Faculty, Staff, and Fellows

Learn Skills for Life


Steve Trombulak

Director, Middlebury School of the Environment

Steve Trombulak is the director of the Middlebury School of the Environment. He holds the Professorship of Environmental and Biosphere Studies at Middlebury College, where he has been on the faculty since 1985. His teaching and research interests are in the fields of conservation biology, environmental science, and natural history. He is the author or editor of several articles and books, including The Story of Vermont: A Natural and Cultural History and, most recently, Landscape-scale Conservation Planning. He is one of the founders of the Ghana Antelope Project, a non-profit organization working to promote community-scale captive-rearing of native antelope in Ghana, West Africa, for the conservation of both cultural heritage and wildlife, as well as science education in local public schools. He is a founding member of the Natural History Network and is the editor of its Journal of Natural History Education and Experience. Over the last 30 years he has participated in numerous conservation organizations and initiatives, including the Biodiversity Working Group of the Northern Forest Lands Council; the Vermont Biodiversity Project; the Board of Governors for the Society for Conservation Biology; and Two Countries, One Forest, a confederation of conservation organizations dedicated to landscape-scale conservation planning in the Northern Appalachian region of the U.S. and Canada.
His greatest passions, however, are directed toward his teaching. At Middlebury College he teaches Conservation Biology, Natural Science and the Environment, Vertebrate Natural History, and the Environmental Studies senior seminar; he also teaches MiddCORE, Middlebury’s mentor-driven experiential learning program. He has served as both director of Middlebury’s Environmental Studies Program and the chair of its Biology Department.

In addition to directing the Middlebury School of the Environment, Steve teaches Introduction to Environmental Analysis (with Joan Grossman) and the Sustainability Practicum.

Contact: 802-443-5439 (office phone), trombula@middlebury.edu



Joseph Witt

Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities

Joseph is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mississippi State University.  His research and teaching focuses on the connections between religious values and environmental behaviors, particularly the role of religion in environmental and social justice activism. His dissertation research examined the place of religions in the Appalachian anti-mountaintop removal movement of the early 21st century.  Based on extensive fieldwork, Joseph’s dissertation ultimately argued that grassroots activists in Appalachia drew upon multiple religious and ethical threads in their ongoing efforts to re-envision their identities and their concepts of place in light of a physically transformed geography.  Since joining Mississippi State University, Joseph has been engaged with a small collective of humanities educators focused on developing place-based and community-engaged environmental education in the U.S. south.  He has also helped to create experiential learning opportunities focused on food justice in the Deep South.  Joseph earned his BA in Philosophy and Religion at Hendrix College, and his MA and PhD at the University of Florida’s graduate program in Religion and Nature.  Joseph also serves as an Assistant Editor at the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture.

At the Middlebury School of the Environment, Joseph teaches Understanding Place (with Holly Peterson) and an elective course on Religion, Nature, and Justice.

Contact: jwitt@philrel.msstate.edu


holly_petersonHolly Peterson

Assistant Professor of Environmental Science

Holly is an assistant professor in the Department of Geology and the Environmental Studies program at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She graduated with a B.S. in geology from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and received her doctorate in hydrogeology and aqueous geochemistry from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.  

Holly’s primary research regards water flow and water quality in mining environments at home and abroad. She is also currently collaborating in the interdisciplinary Cape Fear River Basin Program at Guilford College, which encourages people to view their lives and societies through the lens of the watershed in which they live. The program allows Holly to pursue her greatest passions – teaching and the preservation of healthy local and global water systems – while working across disciplines towards socioeconomic, political, and environmental accountability and justice. 

Holly's teaching philosophy includes being enthusiastic about the material, and having a true desire to share her knowledge and global experiences with students using the techniques that help them learn best.  Whenever possible, this means hands-on, experiential learning in the natural environment, from canoeing rivers in order to assess water quality, to hiking through forests in order to map rock outcrops and document biodiversity.

At the Middlebury School of the Environment, Holly teaches Understanding Place (with Joseph Witt) and an elective course on Environmental Pollution.

Contact: petersonhe@guilford.edu



Curt Gervich

Assistant Professor of Environmental Social Science

Curt is an assistant professor in 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 and training community involvement specialists at the Environmental Protection Agency in best practices for participatory planning.  Curt has also worked to build capacity for sustainability among the farming communities of central Appalachia and the Northeast.

As a professor, Curt enjoys creating unique classroom experiences for students.  At any given moment, students in his classes may be playing games, listening to punk rock at unhealthy volumes, or discussing the roles that monkey-wrenching can play in shaping environmental policies. Why you ask? Because according to Curt, games serve as metaphors for the social-ecological systems in which grand environmental challenges are embedded; the messages about governance and revolution at the heart of the punk movement are touchstones for discussing the failures of government institutions to address climate change and other environmental challenges; and because exploring the ethics of extreme actions are crucial for developing one's leadership capacities.

At the Middlebury School of the Environment, Curt teaches the Systems Thinking Practicum and an elective course on Wicked Environmental Problems.

Contact: cgerv001@plattsburgh.edu

Joan Grossman

Joan Grossman

Assistant Professor of Environmental Art

Joan 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.

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

Contact: joanrg@earthlink.net



Sandra A. Bonomo

Coordinator, School of the Environment
Middlebury Language Schools Budget and Personnel Coordinator

Sandy first came to Middlebury in 1986 as coordinator of the summer Italian School and the academic year department of Spanish and Italian.  In 2003, she assisted in the launching of the Portuguese School and has served as its coordinator ever since.  She also serves as the Budget and Personnel Coordinator for all of the summer Language Schools and Graduate programs.  She is excited to be a part of the School of the Environment and is looking forward to helping Middlebury bring its academic year focus on sustainability issues to the forefront of environmental education during the summer session.
Sandy is an avid quilter, was recently certified as a Studio 180 Design teacher, and enjoys kayaking and biking.

Contact: 802-443-5543 (office phone), bonomo@middlebury.edu


Building Your Toolkit



During the 2015 session, we will be joined by several guests who will contribute to our curricular offerings through workshops, lectures, and small-group discussions about their work as environmental practitioners.  Through the participation of these Fellows, students at the School of the Environment will be exposed to a much larger range of skills and subjects than might be apparent from just the names of the formal classes offered by the School.  And importantly, Fellows will share with students their own experiences with developing and using leadership skills to make positive change in the world.

Frank Sesno

Frank Sesno

Frank Sesno is director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University. He is also an internationally recognized journalist, with more than 30 years of experience reporting from around the world. Sesno’s latest project, Planet Forward, is a user-driven website and television program that focuses on energy, climate and sustainability issues. Sesno spent more than 20 years at CNN, serving as senior vice president, Washington bureau chief, White House correspondent, anchor and special correspondent. Sesno is also a nationally-renowned moderator, engaging some of the world’s leading personalities. From five American presidents, to Yasser Arafat, Margaret Thatcher and Walter Cronkite, Sesno has spoken with some of the most influential people of our time.

Gregory Rosenthal


RosenthalGregory Rosenthal rejoins the School of the Environment in 2015 as a Fellow. Based on his successful elective offered during the 2014 session of the School (Environmentalism and the Poor), Gregory will offer a workshop focused on understanding the nature of environmental justice and inequality.  Gregory specializes in global environmental history with a focus on migrant labor, indigenous peoples, and human-environment relations in historical perspective. At the State University of New York at Stony Brook, his Ph.D. research examines the history of Native Hawaiian migrant labor in the nineteenth-century global economy. He has published in Environmental History and World History Bulletin and received grants and fellowships from the American Historical Association, the Huntington Library, and the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. In college, Gregory studied traditional Chinese music and indigenous ethnomusicology (and even attended Middlebury's Chinese Language School!). He holds a Masters degree in Public History from the State University of New York at Albany and formerly served as Education Coordinator at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in upstate New York. He also previously worked as a Park Ranger in New York City, and when not at Middlebury, Gregory continues to lead historic walking tours of Manhattan's streets while also enjoying hiking, birding, swimming, and clamming in the city's urban forests and coastal waters.


Bill McKibben


Noted author and environmentalist Bill McKibben will join us as a Fellow of the Middlebury School of the Environment this summer.  Bill has worked tirelessly – and successfully – on behalf of the environment for over 25 years.  His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first 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 for a wide variety of publications around the world, including the New York Review of BooksNational Geographic, and Rolling Stone.

This summer, Bill will bring to the students at the School of the Environment his expertise as a journalist on how to craft Op-ed pieces for promoting environmental issues and narratives, as well as his expertise as a practitioner in organizational strategy and creative ideation.  We are pleased and excited that he is joining us once again, and I know that students who attend the School this summer will benefit from his experience.

