Dr. Julia Wondolleck retires after 38 years at SEAS
“In the sustainability field, you've got to build bridges that you can keep crossing.”
—Professor Julia Wondolleck
Associate Professor Julia Wondolleck has spent decades building bridges. And over her 38-year career at SEAS, she has inspired countless others to build them—and keep on crossing…
Wondolleck, a native of California who earned her PhD in Environmental Policy and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1983, is an expert in the theories and application of dispute resolution, negotiation, and collaborative planning processes. She has been a cornerstone of the Environmental Policy and Planning program at SEAS, as well as an internationally respected author and researcher.
As Wondolleck prepared to retire at the close of 2021, former students and colleagues were eager to recount the impact she made upon their lives and careers.
Dr. Cybelle T. Shattuck (MS ’11, PhD ’16) is an assistant professor at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Dept. of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University. “Julia has had a tremendous influence on my career both through her teaching and her personal example,” said Shattuck. “She renewed my faith in the possibility that scholars can make a difference in the world.”
Linda Manning (MS ’94), President and Founder at Council Oak, a public policy and facilitation firm focusing on natural resources and public infrastructure, shared her own experience.
“Julia changed my life trajectory,” said Manning. “Convinced I was on a path to activism, [her course] NR532 made me realize that my skills and temperament were more suited to brokering solutions than advocating for them… Her teaching and mentorship have been a constant companion in my 25-year career as a mediator.”
With accolades like these, it is not surprising that Wondolleck was honored as “Outstanding Professor of the Year,” awarded by the Student Body in 2001, 2003, 2010, and 2017. She was also recognized with the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School Faculty Masters’ Student Mentoring Award in 2014, along with honors and awards for scholarship from the Association for Conflict Resolution and the International Association of Conflict Management.
Conflict and Collaboration
Wondolleck’s research and teaching has focused on the collaborative dimension of marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystem management. She has been interested in the structure of policy and administrative processes that promote the sustainability of ecological and human systems in the face of diverse yet legitimate interests, scientific complexity, and often conflicting and ambiguous legal direction.
In addition to her distinguished academic career—as evidenced by a deep catalogue of published work—Wondolleck brings a warmth and authenticity to her interactions that is fondly remembered.
Former student Liz Och (MS/JD ’14), now Senior Associate at Hogan Lovells, described Wondolleck as the “heart and soul” of the Environmental Policy and Planning specialization at SEAS. “She is a master in seeing the bigger picture and in calmly leading others to see it, too,” said Och.
[Read “Notes of Appreciation for Julia Wondolleck” from well over a dozen alumni, colleagues, and students following the "Conversation" below.]
Wondolleck and her husband and colleague, Professor Steve Yaffee, arrived at SEAS (then the School of Natural Resources) in the early 80s. Over their long careers, they have co-authored books, research papers, and a multitude of publications—in addition to their own individual work. They also co-taught the popular course, “Negotiation Skills in Environmental Dispute Resolution,” since 1988. (That is long enough to have a graduate student in their class whose father had taken the same course when it was first offered.) Alumni credit the course for giving them the insights—and essential skill set—that they use throughout their lives.
One of the qualities that alumni and colleagues often remarked upon was how generous Wondolleck was with her time. In the following interview, she was no less generous—extending the 30-minute time slot to nearly an hour and a half. Our thanks to Wondolleck for sharing her thoughts and insights about her work, her early days at SEAS, and her perspective on how the school has evolved over the decades. She also gives us a brief look into what this next chapter of her life may bring.
A Conversation with Julia Wondolleck
What are you most proud of over your long career at SEAS?
I'm very proud of the teaching awards I received a number of times from the students. What greater honor can there be than an honor that comes from the students? That probably is “number one” on the list.
I would say that secondly, I’m most proud of the first book Steve (Professor Steve Yaffee) and I co-authored, Making Collaboration Work: Lessons from Innovation in Natural Resources Management (Island Press, 2000). It's referenced all over the world. And I think that it did have a fairly fundamental impact on resource agencies and in particular, the U.S. Forest Service. A lot of people say the Forest Service can't do anything right—that it will never change. However, the Forest Service is a lot more collaborative now than it was 30 years ago.
