New students in the Rubenstein School are assigned to a first-year advisor. These faculty members have particular interest in helping new students develop their strengths and explore academic options. First-year advising is tied to the core course NR 6, Race and Culture in Natural Resources. Students meet weekly for a lecture or guest speaker presentation, then gather with their advising group (typically fewer than 20 students) for a discussion. They get to know their advisors and peers well. Students stay with their first-year advisor through spring semester, then move to an upper-level advisor in their major for the fall of sophomore year. 

Meet Our First-Year Advisors

Nadeje Alexandre

Nadeje Alexandre

I am a student affairs professional with a passion for student development, advising, mentoring, and collaborating with teams. In the Rubenstein School, I hope to support students toward academic success, engage students in community and service-learning, and help develop personal and social awareness. I earned my Doctor of Education from Seattle University in 2014. My research explores communication effectiveness among student affairs professionals in higher education through the lenses of framing, listening, and emotional management. I have a Masters in Student Development Administration and a Bachelors in Comparative Literature and French. I was born in the West Indies and grew up in Chicago and have traveled extensively to nearly all continents. My diverse list of activities include: swimming, biking, art, music, camping, boating and tennis.

Learn more about Nadeje >>

Mike Blouin

Mike Blouin

A mile down the road from my childhood home, there is a muddy, mercury contaminated pond. Signs warn against swimming or catching fish to eat. But despite its history of abuse, the pond teems with life: if you stop by on a warm evening, you’ll find frogs singing, insects buzzing, perhaps a Great Blue Heron stalking the shallow waters. This is where I first felt a visceral sense of wonder at the immense beauty of the world. I believe in falling in love with the world, imperfections and all. I believe, too, in advocating for equality, justice, and non-violence. My professional life revolves around these aspirations. For several years, I taught science in Boston at a public middle school devoted to the idea that all students should be able to attend college, regardless of race, income, or zip code. As a Field Science Educator in Yosemite National Park, I introduced visiting students to towering granite walls, flooded meadows, dark caves and frigid creeks.

I moved to Vermont to pursue a master’s degree; I completed my studies in the UVM Field Naturalist Program in 2015. My mission as a teacher (and learner) centers on building, questioning, studying, and reframing our relationships with one another and with the natural world. As a lecturer in Rubenstein, I teach Natural and Cultural History of Vermont (NR 9) for transfer students and lead a discussion section for Race and Culture in Natural Resources (NR 6). I also supervise interns pursuing their K-12 teaching license in the Secondary Education Department.

William "Breck" Bowden

Breck Bowden

I am the Robert and Genevieve Patrick Professor in Watershed Science and Planning in the Rubenstein School. I teach undergraduate courses in the Environmental Sciences curriculum and graduate courses in the Aquatic Ecology and Watershed Sciences curriculum. I direct the Vermont Water Resources and Lake Studies Center and the Lake Champlain Sea Grant. My research interests focus on interactions among land use, land cover, and water resources, and I have conducted research on wetland, terrestrial, and aquatic ecosystems in temperate, tropical, and arctic biomes.

Learn more about Dr. Bowden >>

Laura Edling

Laura Edling

I am a PhD candidate, researching issues related to community forestry and biomass energy. In the Fall, I will be teaching ENSC 130 as well as being a first-year adviser. Before starting my PhD work, I worked with the State of Oregon on GIS projects related to coastal planning and habitat mapping. I also was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji and did my Master's thesis at Brown University on issues related to community fisheries in Kerala, India and Rhode Island. I really enjoy sharing these diverse experiences with undergraduates to help them shape what they are passionate about into tangible goals. I have two little kids now and we love getting muddy on our property in Hinesburg. When I'm not working or hanging out with the kiddos (which is when?), I am a cross-country and back-country skiing affectionado and a pretty serious yoga practitioner.

Gary Hawley

Gary Hawley

I am a research associate and work on developmental cold tolerance and physiological mechanisms of winter injury in forest trees; genetic diversity, evolutionary biology, and physiological adaptation of forest trees; and design, development, and demonstration of high performance green buildings. I have taught the Greening of Rubenstein Interns course for nearly 20 years as well as NR 6 Race and Culture in Natural Resources for many years. I find it satisfying to help guide new students through their first year in the School. I am a Rubenstein School alum and grew up in Vermont.

Learn more about Gary >>

Trish O'Kane

Trish O'Kane

I am an environmental educator who uses action-research to promote environmental and social justice.  I created the “Birding to Change the World” service learning course and program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison while completing my doctorate. I believe in harnessing the power of passionate, knowledgeable and energetic students to help solve community and global problems.

Before studying the natural sciences, I worked as a human and civil rights investigative journalist for a decade in Central America and five years in the Deep South. In Guatemala, I worked for the United Nations investigating massacres perpetrated by the Guatemalan military. In Alabama, I conducted research on white supremacist groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center. I have also taught writing in a women's prison. I am the author of Guatemala: the People, Politics and Culture and have written for major media including The New York Times. I live, bird, write and garden in Burlington, Vermont along with my husband, Jim Carrier — a writer, banjo picker and filmmaker — and my dog, Nova, who has a dog-torate in tennis balls.

Learn more about Trish >>

Eduardo Rodriguez

Eduardo Rodriguez

I joined the Rubenstein School and the Gund Institute in 2013, drawn by the field of Ecological Economics, and the opportunity to explore issues at the interface of economic development and environmental management. I believe that we are capable of structuring our economies and societies in ways that are much more sustainable and equitable than what we have currently. And I’m passionate about meaningful educational experiences that help us grow as individuals and identify ways to create a better world.

I’ll be working as a lecturer at Rubenstein and assisting with Race and Culture in Natural Resources (NR 6). I’ll also serve as an advisor to first-year students.

Learn more about Eduardo >>

Anna Smiles-Becker

Anna Smiles-Becker

I joined the Rubenstein School Community in 2011 and have worked with first-year students through NR 6: Race and Culture in Natural Resources for the past 6 years. As the Internship Coordinator & Career Counselor in the Rubenstein School, I get to work with students as they’re figuring out and pursuing their academic interests, passions, and life directions. My professional interests include experiential learning, career development, academic advising, and diversity and equity.

Some of my outside-of-work-passions include adventures with my family, social justice, local community involvement, jewelry making, reading, and drinking tea. I grew up in New Hampshire and Vermont and attended UVM as an undergraduate student. After living and working in Washington, DC for a number of years, I earned my Master's Degree in Higher Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  I have worked at UVM since 2005.

Learn more about Anna >>

Allan Strong

Allan Strong

I am the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Faculty Development in the Rubenstein School. I am an alum of the School where I received my B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology. My expertise includes wildlife and ornithology, and my research focuses on factors that influence habitat quality for birds with an emphasis on questions that have direct implications for wildlife conservation. I teach ornithology and field travel courses in the Rubenstein School and currently lead the School's equity and diversity efforts.

Learn more about Allan >>

Marie Vea-Fagnant

Marie Vea-Fagnant

I am the Assistant Dean for Student Services and Staff Development in the Rubenstein School. I advise students about academic, personal, and social issues and act as liaison to UVM Dean of Students, Student Accessibility Services, Counseling & Psychiatric Services, The Mosaic Center for Students of Color, and other UVM support services. I have taught NR 6 Race and Culture in Natural Resources for many years. My expertise includes engaged learning, social justice, and green jobs.  I have worked at UVM since 1999, first as the ALANA Recruitment Coordinator in the Office of Admissions, then as a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator in the Rubenstein School. 

Learn more about Marie >>