My Final Drive To Middlebury (as a student)

The first time I visited Middlebury I drove in from the middle of New York State. I had fallen asleep during the drive (as I am want to do) and was woken up by my Dad’s voice saying that we were 30 minutes away.  I looked to my right — farmland. I looked to my left — more farmland. I looked down at my phone — no signal.  Where was I?  I got on campus, took the tour, heard the information session, visited with a professor and fell in love with the school.

That drive through the tip of New Jersey, three hours of New York State, and the ending 45 minutes of Vermont is one that I have done numerous times over my four years.  I know the drive well. I know which rest stops are best to stop at and make the same punny jokes everytime I pass certain stores. Friends that have been in the car with me and thus heard the jokes before groan, new passengers give a polite laugh, and I’ll admit that sometimes I even say them outloud to myself when I drive alone.

Two days ago, at the end of spring break, the last break of the year, I did my last drive back to campus that I will take as a student.  The landmarks became sentimental, the jokes became meaningful, and the long stretches of I-87 opened up the floodgates of memories.  It felt odd to know that the next time I drive back to campus I will be doing it as an alum.  Each time I did this drive it was with the excited expectation of new experiences at Middlebury and getting back to a place I love.  I’m excited to know that my future drives will serve as a checkpoint of how I’ve grown and the new places that I have seen as I go back to visit Middlebury, my alma mater.

March Madness

March flew by in a whirlwind. 

Week One

After having finished a successful Winter Carnival, I decided I needed a weekend away of relaxation. I texted my friend from Williams, we got in the car, and headed to the Berkshires for the weekend. As we wound down Route 7, we caught up on the last 15 months. See, my friend, Hannah, and I were on the same study abroad program, SIT Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change, and we hadn’t seen each other since December 2013. We immediately fell back into old times, recounting our triumphs and trials since we said goodbye in Denpasar. It was a warm rekindling, a testament to our wonderful semester together and a perfect reboot. 

Week Two

After the success of my weekend away, I geared up for a week of two exams, a birthday party, and our 100 Days celebration. And I had an absolute blast. I reveled in my knowledge of Mughal miniatures and esoteric Buddhist paintings. I celebrated a friend’s 22nd, the beginning of a string of birthdays in our friend group. And I danced the night away in Ross Dining Hall. I was amazed by the familiarity of the sea of faces around me, all celebrating our last semester together on campus. 

Week Three

I wrapped up the last week before spring break with our first executive board meeting with our new fellows for next year for the Activities Board. We had spent the last two weeks reviewing applications, interviewing the applicants, and deliberating as a selection committee. After hours of work, we had assembled our dream team for next year. I felt confident in passing off the torch before I hopped on the plane for Colorado. 

Week Four

For ten days, I hopped around Colorado, heading to Denver, Aspen and Colorado Springs. I appreciated the warm sunshine on my face, the Rockies to the West, and the budding Aspen trees. I will be spending my summer in Colorado Springs so I began to think about potential jobs and fun adventures to be had!

Time seems to be moving exponentially faster with the approach of May 24th! And I’m sure April will go even faster, bringing in more sun, more smiles, and more memories.

Science and the Liberal Arts

As a chemistry major, I’m often asked about the opportunities at Middlebury for the natural sciences. “Middlebury is known for its language and environmental studies programs,” some will say with the underlying question being “Middlebury isn’t necessarily known for their sciences. So how do they fare?”

This is a fair question…and they fare pretty well if I do say so myself.

Middlebury’s Bicentennial Hall – “the science building” – was constructed with the prospect of highlighting the natural sciences in a stereotypical humanities-driven community. It is the home to seven academic departments and three academic programs, equipped with a science-focused library, the biggest window in Vermont, and top-notch professors. The professors are graduates from top research universities who are passionate about teaching. (Teaching in this case is not limited to the classroom, but includes the labs as well). They encourage independent research, they publish academic work with students as co-authors, they teach how to write for their academic discipline, and they are at the front of 100-level courses getting new students excited about their passion with interesting anecdotes and fun demonstrations. Professors, not teaching-assistants, are the ones invigorating students and consequently motivating their passion.

