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Midd Goes to the Super Bowl

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Damon Hatheway '13.5, on assignment for Middlebury Magazine, interviews Seattle Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka '07 at Super Bowl Media Day

Damon Hatheway ’13.5, on assignment for Middlebury Magazine, interviews Seattle Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka ’07 at Super Bowl Media Day

Super Bowl Media Day is an event that needs to be experienced to be believed. Hundreds of sports journalists, television personalities, and camera crews swarm, first to the tables topped with pastries, then to the players entering the arena. Out comes Richard Sherman, sardonically taking pictures of the media members flashing him with strobes; out comes quarterback Russell Wilson, all 5’10 and ¾’’ of him calm, cool, and collected; out comes head coach Pete Carroll, a jovial smile permanently fixed on his face. Behind them—and out of the glare from the jostling horde—is Seahawks’ kicker Steven Hauschka ’07.

Hauschka doesn’t have a booth to sit in or microphone to talk through or even a Gatorade to help promote the Super Bowl’s corporate sponsors. In fact, if he wasn’t dressed in Seattle’s team-issued sweats he would pass for any of the media members—well, maybe not the team from Entertainment Tonight—or fans in attendance.

Standing off in a back corner, the 6’4’’ Needham, Massachusetts, native answers questions from the Wall Street Journal (about where he has spent his time in Manhattan) and the New York Times  (“would you rather play one Bronco-sized duck or fifty duck-sized Broncos?”), generously engaging in these reporters’ shticks.

And it turns out that Hauschka spent the previous night at dinner with friends from Middlebury—a point for the Wall Street Journal.

“We went to dinner in Union Square, it was a great time,” he said. “It almost feels like you’re getting married—everyone wants to be there and share this special time with you.”

For the 28-year old, kicking in the Super Bowl would have been unimaginable a decade ago. Haushcka’s kicking career began unceremoniously; the former junior varsity soccer player missed three of his first four career attempts as a Middlebury Panther.

“I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he said before adding, “I don’t remember that! I thought I made every kick I had at Middlebury.”

By the time his Panther career had ended, Hauschka seemingly had made every kick, rewriting the team’s record books and awing fans and his coaches alike with his accuracy and leg, booming kickoffs that often sailed through the uprights—75 yards away.

Division I teams began to take notice. With a year of football eligibility remaining, Hauschka played his final season at North Carolina State, where he was teammates with current Seahawks J.R. Sweezy and Wilson.

“He came in and could kick the ball for days, which was something that I had never seen before,” said Sweezy, who was a redshirt freshman at NC State when Hauschka arrived in the fall of 2007. “It was kind of cool knowing we had a good field goal kicker—he won a couple of big games for us.”

Hauschka had a game-winning kick on the road against Miami and was a finalist for the Lou Groza award, which recognizes the best placekicker in college football. But a career in the NFL was far from guaranteed. Hauschka was cut by five different teams, including John Fox’s Denver Broncos, and played for a stint in the United Football League, before catching on in Seattle. This year, in his third season with the Seahawks, Hauschka made 33 of 35 attempts as the second-most-accurate kicker in the NFL.

Jon Ryan, who holds for Hauschka in addition to his duties as a punter, said that Hauschka’s consistency is what distinguishes him from other kickers.

“He’s a real thinking-type guy, watches a lot of film and has become very consistent in all of his routines,” Ryan said. “That’s the most important part of punting and kicking, finding that consistency. He’s had one of the best seasons I’ve ever seen a kicker have, to be honest with you.”

Special teams coach Brian Schneider believes Hauschka’s off-the-field preparation creates that consistency.

 “Throughout the week what he does to get ready for a game is really something,” he said. “He’s too smart for me, that’s for sure.”

Nor does it hurt that Hauschka studied neuroscience at Middlebury, which he said has “helped him with the mental side of the game.”

But what of the pressure involved in kicking in front of 68,000 people, as he did in the Seahawks’ NFC Championship victory?

“The kicking is different,” he admitted. “[At Middlebury I] only kicked in front of 2,000 people at any one time.”

On the other hand, if Sunday’s Super Bowl forecast calls for snow, Hauschka’s experience kicking in Vermont, and around the NESCAC, may give him the upper hand.

