COVID-19 Updates: Fall Semester

Franklin Environmental Center

Franklin Environmental Center

Updated July 1, 2020 with next steps (scroll down)

Environmental Studies and Environmental Affairs Statement in Support of Black Lives Matter

The faculty and staff of the Environmental Studies Program and the staff of Environmental Affairs at the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest stand with Black Lives Matter and all our fellow citizens suffering from outright violence and other injustices of structural racism. The consequences of white supremacy have become all the more apparent as our national leaders consistently gaslight racism and greenlight violence. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic destroys black and brown lives in communities of color across the nation, Black persons continue to endure state-sanctioned, structural, and cultural violence at all levels of society. We stand with those demanding national, structural change, which must include our own Middlebury community. Our commitment to racial justice goes hand in hand with our commitment to environmental justice.

The struggle for environmental and social justice begins with acknowledging that whiteness in the United States is characterized by the hoarding of natural resources just as surely as by the hoarding of capital and the unjust manipulation of the financial system to the disadvantage of marginalized groups. We acknowledge the historical complicity of our movement in perpetuating the devastating consequences of white supremacy. From collusion between eugenicists and conservationists to the cancer alleys and food deserts of today, Black persons have been historically dispossessed of land, capital, and full participation in our democracy, including its educational system, and continue to be prevented from full access to social goods and services even while suffering from elaborate strategies of political disenfranchisement.

We stand in support of the call to action from our students in their letter to President Patton, and of her response and commitments to them. By the end of this month (June 2020) we will share more specific actions we will take in our programs and how we plan to implement and hold ourselves accountable to them.

Going forward we pledge to listen and discuss, learn, and take action to promote racial understanding and diversity in our own programs and practices and in the communities in which we work. We will examine existing methods, modes, and philosophies in our work and how we allocate our resources in order to re-imagine and, where necessary, replace them with anti-racist policies and practices.

Co-signed, alphabetically

Mez Baker-Medard

Nadine Canter Barnicle

Megan O. Brakeley

Dan Brayton

Minna Brown

Jack Byrne

Molly S. Constanza-Robinson

Kathryn Crawford

Kathleen Doyle

Sophie Esser-Calvi

Eva Fillion

Carolyn Finney

Rebecca Kneale Gould

Lily Hunt

Jon Isham

Chris Klyza

Marc Lapin

Michelle McCauley

Bill McKibben

Kathryn Morse

Diane Munroe

Peter Crowley Ryan

Daniel Chiu Suarez

Bill Vitek

Janet Wiseman

June 15, 2020

Following the joint Environmental Affairs/Environmental Studies statement in support of Black Lives Matter on June 15th, we write to describe the next steps to which Environmental Affairs staff at the Franklin Environmental Center are dedicating energy. While some of the ways in which we will approach antiracism in our environmental and sustainability work are clear and involve short-term action, we are committed to working across focus areas on multiple timelines and levels, acknowledging the deep, long-term work required of us individually and in community.  We pledge to be held accountable internally and externally as we continue to expand and refine our efforts.  In addition to our own work, we pledge to actively participate in institutional diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives led by Middlebury.

Our conversations over the past two weeks aimed at identifying actions to demonstrate our commitment have made it clear that working on this challenge is difficult, complex, often perplexing and essential, i.e., we have as much to unlearn as to learn about how to do it meaningfully and effectively. The following list is an initial outline of an action plan that includes doing the deeper and ongoing, iterative process of building a basis for transformational leadership and change in the why, how, what and who of our work. It also includes more immediate and tangible steps we will take in the near term to act on our commitment. They include:

1. Begin a thorough audit of our programmatic, operational, and administrative policies and practices to identify where racism may be present and develop strategies to address it. We will also initiate conversations with Black students, students of color, and student organizations to invite their thoughts and perspectives on what changes are needed.

2. Establish ongoing discussion of our outreach materials and how they affect our students. Ensure that anti-racist topics, materials and practices are incorporated in all our programs.

3. Work as a team to recognize and eliminate biases and language against marginalized and minoritized people and to make our own use of language, spoken and written, consistent with the principles and practices of anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion.

