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Candace May

May, Candace
Faculty Photo
Contact Information:
Home University:

South Dakota State University
School of Psychology, Sociology, and Rural Studies
Brookings, SD 57007

Program involvement
Community Development Graduate Programs - Instructor


Candace May is a Critical Rural and Natural Resources Sociologist who studies communities, collective action, and governance with an explicit focus on inequality and power across scales and levels for the purpose of working toward a more socio-ecologically just future. She examines justice in socio-ecological systems as a matter of governance – institutions, organizations, and people as both a reason for and solution to the complex socio-ecological problems and injustices fundamental to understanding sustainability, vulnerability, resilience, adaptation, and transformation. 

Many scholars and practitioners promote the realignment of human-nature relations through inclusive and responsive governance processes involving adaptive cycles of experiential social learning grounded in local ecological knowledge and experiences. May’s research focuses on the actual extent of, the potential for, and policy outcomes from the political inclusion and cooperation of diverse groups in governance processes and the consequences for socio-ecological systems. 

She examined how diversity, inequality, and power in the governance of coastal resources exasperated conflict, marginalization, and vulnerabilities in the context of depressed seafood markets, amenity-led development, and climate change-related hazards in North Carolina. She also examined how diversity and power produced community resilience, if not sustainability through the pooling of differential capacities in response to social, economic, technological, climate-related hazards in coastal Louisiana. May’s work in South Dakota spans the informal, legal and illegal, coping mechanisms and provisioning strategies of welfare recipients in peri-rural places, institutional adaptations to govern climate-change-induced socio-hydrological changes, assessment of watershed planning capacities for small rural communities falling outside legislative oversight, and assessment of stakeholder collaborative learning and organizational (governmental and non-governmental) capacities for the adoption of collaborative adaptive rangeland management outcomes. 

May is committed to interdisciplinary and collaborative research for the same reason she is an avid proponent of inclusive decision-making. Contemporary problem solving requires the integration of diverse knowledge and experience. May has worked with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is a research fellow with the Earth System Governance Project, and contributed to the United Nation’s Second World Ocean Assessment. She is active in the Rural Sociological Society and International Association for Society & Natural Resources and is an associate editor for Society & Natural Resources.  She is also an affiliate faculty member of the Department of Natural Resource Management at South Dakota State University.

May is committed to teaching and mentoring to prepare the leaders of today and tomorrow to meet and solve socio-ecological challenges. She incorporates a diverse array of theoretical approaches in research and course design, and although she is primarily a qualitative researcher, she enjoys quantitative methods. May believes that students and scholarship benefit most when diverse methodological toolkits are employed in problem-solving.  She wants her students to learn that things are not always what they seem, and to appreciate a diversity of viewpoints. It is in appreciating diverse views and approaches that creative, not just critical, thinking derives. In general, she works to promote active engagement, critical thinking, and diverse analytical skills among her students, and an inclusive classroom setting that encourages students to learn from one another and to see themselves as agents of social change. 


Ph.D. in Sociology, concentration in political economy, Colorado State University, 2011
M.A. in Sociology, University of Wyoming, 2006
B.A. in Sociology, Western Carolina University, 2004
A.A. in Pre-Liberal Arts, Pitt County Community College, 2002