Published: April 13, 2018

Original article can be found at CU Boulder Today  
Originally published on April 13, 2018 

CU Boulder last month named professor Sarah Krakoff the 2018 recipient of the Hazel Barnes Prize, the most distinguished award a faculty member can receive from the university. 

Among her distinguished work teaching students and being part of the CU Boulder faculty, Krakoff is an expert in American Indian law and natural resources. 

“Sarah Krakoff is highly respected in her field and on campus, where she has a long and impressive history as a scholar and community member. She has dedicated herself to indigenous communities and public lands, developed programs that help low-income populations and shared her knowledge with students in academically challenging and inspiring ways. Sarah is an exemplary Hazel Barnes Prize winner, and I congratulate her.” 
–Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano 

Krakoff recently sat down with CU Boulder Today to reflect on and share her viewpoints about her work and how she engages with students and the campus community. 

How do you foster the interrelationship of student learning and scholarly research in your teaching? 
If my research is not relevant to my students, then it probably is not that interesting to anyone! The best scholarly research should also engage and enliven teaching. 

I test out new research ideas by discussing them with students in class or office hours. Also, I incorporate aspects of my research into seminars and encourage students to work on papers that build on ideas we develop together. Whenever possible, I urge students to try to publish their papers as well, with the goal of multiplying our efforts and making research and scholarship a community enterprise to the extent possible. 

What do you most want to impress upon your students? 
I want them to understand the power they will wield as lawyers. And I want them to understand how law historically has shaped relations between human communities, and also between humans and the non-human world. If they are not happy with the current state of affairs, they have to examine how law—the very tool they want to use to make things better—is also thoroughly implicated in all the ways things are not fair or just today. 

In short, I want them to be able to think critically about law and its role in our society but also to think imaginatively about how they might order things differently in their lifetimes. 

More broadly, how do you engage with the CU Boulder community? 
There are so many amazing scholars, teachers and institutional citizens on our campus. Through CU Engage, the Center of the American West, the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies and more places than I can name in this short space, I encounter faculty and students doing exciting and deep work that also serves the public. 

In my own work, I try to make my scholarship count for the public by writing about topics relevant to underserved communities and doing public service projects that build on that research. 

“In her 22 years at Colorado Law, Sarah Krakoff has emerged as a nationally recognized scholar in American Indian law and natural resources law. She applies her interdisciplinary scholarship to her teaching in creative ways that provide our students with transformative experiences in the classroom and outside it. Not only that, but Professor Krakoff’s work benefits our public lands and the underrepresented people who rely on them. We are exceedingly proud of Professor Krakoff and pleased she has received the prestigious Hazel Barnes Prize.” 
–Colorado Law Dean S. James Anaya 

What are you most proud of? 
That is a tough one. I feel grateful every day to be able to do work that I care about. Maybe I still feel too young, despite what the calendar says, to register as “proud” of anything. But I do love hearing from former students that our experiences together mattered to them and from members of the public and practitioners that my work is meaningful and helpful to them. 

Also, pulling off the Law of the River seminar, a semester-long class that culminated in a two-week wilderness raft trip through the Grand Canyon, was pretty amazing. And I am thrilled every year when we recruit dozens of law students to work pro bono with low-income farmers in the San Luis Valley through The Acequia Project, which provides free legal assistance on water rights matters. 

What is your favorite thing about campus? 
I love the view of the Flatirons and try to be grateful for it every day. Also, the architectural style and the older buildings around Norlin; we really do have one of the most beautiful campuses west of the Mississippi. 

Anything else you’d like to mention? 
Charles Wilkinson (friend, role model and fellow Hazel Barnes recipient) gave me a copy of Hazel Barnes’s autobiography The Story I Tell Myself: A Venture In Existentialist Autobiography as a congratulations gift. I just started reading it and am in awe of her writing, intellect and passion for her work. It is humbling and inspiring to be associated with her legacy, and I hope I can live up to it.