Category Archives: Student Life

Missing Midd

In the words of current hit “Let Her Go” by Passenger (check out the cover by Jasamine Thompson– it’s better in my opinion) “you only know you love her when you let her go.” While the song’s sentiment is a little more dramatic than my life is right now, it is true that sometimes it takes distance to reflect on how much I love something. For me and Midd, winter break often provides that time. It’s a break just lengthy enough that I begin to long for my bed at school and my friends and Proctor apples. This is my fourth winter break during which I anticipate a return to Middlebury in early January, and it being my last one it is particularly thoughtprovoking. Some things I am missing about Middlebury right now:

– Burger Night at 51 Main. A quasi-religion for me, burger night provides the iron and companionship that makes me my best self. I live in a vegetarian home, and sometimes I just really miss Vermont beef and the friends I eat it with.

– Wilson Cafe Booths. Great light. Just enough activity to provide the white noise I need to focus best on whatever it is I’m doing.

– Sunsets. I say it often, but there is something about Vermont sunsets, something that sets them apart. I think it’s the way they take you by surprise. People often observe sunsets when they expect them to be beautiful: at a mountain’s summit, at the beach, at your cousins new condo “with the greatest view”. But at Middlebury, the sunsets sneak up on us as we leave class and cross the street, head to the library, or sit at an early dinner. The seep under doors and through windows. They intercept your regularly-walked routes. The everyday sunsets in Vermont have an undeniable edge on the competition.

– My friends being near. Next door, down the hall, or across campus, friends are all close. The convenience and closeness it brings is something I take for granted when I’m there, but miss most when I’m away.

It’s about to be 2014, and I’m looking forward to returning to a familiar place for a new year.


The Solar Lifestyle

While the fall leaves are changing and there’s a smell of apple cider and pumpkin in the Vermont air, a few Middlebury students are braving the warm, sprawling desert of Southern California, celebrating the end of the Solar Decathlon Competition.

For those of you who don’t know, the Solar Decathlon is a biannual competition put on by the Department of Energy where 20 schools from around the world are chosen to build a 1,000 square foot house entirely powered by solar panels. The competition is a ‘decathlon’ because each house is judged in 10 different categories, ranging from Market Appeal and Home Entertainment (where each house throws a series of dinner parties), to Engineering and Energy Balance.

Middlebury College is a spunky David in a field of Goliaths. As an unpartnered liberal arts school, we were up against engineering powerhouses like Stevens and Stanford, conglomerates of larger schools like Team Capitol DC (American University, GW, and Catholic University), and schools that represented entire countries like Austria and the Czech Republic. For many Southern Californians, it was difficult to grasp the idea of a liberal arts school pulling off such a feat on its own.

I had the opportunity to travel out to Irvine a few weeks ago to finish construction and lead public tours through the house. While I was sorry to miss a week of the Middlebury fall, I could not give up the opportunity to see the latest and greatest in solar energy building. There was a palpable energy on the competition site as competitors eagerly toured all 19 houses and made new friends from across the globe. Our neighbors and new best friends Team Austria instantly nicknamed us ‘Team Smiley’, probably because of our upbeat demeanor  afinity for early morning yoga, soccer during lunch breaks, and spontaneous mid-construction dance parties.

While it was great touring the other houses and getting to know the competitors, the best part of the week were the public tours through our house, InSite, showing off 2 years of hard work and planning. For those of you that couldn’t make it out, here’s the tour highlight reel from our Five Points of Insiteful Design:

1. Live in a Walkable Community: InSite was designed for a specific lot on Shannon Street. When it comes back to campus as student housing, the house will form a nice bridge between the college and town communities, with the solar panels providing shade over a well worn sidewalk between the two.

2. Prioritize Social Space: Over 2/3rds of the 956 square foot floor plan is dedicated to the open space of kitchen, dining room, and living room. The high cielings and continuous feel of these spaces makes the home feel much larger than its blueprint suggests, encouraging the home’s residents to spend the majority of their time together or with other community members in the social areas rather than cloistered away in the private spaces.

3. Centralize Energy Systems: All of the appliances heavy in electricity and water usage are centralized along our mechanical module to make awareness of these features a cornerstone of the house. Our solar panels are also featured prominantely, with the panels removed from the roof in a pathway that acted as a nice patio shade in SoCal. The Lumos brand panels we used are also distinct from typical panels, with spacing between the silicon cells that allows you to see through them to the sun and sky beyond.

