Shirley Collado

Posts by Shirley Collado

 
 
 

It’s That Time of Year

Categories: General, Midd Blogosphere

Welcome back!  I hope you had a rejuvenating holiday break and that you are looking forward to an exciting J-term.n One of the things I love about this time of year is the snow. Many of us longed for it last winter because it was in short supply. This is why I was delighted to return from being away for the holidays to so much of it. In the past two weeks alone we received more snow than we did all last year. I find that the snow-covered ground offers a sparkling brightness to the darkness of winter.

Nevertheless, the winter season and the New Year also bring the prospect of fresh beginnings, opportunities, and time for reflection that typically prompt us to make new resolutions for things to improve or change.

I’d like to share with you some of my resolutions for 2013.

  • Look up at the sky more and take in all that Vermont has to offer.
  • Get better at cross-country skiing.
  • Spend even more time with students.
  • Get regular quality time in with my family, even though they live far away.
  • Teach a strong spring psychology course (Approaches to Psychotherapy).
  • Don’t take myself so seriously and remember to have fun at work.
  • Empower my team and students to create the best student life experience at Middlebury.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise.
  • Travel to a completely new and exciting place.
  • Get more sleep!

What are your New Year’s resolutions or commitments for 2013? What are you willing to do to follow through on them? What are you willing to do to help someone else follow through on theirs?

Let me know how we can work together to motivate and support each other on sticking to our New Year’s resolutions and commitments for improvement or change.

—Shirley M. Collado

Thank You for the Dark

Categories: General, Midd Blogosphere

When December rolls around, those of us who haven’t lived here long enough to completely acclimate are often surprised, sometimes depressed, by how DARK it can get. By four in the afternoon, it can feel as if the whole world is going down for a long sleep. Rip Van Winkle may have lived in a place like this.

Middlebury is nearly 4 degrees closer to the North Pole than my hometown of Brooklyn, which means that Middlebury’s winter nights are longer than Brooklyn’s. On December 21, the winter solstice and longest night of the year, the sun will set here at 4:18 p.m., and it will set in Brooklyn at 4:32.

But I don’t think those 14 fewer minutes of daylight account for the gloominess that seems to descend over Middlebury in the dim afternoons. Another force of nature adds to the phenomenon: the Champlain Valley is one of the cloudiest places in the U.S., with Burlington receiving only 159 days of sun a year. These two things—murky, overcast skies and quickly descending nights—combine to create a very challenging experience.

That’s where the lights come in. If the nights feel deep and lonely, the glorious lights that blanket trees, glitter in windows, and turn sidewalks into magic do the opposite. They offer a playful tonic against the doldrums and signify hope and human ingenuity. Without the darkness, we would not be able to enjoy the lights. So, this year, I’m giving thanks to the dark.

I’d like to wish you all a very happy winter break, safe travels, and a multitude of lights.

See you next semester.

—Shirley M. Collado

 

 

 

 

A Roomful of People, Thinking and Talking

Categories: General, Midd Blogosphere

Last week, the College held a panel discussion about affirmative action and the case currently before the Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which could overturn affirmative action in higher education. We hoped that the discussion would be sincere and honest—and that people would feel comfortable enough to express themselves, even if that meant saying something unpopular. We also hoped that the audience would remain open-minded and give consideration to the diverse views surely to be expressed.

I think that is exactly what happened. Audience members voiced many differing opinions, sometimes disagreeing with one another, sometimes heatedly so. Yet, for the most part, the audience, panel, and moderators navigated a difficult, deeply personal topic with civility and tolerance. I want to thank those who were challenged by this frank conversation for coming and participating.

