Sun. Jul 14th, 2024


     Joy Fritschle earned her undergraduate degree from Humboldt State University on the north coast of California.  She started as a Wildlife Management major and then during her third-year she changed her major to Geography when she discovered the study of Environmental Geography. She continued her education at the University of Memphis, where she earned her master’s degree and earned her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied geography, specifically biogeography, environmental geography, and environmental history.

     “A lot of geographers discover geography later in their schooling – I’m one of the rare people who has all three degrees in geography,” Fritschle said. 

     Fritschle has been teaching at WCU for four years.  She started as a Teaching Assistant in grad school 16 years ago, and then started teaching courses on her own about 12 years ago.  Before coming to WCU, she was at the University of Connecticut as an instructor while she worked on her dissertation.

Informally she has contributed to the LGBTQA student club and Fritschle is friends with several E.A.R.T.H. club members, but she doesn’t formally advise any clubs.

     Fritschle teaches upper and lower divison classes in environmental geography and sustainability. She also teaches world geography, sustainable living and environmental crises. She teaches graduate classes in environmental geography and environmental planning. Fritschle manages the Facebook pages for the Department of Geography & Planning and the Sustainability Advisory Council (Green Light on Sustainability at WCU).

Fritschle has published articles on forest restoration, reconstruction of past landscapes, and climate change mitigation through urban forests.  Several of her publications are in top-tier international journals, including the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Landscape Ecology, and Restoration Ecology.  She was also invited to publish an essay on forest restoration in the “Encyclopedia of Geography.”

She has won awards for contributing to LGBTQ visibility on campus, lifetime membership in a social sciences honors society (Pi Gammu Mu), and several grants for research from the Save the Redwoods League and WCU

     Her best academic achievement is her dissertation.  “It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I worked really hard on it and it turned out great!” Fritschle said.  Her best life achievement is the birth of her daughter, Edyth.

Fritschle’s current academic goal is “to keep doing what I love – teaching great students about sustainability and environmental geography.” She continued, and “Publishing research on forests, and raising awareness on campus about sustainability and LGBTQ visibility.” She encourages students to check out the “Green Light on Sustainability at WCU facebook page. 

  Her current non-academic goal is to keep learning how to grow new things in her garden and to be the best mother and spouse she can be. 

She loves many things about teaching although she mentioned grading isn’t fun.  “I love getting to know such interesting people in my classes, helping students discover what interests them the most in environmental geography,” Fritschle said. She also loves to inspire students to become more involved in sustainability, both personally and professionally.  She loves being paid to read the latest interesting books and then talking about them with other people that find them interesting too.

     What Fritschle loves most about WCU is the trees and historic buildings on campus, her colleagues and friends in geography & planning, women’s and gender studies, and biology. She loves the classes she teaches and the Gordon Natural Area forest on south campus where she takes her classes, the coffee truck on Church Street and the fact that we have such an active LGBTQ Ally program on campus.

     Her advice to students is “life is short – don’t let yourself get bogged down in other people’s petty politics.  And don’t listen to people that say you can’t have a job that you love.” She said, “It may not be the first job you get, but don’t give up on getting a job that you enjoy and find fulfilling. For me, my job is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle that I love.”

  Fritschle’s office is located in Ruby Jones room 207A, she encourages students to come on by and say hi. 

     Rebekah Balmer is a
fifth-year student majoring in women’s and gender studies and sociology. She can be reached at

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