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!

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 350.org, 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.

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