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Home for Life

It’s hard to believe that I will soon finish my first year as dean of the College. Last September, I said in this blog that coming back to Middlebury felt like coming home. And now, after months of incredibly rewarding work, I wake up every day knowing that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and that I’m very fortunate to be doing it here.

In a couple of weeks, I will read the names of the graduating class in my first Middlebury commencement. This means much more to me than simply reading a list. I’ve had the opportunity this year to learn many of the personal stories that form our students’ lives, characters, and choices. I’ve learned how students came to be here, what they had hoped for, are hoping for still, and what they and their families have sacrificed in order for them to attend Middlebury. And I understand what it means to call students up on stage, knowing that their loved ones are watching as they move into the next phase of their lives.

I was delighted recently to hear more students’ stories during the process of choosing the senior commencement speaker. A number of seniors auditioned before a group of students chosen by the Senior Committee. They delivered speeches reflecting on their Middlebury experience and sharing significant thoughts with their classmates. Their addresses were funny, personal, political, and dramatic, and they proved again how smart and thoughtful our students are.

Statistics are often used to describe a graduating class. But these form only a snapshot of our complex community—like one page in a family photo album. Each page offers a glimpse of the family, but it takes all of the pictures and the reminiscences and the stories to get a sense of what that family is like. In 2007 when the current seniors arrived on campus, they represented 42 countries, 47 states, and composed one of the most diverse classes in Middlebury history. That’s one view of this class. But there is much more—the gradations of experience, brain power, creativity, and personal grit that each person brought to this campus over the last four years will continue to be a part of Middlebury for years to come and will fashion our collective sense of who we are

Although the graduating seniors will leave something of themselves behind at Middlebury, they will also take Middlebury with them. When they connect with other Middlebury people in the workforce and elsewhere, they will be part of an organic, worldwide network, formed in common experience. And when they return—as many, many do—to be refueled by this place, to visit with favorite professors, to tour campus with their loved ones—the connections become even stronger.

I didn’t graduate from Middlebury, yet I started the year feeling that I had returned home. I believed that there is something woven into the Middlebury environment that gives us that feeling. Isn’t it telling that in the span of four years, people can come to feel that this is home? It is my hope that every student walking across that stage on May 22, 2011, will feel that this is a home they are leaving and can return to time and time again.

Dear Readers,

I have asked Lisa Gates, associate dean of experiential education, assessment, and planning, to be this month’s guest blogger. She is writing about the vision behind the new Center for Education in Action and how the center’s work is critical to a liberal arts education. Not only is her post informative, it also raises some intriguing questions about how we choose to spend our time.

Shirley M. Collado
Dean of the College

There’s a quote on my refrigerator from the writer Annie Dillard. It reads: “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” Admittedly, it’s one of those obvious points, the kind of sentiment that ends up on refrigerator magnets in the first place, and yet I always appreciate the message: stop for a moment, think about the myriad things one does in the course of a day, and connect these daily actions to the larger picture. Are the things that I am doing today important to me? What am I learning from these things?

And that’s where the Center for Education in Action—EIA for short—comes in. As students, you are already well acquainted with at least some of our parts—career services, the Alliance for Civic Engagement (ACE), health professions and fellowships advising—but in coming together as one center, our goal is to provide you with a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Together, we bring more comprehensive advising and resources, more funding and more opportunities for interesting, challenging experiences outside the classroom. Because what you do outside of academics, too, is part of your Middlebury education—and it’s a critical part.

So let’s talk a moment about this broad category of out-of-the-classroom experience. These run the gamut from campus jobs to playing on an athletic team, from mentoring kids after school to presenting your work at the undergraduate research symposium, from practicing guitar (or yoga or rugby or you fill in the activity) to doing a summer internship, maybe with a botanical garden in Denver or the Department of Homeland Security in D.C. (examples of internships offered to students for this summer). This is what you do in the course of a given day or week or month. This is how you spend your days. And yet as quotidian—or in some cases necessary—as some of these activities are, they can still tell you something useful about yourself.

