Noah Hutton, Director of “Deep Time”

This summer, the Middlebury School of the Environment will welcome director Noah Hutton for a public showing of his 2015 film, Deep Time.”

Deep TimeThe themes exposed in this acclaimed documentary perfectly blend with those of the MSoE: “Ancient oceans teeming with life, Norwegian settlers, Native Americans and multinational oil corporations find intimacy in deep time. Following up his 2009 feature Crude Independence (SXSW), Deep Time is director Noah Hutton’s ethereal portrait of the landowners, state officials, and oil workers at the center of the most prolific oil boom on the planet for the past six years. With a new focus on the relationship of the indigenous peoples of North Dakota to their surging fossil wealth, Deep Time casts the ongoing boom in the context of paleo-cycles, climate change, and the dark ecology of the future” (adapted from the film’s web site).

Deep Time has been well received by critics and audiences alike.  It won the Special Jury Award at the 2015 Environmental Film Festival at Yale, as well as the Jury Award for Documentary Features at the 2016 Wild and Scenic Film Festival.

We’re excited to have Noah Hutton join us for the screening, which will be followed by an open Q&A with the audience to explore both the subject of the film and the craft of film production.

The screening will be held on July 19th, 7:30 pm in Dana Auditorium on the Middlebury College campus.  The film is free and open to the public, and we hope you will be able to join us.

Peter Forbes joins us this summer

I’m pleased to say that Peter Forbes will join the Middlebury School of the Environment this summer as guest practitioner.

Peter ForbesPeter describes himself this way: “I am a life-long student and advocate for the relationship between people and place. I’ve worked with many different people in very different geography from remote Nepal to the Rocky Mountains to central Harlen, New York. My life as emergency medical technician, photographer, author, father, farmer, and facilitator combine unusual aspect of the practical and visionary to produce work that has been helpful to a variety of sectors: conservation, leadership development, sustainability, philanthropy, and social ventures.

The list of his specific projects and writings is long and diverse:

  • Negotiating Generational Change
  • A Man Apart (2015)
  • Making Allies: Western Maine
  • Making Allies between Conservationists and Rural Native Communities
  • Coming to Land in a Troubled World (2004)
  • Integrating Conservation and Human Wellbeing
  • The Great Remembering: Further thoughts on land, soul and society (2001)
  • Connecting Native and Contemporary Land Trust Leaders
  • Strengthening Conservation by Connecting with Community
  • Making a National Case for Community Conservation

Through his work with the Center for Whole Communities, the Trust for Public Land, and currently Knoll Farm (with his wife, Helen Whybrow), Peter will bring to his conversation with the MSoE students a wealth of experience in integrating the voices of the people and the needs of the land. And we greatly look forward to his time with us!

Managing Environmental Conflict

Jeffrey-Langholz-2Having passion is important.  Having a great idea is a good thing.  But sooner or later, in one setting or another, everyone encounters a conflict in moving an idea forward or getting a message across.  It’s normal, and therefore a successful leader doesn’t focus just on avoiding conflict but also on managing it when it occurs.

This summer, we’re pleased to welcome to the MSoE Dr. Jeffrey Langholz from the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, in Monterey, California.  Jeff is recognized as an expert in international environmental leadership, with extensive experience in working with environmental groups in Africa and Asia.  He will join us to teach a workshop called … appropriately enough … Managing Environmental Conflict: a guerilla guide.

Dr. Langholz’s research focuses sustainable use of natural resources worldwide. How can we use fisheries, forests, wildlife, water, and other natural resources in ways that guarantee their long term survival while also being good for people and profits? He is a recognized authority on the growing role that private lands play in accomplishing the triple goals of biodiversity conservation, economic development, and social justice. A past member of the World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN), much of Jeff’s work takes place in and around parks of varying kinds. He was a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University for the 2005-2006 academic year, researching best practices for combining conservation and development on private lands in southern Africa.

We know that the student’s will be as excited to work with Jeff this summer as the faculty will be to have him join us!

