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Road Taken: My Close-Up

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

LengWebDespite nearly 50 years of experiences teaching in lecture halls and seminar rooms, I have found preparing and teaching an online course—Years of Upheaval: Diplomacy, War, and Social Change, 19191945—to be full of surprises. Here, my five stages of online teaching.

Stage 1: Excessive Exuberance

It begins with Susan Baldridge, Middlebury’s vice president for strategy and planning, giving a presentation about the interesting things one could do in an online course. Susan is recruiting faculty to teach. I’m an emeritus professor, enjoying retirement and with time on my hands and curiosity to burn. I like being the first to do something new. And how hard can it be? I’ll just add a few additional sessions and some extra PowerPoint slides to my Alumni College course on World War II. Next the documentary instruction company In the Telling (ITT) gives a presentation. Nice. They can jazz it up and handle the technology for me. A deadline of late August? Okay, so I miss a few golf dates.

Stage 2: Reality Bites

Technological benefits come with costs. I’m told that people have, at maximum, nine-minute attention spans when it comes to watching talking heads on computer screens, which means adding more images, videos, and music to the slides. All right, I can do that. All the visual items have to be broadcast quality. Uh-oh. I also need to add about 150 or so “transmedia links” to information “off canvas” to supplement the lecture materials. What? And we need copyright clearances for each of the roughly 300 items. Soon I am spending all my waking hours searching for new materials and their copyright holders. The files are to be shared with ITT through Dropbox. What the hell is Dropbox? I’m now conducting a full-time research project. My wife, who only recently joined me in retirement, is beginning to feel lonely. Meanwhile, the August deadline looms.

Stage 3: They’re Ready for My Close-Up

I anticipate the filming taking two weeks. With one session a day, I can catch my breath after each class and prepare for the next. In fact, the filming is squeezed into five days, with two sessions a day being the norm. There are more new challenges, such as makeup. That’s a first. The biggest challenge is attempting to communicate with an inanimate object—the camera—after decades of relying on cues from students’ reactions. It never laughs. It never groans. It just stares. But I find my stride after a couple of sessions, and the ITT crew gives me positive reinforcement. I do love compliments, sincere or not.

Stage 4: Editing and Cringing

If I thought I was uncomfortable during the filming, I’m even more so watching myself on film during the editing phase.My first reaction is relief. Hey, I don’t look all that old. Good, no verbal crutches or uptalk. Nice ITT enhancements. But with the benefit of hindsight via not-quite-instant replay, I find myself wanting to phrase things differently, to spend more time on a particular line of thought. Too late. The producers assure me this is both a natural reaction and unnecessary worrying. They think the material is great.

Stage 5: The Premiere

Still to come, and I’d rather not think too much about it. You be the judge.

Years of Upheaval: Diplomacy, War, and Social Change, 1919–1945 will be offered to interested alumni, parents, and friends in February.

Under Pressure

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

courage_treeWeb

One year ago, in November 2013, following Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s sudden reversal on a pro-European treaty, thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets to protest his decision and, more generally, to demand greater democratic reforms for their country.

During the first few weeks of demonstrations—organized in great part by young people—inhabitants of Kiev brought sandwiches and other provisions to protesters. For four months, they braved extreme winter weather and, though they were unable to foresee the tragic challenges that lay ahead, they remained true to their vision of a renewed, democratic Ukraine.

In August, China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress announced electoral reforms for Hong Kong. Fearing the proposed changes might ultimately result in an imposed, preselected leader, students began to demonstrate in the city’s center.

In both these cases, not just students but people of all ages courageously put aside the demands of their daily lives to fight for something that, no matter how cynically it’s sometimes portrayed, remains remarkable in the human spirit: the desire to live without fear.

When we reflect on such courageous acts, sometimes it’s difficult to discern what comprises their extraordinary nature. Are we moved by stories of endurance, of people withstanding subzero temperatures? Or do we respond to the ability to persevere despite uncertainty?  Or the drive to “speak truth to power”?  The great Silver Age Russian poet Anna Akhmatova reflected on this matter for many years and suggested there were several elements that make up the complex faces of courage, daring, and fortitude.

In this edition of Middlebury Magazine, we find a wealth of these different elements, whether it be World War II veteran Frederick Kelly’s story of flying behind enemy lines to drop supplies to the French Resistance, or journalist Zaheena Rasheed’s return to the Maldives immediately following its 2012 political crisis, along with her resolve to uncover the circumstances surrounding a fellow reporter’s disappearance—this despite threats on her life.

Sometimes, though, courage can be less public and more intimate—but no less moving. Consider Daphne Perry’s unflinching battle with breast cancer, or Hannah Quinn’s hope to create a community that can address depression’s challenges. We also find here miraculous stories, including Chime Dolma’s account of leaving Tibet as a young girl. The Chinese authorities had accused her father of dissent, and she had to be transported out of the country in a box.

Based on her experience of dictatorship, Akhmatova came to believe that fortitude is one of courage’s most critical components. Many people can be daring, but to have fortitude requires an inner form of strength that sets it apart from daily life. The stories recounted here are all testimonies to this fortitude, and to the human capacity to endow with meaning those old but potent words that, despite their threadbare use, still move mountains: freedom and truth.

