A Cook’s Repertoire: Daring Dishes and Family Favorites

Senior year of college is like watching a great cooking show.

These shows (disclaimer: I only watch them on planes) instill a sense of adventure, possibility and wonder. Like anything is possible. Really? You can layer pan fried bison on a bed of stewed jelly, and it will taste good? Even gourmet?

Done well, these shows will spur initiative. The ingredients are presented in such aesthetically delightful kitchen ware. You can even buy the proper accoutrements on screen. The idea is: you have the tools to make these dishes come true. And the time is now.

As seniors, we’ve been “cooking” for three and a half years now. Admittedly some dishes tastier than others. But on balance, we’re getting by. In most cases, thriving.

But there is always that time that you’re flying Jet Blue from Burlington to New York and the cooking channel comes on. You’re overcome with a sense of newness and a near-frantic feeling that this dish is now or never. Like maybe the old dishes you’ve been cooking haven’t really been as good as you think.

So, you try cooking the primo-deluxe fish dish. You buy the ingredients, make the dish, and serve it up. Your company enjoys the filet. It’s a hit!

This newness is so important for us as students, like hiking Buck Mountain for the first time, or joining the jazz ensemble as a second semester senior. Like successfully tracking down the ever-elusive Heady Topper, or meeting a new friend. These tasty new “dishes” excite and rejuvenate. It’s what keeps things interesting.

But when the newness fades and the buzz quiets, we return to what we know and love. We remember that we actually enjoyed subsisting on peanut butter and ramen. Our first friends are some of the most meaningful – the things that made us happy still do.  It’s what we’ve been doing for the last three years, and it’s worked beautifully.

Of course, Middlebury’s unlimited dining plan sort of muddles this whole analogy anyway. Rarely do I prepare my own meals here. But the point remains: exploring the new, because I feel like I’m running out of time, has renewed my love of the old.

Academic Atmosphere at Middlebury

FINALS WEEK— where the most wonderful time of the year turns into the most stressful time of the year. A time where students across the country are up to their ears in work and sleep and sanity are at all time lows. While Middlebury is certainly no exception to this rule, it has been my experience that although stress is high during this time, that there is something about the collective culture here that makes everything a little more bearable. Here are some reasons I’ve come up with to explain what that has meant to me:
  1.  Students are not competitive with each other: Contrary to the experience I had in high school, when everyone was competing for the same goal of getting into college, I truly find that while Middlebury students are quite competitive with themselves, we are not competitive with each other. None of my friends or classmates would ever ask me what my GPA was because they genuinely would not care. If someone did ask me about a specific grade, it would probably be because they wanted to see if I did something differently to receive a better or worse grade and not because they wanted to compete with me. I think a lot of this stems from the fact that unlike high school, college students choose a wider variety of paths. I think this is further strengthened  at Middlebury because it is a Liberal Arts school where students are much more likely to be taking different types of classes, have different majors, and different aspirations than they would be if you went to a larger university where you were enrolled in a specific school or program.
  2. Collective Atmosphere: Since there isn’t much competition between students I find that the academic atmosphere is more collective. When you have a lot of work the chances are that others have a lot of work as well, which certainly fosters the “all in this together” atmosphere. This is only strengthened during finals when, due to Middlebury’s physical size, everyone studies in the same places.
  3.  Supportive environment: Being with everyone is in the library with a lot of work strengthens the feeling of our collective identity as Midd kids. This collective identity, coupled with the fact that we aren’t trying to compete with each other, fosters a very supportive environment amongst students. It is very common in times like these to hear exchanges between students where they both talk about their long to do lists and then provide words of encouragement. When you have three papers to write in two days, hearing that someone else has three papers and an exam to complete in the same amount of time is comforting, because, in a strange way, you feel less alone.

Not Competitive–>Collective Atmosphere —> Supportive Environment.

I am certainly not trying to say there isn’t high stress at Middlebury, or, that we all sit around in a circle giving each other back massages and smiling during finals week. I think we all need to try to put less pressure on ourselves as individuals, to try harder to  remember the bigger picture, why we are here and why we want to learn in the first place. What I am trying to say, is that in times of high academic stress it has been my experience that the students seem to really come together and support each other. As I go into my seventh finals period as a Middlebury student, I think I have finally realized how positively this supportive environment has effected my academic experience.