 

Environmental practitioners at the School of the Environment

As I’ve written about before, one of the most important elements of our leadership training program is the opportunity for the MSoE students to interact with environmental leaders from across a wide spectrum of pathways and experiences in life.  These leaders are real practitioners — people who are actually working on real projects and in real settings to bring about a positive change in the world.  Rather than simply have these practitioners tell their life stories, we ask them to share with the students some of the lessons they have learned about how to be effective — things that they are glad they did and things they wish that they hadn’t.  From hearing the stories of what others had to learn through trial-and-error, the MSoE students gain a leg up on developing a professional skill set earlier in their efforts to make their own mark on the world.

The roster of practitioners who will be joining us this summer is shaping up and looks to be our most exciting yet.

  • Bill McKibben, noted author, climate activist, and founder of 350.org
  • Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s largest energy utility and a leader in the implementation of renewable energy systems
  • Peter Forbes, founder of the Center for Whole Communities and co-owner of Knoll Farm, an organic farm dedicated to promoting resiliency, transparency, and the health of the land.
  • Kim Stone, city councilwoman for Highland Park, Illinois, and environmental advocate for alternative transportation.
  • Alden Woodrow, financial manager for the Makani Project (part of GoogleX), a company developing alternative strategies for harvesting wind power.
  • Adrian Benepe, Senior Vice President and Director of City Park Development for the Trust for Public Land, as well as former New York City Park Commissioner.

And we’re working to finalize arrangements with a number of others, hopefully representing professional fields such as state government, the military, and community development.

We’re excited about our guest for the summer, and we know that the students who join us will benefit in untold ways from the conversations that will unfold.

Increased funding available for Summer 2016

From the start, several generous donors have made need-based scholarships available for students to attend the Middlebury School of the Environment.  In recent years, many students have been able to attend this six-week summer environmental studies and leadership training program, held on the Middlebury campus, who otherwise might not have been able to attend.

I am pleased to announce that in addition to the scholarship opportunities that were already in place, new funding has become available for the summer 2016 session. We are now able to meet up to 100% of demonstrated need on a first come, first served basis, and are offering merit aid ranging from $500 to $2500 for those who do not qualify for need-based aid.

Students have the option to live on campus or at home (at a reduced rate) while attending the program, and will earn 9 credit-hours (3 Middlebury units of credit) during the summer.

To be eligible for consideration for this funding, students will need to complete the admissions application (online application, recommendation, fee, and transcript) by midnight May 8, EST. To apply for need-based aid, they must also submit the online financial aid application.

Feel free to contact the director of the School of the Environment, Dr. Steve Trombulak, with any questions about this opportunity … or the School in general.

Persuasive public speaking

Traditionally, colleges and universities have placed a lot of emphasis in their curricula on persuasive writing.  This is all to the good.  It seems to me, however, that the vast majority of communication asked of us — especially if we are trying to advance an idea — is verbal.  Yet verbal communication, or public speaking, is one of the skills that is given the least amount of attention in higher education.  And when we do provide exposure to it as a skill, it is most likely to be oriented toward formal presentation of research results in the format most appropriate for a professional conference.

It’s not that the ability to speak effectively at a professional conference is unimportant.  It’s just that it represents only a small part of the persuasive speaking asked of us in being agents of positive change in the world.

We need to be able to make our points clearly and succinctly in public forums.

We need to be able to convince someone in 30 seconds or less to give us a hearing in a full proposal.

We need to answer questions convincingly.

We need to engage audiences, large and small, with compelling stories that capture their imaginations.

In other words, public speaking comes in all forms, for a host of reasons, and directed to a diverse range of listeners.

And to be effective, it all needs to be persuasive.

At the Middlebury School of the Environment, we focus a great deal on honing our skills in persuasive public speaking.  Much of it comes within the formal classwork, but it all builds off of our workshops on public speaking.  Lead by Mike Kiernan, these workshops are fun and engaging, but more importantly, they are effective in helping students become confident in their abilities to use their voices to make a difference.

