Emerging Landscapes—From Atwater to Washington DC

Given the progress made this week on the Atwater landscape project, I can’t resist posting these photos (taken this morning), and encouraging people to take a walk over to the north side of the campus to see the area. Though it’s not done yet, as College Horticulturalist Tim Parsons noted in this week’s Campus, the project is gradually coming together—just “have faith.”

But I should point out that this work and the facilities projects described in my earlier post require more than faith to be completed. Besides financial resources and the hard work of staff and hired contractors, they require careful planning and management. Kudos to the Project Managers engaged on all these projects: Tim Parsons (Atwater landscape); Tom McGinn (Forest and the Solar Decathlon site); Mark Gleason (HARC and Kohn Field); and Mary Stanley (118 South Main).

Meanwhile, 488 miles to the south . . .

. . . the Solar Decathlon team arrived this week on the National Mall, where they have sited their solar-powered house—called Self-Reliance—and are getting ready for the competition sponsored by the Department of Energy. We’ll be hearing more about this competition in the coming weeks, but for now check out this cool time-lapse video of the team reassembling their house. Rumor has it they were the first team on the mall to begin construction. They make it look so easy . . . ! You can read daily updates about the team’s progress on their blog.


A New Year, and Some New and Improved Spaces

Every September, students return to campus to find that something about the landscape has changed. Over the years, Middlebury has maintained a remarkably distinct culture—visiting alums often comment on how the campus still feels the way it did when they attended the College—but the physical plant has certainly evolved and expanded.

This year’s changes are more in the nature of renovations. We have not replaced the Bubble or the Mods—not yet—but we have improved some existing spaces. Here are the major projects completed this summer, plus photos.

Forest Hall: A huge project finished in a compressed time-frame, resulting in an overhaul of the major building system, new residential spaces, and air conditioning.

New lounge:

New room:

History of Art and Architecture Suite: The Music Library moved to the Davis Family Library, and HARC took its place in MCFA. The suite includes offices for the faculty, two new classrooms, and a new space for the slide library. And the College Art Museum is just steps away.

Reworking the entrance:

In the suite:

New classroom:

Kohn Field: New turf and lights.

Landscape Around Atwater: Following up on plans developed in the student design competition (“Turf Battle“), Facilities Services has begun work on a project to enhance the landscape in and around Halls A and B and the Chateau. That plan includes additional vegetation and a new stone patio. Much of the work will be completed by the end of September, though we will not be able to finish the project until next summer.

118 South Main: An old, historic house, renovated as office space for emeriti faculty, who will now be across the street from the Davis Family Library.

Solar Decathlon House: A site is being prepared for the house on Porter Field Road, where the building will be installed when it returns from the competition in Washington, DC.

Hepburn Steam Line: The kind of project that seems to get done by magic in the summer, thanks to efficient work by Facilities Services. Ten days ago, this area around Hepburn was torn up.

What Are We Tweeting For?

Since late last summer, a group of intrepid wanna-be social media mavens from various offices at the College have gathered periodically to discuss the in’s, out’s, up’s, down’s, do’s, and don’t’s of Web 2.0. It’s equal parts brainstorming, salivating, and group therapy. We’ve covered the usual suspects, like Facebook and Twitter, but we’ve also touched on some platforms and technologies you may have never heard of, such as foursquare, Photosynth, Murmur, Quick Response (QR) codes, Gowalla, scvngr, and mobile web. We share what our respective areas are currently working on; bemoan the demise of long-standing, well-used features (we’re looking at you, Facebook Groups!); and philosophize about what social media tools Middlebury should pursue further (like foursquare) and what we should pass on for now (like a three-dimensional image of President Liebowitz via Photosynth).

It was in one of these meetings that the seed for using social media to address the Great Dish Crisis of Forever was planted. Mind you, Communications did all of the heavy lifting and thinking: creating and developing Aunt Des, filming and editing the Godfather-esque videos, designing posters with fancy-schmancy QR codes, and finding just the right shade of red nail polish.

Earlier this year, our ring leader, Pam Fogg, introduced us to Murmur. Dial up 802.443.2600 and enter a three-digit code to hear a story related to a building on campus. Punch in 127 to listen to Hugh Marlow tell of hearing Robert Frost say his poems to packed crowds in Mead Chapel, or 118 to hear Sarah Franco (oh, hey, that’s me) tell the gripping tale of meeting my husband in Coltrane Lounge way back in September 2004. Middlebury’s repository of Murmur stories is a great way to show prospective students how they can build unique experiences and lives on our campus or to help alumni reconnect with the College and classmates they parted with years ago.

