Garret Zastoupil he/his/him

Assistant Professor of Sustainable Rural Economic Development

Garret Zastoupil
Office:134 Mead Hall
Email:Send a message...
Telephone:(715) 682-1292


Earned and Honorary Degrees

PhD, Human Ecology: Civil Society and Community Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison
MA, Higher Education and Student Affairs, University of Connecticut
BSB, Entrepreneurial Management and Public & Nonprofit Management, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities


I’ve called the upper-midwest home for most of my life, in mid-size and large cities, and small towns. Most recently I’ve spent the last two years between Fargo, ND and west-Central North Dakota, while completing my dissertation research. My professional experience has focused on building, supporting, and sustaining transformative partnerships between institutions of higher education and mission-based organizations. Through these efforts, I’ve worked with conservation, public health, education, and arts-based organizations.

At Northland College, I’m an Assistant Professor of Sustainable Rural Economic Development, with a joint appointment in the Business and Sustainable Community Development Programs. I’m trained as an interdisciplinary and emancipatory social scientist, working alongside community organizations aiming to build more just, sustainable, and democratic futures. I work with “third sector” organizations (Nonprofits, Nongovernmental Organizations, Voluntary Associations, Cooperative) who are deliberately creating new possibilities. The aim of my praxis is to support regenerative rural economies through the creation and growth of organizations that root wealth in communities, with a focus on dismantling extractive, colonial economic development practices and policies.

Why Northland?

The public often understands sustainability as environmental preservation and conservation. Northland expands this understanding, instead aiming to support the social, economic, and environmental sustainability of the Northwoods through experiential learning and community-engaged research and teaching.


BUS 311- Social Innovation and Impact
SCD 422- Capitalism, Justice, and Sustainability
BUS 362- Nonprofit Management
ECN 263- Essentials of Economics


Rural communities operate as sites where primary resources for the capitalist economy (e.g., commodities, water, fossil-fuels) are extracted to benefit urban centers, often causing environmental and social devastation, while reinforcing projects of anti-Black racism, settler-colonialism, and labor exploitation. My research aims to understand and build regenerative rural communities that disrupt these practices. I’m currently working on a book manuscript titled Powering Down the Plains. This project highlights two years of work alongside a grassroots rural and environmental organizing group in North Dakota as we attempted and failed to mobilize residents of North Dakota Coal Country. It presents how the political economy of North Dakota supports extractive economic development, bolstering fossil fuel industries.

My next projects aim to understand alternative rural economic development practices. First, I am starting a project that seeks to understand how rural cooperatives, such as food producers, electrical, and hardware, are creating, enacting, and measuring community and environmental impact as part of the 7 Cooperative Principles. Second, inspired by the work of Erik Olin Wright, my other project aims to identify “real rural utopias” in the Upper-Midwest, that is rural-placed organizations that are creating regenerative community economies. This project aims to understand how these organizations and communities were created, how they’re maintained, and what they can tell us about building more democratic and resilient rural communities elsewhere.

Finally, I maintain ongoing research collaborations with community-based organizations in Wisconsin, North Dakota, and elsewhere. Through these projects, I collaborated with community organizations to define research questions that advances their justice goals, and co-design a research project that will provide information and create more just communities. My goal is to practice the building of emancipated futures alongside community organizations.


Zastoupil, G., & Sarmiento, C. S. Service-learning, rights to the city, and justice in community practitioner preparation. Journal of Community Practice, 30(2), 169-180.

Castillo-Montoya, M., Zastoupil, G., & Newton, A. J. (2021). Developing critical consciousness: The gains and missed opportunities for Latinx college students in a sport-based critical service-learning course. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 27(1).

Zastoupil, G. (2021). Social change in rural communities: A pilot study of Liberating Service-Learning and rural higher education. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, 13(2).


Zastoupil, G. (2022, April). Regenerative Communities, Settler Colonialism, Decolonial Futures in North Dakota Coal Country. Paper Presented at Reckoning & Reconciliation on the Great Plains: Confronting Our Past, Reimagining Our Future, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.

Zastoupil, G. (2021 November). The Empire Strikes Back: Regional Nonprofits Resisting Grassroots Environmental Activism in the Just Transition. Paper presented at ARNOVA 50th Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA.

Zastoupil, G. (2021, September). Breaking the Circle: Findings from a Community-Based Research Project Examining Critical Rural Community Economic Development in the American West. International Conference on Sustainable Development.

Zastoupil, G. (2021 August). The landscape is quieting: How histories of resistance and culture on the Northern Plains can inform the just transition [from the coal industry]. 53rd annual Dakota Conference, Augustana University, Sioux Falls, SD.

Zastoupil, G. (2021 June). Theory and method for examining critical rural community development. Paper presented at 83rd Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society

Student Involvement

My background in college student development informs my approach to teaching and learning. My courses are structured such that students develop a critical understanding of course content, apply content to real-world projects, and reflect on the implications of their learning for their lives beyond the class. Students will be asked to reflect individually and collectively in my classes, and are encouraged to show up as their whole selves. These classes use a variety of relational pedagogical techniques, including inquiry-based projects, service-learning, and dialogues. Students in my courses are expected to serves as co-learners and co-teachers, engaging in a vibrant classroom environment. I integrate community-based projects in my courses as well. In previous courses students have worked with a rural organizing group to create, administer, and analyze survey data on community needs. I’ve also had students work with a nonprofit supporting radical housing alternatives to assist in the creation of a strategic plan, a grants plan, and an annual fundraising event.


Outside of the classroom, I enjoy walking and hiking (usually with my dog, Franny), biking on the paved paths around Ashland. Since the pandemic, I've attempted to pick-up the lap-steel guitar. I'm also a novice collector of wooden duck decoys, aloha shirts, and vinyl records.