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Old Chapel: Looking Ahead

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

middlebury future president

As Ron Liebowitz enters the twilight of his presidency, we asked him to reflect on the new challenges that leaders in higher education can expect to face, while examining where these challenges came from and how they can be confronted.

What challenges will future leaders of colleges and universities face that presidents of the last decade either didn’t face or faced only in
limited ways?

At the risk of annoying a whole lot of people, I will start with the issues of cost and relevance. I tried out this issue as a topic of conversation with my faculty colleagues almost three years ago, and let’s just say it was not the most popular topic I ever introduced for collegial dialogue. And I can understand why. Yet it is something that the private institutions, especially, cannot afford to ignore, as the cost of such an education is now around $250,000 for the four-year BA degree.

This figure becomes even more astounding when one learns that the annual cost (room, board, and tuition) of around $60,000 represents only about 70 percent of the actual cost of that education per student. Annual gifts and earnings from the endowment provide what amounts to a hidden “scholarship” of more than $20,000 to even those who pay the full price.

This leads to the question of relevance, whether a degree today ensures what it did for earlier generations…

Right. Our current students are entering a world vastly different than the one their parents and grandparents encountered when they graduated from college. And people want to know: is a liberal arts degree worth worth the investment.  And this holds true for everyone, even those most able to afford this high cost.

As taboo as it might be to say aloud, when one is paying a quarter of a million dollars for an education, one of the things one inevitably considers is whether such an investment is relevant to one’s son’s or daughter’s future—whether the four years will help them acquire the knowledge, character, habits of the mind, and skills necessary to compete in a world that is very different from just a generation ago. More and more parents are beginning to notice that the education that worked for them 25 or 30 years ago will not suffice for this generation.

Of course inside the academy and at Middlebury we all know the value of a liberal arts education: it is, in the long term, second to none in preparing young adults for a fulfilling and productive life. Yet, the many defenses of a liberal arts education that are offered up more and more frequently, while convincing to those already committed, are not fully understood by the uninitiated. Unfortunately, this group represents an overwhelming majority of families with soon-to-be college-bound children.

What, then, is the solution, or a solution, to this information or curricular gap?

Well, we need to continue to extol the virtues of having generations of liberally educated graduates while, at the same time, building on what a liberal arts education has traditionally offered students. That is, the 21st-century version of the liberal arts, different from the 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century versions, should evolve as its predecessors have done and include components that require students to experiment, conceive, design, build, and engage in uncertainty. It needs to provide the opportunity for students to take all they learn from studying across multiple disciplines and through different modes of inquiry and apply their learning to real-world challenges, questions, and numerous unknowns. Students need the opportunity to take risks, experience failure, and learn lessons from such failure without fear of a bad grade or having to wait until their first job or endeavor after graduation.

The combination of intense specialization and technological innovation, spread so easily and rapidly over the past decade as the result of globalization, requires the liberal arts to evolve and become more dynamic. It needn’t become diluted or beholden solely to the trendy or the here and now. Rather, it needs to equip its students not only with the timeless virtues of the liberal arts of the past but also with the tools, perspectives, and experience necessary to adapt to our rapidly changing and competitive world.

The two Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competitions, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) summer program, the Center for Social Entrepreneurship, MiddCORE, Middlebury FoodWorks, our faculty-student summer research program, and the annual Spring Student Symposium are all examples of programs that can define, complement, and transform a traditional liberal arts education. These programs provide opportunities for students to follow up their course work with experimentation, design work, problem solving, collaboration, and the experience of creating something new, or at least the setting out to do so. Failure is a common and inevitable part of each program. What one learns in the process is invaluable: students graduate possessing a combined breadth of knowledge and set of skills that are today so necessary to succeed in a highly competitive and increasingly specialized world.

And so why is this so different now from what presidents faced 10, 20, and 30 years ago?

