Tema O. Milstein

Associate Professor
Presidential Teaching Fellow

Photo: Tema O. Milstein


Email:  tema@unm.edu
Office: Room 206
Personal Website

Ph.D., University of Washington, 2007


Dr. Milstein's research and teaching interests are in ecocultural and environmental communication, inter/cultural communication, interpretive and critical cultural inquiry, and inside-out transformative pedagogy.


Areas of expertise include:

Ecoculture and Communication: Environmental communication, ecocultural meaning systems and relations, ecopedagogy, ecotourism, transformative discourses

Culture and Communication: Inter/cultural communication, cultural constraints and cultivations, cultural discourses and ideologies, sojourning and self-efficacy

Methodology: Ethnographic fieldwork, participant observation, cultural and critical discourse and textual analysis, community-based participatory action

The majority of my current research explores how communication as a cultural force shapes perceptions and practices of human relations with/in/as nature. Questions I am interested in include:

  • How are ecocultural perceptions and practices reproduced or transformed through communication?
  • How is the self altered through culture, environment, and communication?
  • How does the more than human world mediate communication and culture?

I’m currently working on several research projects, including:

  • Nature Tourism Discourses: Ethnographic studies focused on the interplay of communication and nature tourism, centrally concerned with ways marine mammal tourism discourses reinforce or challenge Western views of, and actions toward, marine wildlife and ecosystems. Locations of focus include coastal Pacific North America, Florida, Hawai’i, and New Zealand.
  • When I say nature, I mean...: I am working with a graduate student team to analyze pedagogical free writes used over the years to engage students and others in discovering their own ecocultural meaning systems as they relate to wider discourses.
  • Ecological Identity: I am examining the everyday disciplining of one's ecological identity and the overwhelming masking of ecocentrism and prevailing of anthropocentrism.

Recent Sample Publications

To access these publications, please go to Academia.edu

  • Milstein, T., Pileggi, M., & Morgan, E. (Eds.) (2017). Environmental Communication Pedagogy and Practice. London, UK: Routledge.
  • Milstein, T. (2016). The performer metaphor: “Mother nature never gives us the same show twice.” Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, 10 (2), 227-248. Doi: 10.1080/17524032.2015.1018295
  • Milstein, T. (2015, November 13). A timely analysis of SeaWorld’s announcement that it is to introduce sweeping changes, including phasing out its “Shamu” orca show [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://explore.tandfonline.com/content/est/renc
  • Milstein, T., & Pulos, A. (2015). Culture jam pedagogy and practice: Relocating culture by staying on one’s toes. Communication, Culture, & Critique
  • Milstein, T. (2013). Communicating “normalcy” in Israel: Intra/intercultural paradox and interceptions. Tourism and Cultural Change. 11 (1-2), 73-91.
  • Milstein, T. (2012). Banging on the divide: Cultural reflection and refraction at the zoo. In E. Plec (ed.) Perspectives on Human-Animal Interaction: Internatural Communication. (pp. 162-181). London: Routledge.   
  • Milstein, T. (2012). Survive, critique, and create: Guiding radical pedagogy and critical public scholarship with the discursive guideposts of ecopedagogy. Green Theory and Praxis Journal. 6 (1), 3-16.
  • Milstein, T. (2012). Greening Communication. In S.D. Fassbinder, A. J. Nocella II & R. Kahn (Eds.) Greening the Academy: Ecopedagogy through the Liberal Arts (pp. 161-174). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
  • Milstein, T. & Dickinson, E. A. (2012). Gynocentric greenwashing: The discursive gendering of nature. Communication, Culture, & Critique. 5 (4), 510-532.
  • Chen, Y.W., Milstein, T., Sandoval, J., Anguiano, C., & Knudsen, L. (2012). Challenges and benefits of community-based participatory research: A case of collaboratively examining ecocultural struggles in New Mexico. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture. 6 (3), 403-421.
  • Milstein, T., & Kroløkke, C. (2012). Transcorporeal Tourism: Whales, fetuses, and the rupturing and reinscribing of cultural constraints. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture. 6 (1), 82-100.
  • Anguiano, C., Milstein, T., De Larkin, I., Sandoval, J., & Chen, Y.W. (2012). Connecting Community Voices: Using a Latino/a critical race theory lens on environmental justice advocacy. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication. 6 (3), 403-421
  • Milstein, T., Anguiano, C., Sandoval, J., Chen, Y.W., & Dickinson, E. (2011). Communicating a "new" environmental vernacular: A sense of relations-in-place. Communication Monographs. 78 (4), 486-510.
  • Peterson, J., Milstein, T., Chen, Y.W., & Nakazawa, M. (2011). Self-efficacy in communication: The development and validation of a sojourners' scale. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication. 4 (4), 290-309.
  • Milstein, T. (2011). Nature identification: The power of pointing and naming. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture. 5 (1), 3-24.
  • Milstein, T., & Manusov, V. (2009). "Oppositional discourse in Israeli media: Reflections of multiple cultural identities in coverage of the Rabin-Arafat handshake." Howard Journal of Communications. 20 (4), 353-369
  • Milstein, T. (2009). "Environmental communication theories." In Stephen Littlejohn and Karen Foss (eds.). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory (pp. 344-349). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  • Milstein, T. (2009). "Somethin' tells me it's all happening at the zoo: Discourse, power and conservationism." 3 (1), 25-48.Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture.
  • Milstein, T. (2008). " When whales 'speak for themselves': Communication as a mediating force in wildlife tourism."Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, 2 (2), 173-192.
  • Milstein, T. (2007). "Human Communication's Effects on Relationships with Animals." In M. Bekoff (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships: A Global Exploration of Our Connections with Animals (Vol. 3, pp. 1044-1054). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Favorite Authors

