Professor Povitz was my first professor at Middlebury. I say the first because, although I had 3 other professors at the same time, she is the professor who takes you in and makes you feel seen. She doesn’t just impart knowledge or wisdom–she enters into relationship with every class and student she has. It must be exhausting work; I think every student who has had the opportunity to take Povitz’s class will understand how she raises the bar of commitment as a professor to an almost superhuman standard. She understands that the work of a college professor is a triple bottom line: it is not only to produce scholarly work, not even just to teach (although she does a hell of a lot more of that than the average professor) but to engage in community. To nurture it, to make it more whole than when she started. She has been one of the most successful professors in my estimation and experience when it comes to these three facets of a professor’s work.
Connor Wertz ’22
I had Prof. Povitz for one semester last spring for her History of U.S. Sexuality course. During this course, I realized that Prof. Povitz is one of the best professors that I have had at Middlebury. One of her greatest strengths is leading lectures and discussions. Our course was divided into a lecture/discussion format and this format worked incredibly well at engaging a very large class on some very difficult subjects. Prof. Povitz created lectures that were highly informative, organized, easy to follow, and engaging. Our discussions were led masterfully. Oftentimes, discussions, especially in similar courses, tend to be taken over by those who are most outspoken. Prof. Povitz had a unique approach to ensuring that all voices were heard in class, even though it was a class of almost 30 people. Due to her ability to engage us in discussion and lead them efficiently and efficaciously, this was one of the more useful discussion sections I have experienced during my four years here.
Furthermore, Prof. Povitz is clearly a master of her subject area. She handled questions both in and out of class with such depth and clarity that I rarely had any confusion with any questions I brought forward. Not only was Prof. Povitz incredibly approachable and available outside of class, she went above and beyond to ensure that we had ample opportunity for clarification and further engagement around the topics we discussed in class. I can honestly say that she is one of the best professors I have interacted with in terms of ability to answer questions thoroughly. Even more importantly to me, no question was ever too silly to ask and she always spent the time necessary to provide further materials and to then circle back and engage with those materials.
My final point that I would like to bring up for Prof. Povitz is her engagement with students outside of class to further our personal and academic development. Prof. Povitz organized a weekly Torah study class last spring that allowed for an exploration of Judaism. I know that Prof. Povitz teaches courses in Jewish history, and although this was not one of those classes, her organization and facilitation of this group was a truly unique opportunity. I have yet to encounter another professor who actively sought to engage with students outside of the scope of a course in such a meaningful way. One of the things that drew me to Middlebury in the first place was the ability to engage with professors in unique ways both inside and outside of class. While this has not always been my experience, it is clear with Prof. Povitz that she cares deeply about her students. I think her organization of this group concretely demonstrates this commitment. Experiences such as these make Middlebury such a special place and without professors like Prof. Povitz, this will not continue to be the case. Through our course as well as through this Torah study, Prof. Povitz pushes her students to really engage with what we are learning. She furthermore allows us to have space to explore important aspects of life such as spirituality and use teachings from such important texts as the Torah to look critically at our world and the space we hold in it. Not only did her course push me to advance my understanding of power and oppression, but our Torah study group also pushed me to critique and explore my spiritual background and future journey.
I cannot emphasize enough how great of an asset Prof. Povitz is to Middlebury. She is a masterful teacher and a rare professor who truly goes above and beyond to advance our lives. As a teacher, she is incredibly effective and presents us with difficult topics in a way that is digestible and engaging. As a mentor, she brings a breadth of life experience and wisdom that is incredibly informative and helpful in our personal and academic development. I sincerely hope that future classes of Middlebury students will have the opportunity to learn from Prof. Povitz as she is one of the greatest professors I have had at this school. I feel it is also important to say that I am a Psychology student and was genuinely not excited about her class going into it (I took it as a requirement for my minor) but after taking her course, I wish I had time in my schedule to take further courses with her as I learned more in her course and had my worldview challenged to a greater degree than in most of my other courses at Middlebury.