Mary Lou Finley, Civil Rights History, and Campus Activism

This past Thursday, I had the privilege of participating in a roundtable conversation with Mary Lou Finley. A primary organizer for the Chicago Freedom Movement (1965-1967), she worked closely with some of the leading civil rights activists of the era—from Martin Luther King, Jr. to James Bevel. She was just emerging from college then, but in decades in between she has continued to valiantly push for greater social and economic equality. Mary Lou is now a professor of sociology at Antioch University in Seattle; additionally, she leads trainings with various civil rights organizations.

Her years of organizing experience show. She greeted us with compassionate confidence, listened deeply, and offered humble reflections on the arc of race relations and social change in late 20th and early 21st century America. In what became a fluid conversation, students, faculty, and community members engaged in a moving discussion of the troubled times in which we find ourselves today.

Moments like Thursday night have proved essential over my four years at Middlebury. It is all too easy at times to let immersion into the thriving campus life here supplant engagement with the outside world. But it is essential to remember that they are not mutually exclusive. As a history major, I have come to understand the inseparable links between past and present, campus and (world) community.

Our beautiful campus may be far away from some of the sites we have seen mentioned in the news lately. But in its distance lies the root of the intense sense of community here. Here, where a group of committed citizens can so passionately and respectfully discuss avenues for making our world a better place. Here, where the lines between professor, student, and townsperson blur. Here, where we learn to engage.

In a period of strife and social conflict, college campuses should be spaces of engagement, of conversation, of introspection and outward-looking action.

Mary Lou reminded us Thursday night of the successes and the unfinished work of history. It is our role as students and citizens of the world to carry that work forward.

Falling into Senior Year

Since this year began it hasn’t really hit me that I am a senior in college. When the school year started I pushed away any sadness and anxiety I felt that this is my last year at Middlebury because I kept telling myself that 9 months was a long time and so there was really no use in thinking about it too much. I spent the past two months enjoying the weather (it has truly been the most beautiful fall I have experienced in Vermont), working on my thesis, and pushing off any and all thoughts of job applications and my future. However, now that it is the first week of November and there are officially more leaves on the ground than there are on the trees, the blissful ignorance that I have been enjoying up until this point is no longer a sustainable mindset with which I can operate in.

This past weekend I attended my final Middlebury Panthers Football game as a Midd kidd, I handed in the first section of my History thesis, and I checked an item off my my senior year bucket list, which seems to be growing longer and less doable everyday. This week I will be registering for my last semester of college classes and attending Middlebury’s 200 days party (a party that celebrates the fact that seniors only have 200 days left until graduation.) Pretending I’m not graduating has ceased to be possible, and though I am sad and anxious about life after Middlebury, I still believe it is way to soon to give into those worries. I want to change my attitude and embrace my senior year without only thinking about the fact that it is my last year of college. I want to take advantage of Middlebury and do as much as I can, while acknowledging that my bucket list will never be completed– and that’s okay! Ultimately, I want to try and find the balance between enjoying the next 200 days and living my life here at Middlebury to the fullest, while still being able to reflect on the fact that these are my last 200 days of college and that should be factored into how I approach them.

Wish me luck!

Becky :)

Three…two…one

Three weeks have already passed in the fall semester, and now the winds are picking up, the leaves are changing color. Since I traveled abroad last fall, I feel like it has been a long time since I have experienced the beautiful Vermont fall. It has been a busy first few weeks here at school, maybe due to the late start this year. The Clifford Symposium, which happened last weekend, was an excellent event. This was actually my first time attending the Clifford Symposium and I am sad that I haven’t had the opportunity until my Senior Year, but I am glad that I got to at least once! This years topic was “the good body” and how that is defined. I had the privilege of attending Eli Clare’s Friday morning discussion of the notions of what a “bad body” is. Clare has cerebral palsy and discussed how judgements of disabilities have played into his life. By the end of the talk, he related disability and access to Middlebury College. he asked about reflecting on the opportunities and accessibility of becoming a Middlebury student. Being a senior and looking back on my Middlebury experience, this is a question I have recently been thinking about …and maybe by the end of the year I will be able to come up with an answer! For now, I will just say that I am so grateful for the opportunities that I have been given to come to such a school and for the opportunities the school has given me for the future.

 

That’s all for the time being…. Until next time!

Tiffany

Welcome to the Blog!

Hello everyone. Glad you found your way to our wonderful Senior Fellow Blog, the best place to get all the insider tips from real Middlebury Seniors about everything from the best Chicken Parm-Pasta pairings to the latest updates on Gossip Squirrel.