“We kicked on some of the worst fields in the country—especially some of those grass fields when they got a lot of rain,” he said. “So that prepared me for some of the bad conditions that I would see in the NFL.”

A few minutes later, Deion Sanders walks over to interview Hauschka for the NFL Network. As Sanders walks away, Middlebury Magazine editor Matt Jennings asks him whether Hauschka will make a game-winning field goal if that’s what the game boils down to. Without hesitating, Sanders nods and says, “Oh, yes. He’ll make it. That’s for sure.”

Inside Midd Basketball

Categories: Midd Blogosphere, video
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Damon Hatheway, Fyle Finck, and Sasha Schell are producing a web video series on the Middlebury men’s basketball team.

Three student video makers plan to take their audience onto the court and behind the scenes of Middlebury’s men’s basketball team this season with a new documentary series titled “The Road to Salem.” The team has enjoyed a remarkable ascension through the ranks in recent years, and the new series hopes to capture the stories of this season.

Producer Kyle Finck ’14 dreamed up the series while studying abroad in Prague. “What fascinated me about Middlebury basketball was that at a college where every student is doing a thousand different things, there are few times where the different silos are brought together,” said Finck, who is also editor of The Middlebury Campus. “Middlebury basketball is one of those. Apart from commencement and convocation, where can you see 2,000 Middlebury students in one place?”

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The audience gets a player’s-eye view of Coach Jeff Brown during practice.

Finck, Damon Hatheway ’13.5 and Sasha Schell ’15.5 amassed a huge library of game and practice footage over the past year. Hatheway is the lead writer, while Schell edits the series. Schell and Finck both shoot video. Two more students, Innocent Tswamuno ’15 and Ian Stewart ’14, add original music, and graphics respectively.

In the first installment we meet Coach Jeff Brown and learn that his remarkable success in recent years was hard earned over many challenging seasons at Middlebury. Finck says the goal is not to create a promotional piece, but to tell an honest, compelling story about coaches and players.

With a documentary flavor, the story alternates on-court action with practices and thoughtful interviews. Episodes planned for second semester include player profiles, the big game against Williams, and the uniquely emotional rivalry with Amherst College. Later, depending on the team’s success, look for coverage of the NESCAC and NCAA tournaments. “Salem” in the title refers to Salem, Virginia, home of the NCAA Division III Final Four in March.

Here are the first two episodes. Stay tuned for more.

Concerned About Food Security

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

There is a new player in the fight against hunger in Addison County, and it’s the Middlebury College students spearheading a new project called Middlebury Foods.

Family boxes being assembled for the December distribution.

Family boxes — bags, really — being assembled for the December distribution.

During the past year, seven undergraduates have worked together to form a nonprofit organization based on the model of Top Box Foods in Chicago. Their goal: to provide nutritious food to Middlebury-area residents at an affordable cost, and to do it on a regular, predictable basis.

One of the founders of Middlebury Foods, Harry Cohen ’15, said, the idea took shape “when our friend Chris Kennedy proposed that we do something about hunger in Addison County. We realized there is a lot of need here, and the transportation challenges are different than in Chicago.”

The group researched where to buy quality food at wholesale prices in Vermont, and figured out ways to transport it, store it, and distribute it to residents. They raised $3,000 via a MiddChallenge grant from the College’s Project on Creativity and Innovation, and another $8,000 through the “microphilanthropy” website MiddStart. They worked with state regulators, talked to entrepreneurs, and consulted lawyers and food experts – all before kicking off their project in October 2013.

A typical “family box” from Middlebury Foods costs $35 and contains six pounds of meat and poultry, two pounds of pasta, and eight pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. The organizers of Middlebury Foods say the family box comprises enough food for about 28 main meals, or the equivalent of seven dinners for a family of four, and each box comes with suggested recipes such as this month’s pasta alfredo with turkey sausage and broccoli.

To say that Middlebury Foods has been a success might be an understatement. In its inaugural month, October, the organization helped meet the food-security needs of 50 Addison County families with family boxes distributed from its base of operations at HOPE (formerly the Addison County Community Action Group) and from its second distribution site at the Mary Johnson Children’s Center in Middlebury.

