Author Archives: Vincent Blais

Middlebury Student Bloggers

Midd students are opinionated and enjoy sharing their opinions with others.  This fosters lively class discussions as well as countless high-quality student-run blogs.  I’d like to use this post to promote just a few of them.

MiddBlog is Middlebury’s blog for students by students.  Their latest features a letter from Tik Root, the Middlebury student who just returned to the US after being held for two weeks in a Syrian jail after being detained at a demonstration in Damascus.  MiddBlog is great to get a perspective on what is being discussed on campus and provides links to the blogs of other students and administrators.

21CB describes itself as “a fresh, thoughtful voice on the current affairs, popular culture, and web trends of Asia and the Asian diaspora.”  This blog was founded by a Middlebury senior from HK and features contributions from several other Midd students, all of whom have a background in Asia.  (Full disclosure: several of my friends are contributors).

And now for some shameless self-promotion: This blog originated as a project for a seminar I took in the fall, International Order in the 20th Century with Prof. James Morrison.  The blog hosts a podcast series in which three classmates and I discuss some of the key issues from class.  What is the nature of order (and disorder) in the international system?  What is the role of state sovereignty in the context of international integration?  What will the rise of China mean for the structure of the international system?  We discuss these questions and more over the course of five podcasts.

Senior (and First Year) Seminars

The flip side of Casey’s coin are, of course, senior seminars.  While intros are full of energy because of the volume of new students grappling with new subject matter, senior seminars are exciting because they are specialized and generally full of people you have interacting with in lower level classes for a few years.

This semester, I’m taking two poli sci seminars, a Seminar in Diplomacy with Professor Leng and a seminar in Chinese Foreign Policy with Professor Teets.  After (almost) four years at Midd, you know a lot of the students in your department, have figured out which professors you simply can’t miss, and have a strong base of knowledge with which to discuss more specialized subject matter.

Here’s why senior seminars serve as such a great capstone to four years at Midd:

Experience: Everyone in your seminar operates from a similarly strong base of knowledge (academic and personal).  Many of my classmates in my Chinese Foreign Policy seminar studied at one of the Middlebury Schools in China.  Several are international students from China.  This richness of my classmates’ personal and academic backgrounds make class discussions interesting and deep.

on that note…

Discussion: The quality of seminars rely on the quality of discussion.  They’re small (capped at 15 students), so there’s no hiding in the back corner.  However, it is easy to facilitate discussion when everyone is coming from a similar background and has unique personal insights to share.

Old is New Again: For some poli sci students (myself included), it’s easy to forget or confuse exactly what Kenneth Waltz‘s theories of international relations entail.  Seminars give everyone a chance to reconsider key theories that they may have been forgotten or confused over the years and consider them in a new, more specialized context.

More relevant to you as applicants is the First Year Seminar program. The First Year Seminar shares a similar philosophy.  They’re small (capped at 15).  While everyone approached the material from different academic backgrounds, they all bring their own personal experience and insights to the table.  First Year Seminars are a great way to make new friends when you first get on campus and an opportunity to explore more specialized material from the beginning of your college career.


Middlebury students may be in the library on Sundays, but Fridays and Saturdays are a bit of a different story.  One of the things about Middlebury that most surprised me as an incoming first-year was the fact that most students do not leave Middlebury on the weekends, with some exceptions such as in-season athletes travelling to compete.  I thought that I would be spending a decent amount of time in Burlington (45 mins) and Montreal (2.5 hours).  I’ve only been to Burlington a few times and Montreal probably the same amount.  Other than those few short trips, I’ve spent my weekends here.

What can a town of 8,000 (Middlebury) offer that an international metropolis of 2 million (Montreal) can’t?  A good place to study, you may joke.  That’s true.  However, Middlebury realizes that it doesn’t have 2 million residents and that it has to work harder to keep students entertained.  To this end, the College and students themselves take it upon themselves to offer a wide range of weekend activities for students with a variety of interests.

Take this past weekend, for example.  Friday night, Inception was screened three times in Dana Auditorium as part of the Free Friday Film series.  The Free Friday Film Series is a series of recently released films offered free to students by MCAB (Middlebury College Activities Board), the student-run activities board.

After Inception, my suite hosted the pirate party, an annual tradition of the Sailing Club.  The Sailing Club is a three-part program: it runs a PE class, offers a recreational sailing program that allows anyone to get out on the water, and competes in regattas as a member of the NEISA (New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association).  The team is incredibly tight, even when they’re mock fighting in pirate garb (witnessed Friday night).

Saturdays are usually fairly relaxed.  This past Saturday, you could’ve gone down to Alumni Stadium, gotten involved in a tailgate and watched the football team end their season with a win over Tufts.  On any given weekend, you could grab a few friends, hike Snake Mountain and spend a while admiring the beauty of the Champlain Valley.  You could also explore town, pick up some fresh cheese at the Farmers Market, grab a sandwich at Noonie’s and eat it overlooking the falls on Otter Creek.

This past Saturday night, MCAB brought us Yeasayer.  They gave a great show with the crowd going especially wild for one of the lead singer’s jumpsuit.  MCAB is able to bring a lot of great acts here for concerts.  In recent years, we’ve seen: The Roots, Girl Talk, Regina Spektor, and many more.

Scene in Nelson on Saturday night

This past Sunday, a lot of people skipped the library (at least for a while) to watch the mens’ soccer team win the NCAA DIII regional championship.  The soccer team will advance to sectionals next weekend, hopefully moving onto nationals after that.  The team is no stranger to the NCAA DIII National Championship, having won it in 2007.

As you can see, Middlebury doesn’t give students much reason to want to leave campus.  That said, I will be going up to Burlington tomorrow to see the midnight showing of the latest Harry Potter.  Pumped.

Class Registration: The Final Countdown

I’m admittedly a bit groggy this morning after waking up at 6:45 a.m. to register for spring term classes.  Class registration at Middlebury starts at 7 a.m., with each year assigned a specific day on which it can register.  Overall, the system works well, although it’s not without its quirks.  On your registration morning, your entire class will be awake, logging into Bannerweb (our class registration platform), and counting down the seconds until the clock strikes 7.  At 7:00:01, the mad rush begins, with everyone trying to enter course registration numbers before their top picks get filled up.  Sounds stressful?  Exciting?  Rushed?  It’s all of those things, but for my friends and I, it’s become something of a musical tradition.  During registration, one of my friends will blast Europe’s “The Final Countdown” throughout our suite.  By the end of the five or so minutes of musical excitement, all of us will have secured our classes and be headed back to bed.  This song has come to represent for me the energy surrounding registration and will always remind me of punching course registration numbers into Bannerweb.

For me, as a senior, today’s class registration gave “The Final Countdown” new meaning.  It’s strange to be choosing the last four courses I will take in college and the decision was by no means easy.  Although a lot of my spring semester will consist of independent research and a senior seminar on Chinese Foreign Policy, I wanted to take advantage of the rest of my time at Midd by choosing a couple of interesting courses outside of my major.  It’s really sunk in that next semester is the last hurrah, the Final Countdown.  Unlike you, who have four years of academic opportunity ahead of you, I only have a short time left in which to take classes like Russian Politics and Literature (my J-term choice).  To get a feel for typical Midd course offerings, check out the course catalog.

Signing off, I’d like to leave you with Sweden’s most notable contribution to 80s pop.  Meet Europe: