As the Class of 2014 and I start the school year together, we share a similar sense of excitement and anticipation of what life at Middlebury will be like. We may also share some concerns and questions. And as I step into my new role as the dean of the college, there is one question I find myself asking often: What should we ultimately be doing for Middlebury students?
Last week, the student life team gathered for a retreat to consider this question. We discussed our vision for student life and the core values that drive the vision. It was a wonderful meeting of the minds, in which we broke down some barriers and expanded our collective sense of our work with students.
The vision that emerged from our meeting is ambitious, global, dynamic, and broad. It requires a huge commitment from students—and to be successful, I believe it requires a similar commitment from faculty, staff, and administrators.
Our vision is derived from Middlebury College’s mission statement, in part: “We strive to engage students’ capacity for rigorous analysis and independent thought within a wide range of disciplines and endeavors, and to cultivate the intellectual, creative, physical, ethical, and social qualities essential for leadership in a rapidly changing global community.” To me, this means that we in student life must focus our efforts on helping develop global citizens.
It is no longer enough for students to come to Middlebury to get good grades, study abroad, and participate in student groups and athletics. While all of these are worthy pursuits, we are asking more of our students. We are asking our students to hold themselves accountable, to show respect for others, and to take risks to be leaders.
We wish to give degrees to young people who have a moral compass and who are using the skills acquired at Middlebury to advance humanity—to become responsible members of this world.
We are asking a lot. And I believe that faculty, staff, and administrators need to model the behavior and attitudes we wish for our students. We must walk the walk. We will need to push ourselves to collaborate across different functions and areas of responsibility, to take risks, to step outside of our own comfort zones, to reflect the culture we strive for.
While our efforts are student centered, we’re not here to provide just for students; we are here to create a complete community, a neighborhood that transcends the local area, moving ever outward, creating a ripple effect. I believe that if we do this, along with all of the other academic and cultural endeavors, we will benefit as a community—and ultimately as a world.
I’d love to hear from the faculty, staff, and administrators. Do you think I have this right—do you see creating global citizens as part our job? And if you do, how do you think it can be accomplished?
And students, I would love to hear from you. What do you think your responsibility as a Middlebury student should be? And how do you think we can help you achieve that end?