My name is Nicolas, one of the eight Admissions Senior Fellows in the Admissions Office. But wait! What is an Admissions Senior Fellow?? you ask. We are a group of Seniors who love Middlebury so much we were selected to give Campus Information Sessions daily to all of our phenomenal visitors to the campus.

The Senior Fellow program began because we found that our Admissions Counselors were a bit busy getting out to amazing high schools all across the country in the fall and reading awesome apps in the spring, that at the end of the day we wanted to give them a much deserved break. So while during the summer you may have an Information Session with an Admissions Counselor, during the Fall you get to have one with one of the eight Senior Fellows!  Each of our information sessions are different, although they all will combine lots of facts about the college with fond annecdotes from our time here.

And What is this blog I found myself on? Who is Gossip Squirrel? Well Gossip Squireel is the name of one of Midd’s most curious squirrels on campus and this blog is about all the personal, fun, exciting, anxious, scary, adventurous, funny experiences that comes with being a Senior at Middlebury! This blog is really our chance to take some times to reflect on our three years here, and give you some insights that we’ve learned along the way!

So welcome, sit back, relax, and we hope you enjoy all the stories to come!

 

 

75.4%

This past week, the Middlebury student body went to the polls to elect the members of next year’s Student Government Association. For 24 hours from noon on Wednesday to noon on Thursday, students logged into a website where they ranked their preferred candidates in races for SGA President, the Student Co-Chair of Community Council, representatives for their Commons and Class, and two proposed amendments to the Honor Code.  After the dust had settled on these hotly contested elections, 75.4% of the student body turned out to vote in the election, by far the highest rate in recent memory. After a year in which the issue of apathy and communication between the student body, the student government, and the College administration has been at the fore of campus conversation, this incredible turnout is an emphatic statement of how much Middkids care about what goes on in their community.

The campaigns for the SGA elections generated ample campus chatter on campus. It seemed like everywhere you went, students were asking each other: “Who are you going to vote for? What do you think of (insert your favorite candidate here)?” The buzz was partly generated by the number of candidates, 34 in total running for 15 positions, including four for President, and partly generated by who the candidates were. There were students who had been a part of the SGA since their first day at Middlebury and others who had never done anything in student government ever before. And as such, almost every social circle was brought into the election in some way, since they all had a stake not just in how the student government would affect them in the abstract, but a concrete interest in seeing a friend win a seat at the table.

My favorite moment during these elections, however, happened this past Monday evening, when the four presidential candidates and three candidates for Student Co-Chair of Community Council participated in a public debate in Crossroads Cafe. I was in charge of catering for the event and ordered refreshments for about 40-50 people, a good turnout for this kind of event in the past. Boy was I wrong! As the hour for the presidential debate creeped closer and closer, more and more students kept streaming into the space. By the time the debate began, more than 200 of us had managed to squeeze into the cafe. Every nook and cranny of the space was taken; some students leaned over railings on the second floor, others sat on the billiards table, still others stood on the stairs. And in front of that crowd, our four candidates made their case for why they should lead the SGA. They answered questions about their experience, their qualifications, and their stances on issues ranging from social life to environmental sustainability to surveillance cameras.

During the debate, I was in charge of walking around with a mike in the audience so that students could ask questions of the candidates. And as I stood amongst the crowd of students, I realized this was exactly what I imagined college would be like. If they had made a movie about the small residential liberal arts college experience, this scene would have made it into the script. In that moment, the feeling of the Middlebury community was palpable in the room and in that moment, I was so grateful to be a part of that community.

The Last Lap

Back in high school, I ran cross country and track. I was a distance runner, most of the time running the 2-mile or the 5000m. Having spent a large amount of time in the racing realm, I picked up a lot of the lingo. One of the classic coaching phrases for distance racing has to do with the end of the race. Typically, as I neared the finish line or turned into the last lap on the track, I would hear my cross country or track coach belting, “Don’t let up!” or some other phrase guaranteed to make runners like me sprint to the finish.

I have been thinking about this advice a lot lately, as the final month of my time at Middlebury nears. In some ways, I’ve been approaching these last few weeks with the opposite perspective. Knowing that I’m going to leave Middlebury in a matter of weeks gives a different perspective to the final days of class and even the upcoming exams.

The last issue of the newspaper comes out next week and it’s hard to believe that there won’t be another afterward. Despite the work required to produce the weekly newspaper, I’m already feeling nostalgic for editing sessions, article drafts, and working with the fantastic team we have assembled in the newsroom. Normally, I’m excited to see the paper on dining hall tables on Thursday. However, the knowledge that it is the last set of articles and stories makes me practically want to delay this week’s publication!