As I mentioned previously, the world has changed dramatically since many of the faculty and the parents of our current students were themselves in college, and the rapid pace of change challenges our education systems, from kindergarten through higher education. It has become harder and harder to keep up and evolve with the times and what they demand from our graduates. It remains to be seen if colleges and universities, let alone K–12 schools, can blend the best of what I would call traditional pedagogies with what might be called new pedagogies that recognize the ways current and future generations of students will learn. We already see a large proportion of students shying away from text-based materials and gravitating almost naturally to digitized content. The attention span of the current generation of students is far shorter than it was 20 years ago, which translates for many into an inability to sit for 50 minutes and enjoy, let alone learn from, a lecture without texting or checking Facebook. Yet this should come as no surprise. At the same time, an expectation that faculty can and will adjust to these changes and do so seamlessly, while pursuing their research and professional obligations, is optimistic, at least in many of our disciplines.

Robust and generous faculty-development programs are essential if higher education as we know it is to thrive in this century. And a willingness on the part of faculty to engage in such professional development is equally—and perhaps more—essential.

While our faculty are incredibly committed to and excel at the human-intensive pedagogy that sits at the core of a residential liberal arts college education, the incentive for faculty to build upon that pedagogy and amend the curriculum accordingly to meet the needs of students is not quite apparent, or at least not obviously so. And therein lies the challenge for current and future presidents of colleges and universities: to articulate creatively a vision for the liberal arts and higher education that is both timeless and time sensitive, and that recognizes how what was valuable in the past can serve as the foundation for the future. It must be a vision that motivates and inspires faculty, and one whose new pedagogies must be based on a deep understanding of one’s students, align with how those students learn, and allow for the kind of dynamism in both the pedagogy and curriculum essential for the 21st century.

Antoinette Rangel Is Having the Time of Her Life

Categories: Midd Blogosphere


She knows it sounds excessively earnest, but Antoinette Rangel ’09 tells her colleagues, “It’s been a pleasure to serve the American people with you today!” every evening before leaving the White House. (And it does sound so like Aaron Sorkin that one can almost hear patriotic music swelling in the background as she walks and talks. But after talking to Rangel and her friends and colleagues it becomes clear that the enthusiasm is utterly genuine.)

As deputy director of Hispanic Media Outreach for the Obama administration, Rangel has served as a major point of contact during a year in which Hispanic media outlets have been especially keen to hear the president’s position on certain issues. The days before President Obama announced his executive action on immigration—which aims to protect more than four million undocumented immigrants—were the “kind of days you’re so busy you can hardly see straight; you forget to eat lunch; you’re moving a million miles an hour, fervently ticking items off a never-ending to-do list.” Rangel insists, however, she was smiling the entire time.

While tweeting from the White House’s bilingual Twitter account during the president’s speech on the executive action, she couldn’t help but think of all the work preceding that moment. In particular, one of the president’s lines stood out to her: “We were strangers once, too.”

“It was very powerful,” she writes in an email, “for the president to remind us all of what binds us together as a nation: a tradition of welcoming immigrants is the very fabric of who we are.”

Since creating jobs like Rangel’s, the administration says it’s seen broader coverage from Hispanic outlets, which not only report on the White House’s work on immigration, but also on health care, student loans, the minimum wage, and other topics. During previous administrations, Hispanic media was addressed under the larger banner of specialized media.  (Though this would’ve been a difficult tradition to keep, since Hispanic media outlets are proliferating, with more than 20 having been formed since 2000.)

Rangel says that within the White House, people have viewed the Hispanic media coverage of the executive actions as largely positive, although she acknowledges that this year immigration advocates have become impatient for the federal government to act. “It’s tough to be patient,” Rangel writes. “I know, as a Latina myself, how it impacts millions of lives daily.” Later she adds, “In my family, I’ve seen the impact of lack of education, opportunity, and access to health care—for me it isn’t just statistics on a page but people in my life whom I love.”

When Rangel first got her job in the Obama administration, one of her cousins asked something to the effect of “Oh, are you going to be the help?  And take care of the girls?”

That fueled her, she writes, saying it “reminds me how important being part of this administration is; because I think about my family and all the other young Latinas who might not think it’s possible to work in a place like the White House. And to them I say what the president says so often: dream big dreams.”