Jessica Jay

Jessica_Jay.jpegJessica is the founder and principal attorney of Conservation Law, P.C., a law firm devoted to ensuring the permanence of land conservation through sound transactions and the defense and enforcement of perpetual conservation easements.  She represents landowners and land trusts conserving working landscapes and environmentally significant properties in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West.  She engages conservation professionals, land trusts, and landowners in local and national workshops, and guides the next generation of land conservationists through her Land Conservation Law courses at the Vermont Law School and the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.  Jessica collaborates with the land trust community to develop and implement legal defense and enforcement mechanisms, to design conservation easement incentives, and to craft durable perpetual conservation easements in anticipation of changes and challenges over time.  She received her BA degree from Bowdoin College and her JD and MSEL degrees from Vermont Law School.


Mary Hurlie


Mary Hurlie returns to the School of the Environment in 2015 to work with the students on communication styles and teaming. She is an organizational coach with a focus in leadership development, executive team building, communication and conflict. Self-discovery, authentic communication, and humor are at the core of her work. She has held senior management positions in Organizational Development and Human Resources in the healthcare and manufacturing industries, taught undergraduate management courses at two Vermont colleges, and served in the Middlebury administration as senior adviser for organization effectiveness for over a decade.



Alden Woodrow


This summer, Alden Woodrow will join the School as a practitioner-in-residence, bringing to the students his experience in leading teams that develop alternative energy strategies as well as a background in economics and business. Alden Woodrow leads the business team for the Makani project at Google [x] (formerly Makani Power), which has developed a novel approach to generating wind power.  The Makani Airborne Wind Turbine is a tethered wing that generates power by flying in large circles where the wind is stronger and more consistent. It eliminates 90% of the material used in conventional wind turbines, and can access winds both at higher altitudes and above deep waters offshore — resources that are currently untapped. Their goal is the utility-scale deployment of airborne turbines in offshore wind farms. Alden directs Makani’s strategy, business development, communications, policy, and partnership efforts. He previously worked for a power project developer financing utility-scale wind farms, and as an economic and environmental consultant on topics ranging from climate policy to dog house manufacturing. Alden holds an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with a focus on energy finance. We’re very much looking forward to him joining us this summer, as he can offer a fresh perspective not only on the future trends in alternative energy generation but how innovative thinking can be manifest in a business environment.

Elizabeth Robinson

Liz Robinson

Elizabeth Robinson is the Associate Dean for Student Creativity, Engagement and Careers at Middlebury College. Elizabeth grew up in Vermont, and after graduating from Middlebury in 1984, she worked for the U.S. Senate Education Subcommittee, received her Master’s from the University of Pennsylvania, worked at Bank of Boston in Government and Community Affairs, and was the Director of the CVB at the Chamber of Commerce in Burlington, VT. In 1994 Elizabeth returned to Middlebury as the Director of the Alumni Office and served there through the College’s Bicentennial in 2000. Elizabeth launched the Programs on Creativity and Innovation at Middlebury in 2007 and together with Professor Jon Isham, launched the Center for Social Entrepreneurship in 2012. Elizabeth serves on the Board of the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, and the Better Middlebury Partnership. She is married to Jim Robinson and they have three daughters.

Mike Kiernan


Mike Kiernan is a physician, actor, public speaker – and one of today’s most energetic and engaging voices for creative leadership and communication.  He will once again join the 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.


Jack Byrne


Jack Byrne returns to the School of the Environment this year to once again work with the students on scenario planning and systems thinking methodology. When not involved with the School of the Environment, he is the Director of the Sustainability Integration Office at Middlebury College where he works with students, faculty and staff to advance and support leadership in creating a more sustainable future. His efforts cover a wide range of initiatives including green building design and construction, recycling, renewable energy technologies and energy conservation, local foods, greenhouse gas reduction strategies and transportation initiatives. He is currently working on implementing the College’s strategies for becoming carbon neutral by 2016 through renewable energy, conservation, efficiency, and offsets after all other measures have been taken. Jack recently co-authored "Responding to Climate Change: Making it Happen at Middlebury College" in the publication The Green Campus: Meeting the Challenge of Environmental Sustainability (APPA, 2008). 

