Tiffany Grobelski


Visiting Assistant Professor in Geography

I am originally from the Chicago area.  Before coming to Gustavus, I worked for two years on the front lines of humanitarian legal rights’ implementation, as an asylum officer for the United States Department of Homeland Security.  I was based in the vibrant city of New Orleans.  I interviewed migrants from 49 different countries and adjudicated hundreds of cases.

My research and teaching interests are in environmental politics and socio-legal studies. Specifically, I am interested in environmental legal mobilization, and in the nexus between environmental and human rights.  My work adjudicating migrants' asylum claims has expanded the scope of my interests from a focus on environmental governance to a growing interest in immigration governance. Both policy areas fall within the realm of administrative law, which I see as an extremely important area of study for geographers and social scientists.


For the 2019-2020 academic year, I will be teaching Human Geography (GEG 101), Energy Geography (GEG 229), Global Migration (GEG 238), and a J-Term course about environmental justice.


I am a legal geographer, which means I scrutinize the relationship between law, society, and space.  Some of the "big" questions I ask include:

  • What role does law play in creating social and environmental change?
  • What political opportunities do legal systems, at various scales, create for non-state actors?
  • How does contact with the government impact how people think about the legal system and their role in it?
  • How do individuals and societal groups conceive of, interact with, and try to change, the operations of state power?

My research to date has examined how environmental advocates in Poland have mobilized administrative law (sometimes called procedural rights) to further their goals, and why it matters.  Because the administrative legal system in Poland is rather open to environmental advocates, and bolstered by European Union laws, meaningful opportunities arise for many types of people to engage with the legal system and interact with others, including the physical earth, in the process. Many individuals and groups in Poland, a country whose energy mix is overwhelmingly dominated by coal-burning sources, have been mobilizing in recent years against certain types of energy fuels and development projects. Some examples I analyze in my research include:

  • efforts by public interest environmental lawyers to block development of coal-fired power plants
  • the campaign by residents of Krakow to improve air quality in their city through a ban on domestic solid fuel combustion  
  • controversies around the environmental impacts of shale gas exploration in Poland

I show how administrative legal processes are “contact zones” between state, society, and the physical earth.  At these contact zones, individuals and groups are drawn into an evolving relationship with the government, and with each other. Interactions at administrative legal contact zones can lead to broader political mobilization in society, not only about a particular environmental controversy but about the quality of democratic participation itself.

 Community Involvement

I seek to support community radio as well as local environmental restoration and environmental justice efforts.

In Seattle, I developed curriculum for the environmental justice organization Community Coalition for Environmental Justice (the precursor to Got Green), as well as the radio station KEXP

In New Orleans, I volunteered with an organization called SOUL (Sustaining Our Urban Landscape) which is involved in efforts to reforest New Orleans.

Recommended links:

American Association of Geographers

Law and Society Association

Legal Geographies Specialty Group

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory)


KEXP (Seattle, WA)

KBCS (Bellevue, WA)

KRCL (North Utah)

WMOT (Middle Tennessee)

WWOZ (New Orleans)


Ph.D., Geography, University of Washington; M.A., Geography, University of Washington; B.A. Environmental Sciences, Northwestern University

Courses Taught

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
GEG-101 Human Geography 4 2020/SP and 2019/FA
GEG-238 Global Migration 1 2020/SP
GEG-228 Environmental Justice 1 2020/JN
GEG-229 Energy Geography 1 2019/FA