The Middlebury School of the Environment curriculum prepares students to effectively promote positive environmental change. Students participate in leadership training workshops and topics are integrated into the courses.

Students will take three credit-bearing courses while on the program. All students will take either Understanding Place or Sustainability Practicum, plus two elective courses.

Please see the descriptions below, keeping in mind that courses may change slightly between now and the start of the program.

Understanding Place
Instructor: Liou Xie

What is a place? How does one experience and interpret a place? How are places co-constructed by social, economic, and environmental factors? How do you make sense and fit into a place? How do places make you? And finally, how are local places shaped by global forces and how do local places interact to create a planetary experience for all? This course will explore these questions by connecting theories of place with the methods of observation and hands-on exercises  in central California. Topics include the food industry, the tourism industry, urban development and mobility, renewable energy and climate change, affordable housing, economic and social inequality, and more. We hope that you come away from this course with an appreciation for respectfully and courageously learning about a place as an outsider.

Sustainability Practicum
Instructor: Liou Xie
This class will explore planning and design practices for developing sustainable communities, through several modules encompassing visioning for sustainable communities, social cohesion, inclusiveness and equity, complete streets, strengthening community economies, food and nutrition, and alternative energy adoption. The students will learn useful tools, such as architect and engineering scales, Sketchup basics, street section design, SWOT analysis, and more. The class will be lecture- and studio-based, with small assignments for each module.

Wicked Problems in Environmental Policy
Instructor: Curt Gervich

California’s central coast is a microcosm of many of the world’s wickedest problems. In this small region we can observe, document and interrogate the local nuances and implications of the challenges implicit in each of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, from poverty and food insecurity to water scarcity and climate change. These challenges are characterized by complex webs of cause and effect relationships and feedback loops that defy technical solutions and foster conflicts among stakeholders. These characteristics place them in a special class of problems, termed “wicked problems” by Rittell and Weber (1973). In this course we will seek to understand the complexity of wicked problems, playfully attempt to unwind the tangle of variables that contribute to their intractability, and evaluate the policy and management approaches underway to address them. Along the way we will take walks… and more walks. We will also do some drawing and mapping, take photos and videos, collect artifacts, create metaphors, and do even more walking.

Environmental Media
Instructor: Joan Grossman

Photography, audio, and video can be powerful tools for research and creative expression, and have the potential to deeply enhance how we perceive and understand the environment. In this course students will develop creative and technical skills, and produce short media works - photojournalism, podcasts, and video productions - that draw on research, interviews, personal perspectives, and experiences related to the environment in and around Monterey. The course will explore aesthetic and philosophical approaches to media production, and will delve into creative techniques for storytelling, communicating information, and producing artistic works. The aim of this course is to build knowledge in both the practice and critique of media, and to strengthen an understanding of how creative storytelling can provoke profound discourses on environmental issues and ideas. The course will open exciting opportunities for students to explore cultural and natural environments through media with the goal of creating meaningful and compelling work that sheds light on this remarkable place. Students may participate in the course with or without prior experience in media production. Participants in the course may bring their own camera and audio recording equipment, and are encouraged to bring their own headphones.

Introduction to Marine Ecosystems
Instructor: Kathryn Schoenrock-Rossiter

In this course we will cover aspects of the marine environment and ecosystems, and human interaction with both, with a particular focus on Monterey Bay. This geographic region provides a natural classroom for students to learn about geological, environmental, biological, economic, and societal aspects of the marine realm in past, present and future time scales. The course will cover a broad range of topics from geological aspects of the marine environment to conservation including lab-based work, field excursions to local tidepools and research facilities, and guest lectures from local experts.

Environmental Analysis
Instructors: Joan Grossman

Environmental problem-solving is a complex process that is shaped by many factors: ecology, economy, and culture, to name a few. This course encourages creative interpretations of current environmental issues in and around Monterey. Through an interdisciplinary lens that integrates media arts and scientific strategies, we will explore some of the environmental challenges of this unique place. The course will explore ways in which quantitative and qualitative data can be used to tell compelling stories about environmental transformations that are impacting the Monterey environment. The course is aimed at developing skills in methods of analysis, creative interpretations of data, and science communication. The course will be co-taught by Joan Grossman (filmmaker and artist) and Megan McKenna (marine biologist). 

Game Design for Environmental Progress
Instructor: Curt Gervich

Science, economics and policy are struggling to meet the urgent need for environmental progress. All disciplines, ways of knowing and means of communication are needed if we’re to slow global environmental decline and maintain a livable planet for future generations. The time for enacting the theories of transformative play and transformative gaming are upon us! As a class we will play games, deconstruct their mechanics, and consider how game theory can be used as a strategy for raising awareness, altering attitudes and motivating behavior changes among the public, decision makers and professionals. We will explore several varieties of serious games and design our own games for advancing our environmental agenda. 

Student with teacher

Courses embrace complexity, emphasize hands-on practice, and embody interdisciplinarity. Our curriculum takes a systems lens to exploring the social-ecological relationships, environmental problems and sustainability initiatives. Within and alongside classes are a series of leadership development trainings that build applied skill in communication, collaboration, conflict management, effective decision making and multicultural competencies, among other topics. Electives offer in-depth training in specific skills and viewpoints that are central to the study of the environment.