Harrisburg professor visits England
Public Relations - Published: December 17, 2012
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Distinguished Professor John C. Dernbach with Dr. Markus W. Gehring, deputy director of the Centre for European Legal Studies at the University of Cambridge.

After leading three book projects in 10 years assessing sustainability efforts in the United States, Distinguished Professor John Dernbach decided it would be good to broaden his landscape. So when the offer to spend about two months of a sabbatical immersed in research and networking at one of the world’s oldest, most revered educational institutions presented itself, he jumped.

Jumped across the pond, that is. Dernbach served as a visitor to the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge in England. From the start of October until the day before Thanksgiving he spent time living and working in Cambridge – far from the book project and research that had consumed him for more than a year until the summer 2012 release of Acting as if Tomorrow Matters: Accelerating the Transition to Sustainability.

“It seemed like an appropriate time to be somewhere else and see what they’re doing on the same environmental issues,” he said. “I’d been so focused on the U.S. that I hadn’t spent much time learning about what other countries are doing.”

Dernbach rented a small apartment and took his meals at the university. He attended some classes to get a better feel for legal education in the United Kingdom, and he spent time doing research on England’s climate change and sustainability efforts. He spoke to faculty and served on a discussion panel at the university’s renowned Lauterpacht Centre For International Law.

“The United Kingdom was a good place to do research, because the United States has the same language as well as similar laws and culture. In addition, the United Kingdom is part of the European Union and I wanted to see the impact of that on the United Kingdom’s climate policy,” Dernbach said.

While there he missed the U.S. elections and Hurricane Sandy. But he voted by absentee, watched the election coverage on BBC, and his Camp Hill home weathered the storm just fine. He also celebrated his 30th wedding anniversary when his wife Kathy joined him for a week of fun in London, the Cotswolds and Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Dernbach also befriended environmental law Professor Andrea Ross of the University of Dundee Law School in Scotland. The two are now collaborating on an article comparing and contrasting sustainability efforts in the United States and the United Kingdom.

“I don’t know anyone else who’s written a book about sustainability in his or her particular country. We’re two of a very small number,” he said.

He is also hopeful that the British professor who arranged for his visit, Dr. Markus W. Gehring, deputy director of the Centre for European Legal Studies at the Faculty of Law, will one day be able to visit the Harrisburg campus.

Dernbach is not the only Harrisburg faculty member to spend extended time in England recently. Associate Professor Jill E. Family spent the spring of 2012 serving as a visiting scholar at the Queen Mary School of Law in London. She researched the immigration adjudication system in the United Kingdom to compare and contrast it with the U.S. immigration system.

The opportunity to be a part of life at Cambridge was remarkable, Dernbach said.

“One of the first things I was told after arriving was ‘We’ve been teaching law on this site for more than 800 years,’” he said. The university faculty has included Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. James Watson and Francis Crick worked out the double helix theory in the nearby pub The Eagle, where Dernbach spent time. The university has produced 89 Nobel Prize winners.

“The university has an incredibly deep and rich history of academic achievement,” he said. “It’s very impressive.”