Class of 2021.5
Liam Hahn, 2021.5
I took Prof. Povitz’s History of U.S. Radicalism course my second semester at Middlebury; even now in my senior year, I consider it one of the top three classes I’ve ever taken. The atmosphere of the course was unlike any other I’d taken; I’ve never been in an environment where everyone felt more comfortable to explore new ideas, take intellectual risks, and build off of each other’s thoughts. It was definitely the only three hour seminar I’ve ever taken where students would get so caught up in the material we’d nearly forget to take the scheduled break. (Even more notable for being a night class!) And it was the only class I’ve ever taken where I genuinely looked forward to reading and writing discussion posts: it was great to spend the ensuing days continuing the conversations we’d have in class and have an avenue to thank someone for making a great point and changing your thinking. I actually felt like I was in a real community with my classmates. Prof. Povitz made that kind of very special intellectual environment possible, which was all the more meaningful for the many of us who came to class with perspectives and/or backgrounds that otherwise guarantee a degree of isolation on Middlebury’s campus. I felt intellectually nourished and spiritually at home in that course in a way that’s very rare. At the same time, Prof. Povitz’s course constantly challenged my perspective on social movements and social change, and made me engage with history and politics in a far more rigorous way. I’m very lucky to have had that experience and I think future Middlebury students should have the chance to have it as well.
Caitlin Barr 22.5
Professor Povitz’s classes are exciting and engaging. I often left class still thinking about the points that she raised. Professor Povitz’s comments on my assignments were the best I received from any professor. Not only was it clear that Povitz had read my assignment, but she also offered both criticism and opportunities for further reading. No one else has done that for me in my 4 years at Midd!
I took Professor Povitz’s History of U.S. Radicalism class in the fall of 2019 on a whim. I didn’t expect to enjoy the class as much as I did, but it was one of my favorite classes that I ever took at Middlebury. Prof. Povitz doesn’t lecture in the traditional way, which is what I had expected of a history class, but rather she creates a really open yet rigorous discussion space and taught us how to be better learners, in addition to, of course, the course content. Two years later, I still regularly use the frameworks she taught me to think about the impacts, influences, and legacies of social movements. In class, we were encouraged to think of good questions and to be curious and honest rather than eloquent, and to treat the class like a community with common standards and dreams. She was always extremely supportive and dedicated inside and outside the classroom, always being willing to give advice in office hours on any topic, even lending me books that she thought I would find interesting (which, of course, they were). She made her own course survey at the end of the semester, saving time for us to discuss in person what we most enjoyed and what we felt could have been better, a rare ask from a Middlebury professor. In spring 2020, I took another course with her. In the face of the pandemic, she created a survey asking what we needed most and sent us two playlists. She instituted a letter writing practice, where we write a letter about our lives and the readings, to encourage us to stay connected in a more human way while still critically engaging with the course content. When on campus, if I or any student mentioned an event that we were planning like a rally, a concert, a conference, or other event, she always came to support us with enthusiasm and deep care. I am so grateful to her for all that she taught me both when I was a student and after graduating as we have kept in touch since I left Middlebury. I know that all students who cross her path –in the classroom or outside of it–recognize the truly inspiring and passionate person that she is. Middlebury has already gained so much from her time as a visiting professor, that it would be a true loss to pass up this opportunity to offer her a tenure-track position.
Cara Levine ’20
Professor Povitz is a wonderful professor. I had the opportunity to take “American Radicalism” with her last Spring (2021) and am currently enrolled in her class with Professor Mao on American Freedom. Not only is she an enthusiastic professor, who brings her own lived experience into the classroom, she also compiles GREAT syllabi. Readings from her class have stuck with me, and I think back to the important topics we covered often. I loved her selections so much that I started forward them to my dad, who read some of them with me and still recommends Professor Povitz’ selections to his own friends.
As an individual, Professor Povitz is an example of kindness, generosity, and connection between the students and faculty. I was going through some intense personal challenges last Spring, and, upon receiving my Dean’s email, was the only professor I had that reached out to me to check in. She listened with patience and understanding and followed up later in the semester as well. It’s rare to find professors who take an active interest in their students the way Professor Povitz does. She is not afraid to initiate, support, and actively encourage her students.
Lastly, Professor Povitz is the club advisor to my aca pella group. She loves student activities on campus, and wants to be involved. She’s the only faculty/staff member to ever attend a performance in my four years at Midd. I cannot emphasize what an asset she is to the our small community, and Middlebury is at risk of loosing a beloved star professor
Alex Sipos, 2022
Professor Povitz has made a tremendous impact on me during my time at Middlebury, as a professor and as a person. Her class “History of Urban Food Activism” provided me with context surrounding the history of fighting for equitable food systems and pushed me to think critically about whose voices were, and are, represented and heard in different spaces and at different times. Likewise, it taught me how, over the course of U.S. history, food activism has been utilized to foster community resilience. Through this course I was able to delve into a topic I am deeply passionate. Although I am a neuroscience major, Professor Povitz has brought me into the history department and I am looking forward to taking more of her classes in the future.
