Middlebury’s size is often touted as one of the major draws of the college. Being at a small institution gives students the chance to form deeper, lasting bonds with professors as they receive individualized attention and combined with Middlebury’s secluded location fosters meaningful friendships. I know that all of this may sound abstract as I couldn’t fully understand the role that Middlebury’s scale would have in my experience here until I got here and lived it. That said, I’m going to try to provide you with a couple of concrete examples of the role that Middlebury’s size has had on my college experience.
This semester, the Department of Sociology & Anthropology is hiring a new Professor of Sociology. Of course the beginning of the hiring process is pretty standard with paper and electronic applications, but the truly exciting part of the process begins when finalists come to campus to get to know Middlebury and better help Middlebury get to know them. As part of the hiring process all finalists deliver an afternoon talk on their research to all of the current faculty in the department and interested students. It’s a chance for us to get a live feel of the professor in action and begin to imagine him or her at Middlebury. Candidates meet with professors and students on campus to deepen that relationship as well. As an upperclassman majoring in the department, I’ve had the pleasure of having lunch with each of the candidates and a small group of other students to get to know them outside of a formal setting. While it’s a big responsibility to think that my opinion of these candidates will affect which one of them is hired and serve as student input on behalf of many more students than myself, I’m getting to help shape the future of the program. Watching this process from the outside a couple of other times, though I have not always agreed with the decisions it yielded I have always appreciated their relative transparency, which is part of a larger culture of openness and access at Middlebury. In a similar vein, President Ron Liebowitz will hold his monthly open office hours this Friday. These hours are an opportunity for any member of the college community – student, faculty, and staff – to talk to the president of the college without an appointment or formal invitation.
Hopefully this has helped you envision a life at a small college just a little more clearly. If not, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see when you visit us, but to sum it up small means contact; more contact with all of the human and physical resources that Middlebury has to offer whether it be chatting with friends until 3 in the morning or getting your hands dirty in the labs.