Policy Expert: How Assistant Professor Jeff Hanlon Shapes Student Minds and Waterways

January 24, 2024

Jeff HanlonJeff Hanlon, Ph.D., lives to serve.

The Whittier College assistant professor of political science was elected to Three Valleys Municipal Water District’s board of directors in 2022, just a few years after he moved to California and began teaching at the college.

Now with more than a year on the board under his belt, Hanlon said being part of the decision-making body has been eye-opening and positive. Prior to getting his doctorate in Arizona, Hanlon thought about working for a nonprofit where he advocated for environmental and agricultural issues.

“In Arizona, I came to appreciate how water policy undergirds almost all policy, not just environmental policy, but economic policy, development, and society in the West in general,” Hanlon said. “I wanted to learn more about the important — but too rare — instances when people are able to sustainably and equitably share water resources while maintaining the environment that produces our water resources for us.”

Hanlon said people have to treat water access less like an engineering and plumbing challenge and more like a political and equity-sharing challenge. That drive to do good — along with a dose of curiosity — has guided Hanlon’s academic career. They’re the same principles he wants to instill in his students.

He loves how Whittier focuses on serving first-generation and Hispanic students as well as pushes experiential learning. He hopes to take students on field trips throughout the state to look at California’s water infrastructure and speak to experts.

“We punch pretty far above our weight when it comes to being invested in the waterscape of Southern California,” Hanlon said, adding that more than a few alumni and board members have ties to water policy. “It makes me feel very at home.”

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