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Faculty Profiles

Laura Yoder

Laura S. Meitzner Yoder, Ph.D.

Director and John Stott Chair of Human Needs and Global Resources; Professor of Environmental Studies

On Faculty since 2013
630.752.5365
Schell Hall Lower Level


Dr. Yoder's research focuses on human-environment interactions in remote villages and urban centers of Southeast Asia and Latin America. She has sought to understand rural people’s realities by working alongside smallholder farmers and forest dwellers and to communicate their priorities to national and international policymakers. Most of her work has been in situations of conflict, disaster, chronic poverty, or political marginalization. From people in these contexts, she has seen hope, joy, and how much there is to learn in unexpected places. Her ongoing work in Timor-Leste examines the interactions between customary and state authorities regarding land and forest management.

In Asia and in North America, she enjoys guiding students and faculty through intercultural learning and research in field contexts. Serving at a state university with the Mennonite Central Committee in West Papua, Indonesia, she advised Indonesian students and worked with the local church and other organizations to secure land and forest access for rainforest dwellers. Responding to the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia, she taught at the local state university and led a social research methods training program for hundreds of Acehnese professionals. This initiative contributed to social healing after the dual tragedies of the tsunami and the decades of civil strife in the province.

Since 2008, Laura has taught about sustainability and field research on rural and international development, in Thailand, Bhutan, Indiana, and elsewhere. She is keenly interested in the socio-political, legal, and faith dimensions of environmental issues worldwide. Her interests include languages, writing, tropical fruits, histories of botanical exploration and colonial governance, walking in forest shade, swimming, and asking questions.

Yale University
Ph.D., Forestry & Environmental Studies (Social Ecology)

Cornell University (USA) and the Zamorano Pan-American School of Agriculture (Honduras)
M.P.S. (Agr.), International Agriculture and Rural Development

Messiah College
B.A., Natural Science-Biology

  • Experiential Learning
  • Political Ecology
  • International Development
  • Southeast Asia
  • International Association for the Study of the Commons
  • Asian Borderlands Research Network
  • American Anthropological Association
  • Society for Economic Botany
  • Resource access in situations of conflict, disaster, and political marginalization
  • Livelihood strategies of smallholder farmers, swiddeners, and forest dwellers
  • Faith dimensions of human-nature relationships
  • Cross-cultural and experiential learning
  • Seed systems and biodiversity

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. 2018.  “Economic techno-politics of development in the Oecusse-Ambeno enclave, Timor-Leste.” In Special Issue on Megaprojects and National Development Models in Timor-Leste, guest editors J. Bovensiepen and L.S. Meitzner Yoder. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 19(5):395-411.

Bovensiepen, J. and Meitzner Yoder, L.S. 2018. “Introduction: The Political Dynamics and Social Effects of Megaproject Development” to Special Issue on Megaprojects and National Development Models in Timor-Leste.  The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 19(5):381-394.

Depenthal, J. and L.S. Meitzner Yoder. 2018. “Community Use and Knowledge of Algarrobo (Prosopis pallida) and Implications for Peruvian Dry Forest Conservation.” Revista de Ciencias Ambientales/Tropical Journal of Environmental Sciences 52(1):49-70.

Browne, Katherine E., Caela O’Connell, and Laura S. Meitzner Yoder. 2018. “Journey Through the Groan Zone with Academics and Practitioners: Bridging Conflict and Difference to Strengthen Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery Work.” International Journal of Disaster Risk Science 9:421-428.

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. 2018. “Piloting the experimental ZEESM megaproject: Performing the future in the Oecusse-Ambeno enclave.” Pp. 85-98 in The Promise of Prosperity: Visions of the Future in Timor-Leste, ed. Judith Bovensiepen. Acton: Australian National University Press.

