The Stream

Understanding Place reflection #2

Many of our discussions and experiences this week revolved around justice and action. Use a concrete example to explain how a better understanding of place can enhance social and environmental justice.

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

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #2

We have progressed in this course from discussing sustainability in broad conceptual terms to working on specific planning skills, such as systems mapping, human-centered design, and scenario planning. Reflect – using at least one specific example from the readings, your experience, or general knowledge – on your views of how such planning skills can contribute – or not – to developing practical strategies to promote sustainability.


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

Sustainability Practicum Reflection #1

In the course of our discussions, we have encountered examples of how the concept of sustainability complements areas of inquiry within numerous specific disciplines. Reflect on your views on how sustainability, as characterized by the principles we have begun to list in class, is relevant within multiple disciplines at your college or university. Also, reflect on how your particular focus in college/university relates to an effort to achieve sustainability.


Provide your answer as a comment to this post by class time on Monday. Remember – your comments are public.

Understanding Place reflection #1

Welcome, all students, to the 2015 SoE!  We shared a great hike up Snake Mountain and a beautiful, moving opening ceremony last weekend, and we are all very excited about the next six weeks. Now it’s time to dive into our work!

We have been exploring definitions, perceptions, and perspectives of ‘place’ this week in the Understanding Place course. Please describe two concepts or experiences you have discovered this week, and how they have contributed to your understanding of place. Also, share one still unanswered question or concern that this week’s classes and/or readings have raised for you.

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




Environmental Art for Summer 2015

I am very pleased to announce that Dr. Joan Grossman will join us this coming summer as an Assistant Professor of Environmental Art.

Joan GrossmanJoan is a media artist and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York, with projects that span documentary film, video installation, video projection design for live performance (including collaborating on the recent Salt Marsh Suite about a distressed wetland in North Carolina), and productions for non-profit organizations such as the World Resources Institute. Her work has won numerous awards and has been screened in more than 20 countries with projects in China, Russia, Africa, and throughout Europe. She has been a visiting artist and professor of film and media arts at universities across the country, and has worked as a producer for European feature films shooting in the US. Her recent documentary, Drop City, is currently screening internationally, and is distributed by 7th Art Releasing in Los Angeles. Joan has a PhD in Media and Philosophy from the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Her book, BLACKOUT: On Memory and Catastrophe, was published by Atropos Press.

Salt Marsh Suite

At the Middlebury School of the Environment, Joan will co-teach the Introduction to Environmental Analysis (with Steve Trombulak) and an elective course on Environmental Video Production.

I am excited about her elective in video production.  In this course, students will gain hands-on experience in video production and create short video works that draw on other aspects of the environmental studies curriculum. Video can be a powerful tool for research and creative expression, and has the potential to deeply enhance how we perceive and understand the environment. The course will explore aesthetic and philosophical approaches to video production, and creative techniques for communicating information and producing artistic works. The aim of this course is to develop skills and perspectives that demonstrate how video can provoke profound discourses on issues and ideas.


The Story of Vermont

One of the questions that is often asked about studying at the Middlebury School of the Environment is, “Aren’t there more exotic places in the world to travel and study than Vermont?”  Inarguably, the answer to that question is “yes.”  As I write this post, I can glance up to the wall in my home office and view the montage of photographs that record some of the many places around the world where I have had the privilege of working: Australia, Ghana, China, Slovenia, Brazil, and Costa Rica, to name a few.

But with respect to preparing myself to make a difference, to make the world a better place, none of them offer the depth of experience and the breadth of engagement as does Vermont.  Vermont is a landscape where both cultural and ecological narratives visibly combine to shape current environmental conditions.  Further, it is a place where investigation of environmental realities — through interviews with stakeholders and policymakers, and field study of the land and water — can easily lead to an exploration of possible futures.

Vermont is more than just a beautiful place.  It is a place that almost uniquely lends itself to studying providing a foundation for understanding how one can help create a better, more sustainable future for all.

I’ve spent the past 30 years living and working here, developing an effective environmental curriculum and pedagogy that weave together stories of the people, land, and water of this place.  The School of the Environment is a reflection of that.  Another reflection is seen in my writing, often with my friend and colleague Chris McGrory Klyza.  Chris and I recently published the 2nd edition of our book, The Story of Vermont: a natural and cultural history, which expands on all of why I think Vermont is the perfect place to travel and study.

We were recently interviewed about the book on the Vermont Public Radio show, Vermont Edition.  If you want to hear more about what’s special about Vermont, have a listen.

Faculty for 2015

I am extremely happy to introduce three of the faculty who will join the Middlebury School of the Environment this coming summer.  Each will participate in the core courses, either in the introductory track or the intermediate/advanced track, and each will offer an elective in their area of specialization.  I want to introduce each of them here briefly, and provide links to their full bios and course descriptions on the SoE web site.