4. Engage the Street: Our house is designed to fit into the local Vermont community. To do so from the outside, the house is clad in reclaimed barnwood over 150 years old. Many key components of the house, like the windows and roof orientation, are designed to engage shannon street specifically.

5. Use Local Materials: The floors are sugar maple woods harvested from Middlebury College forests, less than 10 miles from campus. Look closely and you can see tap holes where these trees were tapped for maple syrup! Much of the furniture was also made by Midd students. The coffee table, the benches, the punch out window seat, the bowl for the bathroom sink, and all of the dishware were made by students this summer.

The competition is now over and the judging complete. Middlebury came in 8th overall and 4th in the People’s Choice Award! An amazing victory for our small school. Many congratulations to our friends, Team Austria, for winning 1st place! The house is being deconstructed as we speak so it can be shipped back to campus. It will be student housing in the spring – so be sure to ask for a tour if you’re visiting us next semester.

Congrats to all of the Solar Decathlon teams for their hard work and contribution to the future of architecture and energy. A special shoutout to the Middlebury team, for proving the mettle of liberal arts students and our contribution to the future.

Go Team Smiley!

Otter Pup

I have a new baby sister. Well, not biologically a baby sister, but the closest I will probably ever get. This non-biological family I have found here at Middlebury goes by the name of the Otter Nonsense Players. Since getting into the group freshman year spring, it has become my familial unit far away from home. With its ups and down, the group has been there for me in times of pure joy, absolute silliness, and days of sadness. However, the sadness never lasts long with this gang of characters. And the gang is now one more strong. Last week we had auditions and I am so very excited that we welcomed in one new member, the incredibly funny and charismatic sophomore girl who already meshes with our dynamic effortlessly.

Improv has been an amazing outlet of creativity and fun throughout these past years. These last auditions were very bitter sweet, marking the second to last that I will ever take part in. When going through deliberations of the many talented and deserving candidates, I wanted to take everyone, bring as many people into the family as possible for departing. It is just too fun to not let everyone come play make believe for two hours twice a week and the occasional show when we step out of safe confines of rehearsal and make fools out of ourselves in front of hundreds.

This week’s family activity – trust falls.

This weekend’s family outing – apple picking.


Movin’ and Groovin’

This Saturday, the Middlebury athletic fields buzzed with activity. Starting in the middle of campus, the men’s tennis team kicked off the weekend with rounds of singles and doubles matches all day. Winding past the athletic center, women’s field hockey picked up their first win of the weekend and cheers of victory sounded from both the men’s and women’s soccer fields. The  cross country team hosted their only home meet of the season and swept the top finishing spots. Even the men’s golf team played and won on home turf.

A little farther off campus, I was competing in my own sporting event – of sorts. To kick off senior year with a flourish, a group of my friends and I signed up for the Vermont Color Vibe  run in Vergennes. The purpose of this 5k is twofold. One, it benefits a Vermont charity Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a camp  catered to children who have, or have had, cancer. Second (and I have to admit this was the driving factor in our signup), you get to throw paint all over your best friends while getting a little exercise. What better excuse to wake up early on a Saturday morning and support a local charity?

Despite my initial excitement at the idea, my sleepy self was skeptical when we pulled up to the race to the tune of “Gangum Style” at 8:30 in the morning. But once we got out of the car, the spirit of the event and all the brightly costumed Vermonters was absolutely infectious. We picked up our powdered paint packets and set to work tie-dying our white t-shirts. Parents, children, fluffy white dogs, and a large representation of the Middlebury swim team, laughed, danced, and painted their way to the finish line in waves of colorful enthusiasm.

All in all, it was a winning day for the Panthers and a vibrant start to a year of senior bucket lists. I’m already looking forward to the next Vermont adventure!

Play Ball

Last first day of classes. First day of last year of school. But beyond that cliché Facebook status everyone seemingly fell victim too, making us realize that no matter how individual we are we really are walking this cobble stones path together, this is about yesterday.


Yesterday was Convocation and seeing the first years line the path to Mead Chapel, dressed in a familiar dress or button down, a pair of slacks, and a familiar sense of unfamiliarity that has begun to feel comfortable. I remember that day vividly. Our orientation week had been a hot one, confusing for an incoming student believing that, “wait, isn’t Vermont supposed to be cold all the time?” Caught off guard by the beautiful heat, we lined the path to Mead Chapel, following behind our Common’s banner, almost marching behind a flag, a team, a country, a new family tartan. What does Wonnocott mean? And why is our mascot a squirrel?


We were the incoming class of 2014 and were beginning, finally. After years of preparation, even deliberate or not, we had made it to the place we would call home for the next four years. We were united in a common nervousness if nothing else.


