systems, infrastructure, and policies are inadequate and ineffective. There is a lack of appropriate regulation on other modes of transportation, and the current government system fails to identify how the class disparity in the city and lack of adequate education are contributing to this ongoing problem. Education and adequate public awareness can potentially aid the fight against air pollution in the Metropolitan City.

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2018

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Sustained Relevance Through Elegance: Redesigning Higher Education from Within

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Universities and colleges in the United States (U.S.) are in a period of rapid transformation. Driven by the need for an educated workforce, higher education institutions are responding to rapid innovation, globalization, economic realities, and sociodemographic shifts. Simultaneously, extensive educational

Universities and colleges in the United States (U.S.) are in a period of rapid transformation. Driven by the need for an educated workforce, higher education institutions are responding to rapid innovation, globalization, economic realities, and sociodemographic shifts. Simultaneously, extensive educational online networks connect millions of people worldwide enable learning and knowledge sharing beyond what society has experienced to date. In light of technological advancements, the preservation and presentation of certain ideals that undergird academia and the communication and application of knowledge are undergoing dramatic change. Within higher education, this is both a challenge and an opportunity to re-envision the commitment to educate the public. This research discusses potential forms of this redesign and how it can build upon and depart from previous iterations of higher education. How colleges and universities will adapt to become more relevant, engaging, and accessible is a pressing question that must be addressed.

Using case studies focused on creating sustainability education materials, this dissertation develops knowledge related to three interconnected areas of study that will contribute to redesigning higher education through participatory action research methodology. First, higher education has a civic responsibility to provide new ways of thinking, being, and doing globally and providing more access to education to broader society, especially through public research institutions. Second, with a vast array of available learning materials, higher education should invest in elegantly-designed experiences consisting of well-reasoned, meticulously-curated, and high-quality content that is aesthetically appealing, engaging, and accessible to a broad audience. Third, as universities transition from the gatekeepers of knowledge to the connectors of knowledge, they also need to ensure that a coherent mission is articulated and invested in by stakeholders to create an intentionally beneficial transformational effort. The transformation of higher education toward a more inclusive learning environment through new ways of thinking and elegantly-designed learning experiences will serve to improve our learning institutions. As part of the necessary core for an educated democracy, higher education institutions must strive to create a more equitable, inclusive, and diverse society.

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2020