New Faculty Focus: Erin Hamilton


Erin Hamilton

Erin Hamilton: Assistant Professor, Department of Design Studies, School of Human Ecology

hometown: Sugarland, Texas

Education/professional background: PhD in Architecture (Design Studies) and Natural Resources and Environment (Resource Policy and Behavior), University of Michigan; MS in Design Studies, UW-Madison; BS in Interior Design, University of Wisconsin–Madison; BA in Psychology, Texas A&M University

I’m joining the faculty at UW-Madison after four years as an adjunct professor at Texas Tech University, where I taught undergraduate and graduate courses in interior design.

What is your field of research and how did you get into it? Lying at the intersection of sustainable design and environmental psychology, my research examines how conservation behavior can be shaped by environmental and social cues in green buildings. Even before I knew how to articulate my interests, I was drawn to questions that explored how people are affected by the environments in which they live. This interest developed over time but eventually merged during my PhD. Studied while working in an eco-friendly building that contained many interactive educational features and signage. While I was quite intrigued by the information being conveyed about the green building, I wondered if these types of features were effective tools of environmental education and behavior change for other building users. This initial fascination has now led me to investigate how not only signage shapes occupant awareness and behavior, but also how natural elements in green buildings and how social norms of energy and waste reduction can influence the environmentally conscious behavior of building occupants.

What drew you to UW-Madison? UW–Madison has always felt right at home. I love the collaborative energy within the university, especially within the School of Human Ecology. Living in Madison is an added benefit!

How was your first visit to campus? My very first visit to the UW-Madison campus was in the fall of 2006 when I made a spontaneous stop in Madison to see the School of Human Ecology building where I was applying to graduate school. I had recently moved to Wisconsin from Texas and remember being absurdly cold that day. My husband took a photo of me on the steps of the SoHE building and I almost refused to stand up for the photo because I hadn’t submitted my graduate school application yet and didn’t want to “hex” them. However, now I’m delighted with this first photo and plan to snap a new photo of the same steps on my first day as a faculty member at SoHE.

The pandemic has forced us all to reconsider many things we took for granted. Is there anything you have learned that has helped you personally or professionally through these challenging times? For me, the pandemic has provided many opportunities to focus on mindfulness. In “normal times” I can easily get carried away with worries about the future, especially when I feel like things are out of my control. Rather than letting this worry consume me, I try to focus on my experience in the present moment through meditation and breathing exercises. I think these little exercises have helped me get through the last two years.

Do you feel connected to your work? in any way to the Wisconsin idea? If yes, please describe how. Absolutely. I consider it a privilege to pursue higher education. With that privilege comes a responsibility to use our education and skills to improve the communities in which we live. For me, that means helping to educate human-centric designers who will leave UW to create spaces that are healthy for people and the planet.

What’s something interesting about your area of ​​expertise that you can share that makes us sound smarter at parties? Did you know that people in the US spend about 90 percent of their time indoors? If you’ve never thought about how the built environment affects your behavior, then you’ve probably been to spaces where a designer has done a good job of successfully anticipating likely occupant behavior patterns and needs.

Hobbies/other interests: I love reading and Friday night pizza/movie nights with my family.


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