Martha VanderWolk
Martha VanderWolk

Affiliated Faculty
My teaching philosophy is fairly simple: human beings are genetically hardwired to learn. It is what we do. Left alone, we will learn, and we will do it the way all social mammals do: by playing and by copying others. People do not need to be taught how to learn; they do it naturally. So, what is my job as an educator? My job is to reintroduce learners to the joy of learning by playing, to their natural abilities to learn.

Martha started teaching in the Vermont Bachelor of Arts program in the fall of 1986, fairly soon after finishing her Master's in Public Policy (with a concentration in environmental and tax policy) at Berkeley. Her B.A. from Goddard College came after a rather convoluted journey through three colleges, seven years, two children, and one marriage and divorce. She did her culminating study in Teutonic Mythology, and then went back to Goddard four years later to earn an MA in Environmental Economics and Social Ecology. Like most of her learners, she also worked all that time in order to care for her sons: managing McDonald's, looking out for forest fires, logging, doing bookkeeping and financial management. After starting to teach in the B.A., she went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to get a Ph.D. in Science and Technology studies. In her dissertation, Losing our Places: The Nature of Knowing in the Northern Forest, she examined the relationships between rural people and environmental professionals, with special emphasis on knowledge creation and legitimation in society, schools, and policymaking arenas. Out of that work came an article published in Knowledge and Society, "Knowing in Action: Men's Work in the Northern Forest." Martha completed a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Educational Leadership at the UI&U Masters of Education Program in 2006.

Martha wears many hats at Union, partially because her fields cross boundaries between the more humanistic subject areas and the more quantitative ones, partially because her own degrees are interdisciplinary and partially because she has an incredible need to keep learning new things. Besides teaching undergraduate and, occasionally, graduate students at UI&U, she has taught 7th & 8th grade social studies and English, and high school geometry and precalculus. She is licensed to teach social studies and math 7-12 and is also certified as a principal. While in graduate school, she taught seminars in statistics, econometrics, technology and society, and science, technology and community.

Martha has built four houses (designing three of them) and in the process, learned a lot about design, construction and systems. The house she now lives in is a thermal mass-based, solar-powered log cabin overlooking the northern reaches of the Connecticut River valley. She spent many years singing and acting with a group of mostly B.A. faculty and staff women in Central Vermont. She knits a lot, often designing her own sweaters, and loves to run a chainsaw. She is the owner and publisher of New Hampshire Outdoor Gazette, a monthly publication for outdoor enthusiasts. She serves as a "lister" for her town (for those who don't live in Vermont, that's a property tax assessor).