The same applies to classes. I thought I might be counting down the days until commencement, and I am — but not in the sense that I want to be finished. In every class, I find myself relishing the ability to explore different topics or to discuss with the professor and a group of talented peers. It is all the more bittersweet knowing that these opportunities might not come around again for a while.

Even the upcoming exams don’t seem like a hurdle to get over but, rather, the last chance that I’ll have to show what I’ve learned.

I was recently reading the statistics for the newly admitted class of Middlebury students and could not be more excited for them. They are about to embark on a new adventure. If they are anything like I was in May 2011, they may not anticipate the opportunities and encounters at Middlebury that will change them in immeasurable ways.

In any case, I think there is something to be said for not sprinting to the finish line. I am positive that I will look back on these last few weeks with fondness, just as I know I am going to reminisce on my time at Middlebury overall. With that in mind, I definitely won’t be leaning into the turn to the finish line of what can sometimes seem like a race. Rather, I am just enjoying one last run.

Preview Days

Hello Accepted Students!!!

 

This week is Preview Days and the senior fellows are anxiously awaiting your arrival. We’ve been working hard to ensure that you have the best time of your life over the next few days. We even ordered top notch Vermont weather for your enjoyment (forecast is sunny and 65 F with 0% chance of rain).  Be prepared to toss a frisbee on Battell Beach and chat with new friends on Proctor Terrace while watching the sun set. If you’re looking for some more structured activities, you can find a whole slew of them posted here:

http://www.middlebury.edu/system/files/2015previewdays_webv5.pdf

I highly recommend the Student Panel and Brooker Fireside on Wednesday. Likewise, the Iron Eyes Cody concert and Middlebury MothUP will be awesome on Thursday. But really, everything will be fun.

Wednesday through Friday your days will be packed. My advice to you – especially if you’re still trying to narrow down your decision [to Midd] – is to talk to as many students and professors as you can. Ask questions that matter to you. Determine if this is a place that will challenge you and support your search for knowledge. See if you find Middlebury fun.

Please note: College today is not only about the books you read and the concepts you study. You will learn the same history, math, philosophy, chemistry, or sociology wherever you decide to spend your next four years. What matters at the end of the day are the people who shape your experience. I hope Midd’s Preview Days will alleviate the burden of your college decision-making.

 

Wishing you all the best,

Staci

Exploration, Discovery, and Inspiration

Every once in a while, you’ll find that professor who gives you free range on essays. I have always found that Middlebury professors want you to be inspired by your work, that they encourage you to be innovative and creative in your research and papers, but that often still comes with prompts and structure. Every so often, though, you will walk into a class that is all about exploration. I am currently enrolled in two classes in which the professor provides structure for essays but also makes it very clear that she does not want to tell us what to explore. Every essay comes with a “your choice” prompt. Pedagogically, she wants us to find something that means a great deal to us in the hopes that we will use this topic to really let us grow and develop as students and people. Giving us free range allows us to be the best possible versions of ourselves, because we want to learn as much as we can about a subject for reasons that are not purely rooted in obtaining a good grade.

While it may seem obvious that writing about something you are interested in is more rewarding than writing about something about which you care little, but it has really come into focus for me this semester. I am currently working on an essay about various works of the children’s author Kate DiCamillo, and I am not writing about her because she was assigned reading, but instead because I happened to pick up Because of Winn-Dixie on a plane and fell in love. I immediately wanted to read everything she had written, and more than that, I wanted to bring all of this reading together in an academic way that would then become part of my Middlebury learning experience. I actually wanted to write an essay on this author. Just reading her work wasn’t enough; I needed to pull apart her novels, see how they fit together and where they find their place in the literary canon. Because I was given free range over what to write my essay about, I was free to find my own inspiration, and this has led to writing a really fun essay that I can honestly say I am proud of.

As an English major, I have written many an essay in my time at Middlebury. I have been given a lot of freedom in my writing, and I have also been put under a lot of constraints. Each essay has led to new discoveries and a deeper understanding of not only the material, but also who I am as a student. Not essay assignment, though, has really exemplified the Middlebury ideals of exploration, discovery, and inspiration in the way this essay has. Every once in a while, you’ll find that professor who gives you free range on essays, and every once in a while your whole perspective will change.