Chestertown, MD, June 6, 2005 — Michael Chiarappa, former associate professor of history and environmental studies at Western Michigan University, has been named the new director of Washington College'sCenter for Environment and Society. Chiarappa succeeds Wayne H. Bell, who resigned from his administrative and teaching posts last spring. Bell will continue his association with the Center as a Senior Associate. Chiarappa assumes the post July 1.
With a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania specializing in American environmental history, Chiarappa has focused his academic career on the teaching and research of American regional cultures and environments. His interdisciplinary use of American cultural history, ethnography and material culture studies examines the interplay of geographic and environmental consciousness ("sense of place"), landscape transformation and natural resource legacies.
As a specialist in maritime environmental studies, Chiarappa helped establish the Great Lakes Center for Maritime Studies, where his courses focused on environmental values, history, policy and fieldwork methods. He has been involved with a number of vessel-based classroom settings, including the Delaware Bay-based Bayshore Discovery Project and the Great Lakes-based Inland Seas Education Association.
His signature program to date has been "Fish for All: Perspectives on the History of Lake Michigan Fisheries Management and Policy." As co-director of this project, Chiarappa took students from the classroom and then onto fisheries research vessels and commercial fishing tugs. His students also visited private homes, government offices and fish sheds to interview and observe members of every fishing constituency on the Great Lakes. "Beyond what they learned in the classroom and in the field," he said, "my students brought this work a step further by working on a traveling museum exhibit, writing educational booklets, scripting an award-winning NPR radio documentary and constructing a web site."
Chiarappa is highly recognized on national and international levels for research that combines environmental history, landscape studies, cultural resource management and environmental policy and planning.
"Dr. Chiarappa emerged from a national field of strong applicants as the candidate who would most successfully advance the Center's agenda," said Joachim Scholz, provost and dean of the College. "His imaginative and interdisciplinary approach to the study of environment and society assures that Washington College will continue its leadership role in academic programming as well as in its regional, national and international outreach."