Jack also joins us as a practitioner-in-residence, sharing a wealth of experience in the development of start-up environmental organizations.  He is co-founder of the non-profit Foundation for Our Future at the Center for a Sustainable Future. While there he oversaw a six-year $18 million US Department of Education project, Education for a Sustainable Future - a national and international collaboration to develop technology based, K-12 curriculum, training programs, software and on-line resources about sustainable development. He developed and implemented the Shaping Our Future program which trains young adults how to see multiple future perspectives and to make better decisions concerning choices with life-long consequences. He is a founder and was the first Executive Director of River Watch Network, an international non-governmental organization supporting community-based watershed conservation. He also serves on the Commission for Education and Communication of the World Conservation Union. Jack holds a B.S. in Biology from the Honors College at Kent State University and a master’s degree in environmental law from the Vermont Law School.

Gesa Luedecke

Gesa Luedecke

Gesa Luedecke studied Environmental Sciences at the University of Lueneburg, Germany with focus on environmental communications, sustainability, and media as well as informal learning. Gesa holds a Diploma degree in Environmental Sciences and a Ph.D. in Sustainability Sciences from Leuphana University. She has ongoing interest in environmental and sustainability communication, climate change and sustainability communication via media, sustainable behavior as well as in inter- and transdisciplinary studies. Her research focus is on the influence of media communication about climate change on individual engagement. With her experience in transdisciplinary research, Gesa is seeking to provide support for cross-disciplinary collaborations on the themes of media communication and social learning for decision-making in climate-related issues. Gesa is currently working in Boulder, Colorado on a NOAA funded visiting post doc fellowship at CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at University of Colorado Boulder.

Mitch Thomashow


Dr. Mitchell Thomashow devotes his life and work to promoting ecological awareness, sustainable living, creative learning, improvisational thinking, social networking, and organizational excellence.  He is a Senior Fellow at Second Nature, a non-profit organization whose mission is to create a sustainable society through the transformation of higher education. He also serves on the board of ORION magazine.

From 2006-2011, Mitch was the president of Unity College in Maine where he integrated concepts of sustainability, participatory governance, and community service into all aspects of college life. Previously he was the Chair of the Environmental Studies department at Antioch University New England, where he founded an interdisciplinary environmental studies doctoral program.  

He is the author of three books: Ecological Identity, Bringing the Biosphere Home, and The Nine Elements of A Sustainable Campus.  He is currently working on “The Ecological Imagination,” a project that brings together artists and writers, information designers, media innovators, computer programmers, social entrepreneurs and global change scientists.

Lois Parshley

Lois_Parshley.jpegLois is a journalist and photographer, currently based in New York City as an editor in the feature well of Popular Science. Previously, she worked as an editor at the Atlantic and Foreign Policy, as well as a freelance correspondent in Southeast Asia, Europe, and South America. Her work has been published at the New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Outside, Wired, Foreign Policy, Popular Science, The Washington Post, The American Prospect, U.N. Dispatch, Grist, Pacific Standard, and picked up by NPR and WYNC. She's interested in digital platforms, and in addition to writing, has worked with audio, video, cartography, and page design.

Denise Schlener

Denise Schlener.jpegDenise has a reputation in the non-profit community as a results-oriented leader. For over 25 years she has steered organizations to new levels of success in environmental policy, land conservation, and philanthropy.  Her expertise includes devising successful strategies that leverage stakeholder support for new public policies and management practices, and new organizations and programs.  Most recently at Island Press, she led the successful launching of the Conservation Finance Network, a program to enhance learning and collaboration among conservation finance professionals. In senior leadership roles at mission-driven organizations including The Nature Conservancy and the Land Trust Alliance she catalyzed and led successful legislative campaigns and developed organizational capacity building programs that have enabled the conservation community to scale up. She currently serves on the boards of the Wilderness Land Trust and the Tregaron Conservancy, and is a co-founder of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters.  She is a graduate of Middlebury College (Environmental Studies program), and received a Master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.  Denise resides in Washington, DC where she enjoys the great outdoors of the Potomac River and Rock Creek National Park at her doorstep.

About School of the Environment
Middlebury College’s School of the Environment is a 6-week summer environmental studies program. The School combines one of the best environmental studies programs in the United States with our renowned intensive summer methodology. Students take three rigorous environmental science courses taught by top rated faculty.  The defining feature of the program is environmental leadership training. Guided by national environmental leaders, students build a tool kit of career skills preparing them for environmental internships and environmental science jobs. Contact Us! schoolofenvironment@middlebury.edu | 802.443.3100