Professor Beth Gazley is co-founder of the Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute and co-principal investigator on Prepared for Environmental Change, a Grand Challenge research program at IU. Her focus is on civil society and philanthropic behaviors related to climate change adaptation.
Dr. Gazley specializes in nonprofit management, inter-organizational collaboration, the management of membership associations, and volunteerism. Best known for her groundbreaking work on nonprofit-government collaboration, Gazley is a prolific writer and researcher, with more than 60 published works since 2001. She also studies governmental reliance on charities to fund public services.
Dr. Gazley spent 16 years in nonprofit fundraising and management consulting before returning to graduate school. A member of the IU faculty since 2004, Gazley has received the Indiana University 2018 W. George Pinnell Award for Service, the 2013 Indiana Campus Compact Brian Douglas Hiltunen Award, and the 2012 Indiana University Board of Trustees Thomas Ehrlich Award (both for contributions to service-learning scholarship), the 2012 RGK Center/ARNOVA Presidents Award, and a 2009 campus Outstanding Junior Faculty Award.
Here is a recent interview with Dr. Beth Gazley:
How did you get involved in public service?
I started in public service as a nonprofit volunteer in grade school. I learned volunteering from my mother. I became politically active while a student at Middlebury College. When I graduated, my first job was for Senator Leahy of Vermont. I then had a career that was somewhat politically oriented but mostly focused on nonprofit fundraising. After 15 years, I started to feel burned out so thought I would take a break and earn a Masters in Public Administration degree before planning my next career move. But I was recruited by a professor into the doctoral program. I was hired onto the Indiana University faculty in 2004. Academia wasn’t the original plan, but it was the right move. I am the happiest “Accidental Academic” on the planet and have never looked back.
Which of the Academy’s 12 Grand Challenges resonates most with you?
They are all so important, it’s hard to choose. May I briefly suggest three, since they link so well to the COVID pandemic? First is the Grand Challenge to “reinvigorate public service”. The media has commented that the COVID pandemic has “brought back big government”. Without state and federal help, a good portion of our workforce would not be able to feed their families right now. And agencies like FEMA that are crucial to addressing not only the pandemic but also the effects of climate change need buttressing right now. But I’d also like to pull in the Grand Challenge related to fostering social equity. Pandemic have a disparate impact on people on the basis of wealth. I note for example a great New York Times graphic this week showing that low-income Americans are in riskier jobs at present, have not been able to shelter-in-place as successfully, and have weaker access to healthcare. Last is the Grand Challenge emphasis on resilient communities. This is actually an area in which I am doing research at present. I do hope there are some lessons about resilience under adversity that we can draw from this crisis later on.
Reflecting on your career thus far, is there a highlight, a greatest accomplishment or a funny story you’d like to share?
If you saw where I am sitting right now, you’d get all the humor you need. My mother is immune compromised, so I am with my parents in Vermont for the duration, providing extra support to help them isolate successfully. I am still working full time. The humor is that my “office” is a card table in the unfinished, unheated basement. I teach class and grade papers while wedged between the Weber grill and the tool bench! I will be separated from my spouse and my children for many weeks or months. Despite these deprivations I know I am very fortunate. I have health, family, and employment.
What was the best trip you’ve ever taken?
I’ve had some great travel adventures, but the best would have to be a week on a boat in the Galapagos islands, in Ecuador. Another that stands out was a trip I took with my Dad, then 80 years old, to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
What was the last book you read or one that you would recommend?
I’m thinking of re-reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods this month. I have been doing a lot of praying to the internet and tech gods of late, as has anybody whose job depends on Zoom meetings (inside reference to the book, but NOT a spoiler!). So, I am feeling a need to rebalance with a nod to the older historical gods. And given that Gaiman’s landscape involves a lot of great American roadside attractions I’ve been to, like the House on the Rock in Wisconsin, and Rock City in Tennessee, there is some escapism to enjoy as well, since nobody is traveling right now.
Do you have a favorite podcast, journal, newspaper, or other kind of media?
I love Politico in its various editions. I am a two-time winner of the Politico Huddle Trivia Contest!
What do you work toward in your free time?
I’m working on becoming a Master Gardener, specializing in climate-change-friendly, low-maintenance, native plants. A big part of being a Master Gardener is public-service-related, so I look forward to helping others learn to lessen their footprint on our planet.