The Middlebury Initiative

Well, the launch of the Initiative and the start of the “public phase” of the College’s fundraising efforts to support the major objectives in our strategic plan came and went this past weekend.

Why are we doing this? Why have we set for ourselves the huge goal of raising $500 million over the course of the next five years?

Quite simply, we want to ensure for future generations of students the experience that current and past generations of Middlebury students have enjoyed and continue to benefit from throughout their lives; and we want to build on that experience.

The press release about the Initiative summarizes how the funds raised in support of the Initiative will be used. The short version: enhance financial aid; add 25 faculty positions; increase funds for student and faculty research; and increase opportunities for student creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurialism outside the classroom.

The overall objective of the “Initiative” is to make Middlebury the global liberal arts college for the 21st century, and we have the educational resources in place to make that happen: in addition to our baccalaureate program, Middlebury is also the world-renowned summer Language Schools, our C.V. Starr-Middlebury Schools Abroad, the Bread Loaf School of English, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Monterey Institute of International Studies (as an affiliate).

In this era of globalization, multiple and competing forces are, at the same time, erasing boundaries of all kinds and strengthening the importance of local languages and cultures. Consequently, the College’s unique and remarkable set of programs, spread across the globe, and, which, for a long time have operated in relative isolation of one another, need to be leveraged so they best prepare our students to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

I see our task as twofold. First, we need to continue to support all of the College’s individual entities so they can best serve the various student populations they have long served—baccalaureate students at the College since 1800; graduate students in the Language Schools since 1915 and non-degree students since 1973; graduate students at the Bread Loaf School of English since the early 1920s; graduate students at our Schools Abroad since 1945 and undergraduates since the early 1970s; and graduate students at Monterey since 1955. And second, we need to determine, with input from current students, how each unit of the College can be leveraged to increase the educational opportunities to students studying in other units.

In trying to link more strongly the many parts of Middlebury, the goal is NOT to make Middlebury more like a university. In fact, the strength and beauty of what I am calling the “Middlebury model” of the global liberal arts college is that, on the one hand, the individual components of the institution as a whole will remain autonomous from one another; on the other, each part of the College will more frequently enrich the educational experiences of students enrolled in other units. For example, during the academic year (September to May), the Middlebury campus will remain fully dedicated to undergraduate education as it has been for 207 years. But our undergraduate students will have greater access to the other programs that are offered away from the Middlebury campus (at our Schools Abroad or in Monterey), or operate during the summer months (the Language Schools, Bread Loaf School of English, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference). By connecting all the so-called dots, and making all of our educational resources more available to our students, we will become the global liberal arts college for the 21st century.

Your thoughts?

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