Rangel’s days rarely end when she leaves her White House desk. Most evenings after work she heads straight to class at Georgetown Law School, where she also serves as a transfer peer mentor. Rangel had been a law student at Northeastern, in Boston, when she took the job in the Obama administration’s communications office in 2010; now she’s catching up in night classes. She’s also in a gospel choir and twice a month works the night shift at a women’s homeless shelter in Northwest D.C. In what free time she had, she’d been training for the Marine Corps Marathon, which she completed in November while wearing a liberal amount of American flag apparel.

But Rangel revels in the frenetic pace of her days. In fact, when Univision profiled her as one of the 15 most influential Latinos or Latinas in the executive branch, she told them the one thing she’d change is the number of hours she has to work—that is, she’d like to be in the White House more. Apparently, the long days and the vow to be attached to her Blackberry and iPhone aren’t enough. “Even on the most tiring days,” she says, “the place still takes my breath away.”


When Rangel was a kid, she had a very typical list of dream jobs. She was intrigued by the elephant trainers she saw every year at the circus near her home in the Bronx. She considered becoming an actress or a singer. Once she got older, however, her ambitions grew.

She attended La Guardia High School, best known as the setting for the 1980 film Fame, hoping both for a good education and time to sing. Her English teacher Ed McCarthy says she didn’t voice any specific ambitions, but that she was “driven to do good.” Before graduating, she considered becoming a lawyer or running for political office, testing out the latter by serving as copresident of her senior class. Then, in 2005, she went to Middlebury as a Posse Scholar. At Middlebury, Posse students arrive early their first year, and Rangel was the first person to introduce herself to everyone. And she just kept going from there.

Rangel served all four years on the Community Council; she lived at the social house KDR.  She played rugby, sang jazz, attended weekly Posse meetings, and led a spring-break service trip to the Dominican Republic. She volunteered at a nursing home nearby, as well as with the Migrant Farmworkers Coalition. She was president of the College Democrats. She also worked on several political campaigns—the summer after she completed high school, she campaigned for Gifford Miller when he ran against Mayor Michael Bloomberg in NYC. As well, she did a summer stint for Hillary Clinton before the 2008 presidential primaries, telling the Middlebury Campus that fall, “I believe that Hillary has the experience to lead starting on day one.”

Ross Commons Dean Ann Hanson served with Rangel on Middlebury’s Community Council and recalls a time when Rangel was nearly speechless after running into Chief Justice John Roberts, who was on campus to give a lecture. Earlier, Rangel had sat at his table for lunch and later that day he said hello while passing her on the sidewalk.

“You’ll never believe it, Ann,” Hanson remembers Rangel saying, “but he knows my name!”

Murray Dry, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science, recollects that Rangel wanted to be a U.S. senator. He was skeptical about how feasible this career path was, but admired Rangel’s work ethic enough to entertain the idea. “She wasn’t the type of student who only takes courses she would easily succeed in,” Dry says. “She was not the top student, but worked incredibly hard. I admired that. Sticking with something, it’s not something you see in every student.”

Dry believes Rangel would make an excellent representative—a job she’s considered. In fact, she told at least one White House reporter that she hopes to one day join New York’s congressional delegation. And she’s spoken of similar ambitions to those close to her.

Julia Stevens, a childhood friend, remembers when they were in ninth grade Rangel saying she was going to be governor of New York someday. “I was in awe of her,” Stevens says. “I don’t know how she does it. I don’t think I’ll ever know.”

And Sheyenne Brown ’09, who was in Rangel’s Posse class, predicts that after Rangel graduates law school and is a “badass civil rights attorney” for awhile, she’ll “be the first woman or Hispanic president.” Brown continues, “I’d say she had been very clear about her political aspirations from the very beginning. If not explicitly, then in her demeanor.”

Rangel impresses those around her with her drive, her ambition, and her ability to accomplish a lot. Which means that her busy D.C. life must feel comforting: it’s the way she’s always led her life. If anything, her chief strategy seems to be amassing experiences until all obstacles are scared away in the face of brute busyness.

