Middlebury will engage faculty, staff, and students across all of its schools and programs in educational and research opportunities that will help influence the plan’s execution and its continued evolution.
Middlebury faculty will lead in making immersive, experiential education an essential part of Energy2028.
Opportunities will include cross-disciplinary experiences in classrooms, labs, in the field, and with community partners, encouraging students to address today’s most challenging problems in meaningful ways and to understand the trade-offs inherent in energy decisions.
Many Roads to Integration
In some ways the broadest set of goals, the commitment to educational opportunities hits at the core of the intention behind Energy2028—that we not only make practical institutional changes to lower our carbon impact but that we also engage the entire academic institution to drive positive change on the climate crisis.
How are we doing it? Some key examples are below, but it is in no way an exhaustive list. Crucial work is being done around campus on many levels by faculty, staff, and students. While the last year with COVID-19 has altered some plans and put a spotlight on many issues, we are still cultivating meaningful experiences around Energy2028 through student orientation, student-led campaigns, classes, events, alumni coordination, and more. A great description of the importance of all of this work can be found in Jon Isham’s Open-Source Learning for 2020 and Beyond.
At the end of the day, we’re all on this journey together, and everyone has a part to play. Upcoming open events this spring and into the fall of 2021 will continue to pose questions around how to best prepare our students and our community for a climate-changed future.
With courses ranging from Environmental Justice to the Economics of Climate Change, students can choose from a wide variety of ways to explore these intersecting topics. Some are directly connected to the implementation of Energy2028, while others support students as they develop broader climate action toolkits. A few highlights from winter term 2021 include the following:
- Climate Justice with Bill McKibben, Kim Gagne, and Sophie Esser-Calvi ’03 brought students into dialogue with a wide range of activists fighting climate injustice on sacred native lands, Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, and low-lying islands in the South Pacific and in Greenland, as well as with anti-racist activists in Minnesota and others who are part of the global movement to address climate change. The students also studied the elements of effective social cause organizations and developed criteria and principles of effective action-taking.
- Carbonomics and Renewable Energy taught by Andrea Vaccari, Frank van Gansbeke, and Jack Byrne examined the new fields of carbon markets, spatial finance and land management, the role of remote sensing and mapping, and emerging standards for climate-related risk disclosure and carbon reporting as well as the role of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain in these fields. Students interacted with a stellar group of scientists, economists, land managers, ecologists, and physicists to learn what these fields looks like in practice. They worked on three projects that resulted in recommendations for how Middlebury could improve the carbon storage capacity of its agricultural lands, make its endowment and carbon reporting more transparent, and how to move forward on Energy2028’s reduction goals and internal carbon tax plans.
- Social Change to Address Systemic Challenges taught by Minna Brown, Michelle McCauley and Jessica Teets brought together interdisciplinary faculty and a wide variety of guest speakers to help students explore the issues that matter most to them, how to approach sustainable change efforts, and how to build their intellectual and practical toolkits. The course looked at intersecting issues of the climate crisis, racism, education, and poverty as well as various approaches to changemaking.
- Town Energy Modeling by Jack Allnut and Isabella Gay, with Visiting Assistant Professor in Architecture Shelly Pottorf, the Sustainability Solutions Lab, the MIT Sustainable Design Lab, and alumnus Zach Berzolla ’18 over winter term produced a model of most buildings in the town of Middlebury and their current energy performance—along with a series of “what-if” scenarios to show the results of various energy efficiency upgrades that could be applied to the buildings. The model is being used to help the Town Energy Committee formulate recommendations for achieving the town’s energy goals.
In 2019, students produced the following digital projects:
- This is Now. The Climate Crisis at Middlebury College by Lucie Rochat
- What is Beauty? How to Reexamine Beauty in the Face of a Changing World by Simone Ameer
- Power of Poop by Kat Finck
- Energy 2028 Sustainability Stories by Jaden Hill
Everyone at Middlebury recognizes the importance of addressing the climate crisis, and offices and departments are rising to the occasion in many ways. The Innovation Hub, Center for Careers and Internships, and Center for Community Engagement, to name a few, integrate climate change, justice, and Energy2028 into many of their programs. We’ve highlighted some specific initiatives below but examples can be found throughout the Middlebury experience.
- Middlebury Climate Semester: Launching spring 2022, students will be able to spend a semester at the Middlebury Institute at Monterey diving into all angles of the climate crisis.
- Sustainability Solutions Lab: Students in the Sustainability Solutions Lab have been addressing issues related to Energy2028 through paid internships. In the summer of 2020 SSL students created an art contest and turned the winning submissions into information posters about Energy2028 that were given to every first-year student for their dorm rooms. In the fall of 2020, a team of SSL students developed a social media series explaining Energy2028 in detail to our campus community.
- MiddVantage Alumni Interview Series: Careers in the Green Economy is a series of video interviews led by CCI and Middlebury in DC between students and alums exploring the many ways to approach a green career.
- Climate Action Capacity Project: Launched in fall 2020, the Climate Action Capacity Project supports a group of Fellows, organizes events, and generally works to improve integration of climate action efforts.
- In spring 2021, faculty and staff were encouraged to submit proposals for projects that would support College priorities, including Energy2028.
- Student groups are consistently at the forefront of issues related to climate and justice, and they continue to push the College in key ways. Students came together to develop a winter term curriculum of their own (SLAM) and through formal (SNEG, Environmental Council, etc) and informal groups have underscored the importance of approaching climate change efforts with intersectionality.
A few of the many recent notable events on related topics:
- November 2020 “Anxiety to Action: Truth, Courage and Solutions for the Climate Crisis,” an event with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katharine Wilkinson.
- Kate Crawford’s talk on COVID-19 and environmental health.
- Faculty at Home discussions with Carolyn Finney and Bill McKibben.
- Middlebury Institute at Monterey’s excellent series on Environmental Justice and Sustainability.