Think about these choices you are making. You’re doing all these things, but why these things and not others? What are you learning through these experiences? Are there connections between what you do outside of class and what you choose to study? Can you take what you learn in volunteering, working, or interning and apply it to your academic life? What do you like or dislike? What fascinates you? What challenges you? What puts you to sleep? Thinking about these choices will provide you with valuable information as you make decisions about classes next semester, your summer plans, or what you might want to do after graduation, because, like it or not, that day will come, too. Your learning is cumulative, and the more you can do to make those active connections between these various experiences and your formal education, the better prepared—and successful—you’ll be in choosing your path after graduation. And the happier you’ll be with your choices.

EIA is one of many resources at Middlebury available to support you in your educational journey here. If you haven’t connected with us yet or haven’t talked with us in awhile, take the time to stop by and look at what we have to offer: internships; jobs; funding; community connections, global and local; career exploration; alumni connections; fellowships and grad-school advising; and preparation for med, dental, and vet school applications.

Did you know we provided 91 students with funding last summer to participate in unpaid internships and independent projects? We offered more than 300 Midd-friendly internships and supported community engagement work in Vermont, Gambia, China, and Uganda last year, among other places. We helped students apply for and win prestigious scholarships, like the Fulbright, the Beinecke, the Watson, and the Gates Cambridge. We helped students gain admission to medical and veterinary schools and find jobs with organizations ranging from Teach for America to Goldman Sachs. Behind the scenes, we’re working with our extensive and enthusiastic alumni, parent, and professional networks to identify new opportunities, speakers, funds, and contacts that can help you connect with opportunities and advice in the areas you’re interested in.

Most important, we’re a place for conversation and advice. We don’t expect you to have figured it all out; we just expect to help you in that process. Figuring it all out, after all, is one of those elusive goals that no one, not even a Pulitzer-prize winning writer like Annie Dillard, really achieves. It’s what you do in the course of a day, a week, or a month that matters. One of the greatest joys and challenges of a liberal arts education is that it is not prescriptive. It leaves you to figure out what you are interested in, what excites you, and how you can deepen those interests through the experiences you choose while a student. You’re in charge of your educational path, but we can certainly help you as you explore these fundamental questions.

Want to learn more? Come see us in Adirondack House. Career counselors have drop-ins from 2–5 p.m., Monday–Friday, and all advisers—for community engagement, health professions, and fellowships—are available for appointments and can be reached by phone or e-mail (check out go/eia for a full list). Just give us a call (x5100) or drop by!

—   Lisa Gates
Associate Dean of Experiential Education, Assessment, and Planning

Dear Readers,

I  first met Jacob Udell at a meeting with the Religious Life Council, at the very beginning of my first year as Dean of the College. His intellectual fire, fierce leadership, and disarming honesty instantly impressed me. Subsequently, he followed up with a meeting in which we explored how to bring together students from all backgrounds and encourage them to collaborate, get to know one another, and challenge themselves. We’ve been working together and getting to know each other ever since.  I am pleased that Jacob has decided to share part of his experience with the Middlebury community as guest blogger this month, and I look forward to hearing your comments and thoughts about this compelling topic.

—Shirley M. Collado
Dean of the College

Early last year, a close friend of mine was sitting in Proctor when my name came up. “Who is he?” someone at the table asked. “Oh, you know, he’s the kid with that funny hat,” responded another. My friend, aware of the internal struggle I’d had in deciding to wear a Jewish head covering on campus and Jewish himself, indignantly snapped back, “It’s called a kippah!’ Much to his surprise, however, the funny hat being referred to was not the kippah but actually a flannel Middlebury cap that I often wear. Embarrassed, my friend apologized for his strong reaction and couldn’t wait to laugh about it with me later.

This story is on my mind as I write this blog post because it captures the importance of language in grappling with identity. I arrived on campus sophomore year as one of two students wearing a kippah because without it I felt unable to share with others the language that helped shape my worldview. I wanted peers to ask me why I wore it and for that to be an entry-point into conversations that would allow us to share our personal beliefs and ideals on our own terms. At the same time, I dreaded the possibility that my choice might exclude me from the “language” of our campus: What if I was left out of what it meant to be attractive? What if my outward religiosity implied that I was something less than a critical thinker? What if I was known on campus as “the kid with the funny hat” and then left at that?

