Category Archives: Speakers

Feminism in the Global Arena

Every spring, the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies department at Middlebury hosts a week-long symposium called the Gensler Family Symposium on Feminism in the Global Arena. The symposiums focus on the many challenges that women face in our ever-changing social, political, and economic environments. Some examples of broad topics from past years include: “Interrogating Citizenship: Sex, Race, Class, and Regimes of Power,” “The F Word: Feminist Texts, Feminist Lives,” and “Sexual Straightjackets & Queer Escapes.” How exciting do these sound? This past spring, I was given the opportunity to help plan the 2016 Gensler Symposium: “#IntersectionalTV: Mediating Race, Gender, and Sexuality.”

This academic symposium, during the spring of my junior year, was one of the most memorable and exciting academic experiences during my time at Middlebury. I am a Film and Media Culture Major, minoring in Gender Studies –– so the topic of the intersection of television and race, gender, and sexuality was almost too exciting for me to handle. The symposium consisted of a bunch of panels, screenings, discussions, and meals with other students, faculty members, and visiting professors from other institutions. Some of my favorite academic topics included the concept of casting, the importance of women and minority show runners in Hollywood, and the growing Queer TV movement, focusing on self-expression and performance art. Can you tell that I geeked out over this the entire week?

My favorite event of the week was a talk given by Susan Douglas, author of the book The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us from Girl Power to Girls Gone Wild. Douglas presented in Dana Auditorium to an audience full of students across all disciplines, not just students of gender and film. Her lecture focused on everything from problematic contemporary television shows to Beyoncé’s self-proclaimed feminism. The best part of the day was when I joined Douglas and my four professors for dinner in town at Two Brothers Tavern. It was so special to share a meal with the author of a book that I have read in multiple classes and to discuss topics of feminism and pop culture with all of my professors outside of the classroom setting.

Middlebury is the kind of place where it’s cool to geek out over getting to meet an author. The 2016 Gensler Symposium was a week at Middlebury that I will never forget –– and I am looking forward to the upcoming one in 2017!

Here’s the poster from Gensler 2016:


Not Your Average Saturday

Last Saturday, instead of digging into my homework in the library or (as is more likely) avoiding the day’s chill in my sweatpants and LL Bean moccasins (guilty as charged, Nathan LaBarba), I was lucky enough to attend a lecture series here on campus called TEDx. An offshoot of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) organization, TEDx events are individually, locally organized events in the TED tradition of promoting ‘ideas worth spreading’. The event combined a sprinkling of TED videos with live speakers discussing their experience in a wide range of fascinating topics, from the revitalization of Central Park to the study of empathy and doctors’ bedside manners. There was even a student speaker, a current senior chosen by the TEDx committee to reflect on the college experience from the perspective of both an introvert and an extrovert.

Needless to say, it was a fascinating day. When the session broke for lunch, my friends and I crowded around a table with our Noonies sandwiches and soups, discussing the overlaps between each talk. I have to admit, this is one of my favorite parts about academics here at Middlebury, too. If you take the time to reflect on each of your courses year after year, it is incredible to see the overlaps, the continuities, the meaningful discrepancies.

The best part of the day, though, was not the insightful speakers or even the food (though the apple cider doughnuts were pretty hard to beat), but it was the vast swath of the Middlebury student body present at the talks. There are a million different ways to spend a Saturday at Middlebury, most of them much less intellectually overwhelming than TEDx. But on Saturday I ran into  friends from all walks of Middlebury life (and several Senior Fellows!), each as excited as the next as they alluded to the forum’s themes, “Research, Rethink, Rebuild”.

Middlebury is many things, and if you’ve ever attended one of our information sessions on campus I’m sure we’ve made that evident. Focused as my sessions are on the internal growth that comes with the Middlebury experience, I often forget to state that ultimately, Middlebury is a great big incubator for new ideas worth spreading. Sitting in the CFA concert hall, full to bursting with locally-sourced cider doughnuts, I was reminded of the diversity of new ideas being developed, spread, and implemented here on campus. And as I chatted with my friends at the forum, many of us seniors attending TEDxMiddlebury while we still can, I couldn’t help but wonder what bright ideas students like us will spread when we leave for the wider world.

Going Full Circle: Jonathan Safran Foer as the 2013 Commencement Address Speaker

I am not sure if you’ve seen the big news on the front page, but author Jonathan Safran Foer is going to speak at the commencement address of the class of 2013! Which is my graduation!

Now, the fact that such a renowned author (Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Eating Animals) is already pretty huge. Ever since being introduced to David Foster Wallace’s famous commencement address, This Is Water, given to the Kenyon College class of 2005, I have always dreamed of having a favorite author deliver the parting words of my college.

But this is not just any favorite author. This is the author of my year’s Common Reading selection. The summer before you come to Middlebury, you receive a welcome packet that includes a map, your first year course selection, some promotional materials, and a book. This book is your Common Reading and the school ask that you read it before arriving on campus to then engage in intimate group discussions led by faculty and staff during the week of Orientation. The book I received my year was Everything Is Illuminated. I can remember this book being what completely reaffirmed my decision to enroll at Middlebury. It was the first time reading the book (I had only seen the movie with Elijah Wood…) and I remember being astonished that the school would select such a complex and emotion-filled book as the introduction to the college. When we arrived on campus, I was so excited to have our Common Reading discussion – I had fallen in love with the author’s prose and his style of communicating the narrative. I could not wait to begin connecting with other students through literature.

After this experience, I held on to the dream that Jonathan Safran Foer might be the one to speak at our graduation – that the voice that welcomed us to this four-year adventure might be the one that would send us off. When the news came out that he would indeed be that voice, I jumped in joy the way I did when I found out I got into Middlebury. What a beautiful thing to see it all come full-circle.jonathan_safran_foer_nymag


Spring Symposium, 2011

One of the most exciting annual events at Middlebury is the spring symposium. Each year Middlebury students from all four classes present and perform at the symposium. This year there are 306 oral and visual presentations and performances that will take place in Bicentennial Hall on Friday, April 15! It is a time of celebration; parents, family members, and friends come to Middlebury from all over the country to join students for this amazing day! Students share their thesis work, independent project findings, and a variety of other projects that they have been working on.

A little bit of self promotion: I will be presenting on my non-profit organization, HELA, and my thesis “Expert Discourse around Women’s Bodies and Their Subjugation: Imagining and Being the Afghan Woman.”

This year’s keynote speaker is a Middlebury alumnus, Brad Corrigan ’96: “Brad Corrigan ’96, member of the bands Dispatch and Braddigan, is the founder of Love, Light and Melody a non-profit in Nicaragua. A music major while at Middlebury he also studied Environmental Ethics and Philosophy.”

For a complete list of presenters and a detailed schedule for the symposium, please click here.

Here are some images from previous symposiums: