Meet the faculty

Images faculty

At Green Mountain College, we staff our first-year courses primarily with committed full-time faculty, many of whom have years of experience working with our first-year students.  Here are the "Images of Nature and Culture" faculty members this semester: 


ELA 1000 02: Images of Nature and Culture:  Dramatic Expressions, Seeing Nature through the Arts

In this section of Images of Nature and Culture we will be using the lens of the arts, specifically theater, film, poetry and nature essays to explore and understand the changing relationship between human societies and nature over time. Our ideas and perceptions of the natural world can be strongly influenced  and communicated by artistic forms of expression in both image and the written word; we’ll examine poetic, dramatic and cinematic works, styles and techniques as unique forms of artistic expression of humans interacting with their environment. Through readings, observation, field experiences, discussion and writing, we’ll analyze our relationship to the natural world in historical context to explore the impact that different ideas of nature have had on the physical and cultural landscape.

Paula Mann is the Director of the Theater program at GMC and has been on the faculty since 2004. Her teaching curriculum includes Acting I, Acting II (scene study), Theater Audience Environment and Nature in Theater and Film.  Mann has been a professional actress since 1980, working in theater, film and television in NYC and in Vermont.  She directs two college main stage productions every year and most recently performed the role of Emily Dickinson in the solo show The Belle of Amherst.  She’s especially excited about sharing  the beauty of autumn in Vermont with students and her love of the arts as a power to transform our lives and environment.


ELA 1000 03: Images of Nature and Culture: The Narrative Impulse

From the cave walls of prehistory to the latest episode of The Walking Dead, human culture is rooted in narrative.  In this section of Images of Nature and Culture we will consider the role that narrative and storytelling play in our efforts to understand and shape our relationship with the natural world.  While our primary focus will be on “literary” works (e.g. fiction, poetry, memoir), we will also examine representative works from other genres, including film, ethnography, television, even stand-up comedy. We will explore the ways that these texts use story to engage with environmental issues. Through the consideration of multiple texts, we will consider how
storytelling can foster awareness of natural beauty, sound alarms over ecological threats, and propose sustainable solutions for the challenges we face. Together, we will develop our critical thinking skills through readings, writings, discussions, projects, and field trips. As part of this process, we will also create new narratives, stories of our own that will help bind us together as a group and as members of the college community.  In addition, this section is aimed at building confidence among student writers, whether they are already seasoned writers, or they wish to strengthen their foundations

Ric Jahna  grew up along the Lake Wales Ridge, the highest “peak” in peninsular Florida and a region whose land, people, and lore appear in much of his fiction. He teaches courses in literature and creative writing, including special topics such as narrative in film and the graphic novel. He  looks forward, in this course, to exploring the power that creative storytelling can play in conceptualizing  our relationship with the natural world. In his spare time, Ric enjoys writing, travel, and contemplating linear time.


ELA 1000 04: Images of Nature and Culture: A Place Based Approach

This section is a living and learning community, which is a great opportunity for students in our first year seminar to forge meaningful relationships and collaborate outside of the classroom.  These communities are likely to aid in your persistence and enjoyment of your semester. Students in this class will live on the same coed residence hall floor as other students in the class.  Please note that this section will be housed in a “quiet” hall which values community and the consideration of neighbors at all times.

This course provides an opportunity for students to examine how—and why—people and cultures have defined nature in different ways. Students will also learn about some of the consequences of these different ways of knowing nature, in terms of the social, political, and economic impacts, as well as the biophysical-ecological impacts.  Students will develop environmental literacy by reading and writing about ideas that fundamentally changed the way in which people understood their relationship with the physical environment. In addition, we will examine the concept of sustainability and consider how current ideas, values, and practices are likely to affect future environments. We will use our local bioregion as a laboratory to examine our own ideas of nature, and to develop deeper understandings of what it means to live sustainably in a place.

As an environmental educator who has worked at a nature center, at an environmental camp in the Smoky Mountain National Park, at a public school, and for the USDA Forest Service, Teresa Coker enjoys learning from nature, human and non-human.  She is equally intrigued by the wild, a good book, and an engaging conversation over good food.  As a transplanted Southerner, she has spent the last 11 years exploring her new Vermont home from full moon bike rides on the local rail trail, to learning to knit, to serving on the local school board, to camping in the local state park, to playing saxophone in the town band. She looks forward to sharing with new Images students a journey of discovery in nature like Thoreau described when he wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it has to teach and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”


ELA 1000 05: Images of Nature and Culture:  The Making of Argument (Honors Section)

This section is a living and learning community, which is a great opportunity for students in our first year seminar to forge meaningful relationships and collaborate outside of the classroom.  These communities are likely to aid in your persistence and enjoyment of your semester. Students in this class will live on the same coed residence hall floor as other students in the class. 

What does it mean to make an argument? Before emails, tweets, and Facebook postings and as early as the beginning of the written word, people have sought to persuade others through their writing.  This section of Images of Nature and Culture will examine how the essay has persuaded, amused, angered, informed, and touched readers over the course of its long history, from ancient times to the present.  In this course, students will examine the evolution and practice of argument, from Aristotle’s formalizing of the discipline of argument in his Rhetoric, to Martin Luther King’s “A Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in which he makes a case for the validity of the philosophy of the non-violence as social resistance, and Peter Singer’s “Animal Liberation,” a manifesto dedicated to the championing of animal rights.  In addition to studying essays such as these and others, students will also investigate extra-literary arguments: advertisements, paintings, photographs, tourist brochures, pamphlets, etc.  In considering documents that are not essays per se, students develop a capacity to recognize the use of rhetorical devices and persuasive strategies in a variety of contexts and media.

