The Stream

Bill McKibben returns to talk about leadership

McKibbenWe’re excited to share that noted author and environmentalist Bill McKibben will join us once again as a Fellow of the Middlebury School of the Environment in 2016.  Bill has worked tirelessly – and successfully – on behalf of the environment for decades.  His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first and most influential book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages. He is founder of, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement. The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize, and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities; Foreign Policy named him to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe said he was “probably America’s most important environmentalist.” A former staff writer for the New Yorker, he writes frequently a wide variety of publications around the world, including the New York Review of Books, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone.

Once again, Bill will bring to the students at the School of the Environment his expertise as a practitioner in organizational strategy and creative ideation.  We are pleased and excited that he is joining us again, and I know that students who attend the School this coming summer will profit in many ways from his experience and commitment.

Applications for 2016

We’re pleased to announce that applications for the 2016 session of the Middlebury School of the Environment are now being accepted.  We’ve simplified the application process this year, moving entirely to an on-line system both for the application and the submission of letters of recommendation.  Our goal is to make the entire process easier for students and for their recommenders, as well as to make it possible for us to give students a decision on their applications more quickly.

As always, detailed information about the upcoming session is best obtained through the MSoE website, but we’re anticipating that this coming summer will look a lot like last summer …

  • Three courses for credit through Middlebury College.
  • A robust leadership training program.
  • Six weeks, from June 24th to August 5th.
  • Financial aid is available.
  • Two tracks of study, one focusing on sustainability (for students with previous college coursework in environmental studies) and one on systems thinking (for students at a more introductory level).
  • Electives on Environmental Video Production; Wicked Environmental Problems; Environmental Pollution; and Religion, Nature, and Justice.

What’s new for the coming summer is the addition of a non-residential option for students who have alternative living arrangements in the Middlebury area.

Our session in 2015 was a huge success, and we are excited to begin to shape the class for 2016!

Environmental Leadership in Practice

This week’s posting in The Stream comes from guest blogger Hernan Gallo-Cornejo from Pitzer College (’17) and the Middlebury School of the Environment (’15).  Hernan recently attended the North American Association of Environmental Education conference in San Diego.  There he presented a paper on the work he carried out with Dr. Curt Gervich in the MSoE class “Wicked Environmental Problems,” putting his skills as a persuasive speaker to the test.  Here’s Hernan’s description of his experiences there:

“On October 15th and 16th, I attended the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) conference to represent the School of the Environment! My professor from the School of the Environment, Curt, and I lead a workshop on systems thinking and environmental educational games to a group of over 30 people. In this workshop, I shared my experience with creating an educational game on sanitation in India throughout the course of four weeks in my Wicked Problems in Environmental Policy class this past summer. Creating a game for the first time was frightening at first, but I was able to collaborate with my classmates to create an entire game that the School of the Environment played during our last week of the program. I really enjoyed having a creative final assignment for the course because it pushed me to think in a unique way about the topic.

As I presented on my experience at the NAAEE conference, several people asked detailed questions about the game I created and how I went about doing it. Since most of the people in the room had never created a game before, they really wanted to know how in depth our game-making process was so that they can effectively create their own environmental educational games to share with others. Although I was one of the youngest attendees of the conference, I was able to apply the leadership skills I acquired at the School of the Environment to confidently present to and interact with my audience. I hope to continue using the skills and knowledge I received at the School of the Environment and share them with others to create change in the environmental movement.”

Hernan Gallo

Middlebury School of the Environment ‘15

Pitzer College ‘17

The eight essential environmental leadership skills

Everyone talks a lot about leadership training, but what is it really.  Fundamentally, leadership skills are those that allow you to work effectively with others in a variety of capacities to cultivate ideas and implement strategies to move an agenda forward.  In the Middlebury School of the Environment, the broad agenda we want to connect students with it environmental health, justice, and restoration.

At the MSoE, there are eight skills that we  believe are essential for effectively addressing this agenda, skills that we emphasize in our curriculum and co-curricular activities.

  1. Teaming.  How do teams work best, and how can you best work in a team?
  2. Communication styles.  What is your own communication style, and how can you adapt it to promote communication with others?
  3. Persuasive public speaking.  What is your message, and how can you persuasively deliver in different settings to different audiences?
  4. Networking.  How do you engage with others to make them a part of your extended network of contacts for generating ideas and opportunities?
  5. Fundraising.  How do you create opportunities for others to donate money towards initiatives that advance their goals?
  6. Empathy.  How do you develop a sincere understanding about how someone else is feeling?
  7. Cultural capacity.  How do you overcome your own cultural programming to open the door to understanding how someone from a different culture views their environmental challenges and needs?
  8. Interviewing.  How do you elicit information from others to help them reveal the underlying problems and hidden solutions to their environmental challenges.

