COVID-19 Updates: Fall Semester

Climate Action Capacity Project

Climate Action Capacity Project

To introduce the Project and the Fellowship program, we hosted an intro/Q&A session on Monday, August 31st at 11am. Watch the recording to learn more. 

Middlebury has a long and important history of leadership on climate change on campus and beyond. Starting the earliest environmental studies program, fostering student activism, launching 350.org, shifting to carbon neutrality, and now prioritizing the broad-reaching pillars of Energy2028 underline some of the various scales and avenues this action has taken. But climate change has not gone away. Indeed, the urgency to act has only increased, and in pursuing its mission of “preparing students to lead engaged, consequential lives, contribute to their communities, and address the world’s most challenging problems,” Middlebury must continue to innovate. 

Through a generous donation from the Erol Foundation and launching in fall 2020, the Climate Action Capacity Project (CACP) seeks to both support the vital work being done and explore ways to pilot new opportunities to drive real impact. The mission is a lofty but vital one: 

To provide all Middlebury College students 
with the knowledge, motivation, and capacity  
needed to be effective and transformative leaders on climate change  
across backgrounds, disciplines and career paths. 

The project is focused on finding ways to best engage and equip students to become agents of change through onramps and launchpads. Flowing from the mission, the Project’s Guiding Principles will seek to: 

  • Deepen: Support existing work and needs of students and the Middlebury community already engaged in climate action. 
  • Broaden: Expand definitions of climate leadership and provide new engagement platforms to better equip the entire Middlebury population to participate in climate action. 
  • Connect: Collaborate and solidify relationships with existing student, faculty, and staff groups to amplify current efforts and plan new opportunities. Look across disciplinary and organizational lines to identify common threads. Foster inclusivity.
  • Contextualize: Recognize the needs, opportunities, and challenges we face, especially around racial justice and the pandemic. Examine and foster avenues to delve into theories of change. 
  • Adapt: Focus on efforts that allow for trial and error. Listen, asses, and adjust efforts proactively. 
  • Apply: Emphasize the need to bridge theory and practice, meaningfully engaging in experiential learning and activism. 
  • Integrate: Allow space and time to synthesize efforts, bringing all of the pieces together.  
  • Build: Provide meaningful, long-term building blocks and culminating, consequential experiences with legs. 
  • Communicate: Tell effective stories about progress, challenges, and learning throughout. 

Middlebury students are already well aware of the existential threat of climate change. Many are grappling with grief, anxiety, paralysis, futility, or frustration (to name a few emotions) as they make sense of their place in this moment. Given this baseline, the need is around translating concern into purpose and action by exploring 

  • Frameworks for understanding why we are where we are; 
  • What our trajectories could be;  
  • How we should approach action given various theories of change;  
  • What we would need to do to achieve key goals;  
  • How different roles and skills would (or would not) support that work; 
  • And how to support students and other community members in taking on those roles. 

While the first year of the CACP will involve a great deal of experimentation, concrete focus areas include: 

  • A year-long paid Fellowship program
  • Speaker events, trainings, and skill shares; 
  • Working closely across departments, school units, and student groups;  
  • Developing enhanced connections between alumni and students (and the school);  
  • Pursuing ways to tangibly explore climate change from various lenses in the curriculum. 

About the project: 

This project stems from various and intensive discussions between students, faculty, staff, and alumni around the ways in which Middlebury can act to ensure that its students are prepared to take on the realities of climate change. It is deeply connected to the Franklin Environmental Center team and Energy2028 and involves collaboration across the school.

Feedback, questions? Reach out any time to mbbrown@middlebury.edu

Minna Brown ‘07, Project Director 

As a student at Middlebury, Minna realized that she was deeply motivated by the need to support people as they navigate their roles in addressing climate change. She’s grateful for the opportunity to be back as a resource for the current cohort of students and the College. Over the last decade, she has led the design and implementation of new programs for various organizations, all focused on collaboration and impact. As the Director of Academic Affairs at the Yale School of the Environmentshe worked with faculty, staff, students, and alumni to map out, plan, implement, and communicate a curriculum overhaul largely focused on the expansion of the school's climate, energy, and environmental justice offerings. She also led the school's professional development and online education initiatives. Her position grew out of her work as the school's Case Study Integration Manager, through which she built interdisciplinary, applied case studies to be used across courses. Before her time at Yale, she developed comprehensive client engagement and marketing strategies and managed national nonprofit outreach plans for a climate change advocacy organization. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology from Middlebury and a Master of Environmental Management (M.E.M.) from the Yale School of the Environment.