The nervousness culminated into a group mind of action, and that action was the wave. Yes, while not quite a Fenway Park all the way around the stadium wave, it was a top of the hill to the bottom of the hill wave. Smiles a mass and arms in the air, immediately more than nervousness bounded us. Perhaps it was more of a reaction than an action, but none the less, a memory was formed.


That same flutter of energy was felt yesterday. As I returned from a run I saw the first years lining up. Sweaty and tired, I climbed the stairs in my dorm that lines the quad and commented to a roommate, “Did you see all the first years lining up for convocation?” With a yes of agreement and an “We are old,” we began to hear singing. The communal nervousness of 2017 had manifested itself into a roaring revel of “Star-Spangled Banner.”


First Years, it is time to play ball. With the national anthem and the wave in place, it is going to be a great game.

What Do You Do For Fun Here?


Speaking of concerts… I always get the question from prospective students, “What do you guys do for fun here?” And I get it. The idea of a college in a small town in Vermont does not sound like the most “happening” place in the world and initially looking at colleges, I was worried about the same thing. I had friends who had already committed to schools in the city because there would be “so much to do all the time.” However, I distinctly remember a current student telling me during my preview days, “Yeah, the great thing about Middlebury is that either the school brings cool things here or the students make cool things happen.” And the thing is… she was totally right.


Another thing I have loved about being on this campus is how much is always going on here because of a few things:
1. 98% of students live on campus so everything is happening right here
2. This is a student body that is constantly creating events with such innovation and drive
3. The school is always in support of these student initiatives. If you have a speaker, band, performing artist, comedian (you name it) that you want to bring to campus, with a little bit of organization, it isn’t that difficult to make it happen.

The beginning of this semester totally showcased this point. In one weekend, we had WRMC (student radio station on campus)’s spring music festival Sepomana, which brought rocking indie bands like Baths, Delicate Steve, and Rubblebucket. The next night, a benefit concert was thrown with Middlebury’s very own Alpen Glow opening for Anya Marina while at the Hepburn Zoo, an improv group brought PULSE, a 10-Person percussion group to perform. After this, one house hosted a 1950’s high school dance with a student band playing live. Whoo.

And best thing about it, rather than some concert in a city, I get to be dancing with all my friends throughout.

Alpenglow In Studio from WRMC 91.1FM on Vimeo.


Finding home

One of my first weekends at Middlebury, a friend and I ran up Chipman Hill. As we reached the top, both of us grew quiet. Taking in the vast expanses of the patchwork landscape – the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west – I stood in awe of the place I would grow to call home for the next four years.

From my freshman year, the combination of the natural beauty of Addison County and a curiosity to understand it led me to the study of Conservation Biology. Throughout the campus, and especially as an Environmental Studies major, we often engage in conversations around sustainability. As a budding ecologist, climate activist, and a steward of our natural world at Middlebury, sustainability is more than an oft-repeated buzzword across Admissions brochures. It’s a guiding principle we live every day.

Derived from the Latin word sustinere – to hold up, support, and endure – sustainability at Middlebury is a forward thinking principle that acknowledges the future consequences of today’s human impacts, the interconnectedness of natural and human communities, and the moral obligation to support future generations.

Take my BIOL 0302 class, Vertebrate Natural History with Steve Trombulak. You wake up at 5 in the morning. It’s pitch black. You slowly crawl out of bed, throw on as much wool as you can find, and walk into the biting cold to set out mist-nets. Minutes later you’ll walk the lanes of nets, hold in your hand a Black-capped chickadee, a White-throated sparrow, or maybe a bright red male Northern cardinal. That same afternoon you might go out to Lewis Creek to electrofish or set up Sherman traps to collect a flying squirrel in Cornwall. Or take BIOL 323, Plant Community Ecology, when we hiked through the old-growth hemlock-pine forest of the Battell Research Forest, measured the invasion of European buckthorn and Eurasian bush honeysuckle, and traced the changes in forest composition along an altitudinal gradient.

At Middlebury, our professors do not treat us as students in the traditional sense, but as apprentices in the craft of each field of study. Middlebury students are budding mathematicians and economists, future surgeons and psychologists, or emerging marine biologists. When we learn about how to protect species diversity, conserve natural habitat, and protect wildlife corridors, or the importance of breeding grounds, pollinators, and seed dispersal pathways, this knowledge is not theoretical. It is the work of the future.

