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One of the high points of my week is the radio show that I host on WRMC on Friday afternoons (3:30 to 5:00 pm if you are interested). The show is called “68 Degrees and Holding”—named after an effort we made a couple of years ago to reduce the temperature in the dorms—and this year, I’ve been co-hosting the show with Matt Jennings, the editor of Middlebury Magazine. It’s a lot of fun, and every time we spin a disc (all rock and pop music, spanning the decades), I am reminded of what a tremendous resource WRMC is. Granted, Matt and I are interlopers—posing as students—so it might be a little weird for me to be booming the virtues of independent college radio (I also serve as the faculty advisor for the station), but it seems to me that WRMC offers a model for student organizations. The students are free to design the programming, operate the station, and share their musical interests and commentary with the world—or at least the Champlain Valley (though you can listen on the internet). During our show, we share space with the creators of the Middlebury Radio Theatre of Thrills and Suspense—ten students sitting in a separate studio pre-recording their show for the week. We don’t hear them and they usually don’t hear us (we try to keep the music down in the studio). We just look at them through the glass window, and maybe they glance at us. But it’s good—all good—and it’s just another day at WRMC.

What’s striking about WRMC is the amount of freedom that students have to follow their passions and interests. I have limited on-the-ground exposure to other student organizations, but know that several groups have a long tradition at Middlebury of fostering student independence and creativity. The Middlebury Mountain Club, which was founded in 1931, is the oldest and, apparently, the largest student organization on campus. The acapella singing groups—for instance, the Dissipated 8 and the Mischords—have also been around for a while and enjoy great support on campus. The D8 just celebrated their 55th anniversary this fall, while the Mischords are coming up on their 45th.

Linking current students to the history of these organizations—and their alumni—is an effective way of deepening students’ awareness of what they can accomplish on this campus and beyond. It might also be a way-by fund-raising-of enhancing the resources available to students, The majority of student orgs depend on funding from the Student Activities Fee, which is funneled to them through the SGA finance committee. However, if student orgs were encouraged to connect to their alumni bases, build affinity groups, and raise money, there could be even greater options for students. Yale, Harvard, and other Ivy League schools are renowned for their heavy-weight, heavily-endowed student organizations (Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Club is just one example). Why not right here in the Champlain Valley?

No Responses to “Pumping up the Volume on Student Orgs”

  1. I second that emotion. DJing and serving on the board at WRMC were among the highlights of my Middlebury years (1989-1993). Many of the people from Midd with whom I’ve maintained contact are also ‘RMC alumni, all with fond memories. The station, the people, and the music I was introduced to there literally changed my life. Basically, rock and roll did its job for me quite well–it got me through college.

    I was fortunate enough to come back to campus last January to teach a J-term course, and got to host a show again for the first time in years. I combed the record library for old albums, and talked to current djs and staff members to compare notes about the station then and now. It was a blast. I would certainly be willing to donate directly to the station (time, history, very small bills)and I’d be more enthusiastic about doing so than my low-level annual participation in general fundraising/alumni contact. I’d probably be more excited by a WRMC reunion (with concert, of course) than a class reunion at this point.

  2. Sarah F. says:

    I like Cole’s idea of alumni sharing special knowledge than special funds. I think most student orgs would benefit more if alumni could be their mentors rather than benefactors.

    As the wife of an alumnus, I can testify to how rabid Middlebury can be about asking for money and, quite frankly, it bugs the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of me. Given this, I would not feel comfortable as a student calling up alumni and asking for money. Moreover, I happen to know most of the alumni of the student org in which I am involved (Lindy Hop). As such, I value them more as people than I do their money, but I would hope that students could feel that way about all alumni, whether they know them or not. Finally, as a soon-to-be alumna (201 days!), I would much rather have a student org ask me to help with x or teach it y, rather than ask for money. I’d probably hang up.

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