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Sarah Mittlefehldt Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
Ames 112
One Brennan Circle
Poultney, VT 05764-1199
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Sometimes our passions require us to break away from the mainstream. For me, that meant paddling over 1,650 miles across the Great Lakes and hiking 2,175 miles along the Appalachian Trail to learn how communities have worked through conflict to protect their local environments. My research and teaching is premised on the notion that the problems of earth’s biophysical systems cannot be disentangled from our social and political systems, and I am particularly interested in the dynamic relationship between the centralized power of the state and decentralized grassroots social action.

I am delighted to teach at an institution like Green Mountain College that values strong student-teacher relationships and meaningful engagement in the world. I teach a wide range of courses that offer rich opportunities for service learning. These kinds of hands-on experiences give students a deeper understanding of how to apply their liberal arts education, and of the importance of civic engagement to address global problems and injustices. By helping students develop efficacy and intellectual skills necessary to becoming critical thinkers and engaged citizens, I hope to empower future generations with the tools that they will need to address complex environmental issues.

I’m currently working on a project that examines the history of distributed energy since the OPEC oil embargo in the early 1970s and the cultural and political barriers that renewable energy leaders have faced in their efforts to decentralize power systems. I argue that one of the reasons the local energy movement has failed is that, unlike food, energy seems abstract, disembodied, and impersonal. I aim to help unveil the hidden history of American energy since 1973 by combining historical research, landscape analysis, and personal memoir. My purpose in combining these approaches and writing this kind of creative non-fiction is to help personalize energy—to show how energy is woven into our lives—not just in terms of ubiquitous technologies, but in our human relationships and in the places where we live and love.

In my spare time, I enjoy most all forms of physical activity in outdoors and playing bluegrass music with my partner and daughter.

Ph.D., Forestry & Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2008
M.Ed., Education, Harvard University, 2004
B.A., Social Ecology (self-designed major), Carleton College, cum laude, 2000

Research Interests
Environmental History & Policy; Political Ecology; Environmental Justice; Human Dimensions of Resource Management

Select Publications
(with Codie Tedford), “Benefit or Burden?: Environmental Justice and Community-Scale Biomass Energy Systems in Vermont, USA,” Environmental Justice, (forthcoming).

Tangled Roots: The Appalachian Trail and the History of Environmental Politics in the U.S., University of Washington Press, 2013.

(with Tina A. Grotzer), “Students’ Metacognitive Behavior and Ability to Transfer Causal Concepts,” in Anat Zohar & Judy Dori, eds., Metacognition and Science Education (Springer, 2011).

“The People’s Path: Conflict and Cooperation in the Acquisition of the Appalachian Trail,” Environmental History 15 (October 2010): 643-669.

“Toxic Waste and Environmental Justice in Warren County, North Carolina,” in Charles V. Willie, Steven P. Rindini, and David A. Willard, eds., Grassroots Social Action: Lessons in People Power Movements (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008).

“Discovering Nature in the Neighborhood: Raymond Zillmer and the Origins of the Ice Age Trail,” in Eric Sherman and Andrew Hanson III, eds., Along Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008).

“The Origins of Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail: Ray Zillmer’s Path to Protect the Past,” Wisconsin Magazine of History 90 (Spring 2007): 2-14.

Awards, Fellowships & Grants
Alfred F. Bell Fellowship, Forest History Society, 2013
Green Mountain College Board of Trustees Service-Learning Award, 2013
Green Mountain College Board of Trustees Faculty Service to the Community Award, 2011
U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, 2010
Hal K. Rothman Dissertation Fellowship, American Society for Environmental History, 2007
Caroline Thorn Kissel Summer Environmental Studies Scholarship, Garden Club of America, 2007
Vilas Travel Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2007-2008
Culture, History, and the Environment Award, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, 2006
E.V. and Nancy Melosi Travel Grant, American Society for Environmental History, 2006
Travel Grants, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, 2006 & 2008

Courses Taught
Introduction to Environmental Studies
Introduction to Natural Resource Management
American Views of the Environment (American Environmental History)
Images of Nature
Public Policy & the Environment*
Environmental Justice*
Natural Resource Management Field Experience
Forest Policy & Management*
Delicate Balance: Building Sustainable Communities*
Environmental Studies Senior Seminar
Environmental Studies Internships and Senior Theses
Environmental History & Philosophy**
Environmental Leadership & Community Involvement**
Environmental Law & Policy**
Masters Theses and Practicum Supervision**

* denotes significant service-learning project
** denotes graduate-level course

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