All Environmental Studies majors participate in a capstone seminar course which is both project based and in conjunction with a community partner. The theme of this spring’s senior seminar is “issues in transboundary sustainability.” I’m working with a team of five other ES majors each with a unique focus. We are students of political science, economics, biologists, and geographers looking to understand the cross-jurisdictional regional prevention of aquatic invasive species in Lake Champlain. While our professors and community partners are here to guide us with academic support, resources, and expertise, the whole project is ours. Inspired and enriched by this project-based philosophy, we are able to pursue solutions with curiosity, self-discovery, and collaboration.

Four years after beginning my study of conservation biology, the top of Chipman Hill is more familiar. What was once a vast expanse of space has been transformed into place, both personal and specific.

When I arrived at Middlebury, I fell in love with the forested landscape of Vermont with no real regard for its natural history, inhabitants, or processes. Four years later, Addison County is no longer a “landscape” but a place, endowed with value and meaning as I have experienced more attachment to this community. Walking around campus bird songs are no longer undifferentiated calls as I have learned the tones and rhythms of their chirpings. The forest is no longer filled with “trees” but individual species, each with taxonomic nomenclature and natural history. At the top of Chipman Hill, I no longer only see a view, but become a part of what Aldo Leopold pens as the sensory experience of the “theatre of evolution.”

I never thought I’d ever call going back to Middlebury “coming home.”

Dolci – A Unique Middlebury Dining Experience


One of the best-kept secrets at Middlebury is Dolci dinner, a five-course restaurant-style culinary experience that brings upscale dining to Atwater on Friday evenings. A student head chef prepares a five-course meal around exciting themes such as breakfast for dinner, geometry, and bacon. With the guidance and support of the Atwater dining staff, student teams of sous-chefs prep each component part of these elaborate meals days in advance of the actual event, where lucky students who were the first to register online get to invite a date to a unique dining experience. Dolci is a real privilege to experience (at no cost to students I should add) and is just one of many great ways to kick off a weekend. After a long week of work and running around, relaxing over blood red orange soda while snacking on pita bread with baba ganoush reminds me that a whole world of culinary traditions has creatively found its way onto my doorstep in Middlebury, Vermont.

Below are some examples of the dishes offered at the two Dolci dinners I’ve had the luxury of attending. From tonight’s dinner (Mediterranean theme) there is a lamb with Israeli cous cous and falafel as well as a desert dish comprised of candied figs and pistachio cookies. The third picture is of a dessert from the geometry themed evening: a molten lava cake with home-made pistachio ice cream and two sauces, one raspberry and one mint.


For anyone looking for activities to add to their senior-year bucket lists, Dolci is a must!



Extracurricular Reflections: Election Season

While the United States picked its president on November 6, at Middlebury we’ll be choosing our next president of the Student Government Association on May 3. It’s an exciting time, with aspiring candidates putting up creative posters, accosting students outside the dining halls, and giving dramatic speeches in random locales in an attempt to woo the undecided masses.

For me, this year’s election season is bittersweet. For the last year I have served as president of the Student Government Association, which has been a unique and fantastic opportunity for me. In that role, I have sent thousands of emails, attended hundreds of meetings, and worked with fellow students, faculty, staff, and administrators across campus. It has been a wonderful learning experience for me, as I’ve had to engage with a variety of issues, learned to work more collaboratively and effectively, and to be a real leader. As I’m getting ready to transition out, I know I’ll miss having these opportunities.

In many ways, as you can see, I’ve learned as much in this extracurricular pursuit as in some of my classes. While my particular role is unique, the incredible learning value of extracurriculars for Midd students is not. Student athletes learn about the value of teamwork on and off the field. Members of performing groups, in addition to honing their various techniques, are also coordinators and leaders who work with others to accomplish shared goals. A major driver of what keeps Middkids busy day-to-day is our extracurricular involvements, and that is a key reason that student life here is so vibrant. We take these commitments seriously because they are as important as what we do in the classroom in driving student learning. But they’re also fun.

As I nostalgically watch underclassmen campaign for my job, it is hard not to think of the extent to which my non-academic commitments have shaped my time at Middlebury—my skill sets and schedule, to be sure—but far more importantly the friendships I have made and the ways in which I enjoy myself. The choices we make on that front sometimes may seem arbitrary when we make them, but ultimately have significantly consequences for how we spend our time. My involvement over the last four years in student government, Hillel, the College Democrats, College Choir, and other groups have fundamentally shaped my time at Middlebury. They’ve each been learning experiences, they’ve been places to make friends and enjoy myself, and the way it’s all shaken out, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Spring Student Symposium

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.