I transferred to Middlebury in the Fall of my sophomore year from a large university where teaching-assistants were the ones teaching my science courses. I came to Middlebury not sure if I still wanted to pursue the sciences. Despite my ambivalence, I mustered the courage to take organic chemistry my first semester and haven’t looked back since. A slew of opportunities has opened up for me upon declaring my major: I worked in an organic chemistry lab at Middlebury over the summer, 3 years later my professor is publishing that research with 3 students as co-authors. The following year I joined an inorganic chemistry lab and did two independent studies looking into a fundamental mechanism to explain Alzheimer’s Disease (which I’ve adopted as my senior thesis). This past summer I did an internship at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in their nanoengineering facility. We don’t have engineering – or nanotechnology – at Middlebury but I was still extremely prepared due to the endless opportunities of labwork experience I received back here in Vermont. This summer internship provided another opportunity to do research the following summer, but in an international research facility. I applied and was accepted to work at the National Institute for Material Science in Tsukuba, Japan. To prove that this is Middlebury and not “just  me” – two other Middlebury students have done this program. One student did her first summer at Stanford, the other at the University of Minnesota. Each of us applied and went on to do the Japan internship, an incredible opportunity that we can attribute back to the research skills we acquired at Middlebury.

These opportunities and important research skills are not only found in the chemistry department, but in all departments in BiHall (and across all disciplines on campus). For those of you interested in the sciences, but hesitant to pursue them at a liberal arts school like Middlebury, I highly encourage you to give Middlebury a chance. Middlebury has been the perfect place to pursue the sciences and I’m looking forward to applying to chemistry PhD programs this summer.


If you have any further questions about Middlebury and the sciences, please do not hesitate to contact me: 


Choosing Your Advisor

It might seem strange that a senior, well into her major by now, is writing about the advisor-choosing process.  And it should, because that process took place quite a long time ago for me.  However, I find myself frequently telling the story of how I chose my advisor freshman year, because it continues to amaze me how incredibly lucky I was.

On the first day of my second semester, I walked into a class for which I was not registered. I hesitantly walked up to the professor and simply said, “Hi, I’m Stevie. May I please add this class, and I know this probably seems strange, but will you be my advisor?” I had never met this professor, nor had I ever taken a class in the department in which I was declaring my major. I just had a feeling. In response, this professor—who didn’t know anything about me save my first name—said, “Sure!” I knew the second she walked into the room that this professor would be someone from whom I was going to learn a great deal, someone to whom I could go for advice, someone who would make a large impact on my Middlebury years. It turns out, I was right. Almost four years later, this professor continues to be my advisor, serves as my thesis advisor, and also teaches two of the classes in which I am currently enrolled.

When I was touring colleges, many students told me they had close relationships with their professors. Every time I heard this, I thought it sounded important and wonderful, but I couldn’t image that I would have the confidence to foster a strong relationship with a professor outside of the classroom. What I have found, however, is that becoming close to my advisor at Middlebury didn’t take effort or overwhelming confidence. Instead, it took a shared interest in her academic field and a desire to learn from each other.

In a good advisor, you find someone who is demanding of that which is difficult and is compassionate about that which is most difficult. Your advisor should be someone to whom you go for advice not only on academics, but really about anything. Being at Middlebury can sometimes come with its fair share of stresses, and your advisor is there to help you navigate the rougher waters. He or she knows you are capable of greatness, but also understands that you are human. An advisor’s ability to balance your perspectives can be a lifesaver.

When I look back on my Middlebury years, I know I will remember my teammates, my housemates, and my friends; I’ll remember that incredible class that changed my life and that class that seemed like it might destroy me. There will be books I cherish and lessons I’ll carry with me forever. And at the head of all of this will stand the incredible influence that has been my advisor.