I’m acutely aware that this particular identity-marker is unique in that I can choose when to take off my kippah or when to put on a hat instead. Yet despite the benefits of this unusual flexibility, wearing a kippah has attuned me to a tension felt by so many on our campus: on the one hand, we desire for our identity to be acknowledged and respected in its distinctiveness, and, on the other hand, we fear being marginalized by the kinds of conversations and social codes that pervade our community.

Let me explain by returning to the anecdote at the table in Proctor. Though it was nothing more than a miscommunication, I think my friend responded so passionately in my defense because the phrase “funny hat” seemed so overtly demeaning. I’m proud to have friends who speak out in response to perceived intolerance, but it seems to me that much of the normative exclusion that happens on campus is a different kind of intolerance altogether—decidedly more hidden and subtle. When we speak about going out to dinner, our spring-break plans, or the comprehensive fee, do we consider the financial backgrounds of those listening to us? When we discuss romantic pursuits, does the language we use exclude those who don’t fit into our assumptions about categories like sexual orientation, gender, or level of sexual activity? When we make plans to go to a party, how often do we overlook the students who silently struggle with the culture of alcohol or the repressed but not uncommon danger of sexual assault?

Since this post is about language, I’ll be very clear in naming what I’m talking about: privilege. The privilege conferred by class, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion is not only manifest when someone is actively discriminated against, but also when people fail to think critically about the power of their language.

But our privilege does not have to be damaging. My decision to wear my self-selected identity on my sleeve (or rather, on top of my head) is, in every sense of the word, a privilege, and it has given me countless opportunities to share a medium that has shaped how I speak about the world. For every time I’ve been nervous about being typecast, I’ve had two or three conversations that have left me feeling validated and have given my peers the space to feel the same.

Perhaps what we as a community need is not to prepare our tolerant, liberal selves for the next time someone makes a discriminatory remark, but rather to work on cultivating an atmosphere in which our multilayered identities are out on the table, along with the privilege and the struggle that come with them. Perhaps we need to give voice to those who feel excluded in our community. And most importantly, perhaps we need to celebrate our power by shaping collective language and striving to listen to the narratives of others in the co-creation of that language.

And if anyone is interested in wearing a kippah, I have a few extras in my room… 

—Jacob Udell ’12



Status Quo or Status Why Not?

An alum recently told us that he had just learned that Alexander Twilight—the first black person in America to receive a college degree—earned his degree from Middlebury in 1823. He wanted to know why we don’t speak more frequently about this amazing man and this noteworthy historical fact.

His question made me think—not only about Alexander Twilight but also about a contemporary of his, Emma Willard. Even if you don’t know much about these two people, their legacies of fierce independence and determination have been woven into our collective consciousness and have helped form our institutional character. They continue to shape us today, more than 188 years later.

Twilight didn’t see boundaries to his capabilities or his place in society. He didn’t let other people’s views of what he should be deter him. When he thought something needed to happen, he put himself front and center to make it happen—beginning with his determination to get an education.

Alexander Twilight was known for his "iron will." He was the first African American to earn a college degree.

For 12 years, beginning at the age of eight, he worked as a farm laborer, possibly as an indentured servant; yet, he found a way to learn to read, write, and do math. He finally enrolled in grammar school at the age of 20 and later entered Middlebury as a junior because he had completed two years of college-level work by then. Twilight continued on as a gifted educator, minister, and legislator, becoming a significant force for change in his community. Stories about him refer to his “iron will,” a quality we prize at Middlebury.

Emma Willard ran a women’s school in her home very near the College. Her nephew attended Middlebury, and as she learned about the things he was studying, she realized that her own students, indeed women everywhere, were being shortchanged because they were not taught “higher subjects,” such as mathematics.

