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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?

A reader of this blog e-mailed me to provide encouragement as I make my way through the blogosphere with my first few posts . . .

He also mentioned that one of the topics I had listed in my original post — the College’s upcoming Initiative — remains a complete mystery to most students, and therefore the big bash dance and great food scheduled for this coming Saturday, is also a mystery.

Well it’s time, then, to de-mystify that event and invite all students, faculty, and staff to Nelson Recreation Center, this coming Saturday evening, October 6, beginning at 9 p.m. There will be a great spread of foods from around the world, and two bands: Freestyle, which will play from 9 p.m. to midnight, and then Orange Crush will play from midnight to 2:00 a.m. I understand Orange Crush is a popular band with students. I hope so.

The reason to celebrate is the launching of the College’s major fundraising initiative that will seek support for three major causes: 1) increasing financial aid to improve access to Middlebury; 2) adding faculty positions to ensure small classes and the ability of students to work closely with faculty members; and 3) strengthening our residential and co-curricular programs. We thought an all-campus dance with two bands known for great dancing music would be an excellent way to celebrate what will be, to date, the largest fundraising effort by a liberal arts college.

Fundraising campaigns typically follow the adoption of strategic plans and our Initiative is no different. The Trustees adopted our strategic plan last May, and we have been working hard to articulate our needs to potential donors and building the base for financial support. We are calling this endeavor an “initiative,” because, unlike a campaign, we believe these three areas will remain priorities beyond the traditional timeframe for a fundraising campaign (typically about five years). Thus, we view the coming years as foundational to building support for the vital areas of financial aid, faculty/academic support, and co-curricular programs.

As I mentioned in my introductory post to this blog, we will be inviting potential donors to campus over the course of the Initiative to see first hand the kind of education that takes place at Middlebury. This is somewhat new in fundraising, as it is more common to have the president and fundraisers out on the road most of the time, visiting with potential supporters and relaying to them information about Middlebury that would attract their support. We will still be out on the road meeting with many people, but we believe the best way to garner support for the College from many potential contributors is for them to see how our faculty teach, research, and engage students and what our students are accomplishing both inside and outside the classroom. My hope is that many students will be willing to share with potential supporters of the College who will be visiting campus the many interesting, challenging, and remarkable things they are doing at Middlebury.

But back to Saturday night. I hope many of you get to Nelson to dance to the sounds of Freestyle and Orange Crush and enjoy the great food prepared by our chefs here at the College.

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