G = graduate; UG = undergraduate

“Environmental Politics in China” (UG lecture, UVA). Average rating: 4.6/5.0.

Course Description

Over three decades of extraordinary economic development in China came at the great expense of the environment. Despite having one of the world’s most comprehensive environmental laws and regulations, China had been one of the most polluted countries in the world until recently. The Eighteenth Party Congress in November 2012 was a watershed event in the environmental and ecological landscape in China. However, strong central directives to clean up the air and elevate the deployment of green energy have been met with mixed results. This course examines how domestic actors, institutions, and political organization affect environmental policymaking and implementation in China from the late twentieth century until the present day.

Excerpts of Anonymous Student Comments
  • “Strong expert in her field. She was very brilliant on the subject.”
  • “Shen has very clear lectures and is a very helpful and kind professor.”
  • “Shen has a very interesting and helpful background as an engineer and researcher, which allowed her to explain many concepts or give examples that would have been otherwise difficult for professors without this experience to explain, clarify, or apply.”
  • “Professor Shen is obviously very smart and well educated. This can for some professors be a disadvantage, but Professor Shen communicated her goals and presented the material for the class in a way that was easy to follow. The lectures were clear and our small group discussions about the readings allowed us to make connections. Also, I loved the current events at the beginning of class because it gave relevance to everything we were learning in our everyday life and made us more aware of the world around us. Overall, I knew what was expected of me in this class and Professor Shen made it so that I wanted to perform well because of her open and friendly disposition.”
  • “I would recommend this course. I honestly felt like I learned more in this course than a lot of politics classes at UVA. This was a great opportunity to get in-depth on an increasingly salient issue. I think this course is a great addition to the political science department and I think it should continue to be offered.”
  • “I strongly recommend this class because the concepts, logic, and theoretical perspectives underpinning the class content is explained and emphasized thoroughly; this class, while focusing on a very specific subset of Chinese politics, is extremely applicable and useful in understanding and explaining many other concepts in politics, human behavior and decision making, contract theory, and public policy. Shen is a very driven and motivated professor, and possesses a very strong and interesting background in her anecdotes and stories as a researcher.”
  • “Awesome course! One of my favorite at UVA!.”


“Approaches to Environmental Politics” (G & UG seminar crossing the subfields of CP, IR, and AP, UVA). Average rating: 5.0/5.0.

Course Description

With the threats of climate change and air pollution looming large, the need to understand the politics behind them becomes increasingly critical. This graduate-level seminar surveys and synthesizes existing and emerging approaches to study environmental politics, spanning across the subfields of comparative politics, international relations, and American politics. The seminar is mainly comprised of two interrelated parts: 1) how politics shape environmental policies and outcomes; 2) how environmental change influences politics. Topics include the domestic and international sources of environmental policymaking, the political determinants of environmental policy implementation, climate & environmental change and conflict, comparative environmental behavior, and emerging techniques to study environmental issues. The seminar concludes with a reflection on how the study of environmental politics contributes to and engages core political science discourse and debates. Furthermore, the seminar offers an opportunity for graduate students and advanced undergraduate students to develop their research projects related to the topic of environmental politics with an emphasis on research design.

Excerpts of Anonymous Student Comments
  • “Professor Shen was very clear in providing many helpful anecdotes and guidance relevant to the research and quantitative methods-related portions of the class readings to help us better understand them, especially for undergraduate students who may not be as familiar or experienced with them.”
  • “Professor Shen is incredibly knowledgeable of the strengths and limitations of a variety of research methods, many of which would be difficult for undergraduates to understand or where attempting to find limitations is difficult and unintuitive.”
  • “Very great content and taught me so much about environmental policy!”
  • “Guides discussion well, good number and diversity of readings. Love that the class did not require purchasing materials!”
  • “Absolutely no complaints about Professor Shen. Excellent instructor.”


“Politics of Air Pollution” (UG seminar, UVA). Average rating: 4.7/5.0

Course Description

Air pollution is the biggest environmental health threat to humanity in the twenty-first century, causing one in eight deaths and endangering the health of 95 percent of the world’s population. When and why is there excessive pollution? How do politics and policy induce unintended environmental consequences? This course examines the political economy of air pollution regulation theoretically and empirically.

Excerpts of Anonymous Student Comments
  • “Prof Shen was awesome this semester. Very relatable, very intelligent, and I learned a lot about air pollution and political implications. I like the discussion format as well as the assignments/paper. Open-ended and allowed for students to pursue their interests. Overall, I would definitely recommend Prof Shen. Very effective teacher and a great class to take.”
  • “One strength of Professor Shen was that she chose good readings to base the discussions around. As she mentioned, there is very little literature on the politics of air pollution, so I thought she did really well at drafting a coherent course plan with so little material to work with.”
  • “The readings were very interesting and informative about the subject, the professor was very understanding and appreciative of different points of view, provided helpful feedback.”
  • “The reading load was just about right. I thought the readings were really well chosen for their corresponding week, and I liked that they all came from different viewpoints and attempted to answer the same question.”
  • “I would recommend this course to others. It was really interesting to focus for a whole semester on just one issue, and I feel as though we got a very thorough understanding off the literature out there about the topic.”


“Chinese Politics: Transformation and the Era of Reform” (TA, G & UG, Stanford)

“Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law” (Head TA, UG, Stanford)

“The American West” (Head TA, UG, Stanford)