An exterior view of the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest.

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.

Environmental Affairs

Jack Byrne

Dean of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability; Director of Franklin Environmental Center

Jack holds a BS in biology and a Masters in environmental law and policy. He works to make sustainability leadership more visible, effective and common in the culture of the college and its affiliated entities. He coordinates Middlebury’s efforts go beyond carbon neutrality after having reached that goal in 2016. He also plays a key role in Energy 2028 – to source 100% renewable energy, cut energy consumption by 25%, divest the endowment from fossil fuels and to integrate these efforts into the educational mission of the College with equity and justice as a cross-cutting theme.

Jack’s career has been in the non-governmental sector starting and developing organizations that support local, national and international initiatives in soil and water conservation; watershed health; citizen science; integrating sustainability knowledge and skills in public schools, corporations and non-profit organizations. He has led the development of learning networks and communities on a variety of topics at local, national and international locations.

He is a co-founder of the Foundation for Our Future - a non-governmental research and development organization focused on sustainable development, organizational change management, and capacity development. He founded and directed the River Watch Network, an international NGO that provides technical and organizational training for citizen and student based watershed monitoring and protection. He also served as Green Campus Leader for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Commission on Education and Communication and has served as consultant to a variety of corporate, governmental and non-governmental organizations on sustainability and environmentally related issues.

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Megan Brakeley

Food and Garden Educator

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Office Hours:
Knoll Garden Volunteer Hours - go/knollhours

Minna Brown

Climate Action Capacity Project Director

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Sophia Calvi

Director of Programs, Franklin Environmental Center

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Janet Wiseman

Assistant Director, Franklin Environmental Center

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Office Hours:
Monday through Friday,8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Natalia Schwien

Sustainability Specialist

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Frank Van Gansbeke

Executive Scholar in Residence

Frank is executive scholar in residence at the Franklin Environmental Center where he teaches Sustainable Finance and Responsible Investments (forthcoming). He also runs the Midd Alum Global Sustainability guest speaker series on the interaction between sustainability and the world of finance, policy making and industry. He acquired more than 30 years of global Senior Executive experience within the Corporate Finance and Capital Markets fields at Fortis and BNPP. 

At Middlebury College, Frank taught as Professor of the Practice “Capital Markets”, “Investment Management” and “Introduction to Finance”.  He mentors at their entrepreneurial program and acts as faculty advisor to RISE, a student led investment organization. In 2019, Frank was awarded the “student advisor award.”

In 2020, Frank co-established the Sustainable Finance Unconference series, a quarterly platform where prominent Sustainable Finance peers present their recent contributions in the space. At COP26 in 2021, Frank co-founded “Beyond Bretton Woods”, a think tank platform reviewing the international financial architecture and fostering the foundations for a fair, nature-centric, and regenerative financial system.

Frank is a regular contributor to Forbes online.

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Black Lives Matter Statement

June 15, 2020

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 antiracist 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

Updated July 2, 2020:

Following the joint Environmental Affairs/Environmental Studies statement in support of Black Lives Matter on June 15, 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 about 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 these steps:

  • 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.
  • Establish ongoing discussion of our outreach materials and how they affect our students. Ensure that antiracist topics, materials, and practices are incorporated into all our programs.
  • 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 antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • 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.
  • 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, holding ourselves accountable and sharing what we are learning from our efforts. We welcome insights and suggestions. 

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