Noted Senegalese artist Viyé Diba, artist in residence at the Museum of Art in mid-February, left a room-sized impression with his thought-provoking installation “Nous sommes nombreaux, et nos problemes avec…” (We are numerous, and our problems with that…) Part of the exhibit “Environment and Object: Recent African Art,” on display through April 22, Diba’s work joins the others in using mostly found objects destined for landfills to illustrate the effects man-made issues have on the environment. Middmag visited with Diba during a break from his work, and he shared his thoughts.
Every year in May, a dedicated crew from Facilities Services takes on the task of readying the campus for Commencement. Their duties are numerous and their days are long. Assistant Director of Facilities Services Luther Tenny gives us a brief glimpse into one of those jobs, and the spirit and efficiency with which they do it!
What explains our fascination with lasers, still, more than 30 years after Star Wars? Hard to tell, but for Hannah Waite ’11, lasers offered an ingenious way to blend her two majors–music and physics–into a creative project called a laser harp. Through a tangle of circuitry, computer programming, and composition Hannah explored new realms in electronic music. Here are some highlights from her thesis presentation at the Mahaney Center for the Arts.
MiddMag enlisted help from the intrepid Ele Woods ’12 to navigate all there was to learn at the 2011 Spring Student Symposium. From hard-to-pronounce enzymes and life on Mars to the building of boats and blogs, Ele helps us all understand just how interesting the day can be. Be sure to check out MiddBlog‘s coverage of the event as well!
A rain delay may have bumped the celebration back a few days but it certainly couldn’t dampen their spirits. Team Middlebury was more than prepared for their ceremonial kick-off, aptly named “Uprising,” during which the incredibly committed group of students literally raised the first wall of the house they have designed and are constructing as participants in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. Inspired by historic New England farmhouses, Self-Reliance will eventually be a comfortable, sustainable and entirely solar-powered home for a family of four. Team Manager Melissa Segil ’11 welcomed the crowd and Construction Lead Alex Jopek ’11 rallied the troops. President Liebowitz reminded onlookers that while this undertaking may be a first for Middlebury it’s in no way the last we’ve seen of this kind of student-driven creativity and innovation.
With technology comes change. Like, for example, how 50 years ago Middlebury students used pay phones to call home. Then, 25 years later the College installed telephones in every dorm room and billed students for their calls.
Now that 99 percent of Middlebury students have their own cell phones, the hard-wired sets in dorm rooms are a thing of the past.
But one thing that hasn’t changed over the decades is the recorded voice on the other end of the line when you call the main number at Middlebury College: (802) 443-5000.
“Welcome to Middlebury College,” a woman’s voice affirms. “For admissions, press one…” It’s a familiar voice, a friendly voice, one that faculty and staff have heard hundreds of times when they call in for their messages. For others, like prospective students and their parents, it’s a greeting they may be hearing for the first time. But regardless of how many times you have heard it, the voice is always pleasant and reassuring, kind of like speaking with your best friend’s mom.
So who is it? A vocal coach? A local radio announcer? No, it’s Peggy Fischel, the manager of telecommunications services, who is known on campus as the go-to person for telephone operations, but rarely gets recognized as the telephone voice of Middlebury College.
Here’s how it all happened: “When the College purchased its first automated attendant in 1986, a fellow from the development office recorded the original greeting. But when we got direct-inward dialing around 1996, we needed someone to record the new message. It was probably eight or nine o’clock at night when we finally cut over to the new system, so I said, ‘I’ll do it,’ and I recorded the greeting.”
Peggy Fischel, the telephone voice of Middlebury College
And Fischel has been recording the official telephone greeting ever since – not only for the main College number but also for the computer help desk, the Bread Loaf School of English, admissions, and a host of other departments and services.
“About 10 years ago, [executive vice president] Bob Huth asked me to add some new things to the menu in the 443-5000 greeting, so I said, ‘Bob, do you want me to get a professional to record it?’ and he said, ‘No, no, you’re doing fine. But I have just one piece of advice for you, and that’s to try smiling first.’
“So that’s what I do,” Fischel says. “Before I record every new message, I smile. It’s not that I am laughing or trying to sound jolly, I just smile before I dial, and smiling raises the level of the greeting a little. People should try it before they leave a message because it really works.”
Sometimes Peggy Fischel will look in a mirror too, just to make sure she’s really smiling in her Davis Library office before she records a new message.
Telephone services, which oversees campus phones, printers, and copiers, plus the voicemail, 9-1-1, and emergency notification systems on campus, was also responsible for rounding up the over 2,000 analog telephones from student rooms when the College decided to remove the equipment in the fall of 2009. Originally telephone services tried to recoup some of the revenue it had lost to mobile phones by selling the used equipment, but the market for used landlines proved to be so soft that the College ended up recycling most of the phones instead.
Today, any Middlebury student who wants a hard-wired telephone in a dorm room has to pay a $50 fee for installation. (Students on financial aid can apply to have the fee waived.) And Fischel says it’s a rare occurrence in today’s world of cell phones, Skype, e-mail, text messaging, and all the other forms of electronic communication.
“There are only about 25 students who have our phones in their rooms,” she says, “and the majority of them are international students who need the phones to speak with their families back home.”
But the person who records the greetings heard hundreds of times a day is not discouraged by the shift from landlines to cell phones.
“We have new people calling the College every day, and the first thing they hear is my voice. I always feel good about that because we all know how important is it to make a good first impression. And it’s my job to do it!”
Listen in while Peggy Fischel prepares for a recording.