I was very pleased when first-year student Sayre Weir accepted my invitation to participate in a student-life panel at the trustee retreat, to offer her early impressions about the College. And I am delighted that Sayre has decided to share this experience with the Middlebury community as guest blogger this week. As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and thoughts.
—Shirley M. Collado
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak on a student-life panel at the trustee retreat. Having lived here for less than two months, I consider myself a true first-year. Whether trying desperately to memorize the locations of my classes, pondering how in the world to open my mailbox, matching dozens of names to faces, or debating the relative merits of staying up late talking to my roommate and completing tomorrow’s reading assignments, I classify myself as a typical Middlebury freshman, slightly overwhelmed by new demands and the constant buzz of activity, yet enthused by my new classes and new friendships. My initial experiences on campus supplied me with ample inspiration to dust off a pair of heels from the recesses of my closet and to share my impressions and opinions of life as a first-year at Middlebury with the trustees. While I originally believed I would attend this retreat to give the trustees a glance into my chaotic journey as a first-year student, I also left the retreat with an unexpected sneak-peek into my future as a member of the Middlebury community.
The daylong retreat was structured so that the trustees could observe the progressive journey of students during their time at Middlebury. Luckily for me, this meant I spoke first and then enjoyed the rest of the day listening to upperclassmen detail their varied Middlebury experiences. Aside from sneaking out a couple of times to attend class (self-consciously noting the abnormally loud clink-clank of my heels echoing in the halls of Axinn), I relished a day of pure absorption in my surroundings and the opportunity to learn even more about the rich tapestry of student life at Middlebury.
The students spoke genuinely and honestly during their panel presentations, a fact that surprised and impressed me. While they raved about their love of the College, they also openly expressed their doubts and concerns and noted areas where they sought social and academic improvements for the school. Recognizing room for improvement and discussing struggles is a healthy and productive process for any institution. Dedicating an entire panel to challenges that students face illustrated to me that Middlebury truly cares about the student body and strives to mend the problems that we may face.
Along with discussions of challenges, the students also shared with the trustees what distinguishes Middlebury and what makes their time here wonderful. As a freshman who has yet to experience her first set of final exams (yikes!?!), it was mildly intimidating to listen as upperclassmen summarized their various achievements. At the same time, it was invigorating and motivated me to be more engaged in the Middlebury community. Stories of juniors studying abroad, accomplishments of current seniors, and exciting new jobs for recent graduates granted me a glance at the many directions that my journey may take as a Middlebury student.
After a morning and afternoon of compelling dialogue about the school, we all gathered for dinner and an evening of casual conversation at Atwater dining hall. During the day, I learned about the multifaceted Middlebury student experience. That evening, however, I began to appreciate a longer-term, more comprehensive view of the Middlebury community. Whether it was a table conversation about new grandchildren or hiking trips to Snake Mountain, discussion about my transition from North Carolina to Vermont, or group reminiscences about adventures in college, it was clear to me that there was a shared appreciation and love for Middlebury—for its campus, its students, its community. The fact that students, trustees, staff, and graduates gathered together and conversed about their special connection to this special place, while simultaneously discussing how to expand its opportunities and address its issues demonstrates the commitment to excellence found here at Middlebury.
At the end of a day dedicated to listening to and interacting with my peers, trustees, and administrators, I kicked off those heels and knew that the passion and community we feel as students here on campus extends miles and years beyond our time here. I am excited to be a part of it.