After ending her collegiate career as president of the Student Government Association, Rangel went to Northeastern, planning to apply for summer internships at the White House every summer until she was offered a job. She didn’t have long to wait. After her first year of law school, she landed an internship in the White House Office of Political Affairs. There she ran into an old friend, Josh Earnest, a deputy press secretary in the White House. (The two had worked together on a gubernatorial campaign in Florida in 2006.) That summer, they often had lunch together, and as Rangel was preparing to return to Boston to begin her second year of law school, Earnest suggested she apply for a full-time job as press wrangler. She said she couldn’t, that the timing was bad. But after spending the night thinking it over, she changed her mind.

“When I returned to planet Earth,” she says, “and realized I’d just been offered the opportunity to interview for a dream job, I emailed Josh at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning and said I was 150 percent in and that I’d do whatever it took to get the position.”



Official White House Photograph by Pete Souza

Most of her personal peanut gallery, the ones who have been placing odds on how far she’ll go, have been on White House tours. Rangel estimates she’s given hundreds—tours for her mom’s best friend’s third-grade class, for friends from home, for Middlebury professors. They comment on how balanced and healthy she looks, but don’t quite understand how that’s possible, given how much she’s doing.

“People call me turbo, or very type-A,” Rangel says. “It is very hard for me to sit still.” She adds, “I thrive off being busy and am definitely a workaholic.” It’s these qualities that make her an effective advocate for the causes that are important to her, says Josh Earnest, now the White House press secretary. “Her success stems from her tenacity and determination to fight for what she believes in.”

Perhaps, say some, Rangel’s ability to stay balanced comes from perspective, perspective that allows her to be serious about her work while never taking herself so seriously (a quality rarely seen in Washington).

When Sheyenne Brown met Rangel that first week at Middlebury, she remembers that the LaGuardia High graduate had been on a “mismatching kick where she wore these crazy clothes. I just knew it was because she was trying to be different.” Different from Middlebury, maybe, but perfectly in synch with who Rangel was—a new place wasn’t going to change that.  (Her freshman year, Rangel and her father made a cardboard Ben & Jerry’s pint for her Halloween costume—extending a family tradition of designing and constructing outlandish costumes—and several people at Middlebury remember it even today.)

It’s momentarily stunning to hear Brown describe Rangel as “one of the most obnoxious people I’d ever met,” though, to be honest, Brown’s sentiment is both understandable and endearing, especially when you hear her talk about it. (At the beginning of their freshman year, the two had driven to Vermont together, with Rangel playing “Chariot” by Gavin DeGraw on the car stereo repeatedly. “Sheyenne will never forgive me for playing that song,” she says.)

“I guess Ant kind of grew on me like a fungus, and I honestly say that with such love and gratefulness,” Brown says. “She pretty much forced her way into my heart, and I can’t even pinpoint when I started to adore her the way I do now.”


One White House tour in particular stands out for Rangel. When her sister Elia first saw the Oval Office, “the gravity of it hit her, and her face lit up with excitement and turned bright red.”

“It’s very exciting to share this place with others,” Rangel says. “Every day it feels surreal, like at some point someone will wake me from this incredible dream.”

Out of anyone else’s mouth, such sentiment would sound excessively earnest. But for Rangel, it just sounds . . . right.

Jaime Fuller ’11 writes for New York magazine. She previously covered politics at the Washington Post. As an editor with the Middlebury Campus, she covered the “Rangel Administration” of the College’s Student Government Association.

Laurie L. Patton Named Next President of Middlebury

Categories: Midd Blogosphere


The Middlebury Board of Trustees today named Laurie L. Patton, dean of Duke University’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and the Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion, as Middlebury’s next president. Patton will take office on July 1, 2015, succeeding Ronald D. Liebowitz, who has served as president since July 2004.

Patton, a distinguished religion scholar and translator of classic Indian Sanskrit texts, joined Duke in her current position in 2011. Trinity College is the largest of Duke’s undergraduate schools, with 5,200 students, 36 academic departments and programs, and 640 faculty members. It awards nearly 80 percent of the university’s bachelor degrees. As dean, she is responsible for overseeing the educational mission of Duke’s core undergraduate liberal arts programs, including curriculum, faculty hiring and development, student research, assessment, and the College’s $370 million annual budget. Under her leadership, Trinity College raised more than $300 million for professorships, financial aid, educational initiatives, and other priorities.