Liberal Arts: A Practical Application

I am a huge proponent of the liberal arts education.  Anytime anyone asks me what I am studying, while I say my major, what I really want to say is, “an incredible set of skills.”  I think at the heart of these skills is the ability that I have gained to pursue opportunities with a passion backed by both intellect and integrity.  A big critique of the liberal arts that I have not only heard, but at times used, is “all you do is talk.” In some sense, yes. We fiercely debate issues, learn new ways of thinking, and push our boundaries in discourse.  However, we take what we learn from these conversations and we apply them to the real world with a strong factual background and what I refer to as the liberal arts stamp. This stamp is the inability to hear any speech, news broadcast, or opinion without questioning its content, perspective, and argument.  This stamp continues in the way liberal arts students talk to each other. I catch my friends and I having the most academically worded conversations about the most inane things.  We’ve learned how to argue with a pure motive and how to only speak when we have the knowledge to back it up.  But, these conversations and the ability to speak mean nothing if not put to a good use.

I have thoroughly enjoyed and found great meaning in independent work here at Middlebury College. It allows me to take these conversations and do research and projects that mean the world to me.  This semester, I am working on a project dealing with Veteran Affairs.  My goal is to find how Middlebury College and its students can become involved with the Veteran community, how Middlebury College can be more intentional regarding the hiring and support of veterans in the faculty and staff, and to create educational opportunities for local veterans.  Whenever I mention what I hope to be working on, people are enthusiastic to share their own stories in return. It seems that almost everybody knows someone who has served or questions the treatment that veterans receive upon returning to the U.S.  As a Marine Corps officer candidate whose Grandfather was a career Marine, I keep this topic near and dear to my heart.  I want to generate a venue through which students can engage with these veterans while also learning from the veterans’ stories that are often times overlooked. I would love to leave Middlebury knowing that this school, which commits itself to community engagement, actively seeks to honor and make life easier for those who served our country.

Having the basis in research, discussion, and organization I acquired at Middlebury, having a passion to apply those skills to and then the chance to explore that passion, epitomizes not only the resources available to students, but also the deep seeded support and trust for students with a goal.


“What’s Next?”

Recently, I’ve been getting the same question seemingly wherever I turn. And it’s not just the same question—many times, it’s the same phrase, and I’ve taken a liking to how it’s worded. Professors, friends, and colleagues have been asking me, “What’s next?”

Although it’s a question that I know is causing some stress for a few of my peers, I like the way it’s phrased. “What’s next,” after all, means that what I did here at Middlebury is connected to what’s ahead. In this regard, Middlebury has done a great job of preparing me for whatever lies ahead.

When I was a first-year, I remember being surprised that the Center for Careers and Internships (CCI) was open to underclassmen. I soon learned about the tremendous resources within the CCI that Middlebury students have at our disposal. Only a couple weeks of college under my belt and, thanks to the CCI, I was able to have a counselor look over my resume and discuss job and internship prospects for the summer. I also remember being thrilled by how one could simply drop into the office without an appointment and there would be staff members on hand. In my many trips to the CCI since my first year, counselors have assisted me with planning a course load, scheduling my time abroad, and evaluating potential work opportunities.

The advantages for Middlebury students don’t end at the CCI’s doorway. A comprehensive network of Middlebury alumni are ready and willing to dispense advice and to help Middlebury students get a foot in the door during the job search. Middlebury alumni will often post opportunities on the online network of Middlebury jobs and internships, MOJO. It was there that I saw an internship opportunity to work for the White House, and I jumped at it. It was an incredible experience that I will always remember, and I owe a ton to Middlebury. After my summer working for the President, I’m always encouraging students to use the CCI and MOJO—you never know what opportunities are out there.

The CCI doesn’t just provide advice and connections, either: they also help fund unpaid internships for students. The CCI distributes approximately $450,000 to several hundred students every spring, and it’s available to all class years (not just sophomores or juniors) to fund an internship or summer project. The funding I received from the CCI my sophomore year was instrumental in helping me cover the costs of living in a city as expensive as Washington, D.C.