Holly_PetersonDr. Holly Peterson joins the SoE as an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science.  She is on the faculty of Guilford College in North Carolina in the Department of Geology and Environmental Studies.  With a specialization in hydrogeology, she is particularly interested in water quality and encouraging people to view their lives and societies through the lens of the watershed in which they live.  At the SoE this summer, she will teach an elective on Environmental Pollution (which will involve a mix of field, lab, and computer-based work) as well as team-teach the core course on Understanding Place, our interdisciplinary course the brings together the ecological and cultural narratives that are needed to understand the environmental present and potential futures of any place.

Joe WittDr. Joseph Witt will be the new Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities.  Joe comes to us from the faculty of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Mississippi State University, where he offers a curriculum that focuses on religion and nature.  His research includes the study of the place of religions in the Appalachian anti-mountaintop removal movement of the early 21st century.  He will join Holly Peterson in teaching Understanding Place and will offer his own elective on Religion, Nature, and Justice.

Curt GervichDr. Curt Gervich, from the Center for Earth and Environmental Science at SUNY Plattsburgh, joins us as the new Assistant Professor in Environmental Social Science.  At SUNY Plattsburgh, Curt teaches courses in environmental leadership, law and policy, and sustainability, and he is trained as an environmental planner, with expertise in decision-making and leadership.  This summer, he will teach the Systems Thinking Practicum and an elective on Wicked Environmental Problems.

We’re not done yet, however.  We plan on adding one more person to the faculty whose specialization is in the realm of the environmental arts.  Stay tuned for updates on this position!

Summer 2014 … in film

Last summer, we had the pleasure of hosting a film production crew from Seedlight Pictures, who produced an amazing short film about the School of the Environment.  Apart from the very high quality of the film itself, what I like most is its narrative emphasis on the students and the experiences they had.  As the director of the SoE, I can easily wax rhapsodic about the curriculum, the students, the teachers, and the setting for hours, but this film does more to capture and convey the experience than anything I can say.


The Middlebury School of the Environment, by Seedlight Pictures

If you’re at all curious about what the SoE is actually like, you should really check this out.  It’s a great way to spend 4 minutes and 40 seconds.

And a thousand thank yous to Bridget Besaw and Tahria Sheather of Seedlight for their work in helping the students tell their story.

Environmental Art: Exploration and Collaboration

Martin_Clark_BridgeLast summer, Martin Clark Bridge joined us as the School of the Environment’s first artist-in-residence.  Not only did he create “Vanishing Nautilus,” the acrylic on wood painting to inaugurate the School, but he delivered a riveting lecture called “Environmental Art: Exploration and Collaboration.” In this lecture he reviewed his own path to becoming one of the most promising young artists at the vanguard of the field’s modern movement, but he situates that narrative within the broader history of the field’s evolution over time.

But you don’t have to settle for my description of his presentation.  You can view it here in it’s entirety.  So please join me in welcoming Mr. Martin Clark Bridge, who is speaking to us about Environmental Art: Exploration and Collaboration.

Continuing Middlebury’s tradition

Last Tuesday, the Trustees of Middlebury College announced the appointment of our new president, Dr. Laurie L. Patton, currently Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University.  Dr. Patton will take over as the college’s 17th president in our more than 200 year history.

Environmental initiatives — both academic and operational — have been at the core of Middlebury’s tradition for a long time, since at least the founding of our Environmental Studies Program in 1965, and our efforts here to innovate and diversify our environmental efforts have grown through the administrations of at least the past five presidents.  But the naming of a new president is always brings with it the potential for change, sometimes significant, in direction and emphasis, so I don’t think I am alone in saying that I was waiting for the trustees’ announcement with great anticipation.

It gives me great pleasure to say that, based on her comments in her inaugural address to the college community on Tuesday, Dr. Patton will continue Middlebury’s tradition of leadership and innovation in environmental curricula and operations.  Her speech emphasized three important pillars for the liberal arts in the 21st century: innovation, adaptation, and integration, all three of which have long been hallmarks of environmental program here.

However, she even went further and spoke about what she saw as the “seven virtues” of Middlebury College.  And Number Two among those virtues? Environmental stewardship, and in her justification for that, she spoke about the School of the Environment.  By name.  All of us who have been working to bring the SoE to life over the past few years, and everyone involved with the School leading up to and during its launch last summer, especially the students who made it so successful, couldn’t be happier.  It’s a testament to all of vision and hard work that has come before … and a signal that the best is yet to come.

Check out the video of her speech.  Her discussion about environmental stewardship comes at 7:14.  We look forward to welcoming her to campus … and to the School of the Environment … next summer.

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