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Project Center 204B
+1 (508) 8315000 x4959
Affiliated Department or Office
Massachusetts Water Resource Outreach Center
White Mountains Project Center, New Hampshire
PhD, Law Policy & Society, Northeastern University 2009
JD and Certificate in Environmental Law, Boston College 2001
BA, Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder 1997

A public interest lawyer in my previous life, I was drawn to academia by its capacity to help facilitate attitudinal changes, foster dialogue, and inspire students to be ethically minded leaders. I thrive on the energy of students, particularly when I see them develop a newfound confidence and excitement for learning.

Drawing on my environmental policy knowledge, and awareness of the mental health aftermath of the COVID-19 induced shutdown, in 2022, I explored creation of a program that could facilitate student project work and increase student connections with nature. According to the American Psychological Association (2022) almost 75% of college students reported struggling with their mental health. Importantly, time in nature and strong connections with nature improve mental health and can increase happiness (Mackay and Smith, 2019).

In the fall of 2023, in collaboration with the World Trails Network: Hub for the Americas (WTNHA) and the Waterman Fund, we developed and piloted a program where students earned a Certificate in Wilderness Ethics. The goal of this program is to develop environmental stewards and leaders, increase student-nature connection (thereby improving mental health) and increase recognition of the indigenous perspective.

I enjoy teaching courses and advising projects that involve ethical community engagement, environmental justice, environmental law and policy, water law and policy, and constitutional issues. I have worked with numerous municipalities, governmental and not-for-profit organizations on drinking water policy development, equity and quality of public versus private drinking water distribution, stormwater runoff mitigation policies, environmental stewardship, environmental justice, and dam removal policies within the state. I work closely with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Forest Service, am a member of the WPI Sustainability Committee, a frequent participant in Regional Stormwater Coalition meetings, and a contributor to the World Trails Network Alpine Stewardship Steering Committee.

Visit Digital WPI to view student projects advised by Professor Dehner.

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 3: Good Health & Well-Being

SDG 3: Good Health & Well-Being - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

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SDG 4: Quality Education

SDG 4: Quality Education - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

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SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

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SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Preview Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure Goal

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

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SDG 13: Climate Action

SDG 13: Climate Action - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

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SDG 15: Life on Land

SDG 15: Life on Land - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

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Scholarly Work

Professor Dehner’s work focuses on ethical participatory research with community partners involved in wilderness protection, trail management, drinking and storm water policy, equitable access to green spaces, and environmental justice.

Featured Works:

Dehner, C. D. (2011). Private sector involvement in public water distribution: assessing local water systems in Massachusetts. Journal of the New England Water Works Association. March 2011.

Dehner, C. D. (2009). Environmental Law, Policy, and Economics: Reclaiming the Environmental Agenda. The Review of Policy Research, 26(3), 346-349.

Dehner, C.  and P. Mathisen (Forthcoming). Development of Stormwater Coalitions to Tackle Stormwater Runoff. 

Conference Presentations:

  • Imaging America, National Gathering, Providence, RI, Presenter, October 20-22, 2023. “Cultivating Environmental Stewards: Reflection and Action Begins Around a Campfire” 
  • Central Massachusetts Regional Stormwater Coalition, Presenter & collaborator, ongoing. 
  • Association of American Geographers, Boston, MA, Panelist, April 8, 2017. “Project Based Learning and Alternative Pedagogy” 
  • Worcester Regional Research Bureau at Worcester State University, Panelist, Fall 2016. “Higher Education and Civic Engagement” 
  • Community Engaged Partnership Symposium at University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA, Co-Presenter, April 2, 2014. “Engaging Models of Civic Engagement in the Sciences” 
  • Connecting Student Learning Outcomes to Teaching, Assessment, Curriculum, Alverno College Institute for Educational Outreach, Milwaukee, WI, Workshop Invitee and Participant, June 10-12, 2013                       
  • International Symposium on Nanotechnology—Occupational and Environmental Health, Boston, MA, August 9-12, 2011, Presenter. “Possibilities for State Level Nanotechnology Regulation”  
  • Law and Society Association Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, NV, Presenter, June 2-5, 2005. “Sandoval and Gonzaga: What Do They Mean for Environmental Justice Enforcement.” 

Award-Winning Student Projects:

Professional Highlights & Honors
IQP New Advisor Mentoring Program, Facilitator and Co-Creator, 2022 - 2023

WPI Sweet Center Fellow, 2020

Meritorious Service Award, American Public Works Association (Water Resource Outreach Center), 2017

Stormy Award, New England Stormwater Collaborative (Water Resource Outreach Center), 2016

Teaching Innovation Grant, WPI (Creation of WROC), 2013

Dexter Brackett Memorial Award, most meritorious paper, Journal of the New England Water Works Association, 2012

National Science Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow, Northeastern University, 2011

Nominee, University Excellence in Teaching Award, Northeastern University, 2006 - 2007

David H. and Mary Murphy Posner Law Scholarship for Commitment to Public Interest work, Boston College School of Law, 2000