Another thing that I am proud of is the bridge that Steve and I have built through our work between the worlds of marine/coastal and terrestrial ecosystem management. These two domains share many of the same issues, challenges and strategies in common yet they seldom interact. It’s puzzling. It’s also unfortunate because there is so much that they can learn from one another. Our second book, Marine Ecosystem-based Management in Practice: Different Pathways, Common Lessons (Island Press, 2017) makes those connections, and my more recent work supporting collaborative science in NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserves has expanded our impact to an additional set of nationwide practitioners.
What was the inspiration for Making Collaboration Work?
I was studying conflicts involving public lands and I was interested in knowing: Why do these conflicts exist and what do their characteristics suggest should be done differently? I refer to it as “the pathologies of the decision-making process of public land management.” What are the pathologies that lead to relentless conflict? And what are the procedural responses to address those pathologies? And that's what my first book, Public Lands Conflict and Resolution: Managing National Forest Disputes (Plenum, 1988), was really about.
But in the context of studying these conflicts, Steve and I kept coming across—in our own individual work—these pockets of activity where people were doing things differently. They were working together; they were being collaborative—though at that time, in the early 1990s, people weren't using the word “collaboration.” They weren't using the word “partnerships.” They were just trying to figure out a way to make progress in the face of conflict.
So, I said to the Forest Service, “Look, you fund me to study conflicts and draw lessons and recommendations for you. Why not give us some money to study these places where people are working on problems in innovative ways?” After three years of making this pitch to the agency, they finally gave us funding to do a study which we called “In Search of Excellence in the U.S. Forest Service.”
It was a very simple study. We interviewed and surveyed people in other federal agencies, state agencies, industry, environmental NGOs—the whole spectrum of folks that had been suing the Forest Service. And we said, “We know what you don’t like about the Forest Service, but who or what would you point to and say they're doing what the agency should be doing—that this is the right way to approach public lands management?”
And actually, we were surprised at the number of people who said to us at the end of their interview, “I've never looked at the agency through that lens. I've never thought about that question.” From there, we asked for examples, and what they saw as the challenges to advancing these innovations.
We also interviewed and surveyed Forest Service officials, asking them the same questions. In the end we had observations from almost 2,000 people and had about 250 good examples that we could study. The one thread that connected all of the responses was that these innovations were all collaborative. They were all instances where the agency, the ranger, the forest planner, the fire manager, whoever, was working across the agency's boundary. They were working with a community; they were working together with NGOs and industry.
Our analysis of these cases—and what motivated people to work on problems in nontraditional ways—became what we called a “study of experiments in place” – of bottom-up innovations from which lessons could be drawn. And that study is what led to the book.
Our second book takes the same approach but looks at “experiments” in the marine and coastal context. Unlike Making Collaboration Work that examined early examples of collaboration and what motivated their formation, this book examines more mature processes that had been underway for 20-25 years. From those cases we could discern what sustains effective collaboration over time. And answering that question is essential to advancing sustainability in any domain.
What did these “experiments in place” look like? Was there one that particularly struck you?
One of my favorite cases was a classic Western community conflict in southern Oregon. It was in a large watershed—ranches, farms, timber mills, small rural communities, state and federal forestland—a beautiful landscape. There was pretty extreme conflict, including lawsuits involving environmentalists, loggers, government agencies and the timber industry. Then the spotted owl controversy shut down the local timber mill, and tensions escalated. This was happening all over the West and a lot of horrible things were going on, even death threats.
Then one day in the downtown of the largest town—which is this tiny rural community—the head of the local environmental coalition encountered a respected local logger. Usually in a situation like that, one would just cross over to the other side of the street. But on this day, they stopped, looked at each other and said, “We have to do something about what's happening to our community.”
At what came to be known locally as the “deck party,” 40 people representing all of the interests in the watershed gathered one Saturday morning on the environmentalist’s deck overlooking the watershed. He asked everyone to introduce themselves—but not by their organizational affiliations. Instead, he asked them to look out over the watershed and talk about their aspirations for its future—and what they wanted the watershed to look like and be for their grandchildren one day.
As it turned out, they all wanted the same thing.
That was transformative, because they suddenly realized that they were not that different from one another. So, that was the birth of the Applegate Partnership, which still exists today, over 25 years later. Their motto is, “Practice Trust. Them is Us.” They recognized that finger pointing was not helping their community.