Patton’s selection followed an extensive, six-month search conducted by a 20-member search committee chaired by Middlebury trustee Allan Dragone Jr. ’78. The committee engaged in a process of broad outreach to students, faculty, staff, and alumni. From an initial list of more than 250 individuals nominated or put under consideration, the committee gradually narrowed the pool to a dozen and then to a small list of finalists, before unanimously recommending Patton to the full board on Tuesday. Patton will be the first woman to lead Middlebury in its 214-year history.

“I can’t imagine a place that more fully exemplifies my interests and commitments to higher education than Middlebury,” said Patton. “These last five months have been a wonderful experience for me as I have had the opportunity to learn more about this great institution and the values it holds dear. I have so many people to thank, starting with the search committee and Al Dragone, and I am truly honored with the confidence the Board of Trustees has shown in me today. I look forward with anticipation to joining this community of faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and friends.”

Marna C. Whittington, chair of the Middlebury Board of Trustees, called Patton an “outstanding choice” to be the next president. “Laurie is an accomplished scholar with a deep commitment to the liberal arts and a global perspective on the value and role of education,” said Whittington. “She lives the values of Middlebury, and I am confident she will provide the leadership and innovative thinking required to maintain the positive momentum and success Middlebury has experienced during Ron Liebowitz’s tenure as president.”

Patton, 53, is married to Shalom Goldman, professor of religious studies and Middle Eastern studies at Duke. The two met at Emory University. Goldman will become a tenured professor in the Department of Religion at Middlebury College.

Dragone, who led the search process and spent many hours with Patton in recent months, said the search committee was deeply impressed. “Laurie combines qualities of scholarship and leadership to an extraordinary degree,” said Dragone. “She is enthusiastic and passionate about students and the totality of their experiences, from the classroom to the lab, from the performance space to the playing field, from the time they spend abroad to the way they can participate in the life of the Middlebury community in Vermont. We have found an exceptional leader in Laurie Patton and I know she is committed to building upon the institution’s strong foundation.”

Patton earned her undergraduate degree in comparative religion and Celtic languages and literatures from Harvard University in 1983. She received an MA from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1986 and her PhD in history of religions from the University of Chicago in 1991. Patton’s first teaching position was at Bard College from 1991 to 1996.

Before she joined Duke, Patton taught from 1996 to 2011 at Emory University in Atlanta, where she was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Religions. While at Emory, Patton served as chair of the religion department from 2000 to 2007; founded and co-convened the Religions and the Human Spirit Strategic Plan; was the inaugural director of the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence; and from 2000 to 2010 was founder and co-convener of Emory’s Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding Initiative. In 2005 she received the Emory Williams Award, the university’s most prestigious teaching honor.

Patton is the editor or author of nine scholarly books on South Asian history, culture, and religion, includingMyth as Argument: The Brhaddevata as Canonical Commentary; Bringing the Gods to Mind: Mantra and Ritual in Early Indian Sacrifice;and Jewels of Authority: Women and Text in the Hindu Tradition. From 2008 to 2011, she served as president of the American Society for the Study of Religion.

In addition to writing two volumes of original poetry, Patton has translated the classical Sanskrit text, The Bhagavad Gita, for the Penguin Classics Series.

“Laurie Patton’s commitment to the success of students and faculty has made her an extraordinary leader at Duke,” said Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth, the James B. Duke Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology. “She is energetic, creative, and passionate about scholarship and learning. We could not be more proud of her appointment at Middlebury.”

Liebowitz announced in December 2013 that he wished to step down following the 2014–15 academic year. By that time he will have served as president for 11 years and as a member of the Middlebury faculty for 31 years.

“Ron Liebowitz has been a transformative leader and his impact upon this institution will be felt for generations,” said Whittington. “Middlebury students have a richer experience than ever before because of the innovations he championed, and the institution is stronger than it has ever been.”

