Application for MSoE Summer 2018 is live!

The Middlebury School of the Environment (MSoE) begins a new chapter in Summer 2018, moving its successful six-week, living and learning pedagogy in environmental problem solving and leadership from Middlebury’s campus in Vermont to Yunnan province, China. Yunnan boasts rich biodiversity, historical legacy, cultural diversity, pressing environmental issues and emerging environmental solutions and leadership.

The MSoE pedagogy is problem-based. In this six-week program, students work alongside faculty and practitioners to tackle significant environmental problems that stretch beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. This interdisciplinary approach is especially valuable considering the complexity of China’s environment. Our faculty represent fields as diverse as geology and chemistry, religious studies, geography, planning, filmmaking, and biodiversity conservation.

For students studying with MSoE in Yunnan, courses will occur in forests, wetlands and mountains; temples, kitchens, and homes; shops, alleys, and markets; laboratories, libraries and museums. Courses in the 2018 program include: Understanding Place, Sustainability Leadership Seminar, and Environmental Analysis.

Course Descriptions (students enroll in three, 300 level courses)

Understanding Place (3 credits)
Manifesting solutions to environmental challenges requires a deep understanding of “place,” by which we mean a sense of the history, culture, economy, and ecology of a location. Facing environmental challenges cannot be divorced from understanding either the people or the ecological realities of the location where the challenge is situated or from where the solution is to emerge. This is best understood by focusing first on a single place, and then examining that place in its global context. This course will explore a specific place through both ecological and cultural narratives (in other words, through geography, history, biology, literature, geology, and political science) to understand how this place came to be in the condition it is today; its global connections on multiple temporal and spatial scales; and how to improve conditions for both itself and the human communities associated with it.

Sustainability Leadership Seminar (3 credits)Governance and administration in China. Wicked problems. Sustainable communities. Spatial and systems thinking. Structured decision making. Persuasive communication. These are just a few of the topics this course will cover. Through a series of field-based exercises intended to hone your observational and analytical skills, and workshops from environmental leaders and practitioners based in the US and China, such as The Nature Conservancy, this course will enhance, amplify and elevate your sustainability leadership skills.

Environmental Analysis (3 credits)
Using a case study method, students in this course will use an interdisciplinary lens to explore critical environmental issues from both scientific and humanitarian perspectives. The class will explore pollution monitoring and management, and biodiversity conservation in the field and in the lab. Students will also learn the art of storytelling and filmmaking, while exploring the role of the arts in communicating about environmental problems and solutions, especially in a history and culture-rich local context. Students will come away from this course with a solid background in the physical and natural sciences, as well as appreciating the role of environmental ethics and arts in problem solving.

Please forward to interested students and faculty. The student application is here.
Visit the website for the Middlebury School of the Environment (http://www.middlebury.edu/environment) for more details about the program.

 

 

Meet the new directors of the MSoE!

The Middlebury School of the Environment (MSoE) begins a new chapter in Summer 2018.  After four successful years developing its program in environmental learning and engagement on the main campus of Middlebury College in Vermont, we’re ready to launch the next step in our long-term development plan: developing an international dimension to its program.

This coming summer, the MSoE will be held in and around Kunming, China!  The program will retain its traditional emphasis on interdisciplinarity, hands-on engagement, and leadership training.  But now it will be focusing on the application of that emphasis in an international setting.

This represents a major leap forward for the MSoE, both in terms of its reach and its curricular focus.  Much more can and will be written about the MSoE China curriculum in the coming weeks.  But we want to first announce an important change in the program’s leadership.

A transition as momentous as the internationalization of the program and a move to China demands a transition in leadership that has expertise in the environmental issues and culture of China.  We are extremely fortunate to have hired two environmental scholars as co-directors for the MSoE: Drs. Curt Gervich and Liou Xie, both on the faculty at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Plattsburgh.

Friends and alumni of the MSoE know Curt well, as he has been on the faculty of the MSoE since 2015, teaching both the Systems Thinking Practicum and Wicked Environmental Problems courses.  He is an Associate Professor in the of the Center for Earth and Environmental Science at SUNY Plattsburgh where he teaches courses in environmental leadership, law and policy and sustainability, among others. Curt is trained as an environmental planner, with expertise in decision-making and leadership. His professional background includes developing habitat conservation plans in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, training community involvement specialists at the Environmental Protection Agency in best practices for participatory planning, and serving as a researcher and planner for the International Joint Commission for Great Lakes Management’s Social, Political and Economics technical advisory group. His current research focuses on the use of games and simulations in professional and informal adult educational settings, environmental decision making and leadership in municipal policy networks; and best practices for experiential and applied learning environments. Curt has studied, lived, and worked across the United States and in Australia, Canada, China, and Mongolia.

