The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Denise Lach Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

July 21, 2015


“At the Intersection of Social Science, Natural Resources, and Public Policy”  July 21, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Lach describes her family background and upbringing near the Twin Cities in Minnesota, her school experiences growing up, her decision to attend the University of Minnesota, and her academic progression as an English and Education major. From there, she recounts her first jobs as a junior high school teacher and management consultant, her relocation to Corvallis, the renewal of her interest in furthering her education, and her enrollment in the Sociology graduate program at the University of Oregon. In reflecting on her years in Eugene, Lach details the process by which she came to develop her perspective as a social scientist and makes mention of faculty members who made an impact on her. She then describes her tenure as a research sociologist at Battelle and outlines the process by which she came to return to OSU as director of the Center for the Analysis of Environmental Change (CAEC).

The remainder of the session is focused on Lach's multifaceted career as a faculty member and administrator at Oregon State. In this, Lach touches upon her work with CAEC and its successor organization, the Center for Water and Environmental Stability. She likewise comments on her involvement in studying the Klamath Basin water crisis as it played out in the early 2000s, her connection with the Sociology department at OSU, the forward progression of her research on natural resources - including work on forest policy and climate change - and her years of collaboration with OSU political scientist, Brent Steel.

As the interview nears its end, Lach offers her thoughts on the shift from departments to schools within the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), her assumption of the role of director of the School of Public Policy, and her sense of the future direction of the CLA. The session concludes with Lach's ideas on change in the community of Corvallis and on the positioning of the university as it approaches its sesquicentennial.