So, that's a transformational story. And we heard stories like that from all over the West, and all over the world when we did our marine ecosystem management study.
Did those studies—and the ensuing books—inform your teaching?
Yes, they definitely had an impact on the content of my courses. I initially taught conflict management. But that course became about both conflict management and the collaborative process. How do you structure a collaborative process? What are the differences between an acute dispute that can be resolved and a chronic or evolving problem that needs adaptive solutions and ongoing attention?
In the sustainability field, you've got to build bridges that you can keep crossing. It’s not as simple as hiring a mediator to resolve a dispute, have the parties shake hands, and then go their separate ways. It’s about an ongoing collaborative process that enables sustained interaction and problem-solving in an ever-changing context.
How did you land at SEAS, then the School for Natural Resources (SNR), and what were those early years like for you?
Steve and I met in graduate school at MIT. He was interested in endangered species policy. I was interested in public lands management. We were two oddballs at MIT given those interests. But what we both sought was an understanding of decision making. How do organizations make decisions; what influences that process? We both saw this problem area—the environment—and the conflict that engulfed it. So, we both were looking for decision-making frameworks that might be applied to the environmental issues we cared about. And MIT was the best place to go for that.
Steve had gotten his bachelors and masters at SNR. I had gone to the University of California, Davis, which had environmental studies courses but no degree program. So, I did a degree in Economics, but I took all the environmental courses. So, we both had the substantive background in natural sciences and environmental issues.
I was at the tail end of my dissertation when Steve was offered the position at SNR. I finished writing my dissertation in the Reading Room of the Hatcher Graduate Library. I had been offered a postdoc at Harvard, but that didn't do me a whole lot of good because we were now living in Ann Arbor.
This was at the time that the big budget cuts were happening at U-M, and the future of SNR was under review. In the end, the school’s budget was cut by about a third.
Jim Crowfoot was the dean at the time, and he had two big research projects underway—so he arranged a postdoc for me here and I worked on his projects for a couple of years. Eventually, Jim and I wrote a book together from one of those projects, Environmental Disputes: Community Involvement in Conflict Resolution, (Island Press, 1990).
Before becoming dean, Jim had been teaching a conflict course from his perspective as a sociologist. Eventually, I began teaching his class, but from my perspective of policy and planning. But I didn't have a faculty position. There were no spousal hires in those days.
So, I just patched things together year-to-year. I was often half time, quarter time, three quarters time. When new deans or interim deans would come in, I’d sit down with them and ask, “Isn't there a way to fix this?” But a solution seemed elusive.
Then, in 1996, Dan Mazmanian came in as dean. After a few months, his secretary called and said that the dean wanted to see me. The first thing he said when we sat down together in his office was, “Who are you? Can you explain your situation here to me? You're not faculty, but you’re teaching courses and serving on committees.”
Dean Mazmanian listened to my story and then said, “Well, that's not right. I'm going to try to fix that.” It didn’t take him long to set things in motion. He met with the Provost and together they decided that the best course of action was to conduct a regular faculty search with me as the internal candidate. I gave my presentation, met with faculty and students. And, in the end, I was hired for the position. So, 15 years after arriving in Ann Arbor, I finally became a regular faculty member at U-M.
I will be forever grateful to Dan Mazmanian for his efforts on my behalf, for acknowledging my scholarship and what I was doing for the school, and for saying, “This isn't right for you. It's not right for us. And I'm in a position to change it.”
In your view, how has the school changed over the years?
The faculty of the school is so much more diverse than it was, as is the student body. And there's so much more parity across disciplines. When Steve and I arrived, this transition was already occurring, but the school really was rooted in conservation, aquatics, forestry, the natural sciences—and landscape architecture had come in the mid-1960s. Then social scientists started to be brought into the school and later, the engineers. These were major changes, and I'd say that today there is parity among all of those.
But in the early years, the social sciences were not as well respected as the natural sciences—and during that time, many were leery about bringing engineering and technology into the mix. Yet the combination of these fields is one of the strengths of the school and what sets us apart from our peers.
