OF GLASS CEILINGS AND ENVIRONMENTAL COMMUNICATION
JoAnn Myer Valenti ( Ph.D., 83 )
Professor Emerita of Communications
A Rockefeller Foundation grant to support my dissertation research in Costa Rica.
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When JoAnn Myer Valenti attended what was then the School of Natural Resources during the ’70s at the University of Michigan, the feminist movement was beginning to come of age. It would be a long time before a woman in the sciences — and in academia — would not feel like an anomaly. Valenti left U-M ABD – after passing oral exams and all coursework — and did not return to defend the dissertation she submitted to the University of Costa Rica but held back from Rackham until deciding on a life in academe.
“We needed the #timesup movement big time in the ’70s,” she said, as she reflected on the differences between U-M then and now. “During my tenure at SNR, there were no female role models. I am delighted it looks to have finally changed over the decades.”
Valenti, a renowned expert on environmental communication, helped chip away at patriarchal norms in the sciences. She said one of her biggest career accomplishments is “surviving as a woman in academe,” although she has done much more than simply survive. She advanced to tenured full graduate research professor at both University of Tampa and University of Florida early in her career before achieving professor emeritus status at Brigham Young University — no small feat for a human of any demographic. Note: Valenti is not a Mormon and held a unique position at the LDS school for a full decade.
Her research has focused on communicating about science and environment, and she has been published more than 200 times in journals, books, and other media, including the Cousteau Almanac, Encyclopedia of Science and Technology Communication, Handbook of Environment and Communication, Communicating Sustainability, Literature of Nature, and Encyclopedia of Environmental Control Technology. She is the co-author of Environmental Reporters in the 21st Century, and is currently on contract as co-editor of an international Handbook of Environmental Journalism, to be published by U.K. Routledge in 2020.
A founding member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, Valenti has examined the aspects of communication that result in positive environmental attitudes, including how journalism and other media influence or detract from sustainable behavior.
“Much of my publishing of late focuses on how science issues are presented to the public in films and books,” she said.
She has covered the Sundance Film Festival for several decades, serves as a Rachel Carson Book Award juror, and writes occasional commentary for several academic and professional journals.
Elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 1995, Valenti remains active in the science community. She serves on the editorial boards of Science Communication, Applied Environmental Education and Communication, and SEJournal, and she is a regular contributing author to Public Understanding of Science. She is also a trustee and past executive director of Florida Defenders of the Environment, and Florida broadband leader for Great Old Broads for Wilderness.
“I’m staying informed as we learn more,” she said, “working with long time colleagues as climate change takes us down as predicted.”