LSE Faculty

Heather Burns, Associate Professor, LSE program coordinator and Learning Gardens Lab faculty coordinator Note: Heather is on sabbatical during the 2017-2018 academic year

Any questions about the program, courses, projects, or thesis during the 2017-2018 academic year should be directed to Dr. Sybil Kelley, current LSE coordinator, at

Heather Burns, EdD, is an associate 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. Dr. Burns currently teaches courses on sustainability leadership, sustainability pedagogy, spiritual leadership, and deep ecology.  Her scholarship focuses on sustainability leadership and teaching sustainability in higher education, including the roles of transformational learning, experiential learning, contemplative inquiry, and community-based learning in creating sustainable change.  In 2015 Dr. Burns received the Excellence in Teaching and Sustainability Award from the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University. 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, Associate Professor, LSE advisor

Sybil Kelley, PhD, is an associate 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 nearly 20 years’ experience working with teachers and students in schools and informal science settings.

Dr. Kelley’s programming and research focuses on connecting K-12 students and educators in underserved schools and neighborhoods to authentic, project-based learning experiences that contribute to community problem solving. Taking a collaborative approach, Dr. Kelley supports teachers and community-based educators in aligning out-of-school learning experiences with state and local academic requirements. Her research focuses on investigating the impacts of these experiences on student engagement, thinking, and learning; and teacher self-efficacy, pedagogical content knowledge, and instructional practices. Prior to her work in education, Dr. Kelley worked as an environmental scientist and aquatic toxicologist.

Dilafruz Williams, Professor

Dilafruz Williams, PhD, is a professor of Leadership for Sustainability Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy (ELP), at Portland State University’s College of Education. She served as department chair from 2004 to 2007.

Dr. Williams is co-founder of the Leadership for Sustainability Education program within the ELP department, and of the Learning Gardens Laboratory. She also co-founded the Sunnyside K-8 Environmental School in the Portland Public School District. These successful initiatives address ecological and cultural foundations of K-12 and higher education with strong community-university-school partnerships. She was elected city-wide and served on the Portland Public School Board 2003-2011.

She is frequently invited to give seminars, workshops, and talks both nationally and internationally. Dr. Williams is co-author of Learning Gardens and Sustainability Education: Bringing Life to Schools and Schools to Life (Routledge), and co-editor of Ecological Education in Action: On Weaving Education, Culture, and the Environment (SUNY). In addition, she has authored over 50 chapters, journal articles, and curriculum resource guides and has given over 100 invited lectures, symposia, and/or conference papers. Dr. Williams has graduate degrees from Bombay, Syracuse, and Harvard Universities in the sciences, public administration, and philosophy of education.

She is recently Principal Investigator for an NSF-funded project: Science in the Learning Gardens: Factors that Support Racial and Ethnic Minority Students' Success in Low-Income Middle Schools. Her areas of expertise are:

  • Sustainability Education; Environmental Education
    • Learning Gardens: Curriculum Design; Research; STEM
  • Community-University-Schools Strategic Partnerships
  • Civic Engagement/Service Learning; Professional Development
  • K-12 Public Policy

Among her Honors & Awards are:

  • Ehrlich Award for Faculty Service-Learning
  • Institute for Sustainable Solutions Excellence in Faculty Research Award
  • Fulbright Senior Scholar
  • 100 District Leaders for Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Network, of the Education Commission of the States’ National Center for Learning and Citizenship
  • Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Award for strong partnerships