I describe the school to people as this “great experiment in interdisciplinarity.” We've been at it for 100 years, and we're still trying to figure it out. The one thing that's for sure is that it's hard. But if your mission is sustainability, you have to have this mix of disciplines, right? You have to have people who think about the problems in different ways. You have to have people who bring different questions, apply different methods, and target different audiences.
For example, Steve and I write these books—not for academics—but for practitioners. We do trainings that help practitioners gain new understandings and build new skills. You asked what I’m proud of. I’m very proud of the impact that Steve and I have had.
Has the position of the school changed as well—in terms of how it is regarded at U-M?
At one point in those early years, the provost gave a speech about the “state of the university.” He talked about the greatness of the law school, the medical school, the research centers, etc. And then he mentioned that out on the periphery were departments like music, art, and natural resources that were nice to have but not core to the university.
Another example of how the school was perceived then: One day, in the early 1980s, the director of our Office of Academic Programs overheard a campus tour group of prospective students and their families. As they passed the Dana Building, the student tour leader commented, “This is the natural resources school. They do a lot of camping and things like that.”
So, our position on campus has definitely changed. We're not the law school or the medical school but look at the university now—climate change, carbon neutrality, divestment, environmental justice have become priorities. Sustainability has become a real focus, and that’s obviously what our school is about and we’re at the center of those conversations.
You’ve advised and mentored so many on the power of negotiation—and how “bridge building” can occur in the most unlikely scenarios. Does this seem possible today on a national level—given the extent of our polarization? Is there still reason to hope?
There’s a spectrum of perspectives, and you have those on the far left and the far right. Steve and I used to refer to them as the “wingnuts.” The nice thing about wingnuts is that they hold the center together. The center says, “If we can't work this out, look at what's going to happen.” I feel that's imploded a bit because much of the attention today is on the extremes—and that is worrisome. But I think that there are plenty of places where people are still collaborating.
I haven't thought about this before, but maybe current times are like the late 70s and 80s, when there was so much conflict, so many lawsuits, so many communities being torn apart.
That was happening in enough places that people started to say, “We’ve got to do something different here.” To begin looking for solutions. Like those two guys in the Applegate Partnership who stopped and said, “This is tearing our community apart, and we're in a position to maybe turn it around.”
So, maybe I'm hopeful that we're at the peak of “as bad as it can get,” and there will be people who will start saying, “We can't do things this way anymore.” So, yes, let's be hopeful.
Do you have plans for this next chapter of your life? What will you miss? Do you look forward to more writing?
I've given a lot of time to students over the years. The thing I'm going to miss, actually, is these interactions with the students—because, for one reason, I just learned so much from them. We all have our own backgrounds, our own experiences, our own stories—and it's just interesting to hear another person's perspective on the world, to gain new insights that I hadn’t considered before, and to work with people in teams—the master's project teams for example. I loved it when we had this thorny problem we had to solve. Yeah, I am going to miss that.
I do have some writing projects that I still hope to complete. One writing project in particular is at the top of my list. My first book was on conflict in management of national forests, and as I’ve called them, the “pathologies.” I'd like to basically bookend my career with a book on the Forest Service and what has changed in that organization and how that change was brought about.
There are many books that have been written about organizational change, but they're mostly written from a prescriptive perspective: “This is what you should do.” This is referred to as “planned change” and it frequently fails. I’d like to tell the story about how an organization actually did change. I'm not saying it's great right now or that the Forest Service shouldn't change some more. But fundamental change has nonetheless occurred in this agency. And the question is: what enabled it?
So, yes, there is some writing I'd like to do, but otherwise I just want to relax. That includes spending more time with our daughters. They grew up in the Ann Arbor bubble but now both live and are doing important work in Nashville (where Katie is a school-based therapist working with elementary students) and Atlanta (where Anna is an emergency medicine physician and global health specialist). Additionally, and this may sound like a cliché, but I want to spend more time tending to our garden. I don't want to keep spending one weekend in the garden and hoping it lasts all summer – I’ve been doing that for 30 years! And then there’s also what Rachel and Steve Kaplan have taught us all about—the restorative dimension of nature. I’m ready for that.
Thank you. And congratulations, Professor Wondolleck!
Have a memory or photo you’d like to share, or would like to wish Julia well? Thanks for sharing at Julia Wondolleck Well Wishes!
