Tag Archives: speakers

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.

The Middlebury Moth Up

Have you heard of the Moth? The Moth is a New York City based non-profit organization dedicated to storytelling. In multiple American cities, there are bars, restaurants, and other venues that regularly host Moth storytelling events. Often, the events revolve around a theme, and selected individuals (usually volunteers who sign up in advance) get on stage and tell a live, true story without notes that somehow pertains to the given theme.

The power of storytelling is something that has inspired me for a long time. Last year, two students here started Middlebury’s very own Moth storytelling event, called the Middlebury Moth Up. Since its founding, the event has become immensely popular and now attracts very large crowds that often spill out of the room.

This past Thursday, we had a Moth event which coincided with Campus Preview Days for the recently admitted class of 2015. The theme was “Experimentation.” It was wonderful to see the effect that the stories had on so many people in a room at once — students, prospective students, parents, and some faculty. The storytellers were students and one professor named Helen Young, who teaches biology. She told a fantastic story about eating a poisonous snake.

One reason that I find these events to be so powerful is that the storytellers, whether or not they intend to do this, end up being brutally honest about details of their story that they might not have otherwise mentioned in a smaller group setting. For that reason, every single person in the room can identify with the stories being told in some way, whether they’ve had a similar experience or a similar feeling.

To hear past stories from the Middlebury Moth, check out this link:


Awesome Speakers

Middlebury brings awesome speakers to campus… all the time.
The true challenge for all of us is figuring out how to go to more talks, because many Middlebury students are involved in time-demanding activities and projects, from a cappella, to sports, to all sorts of organizations.

This week, I decided to make some time for two fantastic talks. I am really happy that I was able to attend these two lectures — a lot of the issues that were discussed will stay with me.

On Tuesday, Gary Hirshberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Farms Yogurt, came to campus to talk to us about why the world needs organic food now. His talk went beyond preaching to the choir — interesting issues of biology and toxins in newborn baby cord blood came up in a discussion.

Today, I went to an amazing talk by Jay Allison, an independent public producer and broadcast journalist. He is well known for his work on This American Life, The Moth, NPR’s All Things Considered, and NPR’s This I Believe. Since Middlebury has a relatively small student body, we have the opportunity to get into a conversation with speakers during and after their talks. Jay Allison spent a little over a half hour talking about the power of telling something true in stories and on the radio, and the audience, comprised of students, faculty, staff, and community members, was entranced by his sincere lecture and the sound clips he played for us. After his talk, there was time for questions and answers, but it felt more like a casual conversation — the room was small and almost everyone who wanted to speak got the chance to speak.

An energy brewed in the room as the lecture went on, and by the end of the talk, people were gathered in groups, talking and feeling inspired. At moments like these, I think about all of the lectures that I didn’t get the chance to attend. So much food for thought and so many valuable lessons can come out of a short talk. In many ways, these talks are as valuable to our college academic experiences as our courses are.

If you are going to be attending Middlebury next year, I highly recommend taking advantage of these opportunities. These speakers may change your perspectives on a fundamental issue, or may lead you to realize that you have new interests you’d like to pursue. It’s always worth the time.