When Willard asked permission for her students to audit some classes, she was flatly refused. So, with fierce determination to do what she believed was necessary, she wrote a treatise, “A Plan for Improving Female Education,” which was read by many power makers of her day, including President Monroe, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams.

Emma Willard didn't take "no" for an answer, and she changed women's education forever.

It induced New York’s governor to invite her to open a school there; Willard changed women’s education forever.

Both Willard and Twilight had an appetite for challenging the norm. As an institution, we value that quality and expect it of ourselves. Indeed, many Middlebury students today follow in their path—of getting things done regardless of the vessel they inhabit, male, female, black, white, or whatever it might be. The world of the 21st century requires nothing less.

If Alexander Twilight and Emma Willard, two people so marginalized on so many levels, could imagine themselves as transcending the boundaries of what society expected back then, then any Middlebury student today can do the same. Why not tap into their spirit?

What’s your internal drive? Where do you hesitate to go, intellectually, socially, and culturally? What would happen if you just decided to do it?  (To comment, click on “comments,” directly beneath the post title.)

Learn more about Alexander Twilight here and also here. Learn more about Emma Willard here.

Dear Readers,

Mike Schoenfeld graduated from Middlebury in 1973 and has worked for the College in many capacities over the years, including working extensively with alumni. As this month’s guest blogger, he offers a singular perspective on Middlebury’s impact on our lives.

—Shirley M. Collado

When I worked in the Admissions Office, I once encountered a family, in the Emma Willard parking lot, carrying a copy of the U.S. News and World Report with the latest rankings of the nation’s best colleges. I introduced myself and commented on the magazine they were holding, and they let me know that they were here to visit Middlebury because we ranked high on the list.

Maybe you looked at this list when you applied as well? Of course, the rankings are as much about you before you arrived here as they are about anything else—how many of you applied, how many of you were accepted, how many of you came, and what you scored on the SATs. Middlebury is now fourth on that list, in large part because of you.

A couple of weeks ago, U.S. News and World Report came out with a different list: the nation’s “Top 10 Most Loved Schools.” And there we were again—in fourth place. I must admit that I like this ranking, even though it is overly simplistic and contrived to help sell magazines. I like it because it is based on the percentage of Middlebury alumni who contribute to the College each year, and I work with all the staff and alumni volunteers who ask alumni for gifts. The fact that 60 percent of alumni make gifts annually is actually a pretty big deal—it is a good measure of how much our alumni appreciate the institution. Check out whom we are competing against for this honor.

Once again, this ranking is in large part about you. All of you seniors who contribute to the senior class gift will factor into our alumni participation rate this year because you will be alumni when the counting stops on June 30. Over the last several years, a greater percentage of Middlebury’s graduating class has contributed to the College than just about any other alumni class. This, too, ranks as a pretty big deal in my business.

But what really matters is how you rank Middlebury in your life. What does it mean to you now, and what will you do about it in the future? Over my 34 years of living and working at Middlebury, I have come to believe that we are part of something bigger than ourselves here. For everything we give to this place, we get more back in return. For me, that is a big deal, and I rank that pretty high.

—Mike Schoenfeld ’73
VP for College Advancement

What If?

Last week, we said goodbye to the Feb Class of 2010.5, and this week we are welcoming a new group of Febs to Middlebury. It was an honor to play a formal role in this year’s midyear celebration for the first time as dean of the College. Febs bring with them a certain energy and enthusiasm that seems to characterize the February cohort. Every time I meet Febs, I’m struck by the infectious, vibrant quality about them.

I don’t necessarily believe that Febs are inherently different from other students, but as a group they tend to bring a slightly different outlook to campus. What they have in common is that they took time off from their usual routine to push the boundaries of their lives—to experience something new, to develop a skill, or to simply become more centered.

The things the incoming Febs did between high school and coming to Middlebury are as varied as you could imagine—from working with children in Guatemala to getting Wilderness EMT certification. Some spent their time outdoors, rafting, riding horses, backpacking, or participating in ropes courses. Others took on challenging internships or lived in a foreign country. And some added something simple but satisfying to their experience, for example, one student worked for a while as a gift wrapper and can now make the “most beautiful bow.”

