In my courses, I take a problem-based learning approach, which has been described as “[a teaching style] approached through concrete material and problems, the working through of which not only illustrates the principle but engages students in its use.” I seek to create spaces in my classes for students to feel comfortable discussing their own—and others’—perspectives and lived experience with respect for not only the diversity represented in the classroom but across human societies worldwide and over time. I recognize that each student comes to class with a different approach to learning, educational background, and life circumstances that make it easier—or harder—for them to participate and be successful in the course. I strive to accommodate student learning styles through group break-outs, class discussions, and writing assignments emphasizing critical thinking instead of timed exams. I currently teach three courses, but have also taught classes in environmental social science and research methods.


  • EVPP 336 Tackling Wicked Problems in Society & the Environment. Characterized by complexity, uncertainty, and divergence of human values and viewpoints, “wicked” problems are prone to becoming mired in controversy and failures of governance. Based on the latest literature and advances in systems thinking, the course will help you better understand the nature of “wicked” problems, the structures from which they arise, and their dynamics. EVPP 336 is a Mason Core Global Contexts/Just Societies designated course and was the university’s first Community Engagement and Civic Learning (CECiL) impact course. [Syllabus]
  • EVPP 429/529 Environmental Science Communication. The syllabus for this cross-listed undergraduate and graduate course has been redesigned to focus on communication dimensions that are commonly encountered by scientists engaging in environmental decision-making processes and promoting community behavior change. [Syllabus]
  • EVPP 530 Evidence-based Environmental Policymaking. I developed this course for the department in fall 2020. The course explores the meaning of “evidence-based policymaking,” the value of science in decision-making and its limitations, and ways that individuals and organizations can build capacity in creating usable science and using science in policy. [Syllabus]
  • 2016 Maryland Community Survey

    Karen Akerlof maps the survey route with students. Photo: Daniel Pendick

    Westport 1
  • 2017 Maryland Community Survey

    First weekend of the student survey team in Baltimore

    Weekend 1
  • 2016 Maryland Community Survey

    Survey teams prepare to conduct a round of door-to-door surveys. Photo: Daniel Pendick

    westport student group2
  • 2016 Maryland Community Survey

    Bowie State, George Mason, and Morgan State students are ready to go! Photo: Daniel Pendick

    Westport students group 1
  • 2016 Maryland Community Survey

    Lunchtime downtime for the Maryland Community Survey team

  • 2016 Maryland Community Survey

    UMD Extension’s Jennifer Dindinger joins with Bowie State student in Glassmanor-Oxon Hill

    Dindinger 1

The 2016 Maryland Community Survey was conducted with research assistance from George Mason, Morgan State, and Bowie State university students.

My approach to mentorship is much like my approach to teaching: I believe that students learn best when doing. In order for students to learn how to write proposals and papers, and work with diverse teams of researchers and stakeholders, they need the opportunity to see it done and participate in these activities. As a result, I encourage students to participate in my research and publications and to submit their own scholarship to journals.

Master’s or doctoral graduate students who are interested in working with me, please email me at kakerlof@gmu.edu.

Please attach your program application statement of interest (MS, PhD), including desired concentration or focal area, possible areas of thesis or dissertation research, and career goals.


Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Akerlof K, Timm KMF, Rowan KE, Olds JL, Hathaway J. (2022). The growth and disciplinary convergence of environmental communication: A bibliometric analysis of the field. Frontiers in Environmental Science 9, 814599. [Link]

Hathaway JR, Duesterhoeft E, Leavey NJ, Akerlof KL, Mims SL, Rowan KE. (2021). Teaching audience analysis through worksheets: Approaching audience analysis as qualitative research. Journal of Public Relations Education 7(2), 221-228. [Link]

Akerlof KL, Bromser-Kloeden T, Timm K, Rowan KE, Olds JL, Clarke C, Rohring EB, Cloyd ET, Curran K, Duesterhoeft EC, Farooque M, Goldman E, Gring-Pemble L, Hampton SE, Kim SC, Kotcher J, Milligan D, Brenes CLM, Sandoval C, Zhao X. (2021). Categorizing professionals’ perspectives on environmental communication with implications for graduate education. Environmental Communication 15(4), 447–464. [Link]


Williams, P. (Aug. 19, 2022). Mason welcomes its largest, most diverse freshman class to date at New Student Convocation. The George. [Link]

Persky, A. (Feb. 23, 2021). Mason faculty use innovative courses to help students understand coronavirus pandemic. The George. [Link]

Patrick, C. (Jun. 15, 2016). With Sea Grant’s help, student learns value of science communication. Virginia Sea Grant. [Link]