Getting to Know Your SPA Professors: Tanya Heikkila

Connecting with your professors can benefit you in the classroom and beyond.  Read this series to dive deeper into the minds of our professors and get answers to some fun and interesting questions. We asked professors to reflect on their career, advice for students, non-academic hobbies and interests.


Photo of Tanya HeikkilaWhere does your passion/inspiration for your work come from? Is it why you entered your field?

My research and teaching focuses on environmental policy and natural resource governance.  My inspiration probably came from my childhood. I grew up on the Oregon Coast in the 1970s-1980s, when there were a lot of debates over natural resource management (e.g., spotted owl controversy, salmon habitat).  I also came from a commercial salmon fishing family and lived in a small town that was heavily dependent on the timber industry, so we had a lot of discussions around the dinner table about these issues.  I think those experiences got in my blood.

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were entering grad school?

The importance of professional networks in academia and how to cultivate those networks.

What’s your favorite quote?

Not sure if I have one… but one that always sticks in my mind when I hear it is: “you can’t always get what you want… but if you try sometime you find, you get what you need.” -Rolling Stones

What is your research/teaching philosophy?

“Co-production” with both research and teaching.  I have found that with research, I get a much richer experience when I work in research teams where people bring different sets of knowledge and skills to the process.  In the classroom, I also want students to engage in a way that allows them to contribute to their own learning and to the learning of others (and to my own learning).  Also, research and teach what you love.

If you were not a professor, what would you be?

It’s hard to imagine a much better job.  But I think I would want to be a carpenter.  I love working with wood, re-finishing furniture, and figuring out puzzles of putting things together.

Photo of Tanya Heikkila

 What is your favorite non-academic reading/interests?

In addition to tinkering with little house projects, I enjoy hanging out with my family, cooking, hiking, going on rafting trips, reading fiction (I’m not too picky on genre’s as long as it’s engaging), reading news-magazines on world affairs, and listening to nerdy podcasts like Freakanomics radio or Hidden Brain.

What was your first concert?

Oregon Jam, 1983 at Autzen Stadium, which had: Loverboy, Quiet Riot, Joan Jett, Night Ranger, and Triumph.  It was epic!

 Where have you lived outside of Colorado?

Oregon – 22 years; Spain – 6 months; Argentina – 15 months; Arizona – 5 years; Indiana – 1 year; New York – 6 years

 What is your ideal vacation? Or where do you like to travel?

I’d love to split my time between a great city with a few days of museums/sight-seeing and then a few days of relaxing at a beautiful beach with my family and a small group of friends. (Unfortunately, the city and beach don’t always go together in the same trip). I’m really willing to go almost anywhere in the world where I can find delicious food and interesting scenery.

What gets you up every morning? What keeps you up at night?

My two kids.  And my two kids.



Categories: Academics, Features

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