Slowly, but surely, we’ve been working on building Middlebury’s presence on foursquare, “a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore.” All of Middlebury’s buildings have been added to foursquare, including 51 Main and the Museum of Art, both of which offer special deals to users who check in. In the coming months, we plan to add downtown venues and outdoor areas of interest (like the footbridge over the Otter Creek and the Robert Frost trails in Ripton), all in an effort to introduce first-years and other newcomers to our community and to encourage upperclassmen, staff, and faculty to try new things. Be sure to check out Middlebury’s page on foursquare and add us as a friend.

I could blog on and on about social media at Middlebury. Is it worth the investment? Is the message getting out? Should institutions be early adopters of new technologies and media platforms? These are just some of the questions we have been asking ourselves this year. But we’d love to hear from you: How have you been using social media as part of your work at Middlebury? Are there things the College could do differently or better when it comes to such tools? Hit up the comments and stay tuned for more from this ragtag crew.

A Commencement Day

Syndicated from Tim Parson's blog, The Middlebury Landscape, this is a humorous, behind-the-scenes look at all of the hard work that goes in to making the quad beautiful for Commencement Day. - Tim

4:30 comes early. I like to say I’m a morning person, but the alarm goes off, it’s summer, it’s dark, and well, that’s just too early. I drive to campus, and park behind Kenyon Arena. All facilities staff park there, so the incoming guests can park closer, and we walk to the Service Building, not talking a whole lot. I’m mainlining coffee. The walk towards campus feels a bit like a fish swimming upstream, as most of the senior class is walking away from campus, towards Alumni Stadium to watch the sunrise. Both sets of people, though, look a little bleary eyed and tired. They get to go take a nap later.

The work day starts at 5, with all hands walking the campus picking up any trash we may find. It’s never really all that bad, more like sweeping the front porch before 6000 guests arrive. We walk our snow shovel routes, with others dispatched to hot spots. I like this time of day, the calm before the storm. I also like ending up near the stadium as the sun rises. The shouts, whoops, and hollers of the graduating class as the sun comes up quickly gets subdued, and all becomes quiet, maybe as the reality of the light of day hits-it feels like an end, and a new beginning for them.

At 6 or so the swarm of workers descend to the commencement site, the main quad below Mead Chapel. The tents were erected previously in the week, including the main tent, technically called the clamshell. Some in Facilities spent part of yesterday setting chairs in front of the tent. It’s a delicate balance. While it’s nice to have some of the many many thousand chairs we need to place already up, we could spend a large chunk of the morning drying them off from dew or, even worse, rain. Towels work best, although we have resorted to backpack blowers in the past.

My day begins in earnest as well. My job is to set up the flowers in front of the commencement tent. There is a giant seal of Middlebury College right in front of the stage, and 300 red geraniums are placed at the base. First secret exposed? I leave them in the trays, and mound mulch around them to make them look like a planted bed. All life is a stage.

 

To give you some idea of how long Facilities plans the commencement ceremony, I first get asked to order the geraniums in September. I say you bet, but I don’t worry about them all too much. (perhaps I shouldn’t be writing this?) I buy the geraniums from a local wholesale grower, so 300 is just a tiny little drop in the bucket. It doesn’t even make a dent in the greenhouse. He gets the stress though, and the fact that they have to be right shade of red, so he doesn’t pick on me too much when I’m ordering plants 9 months in advance.

While I’m there working, I’m also watching the second coolest job for the day, the hanging of the flags. Behind the tent, hanging off of Voter Hall, are flags of every country represented by the graduating class. I was told we had to buy 9 new ones this year. I counted 59 flags when they were done, but I was supposed to be working, not counting, so there may have been more. They use a lift truck, 65′ boom, and I bet it takes them a good hour or two. One year, someone in Facilities that was attending the festivities looked up, and noticed one of the flags was for the Boston Red Sox. Oh, the horror, and the humor. Mostly horror, but we had to admit it was pretty funny. We got into the student’s room, where he thoughtfully leaned the correct flag against the wall after he leaned out his window and made the switch.

