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Debora Hammond

Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies

Debora Hammond



Program Director, MA Organization Development
Ph.D., History of Science, 1997
University of California, Berkeley

Academic Interests

Coming of age during the Vietnam War era, I struggled to avoid becoming a cog in the "system," and subsequently spent half of my graduate career studying "systems theory," exploring ways of thinking about complex systems that might support more participatory and inclusive forms of social organization. In addition to my work in the history of science, focusing on the history of systems thinking, I worked with Carolyn Merchant and other professors in the Conservation and Resource Studies program at Berkeley as a graduate teaching instructor, teaching courses in ecosystemology and environmental history, philosophy and ethics, which allowed me to pursue my interests sustainability and social justice.

After completing my dissertation, I joined the Hutchins faculty in 1997, serving as Hutchins Provost from 2001-2004. I was delighted to discover the Hutchins program, as the interdisciplinary, seminar-based pedagogy resonated with my own philosophy of education. It has been a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with faculty from a broad range of disciplinary perspectives. Beginning in 2009, I have been working with Saul Eisen to take over the role of faculty coordinator for Sonoma State's Organization Development MA program, which integrates the interactive approach to learning and practice so central to the Hutchins orientation with my own passion for systems thinking and organizational transformation.

Growing out of my on-going involvement with the International Society for the Systems Sciences, I was elected to serve as the 2005-2006 President and hosted the 50th anniversary conference at Sonoma State University, July 9-14, 2006. My book on the history of systems thinking, The Science of Synthesis: Exploring the Social Implications of General Systems Theory (2003/2010), documents a unique episode in the history of modern thought that remains relevant for our times. It examines the origins of systems thinking in such fields as engineering, management, organismic biology, cybernetics, information, ecology and social theory, and discusses the work of the founders of the Society for General Systems Theory, including Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Kenneth Boulding, Ralph Gerard, James Grier Miller, and Anatol Rapoport.

Selected Publications & Presentations

The Science of Synthesis: Exploring the Social Implications of General Systems Theory, (Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2003, paperback edition 2010).


“All Our Relations: Reflection on Women, Nature and Science, ”E. Allison, W. Bauman, and K. Worthy, eds., After the Death of Nature: Carolyn Merchant and the Future of Human-Nature Relations, Routledge, 2018.

“Philosophical Foundations for Systems Research ”,in M. Edson, et al, ed., A Guide to Systems Research: Philosophy, Processes and Practice, Springer 2016.

“Systems Theory and Practice in Organizational Change and Development,”in D. Arnold, ed., Traditions of Systems Theory: Major Figures and Contemporary Developments, Routledge, 2014.

“Reflections on Recursion and the Evolution of Learning”,Kybernetes 42:9, 2013.

“Systems Theory”,Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. Sage Publications, 2013.

“Education for Engaged Citizenship”in J.P. van Gigch, ed., Wisdom, Knowledge, and Management: A Critique and Analysis of Churchman's Systems Approach Series: C. West Churchman's Legacy and Related Works, Vol. 2 (New York: Springer, 2006).

“The Life and Work of James Grier Miller”” (primary author, with Jennifer Wilby), Systems Research and Behavioral Science 23 (2006).

“Philosophical and Ethical Foundations of Systems Thinking,” ”tripleC - Cognition, Communication, Co-operation, Vol 3, No 2 (2005). On-line.

“Ecopsychology,”in S. Krech, J.R. McNeill, and C. Merchant, eds., Encyclopedia of World Environmental History (New York: Routledge, 2004).

“Exploring the Genealogy of Systems Thinking,”Systems Research and Behavioral Science 19 (2002).

“From Dominion to Co-Creation: A New Vision of Reality beyond the Boundaries of the Mechanistic Universe”ReVision: A Journal of Consciousness and Transformation 21:4 (1999).

“Reflections on the Role of Dialogue in Education and Community Building,”Systems Research and Behavioral Science 21 (Bela H. Banathy Festschrift, 2004).

“Ecopsychology,”in S. Krech, J.R. McNeill, and C. Merchant, eds., Encyclopedia of World Environmental History (New York: Routledge, 2004).