I was talking recently about life after Middlebury with several friends who have graduated. Even though they are just a few months or years out of school, they are already doing some incredible things. One is working for a national newspaper on the west coast, another is traveling in Southeast Asia, and a third is teaching.

I’m not sure what’s next for me, currently. I’ve submitted a couple applications to various opportunities but in the meantime, I’m keeping busy with the newspaper and enjoying this last semester of classes!

Music @ MIDD!

This past week revealed that our spring Concert  will headline T- Pain! It is so exciting for my final spring concert to come rolling around as MCAB does an amazing job at organizing live music shows throughout the school year. Normally during the academic school year there are two major concerts put up by MCAB’s Concerts Committee in both the fall and spring semesters. The talent that the school brings really ranges in interests and performers and it is not only MCAB that does a great job at getting live concerts to campus. Organizations such as WRMC, Middlebury Musicians United, Commons, and many more are able to pull artists from around the nation to come to our campus. Here is the breakdown of major live concerts that I’ve been able to attend organized by students:

Freshman:  Wale, Dead Prez, Guster

Sophomore:  Miniature Tigers, fun., Timeflies , Rubblebucket

Junior: Chance the Rapper, Matt & Kim

Senior: Cloud Nothing, Vacationers, Mr. Wives (coming up), T-Pain

Some of my most memorable experiences have been at these concerts. It’s a fantastic way to blow off steam while  relishing in music that feels as familiar as when you put on earbuds and also being exposed to completely new genres.  That is not to say that the music scene ends on campus. I have been able to go to concerts in both Montreal and Burlington, where a wide variety of artists frequent these beautiful cities. It’s not uncommon to grab a meal and concert on a given weekend.

Music on campus is something that people enjoy and connect over together, whether it is sharing a new Spotify playlist to listen to over your Atwater breakfast or plugging the aux cord in and blasting some tunes to groove to.

Spring is Coming.

I’m not going to lie to you–it’s been a cold winter. For the month of January, the temperatures did not even think about reaching above freezing. This winter, I have established a meticulous bundling routine that ensures maximum warmth: long, warm socks, Bean boots, puffy jacket, thick mittens, and a lavender circle scarf that covers me from clavicle to nose. With hair down past my shoulder blades, I have strategized about the best time to wash it in relation to when I was leaving the house and how long I would be walking so as to avoid it freezing in large chunks.

And as I am sitting here writing this, I know that so many other places in the United States have been hit with a much more brutal winter. My friend from Boston told me her parents have snow up above their windows at home. Even down south, they have been experiencing chilly weather.

But regardless of what kind of winter you’ve had, everyone rejoices over the beginnings of spring.

Now, I don’t want to jinx it, but there is maybe a possibility that the thaw is beginning here at Middlebury. Just maybe, I write, in an effort to appease the winter gods for I do not wish to enrage them in with insolence. But for the last few days, we have been graced with a warm, radiant sun and our mountains of snow are slowly trickling away. Abandoning my circle scarf, I have walked with an upturned face, hoping to swallow as much Vitamin D as I can. I have even found an extra bounce in my step as I walk from classes to meetings to meals, as if the sun helps propel me through my day.

While winter on this campus renders Middlebury an absolute dream, the emergence of spring is irresistible. And I don’t know if we are there quite yet, but I look forward to a campus that has embraced spring. The Adirondack chairs return to Battell Beach, tables grace the outside patios of the dining halls, and students lounge between classes on whatever grassy patch they can find.

In addition to the weather, the spring always provides a jam-packed social schedule. Concerts, roller rinks, food festivals. As the sun returns from hibernation, the students follow suit.

While I am sure the snow gods will repay this post with another snow storm, the thought that spring is within reach puts a smile on my face.