I’m intrigued by the idea of taking time outside of what we traditionally do to enhance our intellectual capacity, our character, and our passion around an interest. These breaks in the routine may be more important than we realize. If they can so energize Febs, they can do that for all of us.

While Febs have time set aside for risk taking and innovation, other students, faculty, and staff have similar opportunities. Students often use their summers and winter term for this purpose. They sometimes undertake an unusual internship or a significant study-abroad experience. Faculty members take leaves, during which they move their work to the next level, and they come back renewed. Staff, too, shake up their lives in similar ways. I know 50-year-olds who have gone back to school, changed careers, studied something that fascinated them. Within the institution, forward-thinking individuals have taken advantage of opportunities to switch to new jobs or acquire a different set of skills.

These “outside the box” ventures not only restore our spirit, they expand our capacity as individuals. They take us out of the comfort zones we all tend to live within and push us to test ourselves in new ways. Setting a challenge and then meeting it can be very empowering. I believe that the self-assurance and self-awareness that result are essential to living a rewarding life.

I’m curious to know whether you agree with me. Do you think more high school students should be encouraged to take time off before college? Do you feel that Middlebury provides adequate opportunities for everyone to do this type of risk taking and dreaming? And, what would you do if you could? I’d love to see a list in the comments section, outlining the aspirations and dreams of our community; what interesting, powerful, and special things are calling to you?
(To leave a comment, click on “comments,” right beneath the title of this post.)

Dear Readers,

I have the honor of serving as co-chair of Community Council with Raymond Queliz. I have asked him to write this week’s post about student leadership on campus and ways in which students can shape the future of the College. As co-chair of Community Council, president of KDR, a member of Student Government, and a Posse Scholar, Ray brings a significant point of view to this topic. I look forward to hearing your comments.

—Shirley M. Collado

There are so many different ways to lead at Middlebury. There are social house presidents, treasurers, and social chairs, for example. There are the Pan Caribbean Student Organization presidents, Tavern members, Sexual Assault Oversight Committee members and Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity Advisory Board members, the Middlebury College orchestra and Juntos members, Sunday Night Group members, GlobeMed members, writers for The Campus, Residential Sustainability coordinators, residential advisers, Middlebury Open Queer Alliance members, Middlebury College Activities Board members, and College Republican members. And the list goes on, including sports-team captains, a cappella group directors, Dolci chefs, and ISO members. This is just a sampling of the variety that student representatives bring to Community Council.

While Community Council is composed of students, faculty, staff, and administrators, I believe I speak for the student voice when I say that Middlebury has changed drastically throughout the last couple of years. As I step into my position as Community Council co-chair, I often ask myself, why are all of us here at Middlebury—what brings us here?

Throughout my first 10 weeks as co-chair, my question has been answered in several ways. Overwhelmingly, students agree that diversity initiatives need to be instated, social life needs to be improved without fear of getting penalized, respect must always be maintained, and more accountability needs to be placed on the student.

My concern lies with the fact that academics have risen to a higher level of importance than maintaining a positive social life. I feel that other issues—racial diversity, gender equity, all-gender housing, environmental friendliness, social houses, awareness of Honor Codes, and parties—are of equal importance. In Community Council, we evaluate the issues we face in the community every day, and we try to improve the quality of student life on campus.

Community Council members are leaders who carry the burden of representing their respective voices. I urge all students to speak up about an issue that they are passionate about. Why silence yourself when we are available to listen as a representative body of the community as a whole? In order to better understand where we are going in terms of student life, it is essential to pose the questions: What should student life look like? What can be done to ensure that non-academic endeavors are equally as important as the classroom?

—Raymond Queliz ’11

Dear Readers,

I asked Natasha Chang to share with us part of her story, and to talk about why she decided to do her work as a faculty member and Commons dean. In this week’s post, Natasha shares her experience about finding a sense of identity and provides a very personal and enlightening viewpoint. As always, I welcome your comments and observations.

—Shirley M. Collado

This year, as I took up my new position as dean of Brainerd Commons, I was very aware of embarking on yet another hybrid endeavor in my life, that is assuming the dual roles of Commons dean and professor.