Notes of Appreciation for Julia Wondolleck
"I appreciate the guidance and encouragement you provided me as my advisor. Collaboration is central to my work and thankful for the opportunity to learn from you. You had great impact on me to work through conflict, which is essential practice in this world driven by divisions. Best wishes on a well-deserved retirement, and I look forward to hearing about your new adventures!"
—Mary Adelzadeh (MS ’06)
Member of the Navajo Nation
"Julia and I first met, along with her capable sidekick [a joking reference to Professor Steve Yaffee], at a coffee shop on the edge of campus. I was scoping out doctoral programs. The truth is, I was only interested in one school and one advisor. As a practicing environmental mediator, SEAS [then SNRE] and Professor Wondolleck were well known. We met to talk about whether Julia would serve as my advisor, if I could get into the program. I did, which began a 25-year friendship and working relationship that included the Environmental Framing Consortium, SNRE's Mediation Module, and numerous training workshops—along with Steve, with government agencies and environmental NGOs. We were peers in every sense, and I treasure Julia’s sound guidance and friendship."
—Todd Bryan (PhD ’08)
Lead Knowledge Exporter
Todd Bryan + Associates
"Dear Julia: I could write a lot in terms of the impact you had on me. From putting in my name for a scholarship before even arriving to Michigan, to your thoughtful, patient questions that opened up my thinking every time I sat down with you for some advising. Essentially I felt you were looking out for me, and as I navigated those grad school years and beyond I didn't want to let you down. I recall how challenging it was to call you 'Julia' because I had a cultural bias to say "Dr. Wondolleck." I remember missing Visit Day because my flight was cancelled, but you took the time to still ensure we could hop on the phone and chat. You were (are!) a great advisor, mentor, and teacher. And that's the impact you had on me. I can only imagine how many others can recall their experience in a similar way. The ripples of your teaching and being will continue with us. Gracias, con un gran respeto y admiracion."
—José González (MS '09)
Founder and Director Emeritus at Latino Outdoors
"Julia was an incredible mentor and teacher during my time at SNRE (SEAS). I reflect often on her environmental conflict resolution course which taught me how important it is to spend time designing a good process—without it, you rarely get anywhere. If I’m extra lucky, maybe retirement will lead her to take more trips to Maine so I can intercept her for what is always an intellectually thoughtful and stimulating meal. Either way, I’m wishing her the best of times in retirement—she should be so proud of all the environmental professionals she has influenced along the way."
—Kirsten Howard, CFM (MS ’13)
Resilience Program Coordinator at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Coastal Program
"As one of Professor Julia Wondolleck’s former graduate students at SEAS, I am delighted to speak about my deep admiration and respect for her and her extraordinary career. As a professor, Julia excelled; as a personal mentor, she profoundly affected my view of the world. Julia is the rare professor whose lessons and wisdom pushed me to be a more curious, inquisitive, empathetic, and strategic thinker and leader.
"Conversations with Julia were always meaningful: she shared stories with our master’s project team about growing up sailing in the San Francisco Bay (and correcting me when I called a line a rope); reminisced about the incredible arc of her career at Michigan (where she influenced countless students); and provided guidance and insight that always seemed to unlock a new way of viewing complex challenges. Julia's Bricks & Mortar principles on collaboration were a gamechanger for me!
"I will especially remember Julia’s generosity throughout my master’s project, whether it was her thoughtful feedback or ongoing encouragement, and that time she checked in with our Master’s Project team as we hurriedly worked to finish our writing and editing at the Dana Computer lab in the eleventh hour (and she brought cookies to help us get across the finish line). Julia is truly one of a kind, and I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from her. Wishing you all the best, Julia!"
—Collin Knauss (MBA/MS '21)
Project Development Manager
Great Lakes Protection Fund
"Julia changed my life trajectory. Convinced I was on a path to activism, NR532 made me realize that my skills and temperament were more suited to brokering solutions than advocating for them. I was fortunate to have the pleasure of not only taking every class that Julia taught, but to serve as her research assistant and even come back to campus as an alumni guest a few times. Her teaching and mentorship have been a constant companion in my 25-year career as a mediator. It was her syllabus I looked back at when I wanted a good model for a case study. It is her calm but passionate voice in my ear when I am confronted with someone who is not negotiating in good faith. It is her style of thorough, constructive review and editing that I emulate (although I have moved on from the pencil to more electronic delivery means). In the times that I have come back to campus, it is clear that she is having the same deep, long-lasting effect on today’s students. It has been an honor and a pleasure."
