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LSE Faculty

Heather Burns, Assistant Professor, LSE program coordinator and Learning Gardens Lab faculty coordinator

Any questions about the program, courses, projects, or thesis should be directed to Dr. Heather Burns, LSE coordinator, at, 503-725-8252

Heather Burns, EdD, is an assistant professor and coordinator of the Leadership for Sustainability Education program in the Educational Leadership and Policy department. She is also the faculty coordinator of the Learning Gardens Laboratory. Dr. Burns completed her doctorate in educational leadership with an emphasis in sustainability education at PSU.  Her master’s degree, from Oregon State University, combined adult education, women studies and communication studies into an interdisciplinary degree focusing on social justice education abroad. Dr. Burns has extensive experience as an administrator and instructor in higher education, including many years spent working with international students. Her research interests include sustainability pedagogy in higher education, sustainable food systems, sustainability leadership, and the roles of community-based learning, experiential learning, and service-learning in creating sustainable change. In addition to her academic interests, Dr. Burns also started and ran her own community supported farm business in the Portland area for several years.

Sybil Kelley, Assistant Professor, LSE advisor

Sybil Kelley, PhD, is an assistant professor of science education and sustainable systems in the Leadership for Sustainability Education program in the Educational Leadership and Policy department. In addition, she teaches the elementary science methods course for the Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP) in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Dr. Kelley completed her doctorate in environmental science and management at PSU with a research focus on teaching and learning science. She earned her master of science teaching from the Center for Science Education at PSU. Throughout both programs, she worked closely with school and community-based partners to improve educational opportunities for underserved schools and neighborhoods in North and Northeast Portland. She has over 15 years experience working with teachers and students in schools and informal science settings.

This work has included providing leadership and service to community-based organizations, developing programming and educational partnerships, and teaching elementary through postsecondary levels in multiple contexts. One example of her work is the Emerson Street Garden in King Neighborhood which she started in 1995. This small, urban garden is becoming a model for community-based gardening, education, and leadership development.

Dr. Kelley’s research interests focus on the roles that educational partnerships can play in supporting science literacy for all learners, particularly teachers and K-12 students. She is also interested in how systems—educational and food systems, in particular—can be redesigned and restructured to build a sustainable future.

Dilafruz Williams, Professor

Dilafruz Williams, PhD, is a professor of Educational Leadership and Policy in the Graduate School of Education and also professor of Public Administration in the Mark O' Hatfield School of Government, at Portland State University. She served as department chair from 2003 to 2007.

Dr. Williams is founder of the Leadership in Ecology, Culture, and Learning program and of the Learning Gardens Laboratory at Portland State University. She also co-founded the Environmental Middle School (6-8) in 1995 which has now expanded to the K-8 Sunnyside Environmental School in Portland Public Schools ( These successful initiatives have been designed with the goals of addressing the ecological and cultural underpinnings of education in K-12 schools and in higher education, and to build strong community-school-university partnerships.

Dr. Williams was elected city-wide and served on the Portland Public School Board in 2003-07 and again in 2007-11.

She is the recipient of the prestigious Ehrlich Award for Faculty Service-Learning in 2001 and has recently been selected to the Fulbright Senior Scholar Roster, 2007-2012. She is also selected to the "100 District Leaders for Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Network," by the Education Commission of the States National Center for Learning and Citizenship.

She is frequently invited to give seminars, workshops, and talks both nationally and internationally.

Dr. Williams is the co-editor of Ecological Education in Action: On Weaving Education, Culture, and the Environment. She has authored over 50 chapters, journal articles, and curriculum resource guides and has given over 100 invited lectures, symposia, and/or conference papers. With graduate degrees from Bombay, Syracuse, and Harvard Universities in the Sciences, Public Administration, and Philosophy of Education, Dr. Williams' areas of expertise are:

  • Community-Higher Education-Schools Strategic Partnership Development
  • Civic Engagement/Service Learning; Professional Development:
    • Curriculum and pedagogical integration; Teaching reflections;
    • Scholarship of engagement; Partnerships and diversity; Assessment
  • Sustainability Education; Environmental Education
  • Learning Gardens-Based Education: Curriculum Design and Research
  • K-12 Public Policy