Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Michal Blim

Subject Categories

Higher Education Administration


Cultural Anthropology; Environmental Expertise; Expertise; Higher Education; History of Science; Institutional Change


This dissertation focuses on how academic experts have gone about creating university- based programs in Environmental Science (ES). Since the 1940's, with the emergence of the postwar research economy, the U.S higher education system has increasingly become a vector of institutional change, innovation, and economic growth. This has had a dramatic impact on the social role of knowledge and collective expectations for faculty and expert work. In this context, academic experts in the mid 1960's championed a movement to develop university-based programs integrating interdisciplinary environmental research with the expert use of science in decision-making. I pay particular attention to the role of science-based policy in the work of academic institution building. I argue that an evolving emphasis on the 'use of knowledge' rather than its production, or application, shaped how ES has been institutionalized, tying the authority of environmental experts to the creation of novel institutional arrangements to coordinate the production of knowledge with its ongoing use in integrated efforts to manage or solve environmental problems.

The research compares case studies of university based ES programming in California, Oregon and Washington State from the period 1950-2014. These cases elucidate how programs originated and were institutionalized over time, documenting a dynamic centered on institutional work, struggles over the definition of utility, and the articulation of institutional strategy and capture, shaping both commonalities and variation across cases. I identify three key trajectories in the institutionalization of ES: a cooperative model of the environmental sciences, environmental expertise as a type of scientific reform movement, and ES as an administrative strategy linking environmental research programs.

In this process, environmental experts reshaped the institutional ecology of the university in two significant ways. First we see an institutional reorganization of the relationship between experts and citizens, and second, the gradual emergence of a tiered administrative structure within the university, institutionalizing a 'trading zone' between experts and environmental constituencies. I conclude that the institutionalization of ES trading zones, in effect, creates an engine for institutionalization projects; a claim that holds broader implications for understanding the neoliberal university under conditions of epistemic modernization.