Donal Carbaugh, Donna Haraway, Val Plumwood, Arturo Escobar, bell hooks, Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall, Norman Fairclough, etc.

Teaching Style

I strive for a highly interactive and experiential pedagogy that engages students in transformative learning. I call my approach the inside-out classroom, in which the focus is helping students root course learning in their inner queries and passions and extend course knowledge into betterment of their lives, work, communities, and biosphere. I am a believer in learning through immersion and engagement and often integrate field studies and research service learning.


2016 Visiting Research Fellow, University of Tasmania, Australia

2015-2017 Presidential Teaching Fellow, University of New Mexico

2012 Fulbright Senior Scholar, New Zealand

2011 Outstanding Teacher of the Year, University of New Mexico

2013 & 2009 Christine L. Oravec Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Environmental Communication, National Communication Association

2013 Critics Choice Book Award (chapter author), American Educational Studies Association

Top Papers in Environmental Communication:

-       2017 & 2012, International Communication Association

-       2010 & 2006, National Communication Association

-       2011, Western States Communication Association


Affiliated Faculty

Sustainability Studies Program

Geography & Environmental Studies Department

Water Resources Program


Why UNM?

I enjoy and value the diversity of students at UNM. Why New Mexico? Rich and mixed ecocultural heritage; red and green chile and autumn smells of chile roasting; acequias; winter smells of piñon, juniper, and cedar smoke; hot air balloons; wild mountains and wildlife; desert rains and lightening storms; snowboarding on powder under a giant blue sky without a jacket, etc.

Spare Time

Being with my sweet family, edible permaculture gardening, being outdoors, yoga, snowboarding, travel, finding wild clean waters in which to soak my soul.


Past and/or current service includes:

Departmental level: PhD program director, graduate program associate director, executive committee, web site committee chair, intercultural engagement committee, faculty mentoring committee, etc.

University level: Lobo Gardens on-campus community food gardens board, Collaborative for Foodshed Development board, pedagogy workshops leader, campus graduate orientation faculty speaker, book publishing panel organizer, Women Studies Program executive board member, etc.

Disciplinary level: International Ecolinguistics Association steering committee; International Communication Association board member; National Communication Association Doctoral Honors Seminar faculty leader; editorial board member of several journals; book proposal, grant proposal, journal manuscript, and conference paper/panel reviewer, etc.

Interdisciplinary level: Washington DC Fulbright peer reviewer for New Zealand and Australia applications, pro bono consultant to environmental groups and documentaries, Advisory Board member for Sonar, Connecting Community Voices board member, trainer/workshop leader for marine tour naturalists, Sierra Club Town Hall Panel Moderator on Climate disruption, Ecocultural Communication Facebook group.