Art, Art, and More Art

Last summer, I had the fortune of working in the Middlebury College Museum of Art as a full-time curatorial intern, alongside the Chief Curator of the Museum, Emmie Donadio. During my time at the museum, my main project was to help Emmie assemble two upcoming exhibitions, one on a number of Andy Warhol prints and the second on  street artists. Despite not having had a lot of exposure to contemporary art prior to last year, or perhaps because of it, working on these two exhibitions was an exciting and rewarding task that allowed me to see the nitty-gritty that goes on behind the scenes in a museum setting.

Now, more than five months later, both these exhibitions are on display at the College Museum. The first, containing 10 Andy Warhol prints gifted to the College by the artist’s foundation last spring, opened in the first week of January. Ranging in subject matter from his famed Campbell’s Soup Can to a flamboyantly coloured Mao to Queen Ntombi of Swaziland, this eclectic collection of uneditioned proofs are now a part of the College’s permanent collection. As an artist, Warhol is one of the most renowned household names in America, with one of the most prolific oeuvres of any artist in the 20th century. As such, doing research on Warhol was like staring into a bottomless pit of unanswerable questions. Scholars and commentators have studied and written on just about every facet of Warhol’s life and his art. Synthesizing all that information was one of the most challenging experiences of my summer. In the end, I distilled the information I researched into short and sweet wall labels, which tell viewers the significance of each work. Since the Warhol Foundation donated countless gifts to many educational institutions in recent years, 2015 is an especially busy year for Warhol exhibitions around the country.

The second exhibition that I worked on was “Outside In: Art from the Street”, mostly in its preliminary research. The exhibition, which takes up most of the upper floor of the museum, contains an incredible array of contemporary urban artists from around the world, including some of the biggest names in street and graffiti art today: Banksy, JR, Swoon, and Bäst. Nevertheless, these are street artists, and prints can only tell you so much about their talent and creativity. As such, the museum hired British street artist Ben Eine, whose work British Prime Minister Cameron gifted to President Obama in 2011 during a visit to the U.S., to paint a wall for the exhibition. To bring in an even more authentic taste of the street, a co-curator of the exhibition even went down to New York City to bring back the remains of an actual graffiti wall from the studio of the artist-team Faile.

With some of the biggest names of contemporary art right here on campus, it is indeed high time for art here at Middlebury. If you find yourself around town, be sure to check out both these exhibitions, which will be on view until Sunday, April 19.

Laundry and Waxing Poetic

Last night, I did my laundry. Laundry is one of those tasks that always takes me longer than I anticipate—I find folding especially challenging—and I always kind of resent it. Last night, however, I felt suddenly struck by the significance of the activity. There I stood, sorting my socks from my jeans in the basement of a dorm, chatting with a friend about laundry detergent. After putting my laundry in, I walked down the hall to sit down and read before heading up the hill to dinner with friends.

I suddenly realized the smallness of my radius of movement. It was absolutely miniscule. From a bird’s eye view, my days would look like laps from dining halls to classrooms to libraries. They would look like I was spinning in circles. I had never noticed that before because I had never actually felt bored. Well, in truth because I never have been bored.

Some might look at this situation—my small radius of movement—and find it stifling, and I think I would have agreed with them before this experience. But living in it, I so appreciate the tight-knit community of Middlebury. My change of heart stems from the realization that this is not just a close community; it’s brimming with resources and new experiences. Sometimes, I feel as if I am peeling back layers of potential—discovering rooms I did not know existed and people I have never met. Middlebury feels simultaneously supportive and expansive, as if despite my extreme comfort here, I could keep discovering new things. This sensation of never-ending newness comes from the energy of the people who comprise this community. Certainly, Middlebury does not constantly keep hiding new rooms or strangers around campus. Rather, students, staff, and professors bring exciting new ideas to campus. Whether it’s a new club, class, or a new way to use a space, innovation renews Middlebury everyday.

I probably will always dislike laundry, but Middlebury sure is a great place to do it.