I’ve always defined myself in hybrid or multiple terms throughout my life. As a child I straddled three cultures simultaneously—Serbian, Korean, and American—experiencing them as an insider and an outsider, never fully being part of any world, yet never fully being able to disassociate myself. I’ve always expressed myself and found my identity reflected in a variety of languages: the accented and idiosyncratic English of my two first-generation immigrant parents; the American slang of the kids I grew up with; my mother’s Serbian that she passed down to me; my father’s Korean that still remains a mystery to me; and my passion, Italian, the language that became my love and my life’s work.

At one time, I desperately wanted to belong simply and fully to only one culture, to identify unequivocally with a single group, to feel like a full-fledged citizen rather than a masquerader, and to be able to respond to the question “Where are you from?” without embarking on a complex explanation. What I have learned over the years, however, is that multiplicity, hybridity, and difference are positions of unique strength and power. My background has taught me to be attuned to multiple perspectives, to be comfortable not “knowing it all,” to seek compromise between even the most divergent of positions, to reserve judgment based on appearance, and to have faith in my own values.

Returning to my current combined role of Commons dean and faculty member, I can say without a doubt that I’ve found my hybrid line of work personally satisfying since it allows me to advise students, give support, and provide guidance, while at the same time continuing to teach in the classroom and pursue my ongoing research projects. In other words, it allows me to productively dialogue with and bridge two campus cultures: the academic culture and the culture of residential life.

But there is a larger and more important point to be made here. In my eyes, the hybrid position I occupy represents but one example of the strength diversity can bring to our community. By diversity, I mean diversity broadly defined. I am speaking not only of class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, and—well, you fill in the blank—but of the many overlapping and complex ways in which we find our identity. Taking inspiration from the recent Midd OUT day, in which the organizers thoughtfully engaged the common phrase “coming out,” I’d like to suggest that we actively think about what diversity means here at Middlebury. As I see it, diversity is not an issue that belongs only to other people; it is an issue that is relevant to everyone, period. This year—my first in a new job—I’ve set a challenge for myself that I’d like to pass on to each of you: to identify events (talks, meetings, conferences, classes, groups, etc.) that are a bit out of my comfort zone, and then immerse myself. I’ve had a great year of learning so far, and I hope you do too.

—Natasha V. Chang
Dean of Brainerd Commons

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?

When you hear my Brooklyn accent, you know that I am not from Vermont. But I feel as if this is where I am meant to be. When I left Middlebury in 2008, after serving two years as vice president for institutional planning and diversity, I did not anticipate that I would be fortunate enough to return.

But life is always giving us blessings—and challenges—and it has been one of my blessings to return to campus to serve as dean of the college and chief diversity officer. This summer when I drove back into Middlebury, I knew I’d come home.

I am proud to be joining the Class of 2014—to be associated with the students, faculty, and staff who bring so much openness and enthusiasm to our community. And I am pleased to follow Tim Spears as author of this blog, which discusses issues important to student life.

By embracing my expanded role, President Liebowitz and the Board of Trustees have placed diversity at the center of the institution rather than at the margins. This is something we should all be very proud of.

During the course of the year, I hope this blog will open conversations about interesting and challenging topics related to student life and to being fully committed members of the Middlebury community. In addition to my own posts, I will be inviting guests to contribute. These individuals will have interesting views and intriguing things to say about life at Middlebury.

We will always want to know what you think and encourage you to comment here.  And hopefully, the conversations will flow from here throughout campus, and back, making this a lively place to exchange ideas, think critically, and participate in building the welcoming, learning community we envision.

Some of the topics that might be discussed include: How should the College help students become fully independent and yet provide support and structure? Are we responsible for one another? And what does that look like in practice? What is the value of studying abroad? What personal benefit is derived from the Honor Code?

While I have many ideas about who would be good guest bloggers and what issues to discuss, you may have others that I have not thought of. What are your ideas for topics and voices to include in this blog? I hope you will leave your suggestions in the comment section below.

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