4. Establish a track in our Sustainability Solutions Lab focused on the intersectionality of racism and marginalization with efforts to address the climate crisis and other sustainability related problems we work on. Work with others to develop a cross cutting theme of social justice across the four pillars of the Energy2028 initiative.

5. Reaffirm our commitment to actively collaborate with the Environmental Studies academic program, other campus Centers, student organizations, faculty and other staff as we work toward exposing and eliminating racism in all forms at Middlebury.

To support our focus on transformational leadership and change, we will engage in regular check-ins, internal assessments and capacity-building opportunities to provide institutional memory for the Franklin Environmental Center, hold ourselves accountable and to share what we are learning from our efforts. We welcome your insights and suggestions now and going forward as well. We will also provide a place on our website to share our progress and invite further input.

July 1, 2020.


photo of franklin center at hillcrest

Housed in Vermont’s first LEED Platinum-certified building, the Janet Halstead Franklin ’72 and Churchill G. Franklin ’71 Environmental Center at Hillcrest serves as a hub of environmental and sustainable action and ideas.

Our Mission

Drawing on Middlebury’s foundational strengths—innovation, research, and the liberal arts—the Franklin Environmental Center seeks to shape a world in which humans, ecological communities, and economic systems can sustainably coexist. The Center engages students, faculty, and staff with emerging environmental challenges and creative, sustainable solutions; supports education and promotes the transference of teaching and learning beyond the classroom; and convenes discussions with diverse audiences on campus and beyond.


Every year, the center invites one of today’s preeminent environmental thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs, or visionaries from across industries to participate in a short residency on campus and create an intellectual ecosystem for ideas and knowledge to flow freely.

Each residency entails two to three days of conversation, classroom visits, informal discussions, and a keynote lecture. Residents may drop in on an environmental literature seminar, conduct an industry Q&A for student entrepreneurs, or discuss climate policy with faculty members and others over dinner.

In turn, residents become lifelong ambassadors for Middlebury. They help connect students with professional networks in meaningful ways and broaden students’ exposure to and relationships with experts in the field.

Recent Residents:
2011 - Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Yogurt founder 
2013 - Mark Tercek, Nature Conservancy CEO
2014 - Gary Nabhan, noted author, farmer and seed saving advocate
2015 - Van Jones, CNN correspondent, bestselling author, founder and president of Dream Corps
2016 - Carolyn Finney, professor in Geography at University of Kentucky, cultural competency consultant and author of Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors
2017 – Mike McGinn P ’20, Former Mayor, City of Seattle (2010 - 2014)
2018 – Katharine Hayhoe, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech, Texas Tech University

Global Partnerships for Sustainability in Study Abroad

These study abroad programs are centered on sustainability-related programming and are currently being tested in pilot projects in Japan, China, Chile and Russia. Several Schools Abroad directors introduced the idea, which was developed collaboratively by the center, the Office of Sustainability Integration, and several departments on campus. Goals include increasing the capacity of Middlebury and host faculty to learn and teach about culture, environment, language, and society as viewed through a sustainability lens, as well as providing applied learning experiences.

The Franklin Environmental Center Fellowship Program

This initiative is designed to strengthen programming at the center and integrate environmental research, projects, and activities by engaging faculty, staff, community partners, and friends within the U.S. and abroad.


Regular symposia hosted by the center focus on complex emerging issues and spark discussion around pressing environmental challenges. These gatherings serve as an open platform for community interest, engagement, and innovation, and often feature issues related to faculty research, class themes, or topics regarding sustainability and stewardship. By offering virtual access to participants worldwide, the symposia serve as a forum to a diverse set of people related to the environment and sustainability.

Recent Events:

2014—Stone Soup Summit, with the Vermont Farm to School Network
2013—Water Conference, with the Vermont Environmental Consortium


Middlebury College works hard to uphold our commitment to sustainability across the curriculum. Click here to view courses that include a sustainability component.Office spreadsheet iconSTARS Course Inventory Apr 2014 .xls