Liebowitz called Patton a “remarkable scholar whose deep commitment to her field would be an example and inspiration” to students and faculty alike. “I look forward to working with Laurie in the months ahead to create a smooth transition to what I am sure will be an outstanding presidency,” he said. “Jessica and I look forward to welcoming both Laurie and Shalom to Middlebury.”

Road Taken: 90 Minutes

Categories: Midd Blogosphere


Stouffer: Now that the pregame work is done, we can finally catch up. I’ve had this [Major League Soccer] game circled on the calendar—two Midd alums in the same press box, in the same role as directors of communications—since I joined D.C. United.


Lindholm: Yellow…that’s not a good start. So, Craig, we’ve known each other since I got into MLS seven years ago, and you noticed I was a Middlebury grad. How did you come to the game?

Stouffer: I didn’t play soccer in college, but it was a rare home game or NESCAC postseason visit to Williams when I wasn’t on the sideline. MLS was in its first year when I began my senior year, a time when I wasn’t sure about my own path—so I decided to carve out an unlikely career writing about the game. As you know, I covered soccer for a while before landing this gig this year.


Lindholm: Nice! They’re supposed to be sending me out on a high note! (This is Lindholm’s last game with the Rapids. He has accepted the position of assistant coach for the University of Massachusetts’s men’s program.)

Stouffer: Silva is the future of the game in the U.S., I believe. He’s of Mexican heritage, raised in the U.S., and starred in college at UC Santa Barbara.


Lindholm: That’s trouble—Moor’s our captain.

Stouffer: How about you? What made you stay in the game after playing at Midd?

Lindholm: Coach Saward doesn’t just teach you how to play soccer, he also instills in you a great love for the sport. I had followed MLS since the day it started, so after graduation I wanted to join the league and help its growth.


Lindholm: It seems like you’re getting into MLS just as it’s ready to hit the big time. Did that play a role in joining D.C.?

Stouffer: Absolutely. As a reporter, I spent a decade investing myself in the sport—now I get to do the same on behalf of Major League Soccer. It’s an amazing opportunity.


Stouffer: So with that being said, why are you leaving MLS now?

Lindholm: In 10 years, there will be more teams, and more jobs in coaching, scouting, analysis, and business. At UMass, I’ll study the game and also get a graduate degree. There might be a new role for me in MLS down the line.


Lindholm: What a strike, from 40 yards! That will be on Sports Center in the morning!

Stouffer: Think you’ll miss MLS, where you see skill like that every week?

Lindholm: Definitely. But I’m joining a crowd of Midd grads in college coaching and helping foster passion for the sport in younger players. That’s exciting, too.


Stouffer: Just missed! That might’ve taken Goal of the Week away from Serna had it gone in.

Lindholm: We’re living dangerously here.


Stouffer: There it is!


Lindholm: You know, this feels like my senior spring at Midd: trying to savor all the moments—even the negative ones, like a D.C. goal—because I know things are about to change.


Lindholm: Can’t you tell your guys to let me finish my thought before scoring again?

Stouffer: I’ll let them know.


Lindholm: There it is: a consolation goal as a going away present. Congrats on the win, Craig, and on joining MLS!

Stouffer: Thank you! Congratulations—well—on leaving MLS for your new opportunity. And good game.

Lindholm: Good game.


Exhibit: Resident Artist

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Arthur K.D. Healy "Cecropia" Watercolor on paper, 1951

Arthur K.D. Healy
Watercolor on paper, 1951

“Arthur Healy & His Students,” the title of the exhibit at the Henry Sheldon Museum in downtown Middlebury, is an apt one—not only because it’s a literal description of the artists who have contributed work for the display, but also because this exhibit is intensely personal.

Arthur K.D. Healy was a beloved member of the Middlebury community for more than 40 years. He was a Princeton graduate, though he had attended Middlebury as a freshman in 1921 and would come to make Vermont his home in the early 1930s. In 1943, he became the College’s first artist in residence, an appointment that preceded postings on the teaching faculty and as chair of the fine arts department.   