—Linda Manning (MS ’94)
President and Founder at Council Oak
"Happy retirement to Julia Wondolleck, the heart and soul of the EPP track at SEAS! Julia was both my advisor and my masters project’s advisor from 2011-2014, and I look back on those years fondly. Julia knew both when and how to push her students to be the best they could be, in a way that never felt much like pushing at all. She is a master in seeing the bigger picture and in calmly leading others to see it, too. Julia has earned a long and happy retirement but there is no denying that the Dana Building will not be the same without her. Cheers to Julia!"
—Liz Och (MS/JD ’14)
Senior Associate at Hogan Lovells
"Maeghan, Lynn and I have enjoyed learning so much about collaboration from Julia as we’ve worked together on the National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Science Collaborative. Through this program, we have witnessed and benefited from Julia’s tremendous commitment to, respect for and support of the world of practice outside of U-M. For example, she has developed and refined customized training for mid-career professionals, she willingly and skillfully consults with professionals, such as our Science Collaborative PIs, and she has offered so much strategic advice to us as we built and continue to refine the Science Collaborative program. She has this spectacular way of asking just the right questions and offering just the right adjustment to ensure the work is grounded, practical, and achieving its purpose. But it’s so much more than the professional that we treasure from our time working with Julia—it’s laughing over dinner or picnics in the park; it’s feeling like we just had the best personal and professional counseling session to get through the next phase; it’s always feeling like the challenges we brought and how we could address them constructively were her entire focus. We deeply treasure Julia’s good humor, dignity and grace!"
—Jen Read, Director
—Maeghan Brass, Collaborative Research Manager
University of Michigan Water Center
—Lynn Vaccaro, Coastal Training Program Coordinator at Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in New Hampshire
"Julia – Congratulations on your retirement! I so much appreciate your thoughtful and engaged mentorship throughout my time in graduate school; particularly your modeling of how to ‘do it all.’ Enjoy the next phase, and know that through your teaching and research you have created a significant legacy of positive impact on thousands of students."
—Clare Ryan (MS ’90, PhD ’96) (she/her)
Professor and Associate Director for Academic Programs
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington
"Julia: In the early 2000s I was thrown (completely unprepared) into my first experience with (and ultimately co-leading) collaborative, statewide policy development. As I was stepping tentatively through this, I picked up a copy of your Making Collaboration Work and I instantly had a working framework that guided me during a successful 7-year process. I was sold on the value of understanding and implementing the collaborative process and have been a disciple ever since. In 2017 as an incoming SEAS faculty member I was hoping to stretch my disciplinary boundaries to embrace questions of how water resource sciences can better connect with local community decision-making, and you generously and graciously became my mentor and partner in this learning journey. You have consistently encouraged, guided, and critiqued; and co-advised important student research and project work. The work I’ve done with Great Lakes AOCs would not have been possible without your support and assistance. AND each of my students carries away a good dose of “Bricks and Mortar”, as well as a copy of the book for their lifetime libraries. Thanks so much for your work and friendship."
Professor of Practice, SEAS
"In some ways, it is Julia’s fault I pursued an academic career. After several years as an adjunct instructor of religious studies, I grew disillusioned with a field of scholarship that emphasized theory over real-world issues and decided to retrain for environmental work. I enrolled in the MS program at SNRE (SEAS) to learn the skills and knowledge I would need for new career options.
"During my first semester, I enrolled in Julia’s Natural Resources Conflict Management course. I loved the course content with its emphasis on use of case studies to explore best practices for dealing with resource conflicts in ways that benefit both humans and ecosystems. But I was equally impressed by Julia’s ability to be both a scholar and a practitioner. She not only studied conflict mediation and collaborative resource management, but she also periodically put her knowledge to use, such as the year she helped lead a process to develop a Huron River management plan when Ann Arbor was debating what to do about the Argo Dam. Her example inspired me with new ideas about how to do practical research on the intersection of faith and environmentalism, which then led to a renewed interest in academic life. After completing my MS at SNRE, I had the privilege of being the last PhD student to work with Julia. I now teach for a university where I hope to emulate Julia’s example as a scholar-practitioner, exploring and sharing knowledge in ways that are beneficial to a variety of communities.