Here are some of the questions that were raised:

  • How does the number of students of color compare to other groups on campus?
  • Once students of color have come to Middlebury, is the College doing enough to help them stay at Middlebury?
  • If the Supreme Court overturns affirmative action, how will Admissions be able to achieve a diverse student body?
  • Should admissions decisions be colorblind?
  • What other types of identity groups (e.g., athletes, legacies, cellists, etc.) are targeted in the admissions process?
  • Can admissions decisions be more transparent?
  • How important is Posse to Middlebury?
  • When do we stop taking race into account?
  • What is the fairest way to handle college admissions decisions?
  • What is the collective impact of affirmative action on campuses?
  • Does Middlebury have a standard for diversifying faculty?
  • Is there a conflict between two goals of action: repairing past segregation and discrimination through affirmative action and taking steps to create a diverse campus?
  • By choosing someone based on their race, could they be less qualified?
  • What is the true definition of a Middkid?

For those who were unable to attend, you can view the panel discussion here.  It is clear that more listening, learning, and engaging needs to take place on our campus.  We have work to do, so let’s keep communicating honestly, openly, and respectfully.

I wrote about this topic in an earlier post, and encourage you to read the brief that Middlebury filed along with 32 other colleges, in support of affirmative action, diversity, and inclusion in higher education.

Please add your voice to the conversation. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Words We Use: An Audio Blog

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Before Thanksgiving,  I wrote about the importance of actively engaging in meaningful, direct discussion. Then Anthony Perez came to see me, offering to share a recording of a conversation he had with a friend, Alan Sutton ’14, about the sensitive topic of sexuality. Anthony is a junior from Los Angeles and is majoring in Spanish and minoring in Portuguese. His actions—initiating this discussion and then sharing it with the campus community— take courage and resolve. I am pleased to include the recording here, and I want to thank Anthony and Alan for taking this important step. I hope this will encourage further dialogue across campus.
—Shirley M. Collado

The following dialogue has emerged from my genuine desire to understand how students on this campus consider non-heterosexual culture. I did not have any clear direction or pre-written questions when Alan Sutton, a junior here at Middlebury College, and I sat down to record a candid conversation about sexuality.

What immediately surfaced within the first few minutes of my interview with Sutton was a familiar reality for me: the difficulty that surrounds terminology and nomenclature within the non-heterosexual community. If you don’t currently identify as gay, bisexual, or lesbian then where do you stand? Even more intriguing to me was the question of how normative standards on this campus, and beyond this rural environment, foster a space for speech that is degrading to some.

This small clip is just the beginning in what I hope will be a continued conversation that tackles the necessary issue of creating a comfortable community for every student on campus. —Anthony Perez ’14

 

Let’s Connect: Say It and Own It

Categories: General, Midd Blogosphere

In the last 15 to 20 years, I’ve noticed that communication between people has become increasingly indirect. There’s been a steady erosion of interpersonal contact in favor of texting, tweeting, facebooking, and e-mailing. We can feel engaged and involved without having to “do” anything.

I remember a time when students couldn’t send me e-mail because e-mail wasn’t available; so they would come to my office or meet me somewhere in person. We would talk, resolve things, meet over a cup of coffee, and forge understanding. And when people needed to talk about something important, there were few options other than to engage with one another directly. It wasn’t possible to deliver messages indirectly the way it is now. And it wasn’t possible to be anonymous.

Is this a sea change?

This societal change has allowed people to avoid taking personal responsibility for conveying their ideas, opinions, and needs. It allows faceless, nameless posts in a universe of empty noise. And it sometimes encourages what I consider irresponsible or avoidant behavior: putting ideas out there without owning what you say. I’m concerned that a time may come when we won’t know any other way. The unfocused, hollow methods of communicating will become the norm, and people will not have the interpersonal skills they need to lead effective lives.

Beyond our communication style, we seem to be losing something else critically important—human connection.  A recent article in the Atlantic cited research showing that although people are highly networked today, they are lonelier than they’ve ever been.

Last week, a group of students came to the first Campus Open Forum to talk about sexual assault. These forums are hosted by Community Council, SGA, and the Office of the Dean of the College and are designed to provide an open space in which members of the campus community can honestly discuss student life topics of interest and any issue they wish to address. As I listened to the discussion, I realized that everyone there was longing for this type of personal interaction. They were there to be heard and to engage candidly with others. That’s the beauty of a residential campus like Middlebury: we can make these connections happen when we choose to.