Run to the Roar

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

courageWeb

Around 300 or so years after the word courage first gained foothold in the lexicon (it was spelled corage in Middle English and curage in Old French), Milton wrote, in Paradise Lost, the words “courage never to submit or yield,” essentially establishing a definition that we are all familiar with: “that quality of mind which shows itself in facing danger without fear or shrinking; bravery, boldness, valour.”*

In our cover essay, the decorated international correspondent Ellen Hinsey beautifully writes about where courage comes from, explaining what makes a person courageous while asking all of us: what would you do if faced with similar circumstances?

On the following pages is a collection of essays, oral histories, and narratives—eight Middlebury voices, each serving as an example of unshrinking bravery, boldness, or valor in the face of danger or fear. For some, their stories relate courageous moments, stands, or a way of life. For others, courage is found in the very act of writing these essays, of expressing these feelings.

Within the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary, the first definition of courage, from around 1300, describes “the heart as the seat of feeling, thought, etc.” Chaucer wrote of courage this way. Later, Shakespeare did, too. As far as these eight Middlebury essays are concerned, courage defined this way works just as well.

*This, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Pursuits: Dancing Queen

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

gina

In a dance studio in White River Junction, Vermont, 10 women lace up thin-soled sandals and tie brightly colored sashes around their waists, the silver coins embroidered on their skirts shimmering and chiming as they move. In purple leggings and a matching sash, Gina Capossela ’87 calls “one-two-three, one-two-three.” The women step in a circle about the studio, finger cymbals sounding and sashes swaying, their wrists flicking in fluid motions. Capossela, who is wiry and strong, with a nimbus of dark, curly hair pulled back from her face, shimmies her hips and turns lightly on the ball of her foot.

Meet the Pied Piper of Middle Eastern dance in a corner of the world seemingly as far from the Middle East as one can get: the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire. An itinerant dance teacher, Capossela holds classes in town halls and elementary school cafeterias and community centers. And where she goes, students follow.

“She’s a dynamo,” says Julie Grant, a longtime student. “She inspires all of us. She’s more than just a dance teacher.”

Capossela grew up in Vermont in the ’70s and ’80s, graduated from Woodstock High School, and then went to Middlebury, where she studied art history and Italian. It wasn’t until after she graduated that she began studying dance seriously. At first, it was purely a hobby, one secondary to her career in social work and human services.

But in the early 2000s, after holding jobs ranging from volunteer gigs on crisis hotlines to executive directorships, Capossela assessed her career. “I had done everything,” she says. Her realization? “I was bored to tears by it.”

So in 2003 she quit her job and moved to Washington, D.C., to earn her master’s degree in dance from American University. During that time, she performed with the Silk Road Dance Company, dancing at the Egyptian and Uzbek embassies, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and before the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She went on to travel to Egypt, Morocco, and Turkey to study under other teachers.

Right from the outset in 2005, when Capossela began offering lessons, the would-be belly dancers of the Upper Valley were enthusiastic. “It wasn’t just me,” Capossela says. Middle Eastern dance was catching on across the nation. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—and the ensuing national fascination with the Middle East—may have played some part in the belly-dance craze, Capossela thinks.

Certainly Nicole Conte, whose husband had deployed to Iraq with the Vermont National Guard, was curious about anything having to do with the Middle East. She showed up at one of Capossela’s showcases in 2005. “I’ve never missed a term since,” Conte says.

Today, Capossela makes her living teaching full time: her classes range from American-style belly dance to classical, Bhangra, and Bollywood-style Indian dancing.  In the Bhangra class, dancers ditch their hip scarves for workout gear and sneakers since the Punjabi folk dance brims with bouncing, spinning, high-energy moves.

Capossela suspects it’s how these forms of dance make women feel—more than the dance’s geographical origins—that keeps them coming back.

“This is an art form where adult women, who are shaped as average adult women are, can flourish and sparkle and radiate,” she says. Belly dancing as practiced in the West isn’t “a form of dance where you have to be under 25 and weigh 100 pounds. This is the dance of real women and real shapes and real lives and real stories.”

Along those lines, she believes she’s teaching more than footwork and choreography. “I’m helping women to connect with the divinity that they already have,” says Capossela. “That’s my real mission and calling.”

Pop Cultured

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

EdNoteWarhol


If you walk into the Overbrook Gallery
in Middlebury’s Museum of Art this winter, you’ll come face to face with Chairman Mao Zedong—his face slathered in green, his lips a vibrant pink (matching the color of his blouse).  This puckish, playful visage: it’s not the image generally associated with the Communist leader.

Of Andy Warhol’s iconic images, Mao is one of the most widely reproduced—and this silkscreen print is now part of the Museum’s collection, one of ten Warhol prints the Warhol Foundation recently gifted to the College. Among the figures joining Mao in the gallery are Sitting Bull (Sitting Bull, 1986), a depiction of the Native American originally intended for Warhol’s Cowboys and Indians portfolio; Queen Ntombi of Swaziland, one of four ruling monarchs from 1985 depicted in the artist’s Reigning Queens portfolio, Warhol’s largest; and an adorable pig (Fiesta Pig, 1979), a work commissioned by the German newspaper Die Welt.

The Warhol Foundation’s recent gift doubles the number of Warhol prints in the Museum’s collection, which not only makes for popular exhibits but also for valuable teaching tools. Even the casual observer gleans insights into the artist and his inspirations—Fiesta Pig, for instance, while commissioned, is considered deeply personal, as the animal is said to be Warhol’s pet, a gift from “Baby Jane” Holzer.

The Warhol prints will be on view in the Overbrook Gallery until mid-April. If you’re in the area, it’s a show not to be missed.

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

RangelWeb

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.”

**

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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.