As I am always telling my information sessions, I have two favorite days every year at Middlebury: Chili Festival and Spring Student Symposium. The reason I love Chili Fest is obvious, I think, because I get to sample dozens of kinds of chili while casually strolling along Middlebury’s Main Street on a balmy day in March. But the reasons I love Spring Student Symposium are a little more complicated.
Spring Student Symposium takes place on a Friday in late April, and classes are cancelled for the day. McCardell Bicentennial Hall (“Bihall”) transforms itself into the college-level equivalent of an elementary school science fair, and hundreds of students put up posters, make presentations, and give all sorts of demonstrations. The topics? Anything they want—papers they’ve worked on, research they have undertaken, senior theses, work done while studying abroad. The Symposium is a celebration of the huge amount of undergraduate research that takes place at Middlebury.
The presentations really range the academic spectrum. I’ll give an example, using two roommates I know. One is a physics major, and was part of a team that converted a tractor to run on hydrogen. (I went for a ride.) The other roommate is a classics major with an interest in the civil rights movement—so, naturally, he translated the works of Malcomb X into Latin. So Spring Symposium presentation topics truly range the gamut.
The reason I love Symposium is because it is an opportunity to see what friends and peers are up to and to marvel at the amount of research that goes on here, in some really fascinating different fields. We all know that our friends are smart and that our friends work hard, but to see them presenting the results of their hard work in a group setting can be inspiring. In my mind, Middlebury’s emphasis on undergraduate research—across the curriculum and at all levels—is a unique trait and one that cannot be understated.
This year, I will be presenting at Symposium for the first time. I’ll be discussing my senior thesis, which is about Internet censorship in China. I’m excited for my friends, peers, and professors to see what I’ve been up to all year, and I know that it’ll be a proud capstone for my Middlebury experience. But I’m more excited to see what my friends and peers have been up to this year—I know I’ll be astonished and inspired by their work.