Small House, Big Reach
Under heavy November clouds without a speck of sunshine in sight, Middlebury President Ronald D. Liebowitz addressed a crowd of students, staff, faculty, and community members gathered on the spacious deck of a small house on campus. Recounting his recent excursion to Asia, in which he visited Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Singapore, President Liebowitz observed, “This house was the most popular item for discussion among the alumni and friends of the College I visited during my trip.”
The house in question? Self-Reliance, Middlebury’s entry into the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011. Last month, the team placed fourth overall in the green-building competition, and won three of ten contests: market appeal, communications, and home entertainment. On November 15, the community gathered to celebrate the team’s accomplishments.
“Members of the College community around the world are impressed and send their congratulations to you, today,” said President Liebowitz.
Indeed, the unifying theme of the celebration seemed to be the broader reach of Self-Reliance. President Liebowitz said: “Asia is debating the value and power of a liberal arts education. The Solar Decathlon team is a prime example of that.”
Team manager Addison Godine ’11.5 expressed hope that “the house will go on as a beacon of sustainability on campus and in Vermont.” Sited on Porter Field Road, close to Route 30, Self-Reliance will serve as a student residence and educational center, open for public tours and hands-on learning.
Provost and Professor of English & American Literatures Alison Byerly spoke to the Solar Decathlon’s impact on the academic program. “Many students from many academic disciplines participating in this project created a unique nexus of energy that spilled back into the classroom,” she said.
Middlebury trustee and Vermont resident Liz Robert ’78 remarked that Self-Reliance is “mainstream to what’s going on in Vermont,” a state which, she says, many people view as “innovative, progressive, pragmatic, and sustainable.” She added, “Vermont is a place where problems can be solved and things can get done.”
As the sun, still shrouded in clouds, dipped behind the Adirondacks and the students’ chant of,“Small house, big deck!” faded from memory, President Liebowitz concluded, “I couldn’t be more proud of this accomplishment.”