Paul Van Auken, Ph.D.

Associate Professor/Department Chair

Paul Van Auken has been a member of the sociology and environmental studies faculty at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh since 2007, after completing a Ph.D. in sociology from UW-Madison. Prior to that he completed a M.A. in urban affairs & public policy at the University of Delaware and then worked in the nonprofit sector doing community and economic development.At UWO, Paul has regularly taught rural sociology, sociology of the modern city, environment and society, population problems, social ecology (which has recently been team-taught with a film professor, with students making short documentaries on social ecological issues), sociology senior seminar, and multiple courses in the University Studies Program, for which he was a member of the design committee and now serves as faculty coordinator for the civic learning signature question.A native of Iowa but resident of Wisconsin since 1999, Paul recently became chair of the Sociology Department. He conducts research on issues related to neighborhood, community, land use planning and access to public space, sustainability, and teaching and learning. His most recent academic publication is “Maybe it’s Both of us: Engagement and Learning” in Teaching Sociology. Paul also practices public sociology, regularly writing a column called “Shortening the Distance” for local independent monthly newspaper Oshkosh Independent, for which he has also written multiple cover stories. He is a member of the Oshkosh Food Cooperative board of directors, plays bass in multiple rock bands, and enjoys life in the Menominee South neighborhood of Oshkosh with his wife and two daughters.


Profile of Paul Van Auken



  • Community and Environmental Sociology
  • Urban and Rural Sociology
  • Demography
  • Qualitative Research Methods


Courses Taught:

  • Soc 261 Environment and Society
  • Soc 311 Sociology of the Modern City
  • Soc 313 Rural Sociology
  • Soc 315 Population Problems
  • Soc 342 Social Ecology
  • Soc 481 Senior Seminar


Academic Publications:

Van Auken, Paul M., Elizabeth S. Barron, Chong Xiong*, and Carly Persson*. 2016. “‘Like a Second Home’: Conceptualizing Experiences Within the Fox River Watershed Through a Framework of Emplacement.” Water (special issue on Watershed Protection and Management) 8(8), 352; doi:10.3390/w8080352.

*UWO undergraduate students at the time of their primary contributions

Van Auken, Paul M. 2013. “Maybe it’s Both of Us: Engagement and Learning.” Teaching Sociology 41(2), 207–215. ( _Both_Students___Professor.pdf)

Van Auken, Paul M. and Shaun Golding. 2013. “Rural Property, Collective Action, and Place-Based Planning.” Pp. 151-163 in Place-Based Conservation: Perspectives from the Social Sciences, edited by William Stewart, Daniel Williams, and Linda Kruger. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer Science. ( book/978-94-007-5801-8)

Van Auken, Paul M., Shaun Golding, and James R. Brown. 2012. “Prompting with Pictures: Determinism and Democracy in Image-Based Planning.” Practicing Planner 10(1), Spring 2012. ( – Van Auken, Paul M. and Johan F. Rye. 2011. “Amenities, Affluence, and Ideology: Comparing Rural Restructuring Processes in the U.S. and Norway.” Landscape Research 36 (1): 65-86. (

Van Auken, Paul M. 2010. “Seeing, Not Participating: Viewscape Fetishism in American and Norwegian Amenity Areas.” Human Ecology 38 (4): 521-537. (

Van Auken, Paul M, Svein J. Frisvoll, and Susan I. Stewart. 2010. “Visualising Community: Using Participant-Driven Photo-Elicitation for Research and Application”. Local Environment 15 (4): 373-388. (

Public Sociology:

Van Auken, Paul. 2016. “Shortening the Distance” Oshkosh Independent. (

Van Auken, Paul. 2014. “Taking Root: New Life in Oshkosh’s Food Desert.” SCENE (

Van Auken, Paul. 2014. “Separate Ways, Separate We(s).” SCENE. (

Van Auken, Paul. 2014. “You down with OCC?”. SCENE. (