Lots to talk about

There are many meaningful discussions underway on campus right now: how the endowment is invested, what activism is, sexual assault, quorums at faculty meetings, involvement in student government and other initiatives, faculty/staff-student-community relationships, finding venues for social life, and more. The College is committed to finding ways to encourage members of this community to come together for meaningful conversation and action.

Last year, I encouraged students to turn off their social media for one week to see what it is like. Needless to say, I received a great amount of resistance to this suggestion. But it’s not necessary to “go dark” in order to have face-to-face connections; it is necessary, however, to make these connections a priority instead of following the path of least resistance.

I hope that we can all get into the habit of asking ourselves whether we can hold a particular discussion in person instead of remotely, and I would like to encourage everyone to get involved in the many conversations underway on campus.

I’d love to hear what you think. Do you agree or disagree with me? Do you feel that we are living with more noise and less understanding? And are you willing to put yourself out there in order to have better connections with others on campus?

Other Places for Conversation

  • In addition to the Campus Open Forums, other great conversations happen weekly at the Fireside Chats, hosted by the Institutional Diversity Committee. These are informal discussions with a weekly theme that intersects with identity, diversity, community, or education and the Middlebury experience.
  • SGA holds open office hours each week in Crossroads Café.
  • Community Council holds open meetings on most Mondays at 4:30–5:45 p.m. in Axinn 220.
  • PALANA House hosts topic-based discussions two–three times per year called PALANA Uncensored.
  • Several student organizations are also having topic-based discussions during their weekly meetings.
  • Check Middlink for other upcoming conversations, and post any you’d like to host.
  • Middblog and The Campus offer opportunities for thoughtful discussion, and students are encouraged to submit opinion pieces that foster dialogue.
—Shirley M. Collado

 

 

 

Surviving Room Draw

Categories: General, Midd Blogosphere

Our guest blogger today is Doug Adams, associate dean of students, writing about a topic of great interest to most students: Room Draw.

—Shirley M. Collado

I have to confess that I was a bit reticent when I was asked to be a guest blogger. I thought, what do I have to share that will ease the minds of students around Room Draw? Even more distressing was the thought that I might add to confusion in some way and actually increase your stress levels!

So I took a quick walk around the campus to think about what I might say. As I strolled through the beautiful fall foliage, seeing students hurrying off to class, laughing in a group outside Proctor, enjoying the sunny day, or sprinting past me on an afternoon jog, I reflected that Middlebury is so much more than the bricks and mortar of its buildings. Middlebury is its people and its community. The same is true of the College’s housing. In the end, it really doesn’t matter which building you are living in but rather the people you are living with.

This fall began my 13th year at Middlebury. Over the years I have had a many different levels of contact with residential life—from my early days of advising the social houses to more recently developing Res Life staff training and assisting with Room Draw. Through all this time, I have learned one very important thing, and let me be perfectly clear: Middlebury is not a Hogwarts. Despite all the evidence to the contrary (Quidditch anyone?) and a certain Commons coordinator’s awesome sorting hat, Room Draw at Middlebury has nothing to do with magic. It is instead a process of computer systems, hard work, late nights, and amazing attention to detail, which combine to create a fair and equitable process for everyone.

So let me take a little of your time to help debunk some of the myths, rumors, and stressors that seem to perpetuate each year:

