Graphic for Clifford Symposium 2021 themed Climate Change.

Radical Implications: Facing a Planetary Emergency

The climate crisis confronts each of us with urgent questions and bewildering choices about what to do, what to learn, where to go, and who to be at this momentous historical crossroads. In this Clifford Symposium, we will bring together students, faculty, staff, and the wider networks of which Middlebury is a part to discuss our roles as we face increasingly turbulent planetary futures.

What can, and should, college be offering to young people as they prepare to join this pivotal moment? How are we all reimagining our disciplines, our communities, our futures? What does it mean for our students—from dancers and economists to marine biologists, elementary school teachers, and computer scientists—to be coming of age in an age of planetary crisis and transformation? And what would an education that is proportionate to the radical implications of the climate crisis look like?

Whatever your role in our learning community, we welcome you to join us for these vital conversations during this year’s Clifford Symposium, taking place September 23–25.

As Middlebury’s hallmark academic year kickoff, the Clifford Symposium brings together the entire community to tackle big ideas and meaningful questions. We’re eager to see where this year’s events take us.

In addition to the events listed below, there will be numerous opportunities to reflect, share stories, and be creative throughout the symposium, around campus and online.

In-Person and Online Event Attendance Information

Due to continued caution with COVID, we are able to welcome only Middlebury College faculty, staff, and students to attend most events in person.

All events (with noted exceptions) will be livestreamed and open to the wider general public and alumni. Please register to attend online below.

Schedule of Events

Throughout September 23, 24, 25, and beyond

Hostile Terrain 94  

Jason de Leon’s powerful and haunting exhibit, to be installed in McCullough, with opportunities for people to offer reactions and reflections (via sticky notes, writing, drawings, etc.).

Thursday, September 23

Environmental Studies Colloquium: 350.org Reunion  

Campus Community: in-person Wilson Auditorium || General Public: register online below

Bill McKibben joins the other cofounders of 350.org (all Middlebury alums) to reflect on the past decade of climate activism, on successes and failures, and on what’s changed (and what hasn’t, and what must) in the climate movement.

Bill McKibben, joined by May Boeve ’06, Jeremy Osborn ’06, Phil Aroneanu ’06, Kelly Blynn ’07, Jon Warnow ’06, Will Bates ’06, and Jamie Henn ’07.

Facilitation: Jon Isham, Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies

Thursday, September 23

Keynote: Sarah Jaquette Ray  

Campus Community: in-person Wilson Auditorium || General Public: register online below

Sarah Jaquette Ray, author of A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety and cocreator of the Existential Toolkit for Climate Justice Educators, will address the powerful emotions inherent in facing the climate crisis and how to navigate them.

Facilitation: Kathryn Morse, Professor of History and John C. Elder Professor in Environmental Studies

Thursday, September 23

Faculty Perspectives: Carolyn Finney and Interdisciplinary Faculty Panel  

Campus Community: in-person Wilson Auditorium || General Public: register online below

An interdisciplinary group of Middlebury faculty will discuss how they are grappling (not always successfully) with the radical implications of what is now unfolding. Panelists include Carolyn FinneyJonathan Miller Lane, Kemi Fuentes-George, Molly Anderson, Lana Povitz, and Julia Berazneva. 

Facilitation: Daniel Suarez, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies

Thursday, September 23

Keynote: adrienne maree brown  

Campus Community: in-person Wilson Auditorium || General Public: register online below

adrienne maree brown, author of Emergent Strategy and Pleasure Activism, and cohost of How to Survive the End of the World, will conclude the first day of the symposium by addressing themes of activism, movement strategy, and social change and transformation. 

Introduction by Laurie Patton, Middlebury College President
Facilitation: Ivonne Juárez Serna ‘23

Friday, September 24

Keynote: Jane McAlevey  

Campus Community: in-person Wilson Auditorium || General Public: register online below

Jane McAlevey, legendary labor organizer and author of Raising Expectations, No Shortcuts, and A Collective Bargain, will share her analysis on what the fight for climate justice can learn from the legacies and continuing struggles of the labor movement.

Facilitation: Jamie McCallum, Associate Professor of Sociology

Friday, September 24

Keynote: Mary Annaïse Heglar  

Campus Community: in-person Wilson Auditorium || General Public: register online below

Mary Annaïse Heglar, climate justice activist, writer, and host of the Hot Take podcast and editor of its newsletter, will address the experience of coming online as a young person into such an outrageous situation and how to think through what to do about it.

Facilitation: Mez Baker-Médard, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies

Friday, September 24

Middlebury Arts and Humanities Faculty  

Campus Community: in-person Wilson Auditorium || General Public: register online below

A group of Middlebury arts and humanities faculty join together to discuss the importance of creative expression in making sense of, relating to, and intervening in the many compounding urgencies of the climate crisis.

Panelists include: Karima Borni, Michelle Leftheris, Raquel Albarrán, Spring Ulmer, Ellery Fouch, and Mark Orten

Friday, September 24

Student Perspectives  

Students only: Wilson Auditorium

In this student-organized event, students themselves will share their own reactions to and reflections and perspectives on the big questions that define the themes for this symposium; student organizers will help connect these big questions to traditions of activism on this campus and ways of getting involved.

Please note: this event is only open to Middlebury College students.

Friday, September 24

Keynote: Julian Brave NoiseCat  

Campus Community: in-person Wilson Auditorium || General Public: register online below

Julian Brave NoiseCat, member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and a descendant of the Lil’Wat Nation of Mount Currie, is a writer, journalist, and activist. His keynote will conclude the second day of the symposium by helping us connect the dots brought together in the climate crisis (and by this symposium), taking stock of how we got here, where we are, and where we must go (and who is this “we,” anyway?).

Facilitation: Kemi Fuentes-George, Associate Professor of Political Science

Friday, September 24

Social Gathering  

Tent, McCullough Lawn

This social event will make space for attendees to blow off steam after engaging with the symposium’s big topics.

Please note: this event is only open to Middlebury College faculty, staff, and students.

Saturday, September 25

Living Life at the Knoll  

The Knoll

The Knoll will provide an intentional space for socializing, enjoying the day, and getting on with the task of living lives amid planetary turbulence and transformation.

Please note this event is open only to Middlebury College faculty, staff, and students.

Due to continued caution with COVID, we are able to welcome only Middlebury College faculty, staff, and students to attend most events in person.

All events (with noted exceptions) will be livestreamed and open to the wider general public and alumni. Please register to attend online below.

This year’s Clifford Symposium is organized by an interdisciplinary team of faculty, staff, and students.

Questions? Want to get involved? Contact Dan Suarez (dsuarez@middlebury.edu) or Minna Brown (mbbrown@middlebury.edu).

Generous financial support is provided by Middlebury College and the Erol Foundation through the Climate Action Capacity Project.

Cosponsors include: The Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest, Program in Environmental Studies, Department of English and American Literatures, Program in American Studies, Department of Luso-Hispanic Studies, Department of Anthropology, International and Global Studies Program, Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs, midd.data, among others.