Colchester, Vermont (January 29, 2013) - MiddCORE Winter Term (j-term) class at VPR with Jane Lindholm. (Photo © 2013 Brett Simison)

Mike is a physician, actor, public speaker – and one today’s most energetic and engaging voices for creative leadership and communication.  He will once again be joining the Middlebury School of the Environment as a Fellow to engage with the students on persuasive communication skills.  He has been an instructor in Middlebury College’s leadership and innovation training program, MiddCORE, since 2008 in all areas related to leadership and communication: crisis management, networking, story-making, and both strategic presentation design and delivery. He has also worked as a communications consultant with political candidates, physicians, business executives, and teams on leadership retreats. Mike is an actor and member of the local professional theater company, the Middlebury Actors Workshop. He is also a physician and recently was President of the Medical Staff at Porter Hospital. Mike serves on the Technical Advisory Group for the Green Mountain Care Board and the Executive Counsel of Vermont Medical Society. He is also an advisor to the State of Vermont Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee.

He has consistently been one of the School’s most popular presenters, and we are excited to have him join us again this year!

Fundraising as a leadership skill

In my role as a professor of biology at Middlebury College, one of the classes I teach each spring semester is Conservation Biology. I teach the course not only through the lens of how the principles of ecology and genetics can be applied to conserving life on Earth, but also through the lens of how conservation is practiced out in the real world.  Many of my students want to become conservation practitioners, working for government agencies or environmental NGOs, and as practitioners they need to be fluent not only in the knowledge base that informs our thinking about what we should do but also in the skill set in how to do it.

Over the years, as I explored what that ideal skill set ought to look like, I continually asked the conservation leaders I worked with — agency heads, executive directors, entrepreneurs, activists — what skills they found most critical to being successful in there jobs.

When I began this informal survey, I was expecting them to tell me about special technical skills like GIS, remote sensing, plant identification, animal tagging, DNA barcoding, and the like.  The kind of skills that we try to incorporate into our traditional academic majors.  What I found was the exact opposite.

Without exception, the skills that were named were these:

  1. Raising money.
  2. Managing money.
  3. Managing people.

In retrospect, it makes perfect sense.  Success emerges from the effective operation of a system, whether that system is an organization, volunteer initiative, business plan, or political campaign.  And such systems require money and people.

This understanding informs much of how the Middlebury School of the Environment approaches the issue of environmental leadership, and in particular, why it includes “fundraising” as one of its eight important leadership skills.  Some people are naturally gifted (or naturally un-self-conscious) at asking others for money to support their good idea.  However, for a variety of reasons, many of us have an aversion to asking for financial support: embarrassment, shyness, a sense that money itself is a “bad” thing.  The list goes on.

The good news is that this aversion is complete unnecessary.  Fundraising need not be viewed as something that must be done against our wills, and thus as a negative.  Rather, it can be viewed as a positive, a way to help others with financial resources to support achieving their own goals and desires.

Sue KavanaghThis is the foundation for the Fundraising workshop offered in the MSoE.  Taught by Sue Kavanagh, we guide students through the steps for a positivist view of fundraising.  With over 25 years of fundraising experience, Sue currently serves as director of principal gifts at Middlebury College, where she is responsible for providing direction and support for the cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of Middlebury’s highest-level potential donors.  With most of her career in higher education, Sue’s work has focused primarily on individual fundraising.  Her practice spans two comprehensive capital campaigns at Middlebury and before that at Paul Smith’s College in the heart of the Adirondacks when that institution was developing its first environmental programs. Sue started working in political advocacy and fundraising in New York State’s capital following completion of her BA in communication at the State University of New York at Geneseo.

With Sue’s guidance, students in the MSoE will comes away with greater confidence that they can successfully attract financial support to launch their ideas that will make the world a better place!

What does “Teaming” mean?

In a blog post last fall, I identified “teaming” as one of the eight essential leadership skills that everyone who wants to make positive change in the world needs to have.  In fact, I identified it as the first of the eight.  This likely sends shivers down the spine of every student who has ever been forced to do a group project in a class.

Sometimes they are positive experiences, but more often than not they are painful, involving a complex dance of seemingly having to force others to do things the “right” way, to get them to complete their parts of the project on time, and to drag them along with you to get to completion.  Few students actively seek opportunities for group work, preferring to work alone in their own way and in their own time.

But there’s a saying that highlights why working in groups is effective: If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.

