Spencer Phillips

Assistant Professor of Global Studies, College of Arts & Sciences


Spencer Phillips is an ecological economist with more than 30 years’ experience focused on the intersection of economic development and environmental stewardship. His passion is for helping people and institutions realize — that is, to understand and to attain — the benefits of environmental improvement. He achieves this through research into the value of ecosystem services, especially as impacted by climate change, land and resource waste management, and efforts to reduce air, water, and solid waste pollution, and by communicating these values to stakeholders and decisionmakers at all levels of government. 

Prior to joining the Global Studies faculty, Spencer founded Key-Log Economics in Charlottesville and its sister social enterprise, Key-Log Economics Vietnam, in Hanoi. These consultancies provide “research and strategy for the land community” and help government, business, and civil society organizations achieve their conservation, sustainable development, and organizational goals. Previously, he was a staff economist at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Director of NorthWoods Stewardship Center, and senior economist and Vice President for Ecology and Economics Research at The Wilderness Society. 

Spencer added university teaching to his career in 2013, with courses ranging from intermediate microeconomics to GIS for public policy in UVa’s Department of Economics and Batten school as well as a new Education Abroad program in Vietnam that we hope will return for J-Term 2022.  He has also taught  environmental/ecological/development economics in the online masters programs at Goucher College and University of Maryland Global Campus. Most recently he taught introductory microeconomics to the inaugural class of VinUniversity’s College of Business and Management in Hanoi.

With this mix of academic, NGO leadership, business startup, and policy-focused applied research, Spencer likes to teach concepts and methods in ways that are grounded in, and applied to, real-world challenges. His courses will draw from his past and ongoing work on climate change, solid waste management, food systems, energy supply, biodiversity conservation and other pressing environmental challenges/opportunities. 

Spencer’s PhD and MS are in Agricultural and Applied Economics from Virginia Tech. With a BA in economics being from the University of Virginia, Spencer is delighted to be back on Grounds for a third time. 

Backpacking on a snowy Mt. Rogers for spring break in 1983 re-connected Spencer to wildlands and sparked his passion for exploring the intersections of wilderness with human and economic development. Whenever possible — which has been all too infrequent living these past three years among 8 million people in Ha Noi, Vietnam — he continues that exploration by hiking, bicycling, boating, and volunteering with local environmental and animal welfare organizations.