"Julia’s personal example affected my approach to teaching as well as research. One theme of her class that was particularly influential for my understanding of environmental issues was the emphasis on process—on examination of how people had set up durable and effective resource management systems. Processes were not just something we read about for class, she modeled them in class. I recall a day when a student expressed anger about “scientific” whaling that seemed to be more about comestibles than research and asked Julia if she thought countries that followed this practice should be censured. Rather than respond with her personal opinion, Julia suggested it was important to define metrics that could be used to determine whether whaling practices were valid or not. She then led the class in an impromptu brainstorming process to outline evaluation metrics, using the board to capture and organize ideas. That class period encapsulated the course message about the importance of collaborative processes for producing credible conflict management systems. It also shaped my courses, which now use similar methods to help students build an understanding of the importance of effective processes.
"Julia has had a tremendous influence on my career both through her teaching and her personal example. She renewed my faith in the possibility that scholars can make a difference in the world. And it was also fun to compare notes about being Californians living in the Michigan diaspora. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to study with her."
—Dr. Cybelle T. Shattuck (MS ’11, PhD ’16)
Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Dept. of Comparative Religion, Western Michigan University
"Julia - Congratulations on your retirement!!! It has been a sincere pleasure to work with you during my time at Michigan, and I've learned so much about the art and science of collaboration than I ever dreamed was possible. You have been a constant source of support, encouragement, and inspiration for me and I feel lucky that I was able to cross paths with you during your long career at Michigan. Even before coming to Michigan, I had heard many tales about how great of a mentor you have been to students... I knew I wanted the chance to experience that, and my expectations were greatly exceeded! It has been a blessing to learn from one of the best and brightest collaborative process scholars in the world! I hope that during your retirement, you have the chance to revel in the impact that you've had in your career... because of you, there are people in this world who are working to break down barriers, lower divisions, and drive progress forward across the aisle. I have personally met many of the mediators and environmental policy leaders who you have mentored and have seen the impact you've had on them! I aspire to channel your calm energy, brilliance, and optimism in my post-graduate life, and to mentor others as well as you have. Thank you for making my academic experience at Michigan possible by hiring me as your GSRA multiple years in a row and constantly watching out for me... I truly would not have been able to get to this point without you. Congratulations again on a well-earned rest after a successful and fruitful teaching career, and I wish you all the very best. Please know that you have had a great impact on me and so many other students!"
—Anya Shapiro (MBA/MS ’22)
Ross School of Business/SEAS
"Among the most valuable pages of my well-loved, dog-eared and highlighted copy of "Making Collaboration Work" are near the end: the "About the Authors" section. It is there I first learned that Dr. Julia Wondolleck is based in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan, and is why I applied to SEAS (née SNRE). I am fairly sure that many legions of Julia's students have never known her impressive academic pedigree and internationally reputed expertise--unless they, too, read the "About the Authors" section. While she has certainly earned bragging rights for the accomplishments and milestones accrued in her career, what Julia lacks in pretension she makes up for with sincere congeniality. One of the final notes I scribbled down during the last lecture of Julia's mediation course is: "Don't be a stranger." One strength of Julia's teaching was that she was no stranger to us students; when she shared stories, they weren't two-dimensional "tales" designed to underline the lesson's take-away message, they were multi-faceted reflections of her character and history. Julia's authenticity in the classroom made it a comfortable haven for learning from my unchecked assumptions--an uncomfortable process indeed. To borrow a metaphor from her most recent publication, Julia's case-based pedagogy and clever mnemonics (like "Armadillo of Mediation") were the sturdy "bricks" of her teaching process, and her approachability, patience and genuine interest in her students was the "mortar" binding those bricks. That combination is why there were long waitlists for her legendary classes. It is a privilege and a pleasure to get to know "About the Author" and to be the student, advisee, and now a collaboration confrère, of the inimitable Dr. Julia Wondolleck. Thank you, Julia. With appreciation,"
—Allison Voglesong Zejnati (MS '19)
Public Affairs Specialist at International Joint Commission Great Lakes Regional Office