In November the group sold 80 family boxes from the two sites and then, as the calendar approached Thanksgiving, Middlebury Foods expanded by offering “meat boxes” — 11 pounds of chicken, turkey, and sausage for $30 — and selling them to 20 customers.

For its December distribution Middlebury Foods diversified again by offering three different products (family boxes, meat boxes, and $25 vegetable boxes) at its two Middlebury sites and at third site about 20 miles north of the College at the North Ferrisburgh United Methodist Church. In total, 90 families were served.

As Middlebury Foods’ customer base grows, the efficiency of its operation increases along with it.  “The more customers we serve,” said Cohen, the group’s operations director, “the more sustainable we become.” It’s a practical application of the economy of scale. For example, when Middlebury Foods sends a truck up to Burlington to pick meat, if it can buy 600 pounds instead of 400 pounds, then the transportation cost of their meat per customer decreases.

“We are beginning to near our capacity, but we are not there yet,” Cohen added. “We don’t screen our customers to meet certain income guidelines, and we are always looking for new people in the region to serve.”

Juniors Nathan Weil (l.) and Elias Gilman, and others,  pack each delivery by hand.

Juniors Nathan Weil (l.) and Elias Gilman, and others, pack each delivery by hand.

Economics aside, there is an important social factor at work with Middlebury Foods. While packing the December family boxes with apples and bananas, junior Elias Gilman, another founder of Middlebury Foods, said, “Not only is this project fulfilling, it’s also a fun and interesting experience for us. It’s thrilling to meet a lot of people from the community and have them appreciate what we do. Our products are very, very good, and people see that, and so there’s been open-armed enthusiasm for what we are doing.”

Nathan Weil, also a founder, never paused while weighing tomatoes and figuring out how many to put in each box. He said: “Our first goal is to keep the price of our food attainable for our customers. It’s an interesting balance that we are trying to strike here, especially in Vermont where most everyone is so environmentally conscious. We want to provide good food at a good price while helping our customers reduce their carbon miles.”

Middlebury Foods “has been a blessing for each of us because we are also getting an invaluable lesson in running our own business. We have to work out logistics; we have to deal with marketing challenges; and we have to do our own customer relations. The problem-solving aspects of this have been great for all of us,” Weil realized.

Addison County is a region with numerous opportunities to help the hungry, and HOPE (Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects) is a major driver in that effort with its daily food shelf, gleaning program, just soup project, food drives, HOPE garden, and more.

Jeanne Montross, the executive director of HOPE, supports Middlebury Foods and appreciates the efforts of its students. “I applaud them for coming up with a creative response to hunger. Their model is designed for people who can afford to pay a fair price for their food. I am hopeful that a portion of our clients at HOPE will continue to find this model worthwhile over time.”

Middlebury Foods accepts all forms of payment for its once-a-month food deliveries, including the EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards issued by state welfare agencies.

In addition to Cohen, Gilman, Kennedy, and Weil, the other founders of Middlebury Foods — all juniors — are Jack Cookson, Eddie Dañino-Beck, and Oliver Mayers, and they are all starting to get recognized around town.

“One of the coolest things about this whole project,” Gilman added, “is that people in the community are now getting to know us. Now when they see us they say, ‘Hey, we know you. You are the food guys!’”

What Is Learning?

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
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Daniel Dignan, a first-year student, said, “Learning is something to be enjoyed.”

When challenged to create his own visual essay on the essence of learning, Middlebury College senior Adam Lang put his trust in Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” who said, “We learn best from people who really care about us.”

“Learning is what excites us and motivates us and fills us with compassion,” Lang went on to declare in his video. “Learning is not a privilege; it is a human right and everyone should have access to a good education.”

Another student went to YouTube and pieced together clips of inner-city high school kids dancing and rapping and getting along famously with each other. A third returned to her hometown and visited with her favorite teacher in order to discover an answer to the question, “What is learning?”

All 12 students in visiting lecturer Emily Hoyler’s education studies course, Teaching Elementary Literacy and Social Studies (EDST 305), internalized the assignment and produced their own 5-to-10 minute videos, which they presented to the public last Wednesday evening, Dec. 4, at the Vermont Folklife Center.

