Rachel Carson Council President, Robert K. Musil, was the invited guest lecturer at Antioch University New England (AUNE) in Keene, New Hampshire, amidst snowfall in the Granite State just before candidate debates and voting in the nation’s historic first primary. After meetings with Academic Vice President Melinda Treadwell, a toxicologist and environmental health specialist, and with faculty and students, AUNE joined the growing Rachel Carson Campus Network (RCCN).
After an introduction by fellow environmental historian, Alesia Maltz, Director of the Program in Interdisciplinary Studies, Musil spoke about Rachel Carson and her legacy of environmental action. Musil told assembled faculty and students: “I am proud to be speaking at Antioch today, a pioneer in environmental studies and in social justice,” as he pointed to AUNE’s unique mission statement emblazoned on the wall. “Antioch University provides learner-centered education to empower students with the knowledge and skills to lead meaningful lives and to advance social, economic, and environmental justice.”
The roots of AUNE’s combination of environmental concern, social justice, and community engagement go back to its founding in 1964, at the time of Rachel Carson’s death. At the time, Environmental Studies programs were rare. Today, there are about 1200 graduate students in the AUNE community and some 300 alone in its Environmental Studies department. Like the overall mission of the university, the statement of purpose of the large and varied environmental studies department stresses environmental justice and the need for immediate action and engagement. Prominent banners found around the small, friendly campus, proclaim: The world needs you now….to preserve biodiversity, work for environmental justice, reinvigorate science education, guide communities in planning for climate change, and promote sustainable practices in organizations, schools, and businesses.
Antioch is known for its mature, returning students in both Masters and Ph.D. programs. Many are already engaged in environmental careers, or bring life experience directly to their graduate work. Uniquely, the AUNE Environmental Studies department offers concentrations in advocacy, social justice, and sustainability, as well as in conservation biology, sustainable development, and environmental education. The AUNE faculty and staff feature national leaders including Michael Simpson, the Department Chair and Director of the Center for Climate Preparedness and Community Resilience. The Center works directly with White House sustainability efforts as well as hosting major conferences such as “Local Solutions: Eastern Regional Climate Preparedness Conference” in Baltimore, Maryland, featuring EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and 350.org founder Bill McKibben.