Historic grant, thanks to Sen. Leahy, to expand Center for Environment

January 10, 2023
Elizabeth Murray
Associate Director of Public Relations

Saint Michael’s College students planning careers focused on the environment – or those hoping to better understand humans’ impact on the natural world – will directly benefit from federal funding included in the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, thanks to the hard work of alumnus and now-retired Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy ‘61.

patrick leahy

Senator Patrick Leahy

The approximately $6.5 million funding – the largest direct grant ever received by the College – will fund the continued growth and development of the College’s Center for the Environment. The Center, which was officially launched in 2019, creates and supports interdisciplinary, project-based, and place-based education in, for, and about the environment. The Center works to empower students to become competent leaders in fields that contend with some of the world’s most complex and dynamic issues, utilizing education on agriculture, food systems, sustainability, waste, energy, ecological restoration, stewardship, advocacy, and other topics related to the study of the environment.

The omnibus bill was signed into law in late December 2022 as one of Sen. Leahy’s final achievements before his retirement from the Senate after almost half a century representing Vermont. The grant to Saint Michael’s included in the bill was one of a number of appropriations over the years that Sen. Leahy, a 1961 graduate, has secured for his alma mater. The College is also continuing to implement a previous appropriation of $400,000 secured by Sen. Leahy in March 2022 supporting the Saint Michael’s Center for Global Engagement.

“The College has always been engaged as a leader in service and improving the lives of others,” said Saint Michael’s College President Lorraine Sterritt. “Our Center for the Environment helps prepare students to become advocates and professionals who can help address one of the world’s most urgent challenges.”

enviro logo

Center for the Environment Logo

“Senator Leahy has long recognized the importance of addressing environmental challenges and the critical role of higher education in molding the next generation of leaders for that task. We are very thankful to the Senator for supporting our community’s work to do well and do good both at Saint Michael’s and beyond.”

The funding will support the Center for the Environment for five years, beginning in the fall of 2023. Saint Michael’s College anticipates that the funds will have the following impact:

  • Support environmentally focused career development programs, including developing a workforce training program.
  • Expand environmental teaching and learning opportunities, including hands-on learning and service experiences through local and global collaboration.
  • Increase collaboration with community partners to advance environmental work already happening in Vermont.
  • Allow the hiring of additional staff and student employees within the Center, with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and representing a variety of liberal arts perspectives.
Kristyn Achilich

Kristyn Achilich, Center for the Environment Director

“Today’s students are engaged learners – they want to participate in learning that is authentic and impactful,” said Center for the Environment Director Kristyn Achilich ‘05. “This grant will be invaluable to the Center as we steward the College’s efforts to engage the community in understanding the natural world and the impact that we as humans have on it.  This work includes learning about the environment as well as taking action to protect it.”

“The world’s current events tell us that this is a complex, interdisciplinary endeavor, and our liberal arts tradition provides our students with an edge in addressing these intractable challenges that face our planet. Our students are able to grapple with these problems from multiple perspectives – from the humanities, social, and natural sciences, and across the entire student experience from service to residential life, to athletics, and research. It is this work, with my colleagues, I am most excited to embark on.”

The College plans to release further details in the near future about the grant’s implementation and plans for events to celebrate this historic grant and the Center’s continued work.

Saint Michael’s College’s Center for the Environment collaborates with groups and academic programs across campus to provide students with opportunities that align their own values and academic interests with an environmental ethos and forge eventual career paths that continue stewardship of the Earth. The center coordinates and maintains the College’s Farm as well as several other outdoor “classrooms,” including the College’s Teaching Gardens, the 360-acre Natural Area, and the sustainable campus infrastructure. Students working with and through the Center have access to these living laboratories as a basis for employment, academic studies, research, and outreach.

Learn more about the Center for the Environment

Media Contact: Elizabeth Murray, Associate Director of Public Relations, emurray@smcvt.edu

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