MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – A generous grant from the Erol Foundation will support a new initiative at Middlebury College aimed at providing educational opportunities related to climate and sustainability. The Climate Action Capacity Project (CACP) will, among other things, provide paid fellowships for Middlebury undergraduates from various backgrounds and disciplines the opportunity to engage in collaborative thinking and skill development on how to confront the climate crisis in meaningful ways.
“The Climate Action Fellowship program will offer students from across campus a chance to develop their ideas and creativity around climate with excellent support and mentorship,” said Jack Byrne, dean of environmental affairs and sustainability. “It’s one of many ways we hope to see this project provide students with the knowledge, motivation, and capacity to become leaders on climate change—regardless of their background or academic interests.”
The initial cohort will include eight fellows for the full academic year with the possibility to extend into summer 2021. The fellowships are 5–10 hours-per-week paid positions. Among their many activities over the year ahead, the fellows will support the coordination and followup surrounding the fall Energy2028 forum and will then spend winter and spring diving into their own team or individual projects.
More information will be available at a Q&A session that CACP will host for new and returning students during the week of August 31. Details about the event are available in the student orientation schedule and on the CACP site.
Minna Brown, a 2007 Middlebury graduate who cofounded the College’s Sunday Night Group, will serve as project director for CACP. Most recently, Brown served as the first director of academic affairs at the Yale School of the Environment, where she 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. Earlier in her career, she developed comprehensive client engagement and marketing strategies at Union Street Media in Burlington, Vermont, and managed national nonprofit outreach plans for a climate change advocacy organization. Brown majored in sociology and anthropology at Middlebury and earned a Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School of the Environment.
During her two-year assignment, Brown hopes to reach as many students as possible. “When I was a student at Middlebury, I realized that I was deeply motivated by addressing climate change and helping people navigate their roles in addressing it,” said Brown. I’m thrilled to be back in support of the current group of students.”
In addition to the year-long fellowship, the first year of CACP will focus on speaker events, trainings, and skill shares; working closely across departments, school units, and student groups; developing enhanced connections among alumni, students, and the College; and pursuing ways to tangibly explore climate change from various lenses in the curriculum.
In 2019 Middlebury announced a major multi-year campaign called Energy 2028 which confronts climate change from multiple perspectives. The plan’s four cornerstones include a commitment to using 100 percent renewable energy, improvements to campus energy conservation, reduction in fossil fuel investments, and a commitment to educational opportunities. CACP is expected to play an important role in fulfilling the commitment to educational opportunities.
“Middlebury students are already well aware of the existential threat of climate change,” said Byrne. “Many are grappling with grief, anxiety, paralysis, futility, or frustration as they make sense of their place in this moment. Our hope is that this project will help translate those concerns into purpose and action.”