Gund Affiliate, Professor Emeritus, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources

Tom Hudspeth was a professor of Environmental Studies and Natural Resources in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources from 1972 to 2015. He came to UVM to help set up one of the first university-wide Environmental Studies programs in the U.S.

Tom’s scholarship and teaching relate to sustainability education and sustainable communities. He applies insights of behavioral sciences and learning processes to peoples' beliefs, values, attitudes, and behavior to help them become more environmentally literate and to live more sustainably, in greater harmony with—and within—the natural world. He engaged students and communities in creating a shared vision of the more sustainable future we truly desire—an ecologically resilient and socially equitable world—especially employing the power of storytelling.

Over a quarter century, Tom and his students wrote and videotaped countless Sustainability Stories about individuals and groups in the greater Burlington area who serve as sustainability exemplars or role models for others to emulate in transitioning to more environmentally-sustainable communities. These place-based stories help make the concept of sustainability come alive, make it more concrete, humanize it, and put a face on it. They let people know what a sustainable future could look like; demonstrate that sustainability can be achieved locally and that there are alternatives to business-as-usual, overconsumption, the “growth at all costs” model that we are addicted to; and help society achieve a smooth landing instead of overshoot and collapse. They offer hope, inspiration, optimism, and empowerment to counter the doom-and-gloom, despair, and anxiety so often experienced. Celebrating successes and positive solutions in compelling stories that build on humans’ innate capacity and desire to be cooperative, altruistic, and empathic can inspire and empower others to make a difference.

Internationally, Tom engaged in research, often combined with training, in twelve countries, and also led 18 travel-study courses—to Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica, Belize, and Honduras—addressing ecotourism as a tool for sustainability.

As an activist, he built on his research findings related to citizen participation in urban waterfront revitalization in Burlington and co-founded two citizen groups: Citizens Waterfront Group to develop the 8-mile Burlington Bicycle Path on an abandoned railroad bed along the Lake Champlain lakefront; and Burlington Waterfront Central to assure people-oriented activities as Burlington revitalized its waterfront.

Tom founded and serves as co-coordinator of Greater Burlington Sustainability Education Network (GBSEN), a Regional Center of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development recognized by United Nations University and part of a network of 179 RCEs across the world that uses collective impact from multi-sectoral partnerships to seek solutions to complex, rapidly-accelerating, planetary-scale sustainability challenges and address the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Since retiring, Tom has been involved with GBSEN; engaged with climate change education, communication, and action as a Climate Reality Project leader and mentor, especially telling Climate Stories; joined with others over the age of sixty in Third Act to campaign on issues of climate change, racial equity, and the protection of democracy; and—as a master gardener—planted pollinator gardens and rain gardens.

In January, 2002, Tom participated as a GIE Fellow--along with other GIE fellows and affiliates--in a transdisciplinary workshop/field-course or Scientific Atelier/skillshare (an adaptive, self-designing, collaborative problem-solving process) in Palawan, the Philippines, focused on problems presented by the conversion of mangrove ecosystems to shrimp and fish aquaculture and application of the principles of ecological economics to solving them (Farley, J., D. Batker, I. de al Torre, and T. Hudspeth.  “Conserving Mangrove Ecosystems in the Philippines: Transcending Disciplinary and Institutional Borders.”  Journal of Environmental Management DOI 10.1007/s00267-009-9379-4 Online: 15 October 2009).


  • 2021 “Climate Stories: Inspiring Action through Learning while Seeking to Achieve SDGs.” 12th Global RCE Conference:  Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: Action through Learning in a Time of Global Crises.  Sustainable Scotland via Zoom.  16-18 November 2021.
  • 2020 “Chapter 10:  Case Study:  University Partnership for Sustainability Linking University of Vermont Course in Environmental Interpretation with Intervale Center.”  Pp. 157-171 in Sengupta, E., P. Blessinger, and T.S. Yamin (editors), University Partnerships for Sustainability Development.  Bingley, West Yorkshire, England:  Emerald.
  • 2020 “Chapter 15: Sustainability Role Models for Transformative Change:  A Great Turning in Higher Education.”  Pp. 218-231 in Armon, J., S. Scoffham, and C. Armon (editors), Prioritizing Sustainability Education:  A Comprehensive Approach.  New York City, NY:  Routledge.
  • 2019 “Chapter 23:  Communicating about Greater Burlington Regional Center of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (GBRCE) with Sustainability Stories.”  Pp. 395-406 in Zandvliet, D. (editor), Culture and Environment:  Weaving New Connections.  Leiden, The Netherlands:  Brill/Sense.
  • 2018 “Intervale Stories Connect to Place and Illustrate Sustainability and Community-Building” as part of “Farms, Land, People: Stories of the Intervale Center” (as it celebrates its 30th anniversary).  Burlington, VT, 4 April 2018.
  • 2017 “Chapter 32:  Reimagining Sustainability Education to Address Anthropocene Challenges: Envisioning, Storytelling, Community Scenario Planning.  Pp. 407-418 in Corcoran, P.B., A.E.J. Wals, and J.P. Weakland (editors), Envisioning Futures for Environmental and Sustainability Education.  Wageningen, The Netherlands: Wageningen Academic Publishers.
  • 2016 “Hopeful, Local, Visionary, Solutions-oriented, Transformative, Place-based Sustainability Stories and Service Learning as Tools for University Level Education for Sustainable Development: Experiences from University of Vermont.”  Pp. 191-203 in Filho, W Leal and P. Pace (editors), Teaching Education for Sustainable Development at University Level.  New York City, NY: Springer International Publishing.
  • 2015 Hudspeth, T., M. Camp, and J. Cirillo, “Chapter 5: Lifelong Learning.”  Pp. 57-67 in R. Manning, R. Diamant, N. Mitchell, and D. Harmon (editors), A Thinking Person’s Guide to America’s National Parks. New York City, NY: George Braziller Publishers.

For a full listing of publications and presentations, see Tom's CV.

Awards and Recognition

Associations and Affiliations

  • North American Association for Environmental Education
  • National Association for Interpretation
  • Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences
  • Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
  • Greater Burlington Sustainability Education Network
  • Climate Reality Project
  • Third Act
  • Fulbright Association
  • Supportive Environments for Effectiveness
  • Vermont Alliance for Half Earth
  • Center for Research on Vermont
  • Sustainability Faculty Fellows

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Sustainability, sustainability education, sustainable communities, environmental education, environmental interpretation, ecotourism, behavior and environment, citizen participation, service-learning, community-engaged learning, community-based conservation, international environmental issues


  • PhD Natural Resources, University of Michigan, emphasis on Behavior and Environment
  • MS Natural Resources, University of Michigan, emphasis on Environmental Education and Outdoor Recreation
  • BA Williams College, emphasis on Environmental Studies, Biology, and German