While it’s unlikely that any of the films will be shortlisted for an Academy Award, in the aggregate they probed the question “What is learning?” from almost every conceivable angle. There was the Kindergartener on camera who pondered the query, “Who do you learn from?” and responded: “From everybody but statues.” And there was the college student who channeled the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants to help answer the question for him.

The goal of the course is to provide prospective elementary school teachers with the opportunity “to develop the necessary understandings and abilities for effective literacy and social-studies teaching for learners in a K-6 classroom.” It is based on the belief that reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, thinking, and computing are inseparable processes that flourish in supportive communities of learners. As a methods class for Middlebury College undergrads considering a career in teaching, each student was placed in an Addison County elementary school classroom from mid-September to early December to observe, assist, and both plan and carry out literacy and social studies lessons.

Their visual essays on learning, which the students presented publically, were intended to build on the class’s collective understanding of what learning is, and enhance each student’s proficiency with the tools used for digital storytelling.

Hoyler said, “By engaging students in developing the assessment strategy for the assignment” — a rubric that asked 1) whether the video adequately addressed the question and 2) whether it was both entertaining and interesting — “they were able to reflect on the purpose and meaning of assessment, and provide critical feedback to each other prior to the public screening.”

Hannah Root, a junior from Strafford, Vt., discovered in her elementary classroom that “learning goes both ways and learning is connection.” That by being an active participant, “by being part of something, we open ourselves up to learning.” (Watch Hannah Root’s video.)

In a collaborative learning environment each person is both a student and a teacher.

In a collaborative learning environment each person is both a student and a teacher.

To draw viewers into her video, Kaeng Takahashi ’15 made the conscious decision to forgo a narrator. “As a neuroscience major who doesn’t like science,” she made extensive use of text in her digital creation, and although she refrained from propounding a definitive statement on the nature of learning, she did demonstrate in her video that failure is an essential element in the process of problem solving.

Two students working independently found metaphors from their own lives to shed light on the question, What is learning?

For Hannah Staiger, a lanky senior from Wisconsin, the process of learning is akin to completing an arduous six-mile run, and she took viewers on the jog with her over hills, past cowfields, and down to the “Rattlin’ Bridge” in Weybridge to share in her journey. (Watch Hannah Staiger’s video.)

Sofia Silverglass discovered her metaphor for learning while sitting at her potter’s wheel. As viewers watch her spinning a lump of clay into a vessel, only to see it fall over into a useless lump clay again, the junior from Boston said, “Learning is messy and learning isn’t always linear… I don’t know exactly how to define learning and I am not sure there really is a definition. It’s an experience and it’s not the same for everyone,” which was exactly the point illustrated by the class’s 12 talented filmmakers.

Theatre Preview: ‘Pentecost’ Features 12 Languages

Categories: Midd Blogosphere, video

The Middlebury Theatre Program presents David Edgar’s play Pentecost Nov. 21-23. The play features 12 languages spoken on stage and a cast of 23, including students, faculty, and professional actors. MiddMag spoke with director Richard Romagnoli, and actors Tosca Giustina ’15 and Prof. Alex Draper ’88.

More information about Pentecost.

Humans: Not for Sale

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Stop Traffick is among the newest human-rights organizations on the Middlebury campus and it’s also one of the most-focused, as it demonstrated with its fall symposium titled “Humans: Not For Sale” on November 4-8.

Dedicated to harnessing students’ passions for social change by raising awareness and generating funds to end human slavery, Stop Traffick’s symposium included lectures, discussions, a spoken-word performance by a survivor of sex trafficking, and a film screening of “Born into Brothels.” There was also a dinner of Indian food (where slavery is endemic), and an engaging anti-trafficking performance in the lobby of the Davis Library.

Skinner's book was published in 2008. Bill Clinton said it is "rigoroiusly investigated and fearlessly reported."

Skinner’s book was published in 2008. Bill Clinton said it is “rigoroiusly investigated and fearlessly reported.”

The keynote speaker, E. Benjamin Skinner, a freelance journalist and author of the book “A Crime So Monstrous: Face-To-Face With Modern-Day Slavery,” alerted a packed house of students in Dana Auditorium that euphemisms have the effect of minimizing the seriousness of the problem.

“In its prose the United Nations has this extraordinary capacity to sanitize crimes against humanity through language,” Skinner explained.

