What is Middlebury?

… and in the context of the Web Makeover, how does Middlebury present itself to the rest of the world on a global platform, at a time where we are re-organizing and redefining ourselves?  Can the website’s homepage answer these questions?

3 Responses to “What is Middlebury?”

  1. To continue this conversation, here are some thoughts from Mike McKenna:

    First, let me say how pleased I was with the originality and insight of the Whalers. Clearly they are good listeners.

    The following is intended not as criticism but more an observation/question for us to consider.

    I can see how someone would visit the campus, talk to undergrads, faculty and staff at the height of springtime and think, wow. Lets make this the centerpiece.

    And there may be good reason for it. The College is the heart of the enterprise. It runs all year. Has the most students. Costs the most to attend. Been around the longest.

    However, its not the whole reality of the place. I wonder if a person would have the same reaction if the first visit was during Russian School, or a Bread Loaf poetry reading, or to a school abroad.

    Its a little like a visitor Mars landing and exploring only in China, then returning to space and describing what earth is like. True but not the whole story.

    The idea behind OneMidd was never to be an external marketing slogan. Its just a tool to help people focus on the new reality of Middlebury. To help them connect the dots and see new possibilities. There is no surprise its not in the vernacular here. Its still kind of a new idea, mostly for internal audiences.

    But that said, taken as a whole it is also one way that really differentiates Middlebury from other great schools like Amherst and Williams, that can’t come close to our global footprint.

    We are great alone, even greater together.

    That differentiation, combined with its relevance, are the hallmarks of any great brand. And if you want to skip the Mad Ave speak, in my mind they combine to make Middlebury relevant in the world today and answer the age old questions, “OK, what’s it to me? Why should I give a darn?”

    The things we are good at, international studies, language, and the environment, are crucial issues in the world. They are reasons people can look at us, potential applicant or donor or faculty member, and say “cool.” Add our traditional strengths in the liberal arts, athletics, volunteerism, and the locale, and they say “very cool.”

    It just strikes me as saying that there are too many stories at Middlebury for any one to dominate doesn’t quite do it. Its kind of like the old Gertrude Stein comment on Oakland. “There is no there, there.”

    These are some things I think are common to all Middlebury people. They do see themselves as citizens of the world (60% of undergrads study abroad for example, MIIS focus, Rohatyn Center etc.) They all care about the outdoors. People here self select because they like the countryside in all seasons. And they are all active. You don’t see a lot of fat people in Middlebury, aside from me of course.

    And they like new ideas. That’s the whole idea behind our brand driver “Knowledge without Boundaries.”

    I’d like to try to build on that idea more if possible, and still try to keep plugging at articulating the bigger Middlebury story if we can. If a great designer like Nigel Holmes has trouble drawing it, it proves its not easy. But before we permanently toss the idea in the ‘too hard pile’ lets keep at it a little longer. Maybe its not a two dimensional idea. Maybe the web can let us go 3 or 4 D and add some motion to the notion.

    If we do that, and its still not working, OK. And I know its asking a lot of a homepage. But if we can do something disruptive, that is really great and new, I think it will be worth it.

  2. The disruptive thing to do here is to lead with the undergraduate college as a gateway to larger Middlebury. It would be easy to go the “university” route and put up a homepage that tries to do it all. I would argue that there is not a well-articulated “bigger Middlebury story” that is well-known among constituents.

    It’s simply not true that all of Middlebury cares about the outdoors. Certainly the undergraduates would argue with the idea of “being citizens of the world,” when we complain that we’re in a “bubble.” I side a bit more with displaying “the things we’re good at.” I have no doubt that will come out in a new homepage. But leading with huge concepts is limiting because it doesn’t tell stories nor displays the breadth of diversity in what Middlebury does. We run the risk of creating a website that screams, “We’re trying really hard to be global!” That is not the message we want to send. Instead, tell the stories, and the themes Mike mentions will become clear. We don’t need to wave a sign saying “look at the synergies between our programs!” Show, don’t tell.

    Moreover, it’s not about “cool” or even “very cool.” The strongest way to tie OneMidd together is my showing students/community that cross the program boundaries. Show undergrads that attend language school and study abroad (there are a lot). Show MIIS students that went to language school (there are plenty). In a year or so, show a high school MMLA student that is now going to the undegraduate college. Show MIIS President Prof. Ramaswamy who taught Econ at Middlebury or our recently honored Clara Yu who has ties to nearly all the One Midd parts.

    OK, as an undegrad, I am biased. But the undergraduate college should be the jumping-off point for an exploration of the larger Middlebury. The strongest recommendation from the WW doc is to tell the story one part at a time. That is a disruptive and powerful idea.

    I hope this adds to the discussion. Please continue the conversation!

  3. Regarding “One Midd” – as I was reading that part of the strategic rec’s, a word that came in my head is the previous name of the MC Library’s database – Myriad. I wonder whether instead of focusing on a unified Midd as OneMidd, instead ponder a diversified Midd – MyriadMidd.

    Just a thought…

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