Amy Murphy, Associate Professor of English and Writing, has been a professor at both urban and rural college campuses, and has taught literature and composition to a diverse student body, from Florida to Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas, and now in Vermont. While she has specialized in the teaching of British literature, she has also taught writing and composition for over 20 years and has an expertise and interest in helping students improve their writing skills. She enjoys serving students and building their confidence as writers and thinkers as they prepare themselves for their chosen career paths. In her spare time, she loves to walk with her dogs, write, garden, tend her small flock of chickens, cook and bake for friends, family, and students, and spend time with her two daughters and husband.


ELA 1000 06: Images of Nature and Culture:  Cultural Encounters with Non-Human Nature

Humans perceive and interact with the world through a lens of culture. In our course, we will draw on a range of case studies from around the planet in order to explore how cultures have shaped their understandings and experiences of non-human nature. Topics include indigenous creation myths, Asian poetry and painting, sacred trees, pilgrimages, prehistoric rock art, the earth as a Goddess, and domesticated goats.

Mark Dailey is an environmental anthropologist with broad-ranging interests. His courses explore such diverse topics as human evolution, globalization, indigenous people, the history of yoga, and Chinese poetry. He looks forward to co-exploring with first year students the fascinating connections between humans and non-human nature. In his spare time, Mark likes to take care of goats, stargaze, and wander in the woods.



ELA 1000 07: Images of Nature and Culture: Seeing a Continuous Landscape in the Built Environment

According to the philosophical discipline of phenomenology the self and the world are identifiably separate and indivisibly reliant upon the other for their identity. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each part relies on the other for affirmation of itself. The interplay between culture and nature is, arguably, the real-time enactment of this profound dialogue, and the built environment its physical embodiment. Thus, rarely can we get a more accessible, tangible, and richly informative live window into how a culture perceives the relationship between itself and the world than thru the conscious experience, observation, and analysis of the built environment. For the built environment provides a dynamic reflection of ourselves, and, conversely, plays a fundamental role affecting how we relate to each other and the bio-physical systems around us. Through short readings, videos, in-class exercises, and field trips we will consider or total human and bio-physical surroundings by critically reflecting on what it means to Be, See and Think. We will experience, observe, reflect, discuss, and possibly transform, environmental, social and cultural aspects of the human physical habitat. We may ask questions such as the following: How can we define the built environment? How do we socially, physically, emotionally and cognitively respond to our physical surroundings? Can the built environment be perceived as a part of a continuous landscape with the bio-physical? Can it enable a viable diverse ecology? Or a freely emerging one capable of unpredictable change? How might we be affected? How would our understanding of ourselves and our surroundings change?

Andrew Keller is Assistant Professor of Sustainable Design.  As an interdisciplinary environmental designer, Andrew Keller is a licensed architect, urban planner (University of California, Berkeley: Master of Architecture; Master of City Planning), builder, and teacher. Rather than seeking to distinguish the difference between these roles Andrew sees the overlap connecting them. Devoted to the principles of ecological design, Andrew Keller believes that theory and practice are inseparable. They are mutually informative. Similarly, Andrew believes that as people and nature can not be so easily separated neither can our built environment be divorced from its context. Therefore, “here”, not just anywhere, our own identity and place identity become mutually self-supporting. Specific areas of interest include: how people perceive the ability to control and modify space; the overlap of landscape ecology and the built environment; the role of language and process in critical thinking; design/build vernacular building systems for affordable housing; the integration of multiple design disciplines; and public interest projects. Andrew is the principal of Andrew Keller Design in Montpelier, Vermont. An avid hiker, Andrew has completed the southern half of the Appalachian Trail. A former ski racer, he has only just recently reluctantly put away his straight skis for shape skis. In an attempt to combine hiking and snow, Andrew annually sleds down the 4 mile access trail on New Hampshire’s Mount Moosilauke.


ELA 1000 08: Images of Nature and Culture:  The Promise of Reinhabitation

This section is a living and learning community, which is a great opportunity for students in our first year seminar to forge meaningful relationships and collaborate outside of the classroom.  These communities are likely to aid in your persistence and enjoyment of your semester. Students in this class will live on the same coed residence hall floor as other students in the class. 

For most of us, growing up in the United States (or other “developed” nations) means that we’ve largely been shaped by information and images that have little to do with the specific places we live. It’s not unusual for people to know more about locations they see on TV or the internet than about their own regions. We may take this ecological disconnection for granted, but it’s a very recent phenomenon—and one that is responsible for many of our least sustainable practices. So what would it mean to develop cultures and communities that reflect the ecological conditions in which we find ourselves living? This kind of inhabitation has been the norm for most of the human experience, and it’s a perspective that is now guiding some of the most intriguing approaches to developing sustainable communities. Using the local landscape as a laboratory, we will explore how different populations of humans have lived on this land for the last 12,000 years, and how they can teach us about what sustainable communities might look like in the age of climate change.

Laird Christensen is an author, teacher, and activist, and has spent his professional life exploring the relationships between people and the places they live. A number of his poems, articles, and books—including Teaching about Place: Learning from the Land and Recovering Pine River—focus specifically on the questions at the heart of this section, as do the courses in bioregional theory and practice he has developed for the college’s graduate programs. He directs the Master of Science program in Resilient and Sustainable Communities, and lives with his family at the foot of Howe Hill—a nearby forest where he expects to spend quite a lot of time with the students in this class.

Last modified: Thursday, 8 June 2017, 2:38 PM