March 2, 2001

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awards grant to Middlebury College for environmental studies program

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.—The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $284,500 grant to Middlebury College for the purpose of supporting its interdisciplinary environmental studies program. The College will use the funds to strengthen a required capstone course taken by senior environmental studies majors, present results of student research on local environmental issues to the community, improve the science component of the curriculum, expand student research, and create internship opportunities for environmental studies students abroad.

Nan Jenks-Jay, Middlebury College director of environmental affairs, said, "Among academic institutions, Middlebury has established itself as a leader among liberal arts colleges in its curricular and co-curricular approach to teaching about the environment. This grant will help us strengthen our academic program and share with the larger community—in town and across the state—what our students and faculty learn about environmental issues and sustainable practices in real-life circumstances."

In 1965, Middlebury became the first undergraduate liberal arts college in the country to offer a major in environmental studies. In 1994 President John McCardell identified the study and awareness of the environment as a peak of excellence for which Middlebury would seek national leadership in undergraduate education. Middlebury operates composting and recycling programs, and has adopted environmentally sensitive construction guidelines.

Environmental studies is now the fourth largest major on campus—an average of 50 students graduate each year with a degree in this field, which represents, on average, nine percent of the senior class.

According to Chris Klyza, professor of political science and environmental studies, students often complete research projects in their senior seminar that are of significant interest to the community. However, at the end of the course, students graduate or move on to other courses, faculty teach other classes, and the results of the projects are not shared with local residents. "We’re excited that this grant gives the College the funds to rectify this situation," he said.

The beauty, quality and diversity of the Vermont landscape that surrounds the College provide an excellent location for learning about the environment and conducting research. We’re fortunate to be in these surroundings, " said Klyza.

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