  1. The random numbers really are random. Residential Life does not see the numbers until all of the matches have been made.
  2. Online Room Draw is run through a computer program, not a person.
  3. All students who will be on campus in the fall semester receive a random number— even those who live in social or academic interest houses, apply to live off campus, or join the Res Life staff. That way if someone’s plans change, they may still participate in the Draw process.
  4. Residential Life staff cannot tell you how “good” your number is or what room you might get. There are just too many variables. Don’t ask.
  5. Do not get caught up in finding the “perfect” room—the one on the fourth floor with sunset views of the Adirondacks. It’s not about the real estate; it’s about the people.
  6. If it should happen that you do not get a block or house together with your friends, the campus is not that big. You will still be near them.
  7. Having a plan before Block Draw is essential and can help you avoid the stress.
  8. There is no such thing as putting down too many applications for room choices, but every year there are some students who enter too few and then wonder why they didn’t get an assignment in that draw.
  9. Don’t rely on your friends to know all the answers. Take some time to get to know the system and your options. Keep reading the Room Draw website—and then read it again. And do the practice session! It really does help.
  10. Rather than hope you did something the correct way, double-check. Karin Hall-Kolts, residential systems coordinator, is one of the most helpful people on campus and is happy to help.

What I hope you take away from this brief post is that Room Draw is just a process. It does not need to be overly stressful. Through a bit of advance planning and talking with your friends, it is even possible that it can be fun!

Shameless Plug:

Residential Life continually makes strides to improve and streamline the Room Draw processes and our communications. To support those efforts, the College has created a new Residential Life Committee as a part of the Community Council. This group will host open meetings about campus housing so that we can get your input on how things are going. Keep an eye out for meeting times later this fall. And, if you can’t make it to a meeting,
e-mail your ideas to me at reslife@middlebury.edu.

—Doug Adams

 

 

Engaging with Middlebury

Categories: General, Midd Blogosphere

Our guest blogger today is Charles Arnowitz ’13, who I have the pleasure of working with in his role as the president of the SGA. —Shirley M. Collado

As Student Government Association president this year, I’ve dealt with campus issues that run the gamut—from student programming to funding to college governance to communications to the most mundane elements of student life. Across these diverse issue areas, I’ve found that one theme predominates: the need for student engagement with Middlebury as an institution.

Our campus is full of potential leaders and creative thinkers. I know. I’ve worked at the Admissions Office for four years and have observed for myself the new additions to the student body; moreover, I engage on a daily basis with friends and peers who rarely cease to amaze me. Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of being a student at Middlebury is how much I learn from those peers and how much my friends surprise and impress me.

Nonetheless, despite the quantity and quality of potential leaders here at Midd, our campus suffers from a lack of student engagement with institutional policy. In fairness, students are busy—we have challenging academics, usually a few extracurricular activities or a sport schedule to navigate, and social obligations as well. This is part of the lifestyle we choose when we choose Middlebury, and most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.

But while I know most of us are proud and grateful to spend four years here, few of us are fully satisfied with Middlebury institutionally—whether it is social life, endowment policy, academic policy, or anything in between, many students feel there are areas where Middlebury could improve.

To those students, I say: On a campus as small and as codependent as ours, engagement really matters. Pushing through the relevant institutional channels (and, occasionally, outside of those channels), individuals can have a lasting impact on College policy or student life. Our carbon neutrality initiative, Alcohol and Social Life Task Force, Middview, the new Pass-Fail option, and others are the products of student engagement with the institution. And yet, when the dean of the College announces a meeting to talk about alcohol use on campus, just 20 students show up. When the SGA has a meeting on something controversial that touches on all of our lives, only a handful of students will attend.

The administration and the Board of Trustees are not the enemy of student welfare—not only do they want student input, they often beg for it. Being busy is legitimate, but we all abdicate the right to complain when we don’t attempt to make our voices heard.

In conclusion, I encourage students to engage more actively with institutional policy by attending open meetings, providing feedback when requested, and making student viewpoints clear. We all have opinions on the issues that Old Chapel deals with. Sometimes, there will be student consensus around an issue; other times, a split will exist. But no one with power to change policy can act on our views if they don’t know they exist.

There are open SGA Senate meetings on Sundays at 7:00 p.m. and open Community Council meetings on Mondays at 4:30. The Office of the Dean of the College, Community Council, and the SGA will be pioneering a new Campus Forum event in an effort to encourage student input. We would love to hear from you.

—Charles Arnowitz ’13