The lift truck hanging flags

I also rent some shrubs to do a fake little planting where the tent guy lines get staked in front of the clamshell. When I first arrived on campus, I noticed a plethora of White Potentilla and Dwarf Garland Spirea planted here, there, pretty much any little corner. You see, they used to come buy them off me when I worked up the road at Greenhaven, for the very same purpose I now use Ivory Halo Red Twig Dogwood (not white flowers, but a pretty variegated leaf). I don’t want to fill the campus exclusively with a plant that looks for great for two weeks in the spring, so I just rent them and bring them back to Greenhaven the next week. They don’t make a habit of it, but I still have a little bit of influence. (I also tend to help a customer or two while I’m there-old habits and all)

There is a huge amount of activity taking place around me. It’s too much for a blog post, it could be it’s own blog. The brunt of it, though, is chair setting. Some chairs get set the day before, but the bulk are set this morning. And by bulk, I’m talking thousands. We have a tractor trailer we keep filled with chairs, I think it’s about 4000. The trailer is parked on the road, and trucks and gators are used to ferry them to the setters, following the lead of the string setters, who assure the chairs are placed in straight lines.

Seriously, we use string and stakes to set chairs. Not because the person setting chairs is a civil engineer, although that helps, but because looking at 5000 chairs set out, well, they just NEED to be straight. For a great video picture diary of chair setting, view the pictures taken by the communications department of the (very wet) day before.

The early arrivals for the ceremony begin arriving around 8 or so. There’s a couple key places to sit, and they usually go first. One  is the area around a Red maple, which offers some key shade most years. The other isn’t in the chairs at all, but up the hill towards Gifford, where the day beforehand the landscape department sets all the Adirondack chairs out. Watching commencement while reclining in a comfy chair? Oh yeah, that’s the way to do it.

Graduates start arriving soon as well, and get staged east of Old Chapel. I usually run into Matt Biette, the extraordinary head of dining, for the first of several times today, handing out water and breakfast sandwiches to the seniors. Starch and re hydration-Matt’s a genius.

Time to pull out, get out of Dodge, and pretend we aren’t even there. Some years, the landscape department goes and pulls weeds, radio close by. I have another semi-official job, though, that of weather-boy. Luther Tenny, Chair General (you did click that link on chair setting above, right?) calls me occasionally, wondering what the weather radar looks like. I’m the local weather geek, next to Luther, who is in an information tent on site, so isn’t close to a computer. I was watching this year by Android phone, as it was a spectacular day to pull weeds. The year Bill Clinton was the speaker several thunderstorms were forming in upstate New York, and I was freaking out. 6000 plus guests, and a storm on the way? I deferred to the experts, and called the National Weather Service in Burlington, who thought I was nuts, until I explained just exactly why I was calling, and they set my mind at ease. It rained for about 3 minutes, and then the sun came out and all was well. So, really, I’ve never seen the ceremony.

11:30 all the workers start traipsing up the hill towards Mead Chapel, where we get fed. All parents and graduates get fed by Matt Biette and crew, and that’s another blog post all together. Middlebury has an amazing home-grown dining service, and the food is great. They are brave feeding the landscape crew before the guests, but they certainly cook enough. Second Matt sighting-right below Mead Chapel telling guests walking up the hill that food is on both sides of Mead, and the lines are never too long. It seems like almost every student stops to talk to him.

The lure of the food works, and the chairs and stage empty soon enough, and facilities goes berserk in reverse. It’s easier to take things apart than put them up, and the chair trailer fills again. We also store chairs all over campus, so trucks are dispatched to places I haven’t even seen yet in my 5 years here. It’s a logistical nightmare, and always goes off without a hitch. I take apart the flowers, and plant them in the coming week by Admissions.  We’re done by 3 or 4 PM most years.

Breakdown

More on Turf Battle

We were happy to see the front-page story in today’s Campus on the plan to improve the landscape around Atwater.  The Campus had asked for an exclusive on the story, and we gave it to them.

However, we were disappointed that the article did not say more–or even mention–the students who generated the designs for the plan: Jesse Catalano ’11, Bente Madson ’11, and Jake Moritz ’11; Jaeun Lee ’11 and Molly Rosenblatt ’12; and Leah Webster ’11, Christine Hsieh ’11, and Jack P. Maher ’12.

They deserve credit for their work on this project. As we told The Campus, we plan to install a sign that acknowledges their contribution to the College community’s enjoyment of our outdoor environment.

For more information about the site plans and how the students’ visions were incorporated, visit the Turf Battle blog.