Fountain, Philip and Laura S. Meitzner Yoder. 2018. “Quietist Techno-politics: Agricultural Development and Mennonite Mission in Indonesia.” Pp. 214-242 in The Mission of Development: Religion and Techno-Politics in Asia, eds. Catherine Scheer, and Philip Fountain, and Michael Feener. Leiden and Boston: Brill.

Meitzner Yoder, Laura S. 2018. “Foreword.” Pp. xii-xiii in People Disrupted: Doing Mission Responsibly among Refugees and Migrants, eds. Jinbong Kim, Dwight P. Baker, Jonathan J. Bonk, J. Nelson Jennings, Jae Hoon Lee.  Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. 2017. “Reconceptualizing land and territory in Oecusse-Ambeno enclave’s Special Economic Zone (ZEESM), Timor-Leste.” Pp. 142-155 in Transformations in Independent Timor-Leste: Dynamics of Social and Cultural Cohabitations, ed. Susana de Matos Viegas and Rui Graça Feijó. London and New York: Routledge.

Meitzner Yoder, L.S., Sonam Phuntsho, A.J. Conrad, Hannah Doren, Rachel Haney, Christina Johantgen, Sarah Miller, Zoe Reich-Aviles, Annalise Ritter, and Greg Zegas. 2017. “From farmers to foresters? Pine encroachment on former swidden fields in Choekkhor Valley, Bumthang district, Bhutan.” Pp. 449-459 in Shifting Cultivation Policies: Balancing Environmental and Social Sustainability, ed. M. Cairns.  Wallingford: CABI.

Meitzner Yoder, Laura S., 2016. "The formation and remarkable persistence of the Oecusse-Ambeno enclave, Timor," Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Joireman, Sandra and L.S. Meitzner Yoder, 2016. "A Long Time Gone: Post-conflict Rural Property Restitution under Customary Law," Development and Change

Meitzner Yoder, Laura S., 2015. "The development eraser: Fantastical schemes, aspirational distractions and high modern mega-events in the Oecusse enclave, Timor Leste," Journal of Political Ecology

Sears, R.S., and L.S. Meitzner Yoder, 2014. "Fostering Students' Commitment to Service Through International Field Research," Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly

Meitzner Yoder, L.S., 2014. "Interruptions are not distractions: Lessons from teaching in faith-steeped conflict zones of Southeast Asia," Faithful is Successful: Notes to the Driven Pilgrim

L. Zinn, J. Schramm and L.S. Meitzner Yoder, 2014. "Towards a deeper understanding of native and introduced species," Teaching about Invasive Species

Meitzner Yoder, L.S., T.C. Hartzell, J.W. Schramm, and L.R. Zinn, 2013. "Building and boarding a bigger boat together: Learning about sustainability through direct encounters with diverse people in our watershed," Journal of Sustainability Education

Gill, T.B., R. Bates, A. Bicksler, R. Burnette, V. Ricciardi, and L.S.M. Yoder, 2013. "Strengthening informal seed systems to enhance food security in Southeast Asia," Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development

Meitzner Yoder, L.S., T.C. Hartzell, J.W. Schramm, and L.R. Zinn., 2013. "Building and boarding a bigger boat together: Learning about sustainability through direct encounters with diverse people in our watershed," Journal of Sustainability Education

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. and A. Bicksler, 2012. "Using institutional arrangements to teach undergraduates about the commons in Thailand, and beyond," International Journal of the Commons

A. Bicksler, R. Bates, R. Burnette, T. Gill, L.S. Meitzner Yoder, V. Ricciardi, and Y. Srigiofun, 2012. "Methodologies for strengthening informal indigenous vegetable seed systems in northern Thailand and Cambodia," Acta Hort

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. and V. Ricciardi, 2012. "Seed fairs: Fostering local seed exchange to support regional biodiversity," ECHO Asia Notes

Meitzner, Laura S., and Martin L. Price., 1996. "Amaranth to Zai Holes: Ideas for Growing Food under Difficult Conditions," ECHO: North Fort Myers, Florida. 404 pp.