Sander van der Leeuw received a B.A. in history, an M.Litt in medieval history and prehistory, and a Ph.D. in prehistory from the University of Amsterdam, held two Fulbright scholarships (at the University of Arizona and the University of Michigan). He taught at the Universities of Amsterdam, Leyden, Cambridge and Paris, and held visiting positions at Australian National University, the Universities of Paris, Chicago, Modena (Italy), the Santa Fe Institute and most recently at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, Japan, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Sustainability Studies (Berlin, Germany), the Universities of Aix-Marseille (France) and Johannesburg (South Africa) and Beijing Normal University (China).
He is the founding director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at ASU (2003-2011), and he served as the dean of Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability (2010-2013), the first of its kind, where he turned interdisciplinary theory into use-inspired research. He is currently co-director of ASU’s Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative.
Prior to joining ASU, van der Leeuw conducted archaeological and environmental studies in the Near East, the Philippines, Syria, Holland, France, and Mexico. More recently he has been doing fieldwork in China and Japan. An expert in complex adaptive systems, he coordinated a series of interdisciplinary research projects on socio-environmental co-evolution and human-nature interactions in all the southern countries of the European Union. Van der Leeuw’s interests currently focus on the role of invention, innovation and sustainability in societies around the world. He investigates how invention occurs, what the preconditions are, how the context influences it, its role in society, and how it leads to sustainability challenges.
A native of Holland, he is a corresponding member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. In 2012, the United Nations Environment Program named van der Leeuw the “Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation” for his work on human-environmental relations.