About Faculty Master

sal johnston is an Associate Professor of Sociology and the coordinator for the Environmental Studies program. johnston’s academic and practical focus is on sustainability—ecological, social and economic. His current research projects all emphasize praxis: that is, linking scholarly analysis to concrete social change. This practical idealism will also guide programming at Hartley House.

johnston’s PhD is from the University of Oregon and he joined the Whittier faculty in 1996. He teaching traverses a range of issues and includes courses focused on sociological theory, social change, power and politics, and sustainable food systems.

Hartley House programming will emphasize three themes: sustainability, community and praxis (research and social action). These themes dovetail with Hartley’s collaboration with Wanberg Residence Hall (aka “Greenberg”), Whittier’s first residence hall focused on sustainability.


Sustainability is always about relationships and community. The idea of sustainability draws on ecological theory and its emphasis on the complex, imbricated relationships that create an ecosystem. Human communities are situated in and across complex systems and relationships (at minimum ecological, sociocultural, and economic systems) and our actions always have complex consequences for ourselves, for other people, for other organisms, and for the future. Sustainable practices seek to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”