As the Sheldon exhibit attests, Healy mentored an impressive array of students who would make their mark in the arts world; their paintings share wall space with Healy’s watercolors in the museum’s second-floor galleries. It’s a beautiful display, yet it is the collective reflections of the alumni, presented with their work, which make the biggest impression.

“He made the career of an artist seem so seductive and so admirable that it never occurred to me that I should not try to be one,” wrote Sabra Field ’57.

“Your job is not to render everything in its entirety, but to suggest it,” Ken Delmar ’63 remembers Healy telling him. “Try to capture your subject with the least amount of drawing, least amount of brushwork, least amount of color, least amount of work.”

Nancy Taylor Stonington ’66 recalls the three colors—alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow deep, and Payne’s gray—that Healy insisted they use and relates that 50 years later she relies on these palette choices in her own teaching.

Much of Healy’s work was lost in a studio fire, so the paintings on display are largely loaned from family and friends, many of whom have their own stories of Arthur Healy, stories of his generosity, his fierce intellect, his presence. This bit of detail—the provenance of the artwork—is perfect, really. It’s in keeping with the very nature of the exhibit itself.

Online Learning: Next Course

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Prod-Stills-Middlebury-300dpi-39671A digital course for alumni—Years of Upheaval: Diplomacy, War, and Social Change, 1919–1945—is slated for a winter release and will be taught by Russ Leng ’60, the James Jermain Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Law. The course will consist of 10 video classes, each featuring a short lecture and augmented by documentary images, recordings, and videos. To conclude each class, Leng will converse with Frank Sesno ’77, the award-winning journalist and director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

The alumni course follows two other digital ventures recently launched by Middlebury entities. Last summer, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute auditioned its first online course, a six-session series titled Global Trade and Weapons of Mass Destruction. And this fall, students in Middlebury’s master’s degree program in Hebrew are taking advantage of the opportunity to supplement their traditional instruction with video-conferenced class meetings.

Susan Baldridge, vice president for strategy and planning, sees these projects as invaluable opportunities to explore how best to construct learning experiences—“experiences that reflect the institution’s commitment to educational excellence”—which will allow instructors to connect with students and the broader community in new ways.

With the production of Years of Upheaval nearing completion, Leng says that he found the subject matter particularly suited for “an online multi-disciplinary and multi-media approach.”  He adds, “I hope that those who take the course, will find it half as compelling as I did in creating it.”


Download: Why I Love Socrates

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Socrates statueEverything about Socrates is ironic and enigmatic: He is one of history’s most famous teachers, yet he claimed not to be a teacher. He stands at the beginning of more than 2,000 years of texts, yet he wrote nothing himself. Universities have canonized Plato’s Socratic dialogues, yet Socrates was never in an academy, but on the streets of Athens—the city that sentenced him to hemlock.

The Delphic oracle called Socrates the wisest person in Athens, yet Socrates felt he possessed only an ironic wisdom, an enlightened ignorance: “I know that I do not know.”

Of all the versions of Socrates, Plato’s remains the most compelling and influential. Plato’s phrases have entered contemporary English: we speak of “the Socratic method,” “the gadfly to the state,” and “the examined life.” Instead of rigidly defending a single position, Plato’s Socrates shows us how to question all positions rigorously. The Socratic position reminds us—lest we be in a rush to judge others—to recognize how much we do not know. Searching itself is meaningful; questions become as important as answers.

Plato’s Socrates continues to inspire students today, as well as creative minds across cultures. The young Nietzsche called Socrates “the vortex of world history.”

Virginia Woolf, in an essay on the Greek classics, wrote that reading a Socratic dialogue provides “the greatest felicity of which we are capable.” And Martin Luther King, in his 1963 letter from a Birmingham jail, invoked the spirit of Socrates when he called for reform and for “nonviolent gadflies.”

Today, when it comes to humanistic inquiry and hard conversations about controversial issues, Socratic dialogue can provide a valuable model; there’s so much we do not know, and so much we can gain from questioning and searching together.