Important Update on Salary Increase Program

After careful review and additional research we have decided not to cap maximum salaries.

The SRC/Wage and Salary Committee’s recommendation that we enforce maximum salaries was based on the assumption that caps would free up resources that could be allocated to staff members further down in their salary ranges so they can reach the midpoint of their salary band more quickly. Further review now indicates that the number of staff members who will be at the maximum will be fewer than expected, and therefore the savings gained by enforcing the maximum salary will be relatively small.

However, Human Resources (HR) will still be conducting a market analysis over the next year to ensure that staff positions are placed in the correct career band/level and that our salary ranges are accurately tied to the market. This is very important because beginning in July 2012, we will calculate annual increases on the midpoint—now to be called the “market target”—of the salary range. As we’ve noted in written communications and in open meetings, tying raises to the midpoint rather than individual salaries will enable us to direct more dollars to staff members who are lower in the salary structure. The rest of this memo provides an overview of how this project will unfold over the coming months.

Our first step will be to ensure that we have up-to-date position descriptions for all of our jobs. We know that jobs have changed in the recent past and have been working with managers and supervisors to update job descriptions as the changes occur. This is also a natural part of the performance evaluation process, so some of you are having these conversations right now. In addition, HR will coordinate with managers to ensure that we are working with the most up-to-date job information. We encourage each staff member to take an active role in this process. If you feel that your job description does not reflect your current position, please speak with your supervisor. (You can find the most recent job description that HR has on file for your position online.)

We have set a deadline for updated job descriptions to be received in HR by mid-June, so that we can begin to review positions and make sure they are placed in the correct career bands and levels. Once we have completed the placement process, we will share all of our data with our compensation consultants, Mercer. The professionals at Mercer will research the market data, test and refine the salary structure itself, and confirm range minimums, market targets, and maximums. We expect to have the market analysis back from Mercer in the early part of 2012 and intend to communicate with staff about results of the study by March 2012.

Our primary objective is to confirm that jobs are in the correct career band and level and ensure that our salary structure accurately reflects the market. And we want to conduct this process in a transparent manner. More details about the process will be forthcoming, but in the meantime feel free to contact Human Resources if you would like additional information.

Five Questions for Luther Tenny

Luther Tenny is Assistant Director of Facilities Services.

1. As Assistant Director of Facilities Services, you are responsible for building and maintaining the College grounds. What is your favorite area of the campus?

That’s a tough question because I was born and raised in Middlebury and have several perspectives to choose from. As an employee, Voter Quad on Commencement morning at sunrise. You’ve got the sun just starting to rise hitting the peaks of Mead Chapel and Old Chapel, and the tents are up and we’ve already got a few thousand chairs set. You can see the graduating seniors heading to Alumni Stadium and eventually hear them singing in the distance. The landscaping is perfect and, for me, it is the most rewarding day of the year.

My other favorite place is the top of the Allen trail at the Snow Bowl. I’ve skied it thousands of times in my life starting at the age of 6. It’s one of my all-time favorite ski trails because of the history I have racing there. It’s not uncommon for me to head to the Bowl and take 8-10 runs on the Allen and head home.

Honorable mentions would be the deck of Kirk during sunset and the Great Hall at McCardell Bicentennial Hall.

2. We hear you’re an avid golfer. What’s your handicap and where is your favorite place to play?

Pretty personal question for a first date! I will admit I have a golfing addiction. I would have to look up my handicap, but I think I’m around a 13. I was down to about 11, but I tore my ACL (ski racing on the Allen) and getting my knee back up to strength and getting my timing back down has not been easy. Now with a new daughter I can kiss getting to single digits goodbye. My favorite place to play would have to be Lake Presidential in Maryland. Each year we go down to visit my in-laws in Annapolis, and I play this course every day including Thanksgiving morning. I like it best because I always seem to birdie the last hole of the day. I also usually win some money off of my playing partner Pete who happens to be my partner for the Member Guest tourney at Ralph Myhre. My favorite course I’ve been to but never played is Augusta National. I’ve been very lucky to attend the Masters twice, and that is perfection on every level.

3. You and your wife Carey welcomed a new daughter into your lives a few days ago. Tell us about Millie.

She’s a little peanut and looks just like her dad. Carey read somewhere that it is a biological thing for infants to look like their fathers, so the dads will “stick around.” It’s working. She’s already got me wrapped around her tiny fingers. Amelia (Millie) Bass Tenny has been the most wonderful thing. She’s perfect in every way…but all parents say that.