During the course of the Middlebury School of the Environment, we will engage you in all eight of these skills.  And in the coming months, I will talk more about each of them on The Stream.

Environmental Studies at 50

The study of the environment, either as environmental studies or environmental science, is now so mainstream in higher education that it is difficult to grasp that at one time such studies were not a part of the college or university curriculum. Environmental Studies as a major was born here at Middlebury College 50 years ago this fall, when a small group of visionary faculty led by Howard “Gene” Woodin convinced then-president James Armstrong to approve the creation a major offered by a cross-departmental collaboration among Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and Geology (and soon joined by Economics). This was in 1965. Only three years after the publication of Silent Spring, and five years before Earth Day. It was the first such major in the country.

Now, 50 years later, such programs have emerged in virtually all colleges and universities in response to the growing awareness not only of the importance of such issues for society but of its deep and broad roots within traditional academic discourse.

This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Middlebury’s Environmental Studies Program as well as 50 years of commitment to environmental engagement.

The Middlebury School of the Environment may only be two years old, but it is a product of 50 years of leadership in environmental education, pedagogy, and practice. All of us associated with the School of the Environment owe a great deal to the pioneers who, 50 years ago, had the vision to craft a new emphasis for higher education. And it is my intention to ensure that we follow with the same commitment to envisioning a better environmental future for all.

Getting ready for 2016

For most students at college or university, the new academic year began just recently.  But even though Summer 2016 seems far in the future, we’ve already started preparing for the 2016 session of the Middlebury School of the Environment.  Our session this past summer was very successful, and we’re excited to be able to build on that success for the coming year.  All of our faculty will be returning, allowing us to once again offer the very best summer environmental studies program available anywhere.  Coverage will once again include environmental science, policy, humanities, and arts, integrated with each other and with leadership training that will help you be effective in doing something positive for the world and with your career.

If you are looking for a summer environmental studies program offered by one of the top schools for environmental studies and sustainability in the world, the Middlebury School of the Environment is for you.  Come join us!

Understanding Place reflection #4

Over the last two weeks, we’ve explored place in light of temporal time scales and land use, for example through GIS exercises and readings from Foley et al., Matson et al., and Wendell Berry’s ‘Let the Farm Judge’. For this week’s reflection (due Wednesday at noon) please choose a place and describe its dominant historical and current land use(s). Based on local and global land-use trends, what do you think the future of land use in that place might be over the next 100 years (e.g., suburban development, agriculture, urbanization, industry, conservation, etc.)? What do you suggest might be the most suitable future land use(s) in that place in light of ecology, society, and economy?

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #4

John Ehrenfeld says that the question of whether one is optimistic or pessimistic about the future is the wrong question. The right question is, “Are you hopeful?” Well, are you? 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?


Provide your answer as a comment to this post. Remember – your comments are public.

Understanding Place reflection #3

For the last three weeks we have been building up our ‘toolkit’ for understanding place, with a special focus on agriculture. Please share how you envision your contribution to the final group project – the recipe book. Please include specific details including the kind of contribution you’d like to create or share, what disciplinary or life-experience background(s) you could contribute through your work, and what ‘tools’ for understanding place might be expressed through your contribution. Finally, please briefly note how your proposed contribution applies to our shared place at the SoE or to a place that is special to you, and also how it can be applied to any place.

Your answers to this reflection are not set in stone, and you are free to change your contributions to the final project as we progress through the second half of the semester. This is simply a forum for you to brainstorm, be creative, and share your ideas with your peers.

Provide your reflections as a comment to this post, and remember that your comments are public.

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #3

We began the class three weeks ago with a broad macro-scale perspective on sustainability, and quickly worked toward a micro-scale perspective, focusing on methods directed at small, targeted goals that address specific vulnerabilities for a specific system. Reflect on the pros and cons of these two perspectives. What do we gain and what do we lose by adopting one or the other of these perspectives? What do you think are some solutions or strategies for addressing issues of sustainability that would allow us to retain all of the benefits without suffering from the negative consequences.


Provide your answer as a comment to this post. Remember – your comments are public.

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.