Alumni Bios: Field Guide for Environmental Studies

Field Guide Graphic

Meet our Alumni Guests

Andrew Forsthoefel ’11

Andrew Forsthoefel is a writer, speaker, and peace activist. After graduating from Middlebury College in 2011, he spent nearly a year walking across the United States. He now teaches listening as a practice in peace-making and deep connection, running workshops and micro-journeys at schools, businesses, and retreat centers. He lives in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.

Ben Wessel ’11.5
Deputy Political Director and Director, NextGen Rising
NextGen America

Ben Wessel is the Director of NextGen Rising, the youth vote organizing program of NextGen America. Based in San Francisco, Ben works to register, persuade, motivate, and turnout young voters to help elect progressive candidates up-and-down the ballot across the country. In 2018, the $30 million NextGen Rising program is active in 10 states in an effort to flip the Congress, governorships, and state legislatures. In 2016, Ben was named one of the "16 Young Americans Shaping the 2016 Election" by Rolling Stone magazine. Before joining NextGen in 2014, Ben worked for Cory Booker’s campaign for US Senate in New Jersey, as the Political Campaigns Manager for Action, and as the Youth Vote Director for President Obama’s reelection campaign in New Hampshire. A native of the District of Columbia, when he’s not working you can find him rooting for the Washington football team.

Carolyn Barnwell ’07
Documentary Producer
National Geographic Society

Carolyn Barnwell is a documentary producer who helps scientists and impact-oriented organizations communicate their work to general audiences. She believes that communicating science and is as important as practicing it. Carolyn spent the last six years at National Geographic on the Science and Exploration Media team producing short-form videos and television shows. Project highlights include advocacy campaign videos for Endangered Species Day, the Global Partnership for Oceans with the World Bank, and short documentaries about archaeological and cultural preservation with the TED Prize. Carolyn also wrote, produced and edited for Nat Geo’s first-ever digital series showcasing scientists and explorers’ fieldwork.

A lifelong lover of nature, travel, and service, Carolyn combined her passions for producing volunteer trips and storytelling into a career after earning a BA in Human Ecology from Middlebury. She was granted a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study climate change impacts in vulnerable coastal communities in Oceania and Africa, and went on to work for Brighter Planet, a Middlebury-based social enterprise focused on funding renewable energy projects on family farms in the U.S. She earned a graduate certificate from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies before moving to D.C. to join National Geographic in 2011. Carolyn is currently teaching Nat Geo's Sciencetelling™ video workshop with conservationists in Latin America and producing media for social impact organizations with Ground Media. In addition to her production work, Carolyn also earned a graduate certificate from Accomplishment Coaching and works with private life coaching clients.

Lauren Sanchez ’11
International Policy Director
California Air Resources Board

Lauren Sanchez is a climate policy professional - with a decade of experience working on climate change issues from governmental, private sector and non-profit perspectives. Most recently, Lauren served on the Paris Agreement negotiating team with President Obama's State Department. She currently works as International Policy Director for the State of California, at California's agency charged with addressing climate change, the California Air Resources Board. Lauren graduated from Middlebury College in 2011 with degrees in Environmental Studies and Biology. She is a Fulbright Scholar and holds a Masters degree in Environmental Management from Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Lea Davison ’05
Clif Pro Team
Professional Cyclist and Two Time Olympian

Lea grew up in Jericho, VT downhill ski racing and running cross country.  As a junior in high school, she discovered mountain biking and went to her first World Championships in 2001.  While at Middlebury, Lea skied competitively and won the eastern collegiate slalom title and went onto the NCAA Championships. She graduated from Middlebury College in 2005, and she turned her full attention towards professional mountain bike racing.  She has raced professionally for thirteen years and is a two-time Olympian.  She recently represented the USA in the 2016 Olympic Games where she placed seventh.  She is a two-time World Championship medalist and has won five elite national championship titles.  One of her proudest moments is coming back from hip surgery in 2014 to capture her first world championship medal.  Lea and her sister, Sabra Davison '07, founded the Little Bellas non profit, an all- girls mentoring on mountain bikes program in 2007.  The program was originally inspired by Sabra's Middlebury College senior project, and both turned this project a reality.  The Little Bellas has grown to become a nation wide program with multiple chapters in fourteen different states.  Lea's passion is empowering women through cycling, and the Little Bellas is a great platform for this.  She currently rides for the Clif Pro Team, an all women's team designed to give women the same opportunity as men in elite athletics.  This team is a perfect match to her mission.