“So ‘genocide’ has become ‘ethnic cleansing.’ The ‘modern-day slave trade’ has become ‘human trafficking,’ and ‘slavery’ itself has become ‘generational, collaterialized debt bondage.’”

He defined slavery as the practice of forcing others to work for no pay while they are held fraudulently and under threat of gross violence. He estimated that there are approximately 29.8 million slaves in the world today, and said there are more slaves in South Asia than in the rest of the world combined. According to Skinner, those countries are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

The guest speaker, who has observed the sale of human beings on four continents, spoke for about 45 minutes about his personal experiences with slavery and then, during the question-and-answer session that followed, offered some advice to Middlebury students.

Skinner, 37, told of his friendship with “Ganu” — a man in India who, along with other members of his family, is held against his will to work. “Ganu’s slavery began well before he was born,” said Skinner. “It began three generations earlier when his grandfather took a debt the equivalent of sixty-two cents in rupees for the meager bride price of Ganu’s mother. Three generations and three slave masters later, Ganu and his entire family are being forced to work” for the same family.

Ganu and his kin blast rocks “using short-fuse explosives,” and then pound those rocks into gravel “using pikes and mortars” to go into the construction of India’s roads. They also pulverize the gravel into silica sand for use in the glass industry. “There is only one way in the modern world to turn a profit through the production of handmade sand,” Skinner said, “and that is through slavery.”

When Skinner would meet surreptitiously with Ganu at night and ask, “Why don’t you leave? Why don’t you run away?” the response was always, “Where would I go? How would I eat?” The master has ways to find runaway slaves and punish them, Ganu would tell Skinner, despite the fact that slavery is against the law.

“For men like Ganu, slavery was no mere mental construct. Slavery was his world and the master is god in that world.” The master is the taker of life but also the giver of sustenance, however meager, Skinner said, and any sustainable solution to end debt bondage such as that of Ganu and his family, has to end those relationships of dependency.

The journalist also discussed a case he reported on for Bloomberg Businessweek in which he interviewed a Javanese fisherman named “Yusril,” who had been recruited to work in international waters off the coast of New Zealand onboard a foreign charter vessel. Yusril was being held against his will to live and work in some of the harshest conditions imaginable.

Using bills of lading, intelligence sources, and shipping documents, Skinner was able to connect the fish caught by Yusril and other offshore slaves to major New Zealand fisheries that were selling the catch to U.S. companies.

“Eventually we were able to name 18 companies involved in the buying, selling, and processing of these fish. Something pretty remarkable happens when you name Wal-Mart, when you name Safeway, when you name Whole Foods, when you name P.F. Chang’s — all of a sudden action happens pretty quickly,” Skinner revealed. As a result of the investigation and subsequent news coverage, contracts were cancelled and companies’ earnings were affected. And Yusril went free.

Later, when a student asked Skinner what citizens should do to combat slavery, the keynote speaker said, “Get involved in Stop Traffick. Help build the movement. A broad national awareness has to start with your generation because [modern-day slavery] is a relatively new issue. It may not catch your Congressman’s attention. It’s not who in D.C. says slavery is important; it’s how high up it is in their in-box… to get U.S. companies to realize, ‘Hey, this matters.’”

Skinner’s theory is that trafficking is both a moral crime and a crime of poverty, and that any effort to eradicate it must end dependency relationships (such as Ganu’s with his master) and the world hunger that tends to fuel them. The website freetheslaves.net, which receives 25 percent of the proceeds from the sale of Skinner’s book, offers ways to help liberate slaves around the world and change the systems that allow slavery to exist.

He also urged the students to consult websites like slaveryfootprint.org and knowthechain.org before buying products, although he cautioned that “categorical boycotts” can have the negative effect of “depressing the opportunities” of people who live in bondage.

Money for Nothing?

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Film critics are calling the documentary Money for Nothing “the most reasoned, constructive, and accessible documentary of the post-crises genre,” (Reuters), “revealing—and damning” (The Wall Street Journal), and “a thoughtful, detailed chronicle of the [Federal Reserve's] origins, responsibilities, and shifting monetary policies” (Variety).

Last week, the film’s producer, director, and writer—Jim Bruce ’96—brought his acclaimed work to campus, and we grabbed a few minutes of his time.