“Far” doesn’t just mean distance.  It also refers to the magnitude and importance of the challenge.  The greater the stakes, the greater the scope, and the greater the potential impact, the greater the need to do it in a group.  In a team.

And thus, the greater the need to be able to work effectively in a team.  Not just in a grin-and-bear-it kind of way, but in a way that allows you to harness the imagination, creativity, and skills of everyone involved and promote the kind of interactions that elevate everyone’s contributions.

Teaming, the ability to work effectively in a team, is so critical that emphasize and practice the skills associated with it throughout the School of the Environment, both in our formal classes and through workshops taught by experts and practitioners.  Effective environmental leadership demands it.

Gregory Rosenthal (SoE faculty ’14) Wins National Dissertation Prize

Gregory RosenthalGregory Rosenthal, who was a member of the inaugural faculty of the Middlebury School of the Environment in 2014 and who earned his PhD in History from Stony Brook University in 2015, has been awarded the Rachel Carson Prize for Best Dissertation from the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH).

As noted by the Rachel Carson Prize committee, Rosenthal’s dissertation, “Hawaiians who Left Hawai’i: Work, Body, and Environment in the Pacific World, 1786-1876,” is a “very compelling narrative, which brings a new insight into the meanings of circulation and the making of economies and environments. It excels across the categories used in our evaluation: writing, research and documentation, analysis, and contribution to the field.”

In 2014, Gregory taught “Environmentalism and the Poor,” a seminar that explored the diverse “environmentalisms” that are practiced by both “first worlders” and “third worlders,” by both rich and poor, both workers and capitalists, between the global north and the global south as well as within small-town communities, villages, and cities across the world.”  In addition, he co-taught “Understanding Place: Lake Champlain” with Steve Trombulak, and together they guided the students through the interplay between cultural and natural narratives of place.  Gregory returned to the MSoE in 2015 to present a workshop on environmentalism and the poor, emphasizing the key themes in his previous summer’s elective course.

Gregory is now an assistant professor of public history at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. His winning dissertation is a history of Native Hawaiian migrant labor in the 19th-century trans-Pacific economy. He has published in Environmental History, World History Bulletin, and Perspectives on History, and is the recipient of awards from the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Historical Association, the Huntington Library, the Bancroft Library, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.

He is also the co-author of “Many Environmentalisms, From New York to Kabul, From the Past to the Present,” published in Solutions (May-June 2015: 72-76), written with Marjeela Basij-Rasik (MSoE ’14) and based on work that emerged from the MSoE elective.

(Reference: Portions of this text were adapted from a press release published in Stony Brook Matters: news for alumni and friends.)

MSoE class video at the Lake Champlain International Film Festival

Today’s blog post comes from alumna Hannah Root (MSoE ’15), who reports on her recent experience of presenting the results of her work this past summer in Joan Grossman’s elective on Environmental Video Production.

“In November I had the enormous honor to attend the Lake Champlain International Film Festival in Plattsburgh, NY to see my final video project from the Middlebury School of the Environment presented on the big screen. This project was part of Joan Grossman’s Environmental Video Production elective, and I was able to collaborate with two classmates (Ben Harris, Middlebury ’15 and Alice, Harvard ’15) to produce a 5-minute video. Our topic started as a portrait of the new pop-up park in Middlebury, a temporary play structure designed and built by UVM students, and it evolved into a conversation about community spaces and their standards. This was my first experience with film production and it was so rewarding to work collaboratively with a group to create an end product that we were all proud to share.

“Our film was shown in the agriculture block alongside three other films, including “Small Farm Rising” by Ben Stechschulte. All of the films in this block shared different visions for improving our local communities, be it through growing good food or creating play spaces for children. Afterwards, I was able to speak on a panel alongside the producers and some of the farmers in the films to delve into some of the common themes and the process of making our films. The whole afternoon was an amazing experience for me as a first-time filmmaker. I am so thankful to Joan Grossman for helping my group produce a film that I am proud to share, and Curt Gervich for connecting us with the organizers of the film festival!”

Congratulations, Hannah, Ben, and Alice, on having your film included in an international film festival!

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