4. Some of your colleagues, who wish to remain nameless, want to know: Exactly how long was your hair in your skateboard punk days?

Let’s just say I’m glad facebook wasn’t around in those days. I was a walking disaster. Puberty can be so cruel. My hair wasn’t really that long because I had a bowl cut. It was like Justin Bieber meets Eminem. My hair was longest in College when I was spending my extra time traveling to see as many Phish concerts as possible. At the longest, it was down to my shoulders. I entered the working world at an engineering firm where the owner was a graduate from Norwich, so the long hair didn’t last long.

5. You grew up in town, and now work at the College.  What single word best describes life in Middlebury as you know it, and why?

Community. I think it’s great that I can bump into my old babysitter or my friends parents or even a former teacher while grocery shopping. So many high school friends left after college but came back to settle down with a family, because it’s truly a special place to grow up. After high school all I wanted to do was get out of Middlebury, but after four years of College I missed Vermont. It gets in your blood. I returned and shortly after met a group who just graduated from Middlebury. That group turned into some of my closest friends, and that’s how I met my wife Carey who also graduated from Middlebury. Not bad for a “townie.” Both my parents settled in Middlebury because of their ties to friends who graduated from Middlebury. I guess it was only natural to go to work for Middlebury College.

All-Gender Restroom Project

In recent months, Sarah Franco, Special Projects Coordinator, and Jennifer Herrera, Special Assistant to the Dean of the College, have been engaged with a group of students to develop a plan for creating all-gender (also known as gender-neutral) restrooms in non-residential buildings on campus. This initiative grew out of a recommendation put forth last spring by an ad hoc study group that published a review of potential student life issues facing transgender students. In their final report, JJ Boggs, Associate Director of Campus Activities, and Mary Hurlie, Associate Director for Career Services, recommended that the College “initiate a collaboration with other appropriate college offices, with a goal to convert as many gender-designated bathrooms into gender-neutral bathrooms as possible.”

In pursuing this recommendation, the College hopes to provide support for the safety and health of Middlebury’s transgender students, faculty, and staff. We also believe that acting on this recommendation will benefit other members of our community. For example, the presence of all-gender restrooms would provide more flexibility for disabled individuals who have opposite-gender caretakers. It would also help parents of young children since they would not have to decide which restroom to use. In sum, all-gender restrooms would create more restroom options for all people to use.

It is important to note that the majority of restrooms on this campus would still have a male or female gender designation. There are many within our community who are unable to use mixed-gender restrooms for a variety of religious and personal reasons. These perspectives are equally valued by the College.

Now that the group has engaged President’s Staff, the Space Committee, Community Council, Faculty Council, and Staff Council in conversations about the proposed changes, the College will begin implementation in two phases. In the first phase, we will change the signs on all non-residential single-stall restrooms to one that includes the male and female symbols as well as the universal symbol of accessibility where applicable.  Single-stall restrooms may then be used by anyone. We expect that this phase of the project will be complete by the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year. Because not all buildings have single-stall restrooms, the College will work collaboratively with the occupants of such buildings to identify a multi-stall restroom that could be converted to an all-gender facility. This process will likely begin in the fall. We recognize this is a sensitive issue, and so if it is not possible to reach a consensus, then there may be some non-residential buildings that do not have any all-gender restrooms.

If you have any questions or concerns about this project, please do not hesitate to send a note to vpadmin@middlebury.edu. Alternatively, you may leave questions and feedback in the comments section (anonymously, if you wish).

Wanted: Turf Battle Feedback

On Tuesday afternoon, three groups of students presented their proposals for the Atwater landscape. The students, staff, and faculty in the audience asked a lot of great questions and provided solid feedback for how certain aspects of each proposal could be improved. One suggestion that came up frequently was to incorporate various elements of each design into one plan.

Over at the Turf Battle blog, Tim Parsons has provided a summary of each proposal. There you can download their plans and presentation slides. We strongly encourage you to leave your questions and feedback in the comments section, or email vpadmin@middlebury.edu. Remember: the landscape is for the community and we want to know what you think! When the Master Plan Implementation Committee meets in the coming weeks, your ideas will be taken into consideration.

Five Questions for Maria Stadtmueller

Maria Stadtmueller is the Senior College Advancement Writer. She also portrays a certain red-headed dish-thief huntress.

