Amy Seidl G’01, senior lecturer in the Environmental Program and Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, transforms the lives of her students — with alumni of her courses now numbering in the thousands — by drawing them into her world of environmental issues and advocacy and empowering them to effect change. To honor her accomplishments in the classroom, on campus and in the greater community, Seidl has received UVM’s 2019–2020 President’s Distinguished Senior Lecturer Award to recognize outstanding teaching, scholarship and service.
“Teaching is my life’s work,” says Seidl. “I learn from students and facilitate how they can best learn from me and others, most importantly their classmates. Ideas are the currency of the teaching profession, which makes me feel like I won the lottery every time the academic year begins.”
Captivated by Seidl’s welcoming spirit, students express amazement at how quickly she can call on them by name in her 200-student Introduction to Environmental Studies (ENVS-001) class. Seidl turns the lecture course into an intimate space in which students critically explore local and global environmental and social justice issues. Students laud the ease with which she balances the positive and negative to offer a holistic view of topics from climate change to conservation to renewable energy. She engenders hope and opportunity for constructive change, while never shying away from the science.
Her reach goes beyond the classroom as coordinator for the ENVS senior capstone internship and as faculty advisor for student-led environmental groups. In April 2017, Seidl accompanied nearly 50 students on a 12-hour bus trip to join the Peoples’ Climate March in Washington, D.C. While there, she arranged for them to meet with U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and staff. Students returned newly inspired to believe in the results that come from climate activism.
An ecologist and author, Seidl earned her doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology, master’s in entomology, and bachelor’s in natural sciences and poetry. Her books, "Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World" (2009) with foreword by Bill McKibben, and "Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming" (2011), cleverly and poetically blend the science of climate change with firsthand experience and near-term solutions.
Just as she cares for the Earth and discerns its changes, Seidl nurtures and listens to each of her students.
“I’ve rarely felt more heard by a professor,” writes one.