Joining him as co-director is Liou Xie.  Liou is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at SUNY Plattsburgh where she teaches courses and conducts research in the fields of urban and economic geography, planning, sustainable transportation systems and communities, among other urban sustainability issues and solutions. Born and raised in China, she obtained her degrees from Beijing Normal University, the University of Hong Kong, and Arizona State University. Besides working in over a dozen cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Kunming, she applies her expertise in the local region by engaging in projects like writing comprehensive plans for Schuyler Falls, surveying service insufficiency and redevelopment potential around the Plattsburgh train station, and exploring employment challenges in the North Country. Liou is trained to use analytical and data visualization tools, such as GIS, CorelDraw, Photoshop and Sketchup in her research and teaching. She has several years of experience working with college students in international settings. She assisted a study abroad program at HKU which brought students to a rural area in Hunan province. She regularly takes her planning classes on a one-day field trip to Montreal. She teaches intensive courses on environmental management at a sister university in China.

We’re excited about what Liou and Curt will bring to the next phase of MSoE development, and we hope you’ll continue to check in on The Stream to read about what they have in store!!

Understanding Place Week 5: Cultural views of place

This week we have discussed multiple cultural views of place, and how recognizing those views can help us care for places, and in turn, work towards positive social and environmental change. Students of the Understanding Place class should post a comment here reflecting on the importance of cultural lenses in their understanding of that place.

Sustainability Practicum Essay 4

In a later chapter in his book Flourishing, John Ehrenfeld says that the question of whether one is optimistic or pessimistic about the future is the wrong question. The right question about the future, he says, is, “Are you hopeful?” Why might that be an important question to ask if you are thinking about engaging with issues of sustainability as a young adult?

And what is your personal response to that question? Are you hopeful? If so, why? From what source or feeling do you manufacture your hope? And if not, what motivates you to pursue an educational path that includes an emphasis on a study of the environment even though you are not hopeful for the future?  The best answers will be ones that draw specific information or support from the readings, interviews, and/or case studies we have engaged with throughout our time in the SoE this year, including our week in Washington, DC, with Planet Forward.

Post your essay as a comment to the relevant post of the MSoE’s blog, The Stream, by Friday, July 28th, by 5:00 pm.

Understanding Place Week 3: Non-Human Others and Relational Shaping of Place

This week we have examined several lenses and perspectives helping to make visible (or audible, or tactile…) the influences of non-human others in shaping places. These lenses have included acoustic ecology, highlighting the importance of attending to biophony, geophony, and anthrophony in shaping a multi-species inclusive sense of place, as well as kincentric ecology, a specific cultural lens into traditional foodways. Students in Understanding Place should comment here, reflecting on the influences of non-human others on their chosen places. Don’t forget to also upload your comment through the appropriate link on Canvas.

Sustainability Practicum Essay 3

Reflect on how your exploration of “place” in your other core course, Understanding Place, influences your thinking about the scale, scope, or nature of the system that you are considering for the challenge in the Sustainability Practicum.

Post your essay as a comment to the relevant post of the MSoE’s blog, The Stream, by Monday, June 17th, by 9:00 pm (although you’ll probably want to complete this before we leave for Washington, DC, on Sunday so you don’t have to deal with it while we are traveling).

Understanding Place Week 2: Spatial Scales and Local-Global Connections

This week we have thought about how observing and experiencing place through different spatial scales can help us care for places, and in turn, work towards positive social and environmental change. Students of the Understanding Place class should post a comment here reflecting on the importance of spatial scales in their understanding of that place.

Sustainability Practicum Essay 2

We have progressed in this course from discussing sustainability in broad conceptual terms to working on specific planning and facilitation skills, such as systems mapping, scenario planning, and creative ideation.

Reflect – using at least one specific example from the readings, your experience, or general knowledge – on your views of how such skills can contribute – or not – to developing practical strategies to promote sustainability.

Post your essay as a comment to the relevant post of the MSoE’s blog, The Stream, by Monday, June 10th, at 9:00 am.

Sustainability Practicum Essay 1

In class on Monday, we began discussion of sustainability by considering and comparing the definitions of sustainable development and sustainability offered by the Brundtland Commission, Mathis Wackernagel and Bill Rees, and John Ehrenfeld.

For your first essay, I would like you to briefly critique (in both positive and negative ways, as relevant) each of these definitions.  Then, and more importantly, I would like you to offer and justify a definition that you can support.  This can be one of the formal definitions we discussed, a combination of them, or one of your own creation.

Post your essay as a comment to this post by Monday, June 3rd, at 9:00 am

Understanding Place Week 1: Temporal Scales

This week we have thought about how observing and experiencing place through different time scales can help us care for places, and in turn, work towards positive social and environmental change. Students of the Understanding Place class should post a comment here, each briefly describing a chosen place that they know well, and then reflecting on the importance of temporal scales in their understanding of that place.

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