1. As Senior College Advancement Writer, you are responsible for writing web and print materials and working on multimedia projects for Middlebury fundraising and recruiting. In the course of your work, what is your favorite Middlebury story that you have told?

I couldn’t point to just one story. But a particular type of story always gets me: students who couldn’t have come here without financial aid. (And I don’t think it’s just because I had a similar experience, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, at another NESCAC school). These students could be undergraduates, Bread Loafers, maybe Language Schools graduate students—but their potential is tightly leashed due to family circumstances the students don’t control (especially in the case of undergraduates). And then someone they don’t even know slips the knot with a scholarship, and they’re off! The best is when the student falls in love with something he or she had never met before—Northern Renaissance art, particle physics, the geology of Antarctic ice cores, Arabic poetry, Beckett plays¾and wants to explore it in depth.

2. You live in a solar-powered yurt on a 10-acre permaculture homestead and are soon launching a podcast (youturnradio.com) about creating a Nature-based cosmology. How did you develop your own environmental ethic?

I think everyone has this ethic, if deep down, since this is our home and we’ve evolved over billions of years with everything around us (except for those things made by Monsanto). For many people, though, that natural ethic lies under the waxy yellow build-up of cultural stories about human superiority, our anointed dominion, and our exemption from nature’s limits. I got heavily waxed with all that, but it didn’t stick. It helped that my parents were conservationists—my late dad grew up farming and my 85-year-old mom’s a total commando. But the primary reason it didn’t stick was that nature got to me first. I grew up on a homestead with gardens and lots of animals in a beautiful rural area of New Jersey. Most of the adults I knew were nuts, so the flag went up early that Nature made more sense.  Another flag went up in adolescence that the human/nature relationship was in deep trouble. Watching bulldozers tear up and diminish—aka “develop”—land that was as intimate a friend as any human broke my heart. It’s in a million jagged pieces by now, with this sixth great extinction that humans are causing. The more I know about this industrial growth society and the failure of the U.S. government to act as these times demand, the greater the rage that enters the mix. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, although it may manifest differently in others. Glad you asked?

3. You have worn many hats (even wigs) throughout your career. You used to run a chamber music series in San Francisco and direct chamber music grant programs in New York. Who are your favorite composers?

I love Anonymous and early music. I grew up singing Gregorian chant and it just transports me, although probably not where the nuns wanted me to go. Des Prez, Lassus, Monteverdi—love those guys. Bach! All Beethoven. Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert Lieder. Stravinsky. Mahler. Richard Strauss. Bartok. I’m out of the loop on living composers but favor John Adams, who was a pal in San Francisco, and Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.  I also love Indian classical music although I’m pretty ignorant about it.

4. We also hear that you used to do a little stand-up comedy on Comedy Central, VH1, and MTV. What is your favorite joke to tell (one that can be repeated on this blog)?

I did clubs almost every night for six or seven years, but I didn’t do jokes. Most comics don’t—you do “chunks”–little stories on a topic that peak and ebb through punchlines and rhythm. I never did stuff about dating or “hey, guys, what’s with that remote?” –ugh.  And I didn’t work blue, so I could repeat it here if I remembered it (fortunately, it was before the interwebs so I can’t remind myself). I recall talking about being a vegetarian in a world of meat, the confusion of little Catholic kids being taught fantastical stories in class that they must believe and being read fantastical stories at night they’re supposed to shrug off, that kind of thing. It was a weird life, pulling in to a mining town in Pennsylvania and playing a club called “the Coal Hole” or playing to a roomful of sailors at the Improv during Fleet Week in New York. But when you get enough practice to make it work, when people are venting their beverages nasally and the room becomes this creature you can feel and shape, it’s better than anything.

5. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently un-wigged you as the woman behind Aunt Des. What do you enjoy most about playing this character?

This’ll sound like some NBA player talking post-game about being part of “a good ball club” but the really fun part of Aunt Des is the collaboration. Yeah, I knew Des and do accents and am willing to make a spectacle of myself, but I have such creative colleagues, without exception. On the Des project, Nikhil Ramburn ’10 does all the lighting, filming, and editing, and Stephen Diehl helps with the script and produces our little jaunts. I blame Diehl for the nails. Some of the ideas we come up with that we can’t use are hilarious. What I like most about Des’s character, though, is that she can call it as she sees it.

What I would love to enjoy about playing Aunt Des is hanging up the wig knowing that she’s helped convince people to bring their plates back. I mean really. Such a no-brainer.