Author Archives: Rachel

Tradition in the Key of Murray Dry

Murray Dry, Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science, is a living legend here at Middlebury College. He wears a three-piece suit to class, calls students by their last names, and yells at the top of his lungs to accentuate a point. I’ve taken two of Professor Dry’s courses – American Political Regime and American Constitutional Law – and today he was our substitute teacher for a political philosophy course I am taking. We’re reading Machiavelli’s The Prince, which Professor Dry has read hundreds of times. He has written a tome on the whiteboard and plans to run through every bullet point in an hour and a quarter. (He won’t even get close – Professor Dry is notorious for keeping students late and there’s always shared laughter in the room when he insists he won’t do it “this time.”) His voice is getting louder and louder with every minute that passes. He covers material far beyond what was assigned for class that day. He says, “I’m surprised that any of you could put the book down!”

And I realize that some things just never, ever get old.

Professor Dry will never be tired of The Prince. He’s obsessed with it. I’ve heard him obsess about upwards of fifty books now in my time at Middlebury, and not only am I not tired of him obsessing, but the obsession itself is also infectious. “There was once a young woman in my class who broke off a date with a young man to read The Prince,” he says, making a joke about how we should all have that kind of passion for the work.

But he’s kind of not kidding. He’s kind of that guy.

And I find myself being taken in for the umpteenth time. He is asking a tricky question and I jump in. He acknowledges me with a wry smile and a long, drawn-out “Ms. Dicker.” I give it my best swing, and as he fills in the blanks of my understanding, my features twist in comprehension. He yells: “I SEE MS. DICKER MAKING A FACE LIKE SHE UNDERSTANDS THIS DIFFERENTLY! GOOD! YES! THAT’S RIGHT!”

That “eureka” moment from a student still excites him to the point of yelling. 45 years at Middlebury and he’s still yelling about The Prince like it’s a football game.

And you will see that kind of enthusiasm at our football games, too. It’s everywhere, and it’s everlasting. It’s the rejuvenating feeling of tradition: that is something is worth doing, it’s worth doing over and over again. As we enter Homecoming Weekend, I’m reminded of the enthusiasm alumni feel for Midd and how infectious that is, too. They come from all different sectors of the post-graduate world and reflect on how their Middlebury experience has changed them, shaped them, inspired them. It’s like going back to The Prince and experiencing it anew for Murray Dry. And for some alumni, The Prince elicits that same feeling partly because of him.

Students find that energy in all areas at Middlebury. They find it like a warm blanket waiting to greet them. They come back to it: to their books, to their friends, to this place. And even when it’s unexpected, they find something new every time.

The Sting of Seniorhood

I walk outside and am greeted with a blast of cool air and a flash of warm sunlight. I feel in my bones the minor chill and fluttery excitement of a new year. People rush around, hugging each other quickly, smiling uncertainly, swaggering down Mead Chapel Hill. It’s fall at Middlebury, and it’s my last. What happened?

I spent most of last night with two people who I am extremely close to on this campus, people I met on my freshman hall. One of them was unpacking and little notes, jokes, and pick-me-ups I had written over the years surfaced in the papers he had saved. They created a patchwork of memories: hilarious, bittersweet, intense, difficult, silly. We played guessing games as to when exactly they were written; we reminisced and remarked on how much we all had changed. I felt something tug at me somewhere deep and inaccessible, and I let it hurt. I think I will be doing a lot of this, and I think it will be a very good thing.

Middlebury hurts a lot of the time; you appreciate what you have, and you ache to retain it. The idyllic setting, the small classes, the engaged professors, the wide and easily accessible network of strong and supportive friends. These are things that are great, and inevitably there is pain when you are reminded that it doesn’t last forever. I have often felt guilty for feeling this pain because I feel like it makes it more difficult to appreciate the present moment. But now I realize that it is part and parcel of the present moment: it is a fluid sting, a natural accompaniment to love. Whereas in past years I have fought it, now I welcome it.

My wistfulness was also – pleasantly, in some sense – accompanied by nerves. It’s invigorating to feel some first-day jitters even as a senior. The campus feels new again, as it does every fall. I am changed, but I enter every year as a new iteration of myself; I get the chance to put a new kind of “Rachel” into action. I wait for results, I hope for the best, I get butterflies – I feel a part of the living, highly active organ that is this campus. I feel ready, and in that readiness, I feel a healthy level of expectation and even insecurity. I know I have attained a certain level of ownership of this place, but I also like to acquiesce that grip and let myself flow in the sometimes chaotic rhythm of it all. I’m a senior, but I only feel like one as often as not.

I have a lot to learn this year. I feel it in every step I take on the concrete, every breeze that unsettles my hair. In some ways I’m just a kid. But for the adult I am becoming, I have Midd to thank for making it painful.


Welcome to the Blog!

Hi all! We are the Middlebury Admissions Senior Fellows for the 2013-2014 school year! We’re going to tell you about our adventures, impressions, thoughts, feelings, and ruminations as we move through our final year at Middlebury. We’re a very diverse group of people, so you’ll find all sorts of different opinions and perspectives on campus life on this blog. Whether it’s the food, the professors, the dorms, or the weather, you’re guaranteed to hear many different sides of the story. But what unites us, undoubtedly, is our love for this place. We have all come to that passion in different ways, but we’ve ended up at the same place – Admissions! So we can’t wait to share our passion with you.

All the best for a happy and successful year and stay tuned,

The Senior Fellows ’13-’14