Outside of class, Professor Povitz has made an impact on me through the essential roles she plays in the Jewish and queer communities on campus. During the height of the pandemic, Professor Povitz created a Torah study group for Jewish and non-Jewish students to gather in community and learn together (safely outside). In a time when antisemitism is pervasive on college campuses and in the U.S., it is imperative that Jewish students have spaces where they feel affirmed and have the opportunity to explore their identity and engage in Jewish traditions. In the queer community, Professor Povitz is a mentor and source of support for queer students. It is so essential that queer students have classes that center queerness and professors who share their identity.
Overall, Professor Povitz has served as a mentor and a source of inspiration in my life and has touched the lives of many of my peers and friends. She plays a crucial role in teaching classes that serve student interests and teach critical thinking skills, as well as in the communities she is a part of. It would be a devastating loss to the Middlebury community if she were to leave.
Remi Welbel, 2022.5
Professor Povitz was my first professor at Middlebury, my FYS professor. Not only was she enthusiastic, caring and engaging in the class, but she was also there to help you with any personal challenges. In Freshman fall, the school seemed big and overwhelming. I remember dropping by her classroom in Axinn during the registration week in complete distraught. Professor Povitz sat me down, gave me a chocolate and began telling me all of her freshman college experiences. Immediately feeling more relaxed, she aided my registration process and it went smoothly. Not only was Professor Povitz an amazing teacher in all respects, but she cared so deeply for everyone in the class that we all agree it has been the best class we have taken at Midd so far! (Activism and the US AIDS crisis)
Lucy Inkster, 2025
Professor Povitz was my first-year seminar professor this past semester. I had a really difficult time adjusting to the academic structure of college. When I emailed Professor Povitz about planning out my first ever research paper, she met with me (along with several other students) at Haymaker in town. I felt like she cared so much about my personal progress and I learned so much from speaking with her. The whole journey of writing that paper was very stressful for me, and she gave me incredible feedback. She gave me confidence and made me feel like I was capable and smart. I am so grateful to her and hope that she is able to stay here to help other students grow. I would also love to take a history class with her again in the future.
Hope Shue, Freshman
I took History of Radicalism with Professor Povitz and it was one of the best classes I took throughout all my time at Middlebury. Through a thoughtfully constructed syllabus, Professor Povitz offered us a wide variety of engaging and meaningful texts, asked discussion-provoking questions, and enabled students to examine radicalism and activist movements in the US and our personal relationships to them. Professor Povitz has incredibly high expectations of her students and supported us all in reaching them with detailed and meaningful feedback (verbal and written). She found the perfect balance between pushing us as scholars and recognizing and holding space for us as humans in the middle of an incredibly stressful global pandemic. Professor Povitz exemplifies the best type of professor Middlebury can offer: one who pushes her students, knows the class material inside and out, holds space for students and their lives outside the classroom, and enables students to connect broader themes with their own lives. Other Middlebury students deserve to get to know and learn from Professor Povitz, and I truly hope that the College will reconsider her tenure decision.
Kendal Pittman 21.5
Professor Povitz taught my History of Sexuality class last Spring and it was one of my favorite courses I’ve taken during all my time at Middlebury. First and foremost, I always felt supported by her. She is incredible at emphasizing that mental health is paramount and that she is a resource for students to come to if needed. Secondly, Professor Povitz was great at creating a space within our academic classroom where people felt comfortable engaging and sharing their experiences. I had amazing conversations/discussions in that class and one of the main reasons is because of the supportive environment she helped to foster. Lastly, I learned so much! Her lectures were very insightful and you could see her passion shine through. Losing Professor Povitz would be a huge loss to Middlebury and the diverse, inclusive, vibrant community that we strive to uphold.
Anna Saviano 2022.5
I took an Oral History Class with Professor Povitz this J-term. Not only were classes engaging, and discussions interesting, but Professor Povitz had a brilliant way of introducing her expertise in the oral history field as an approachable yet expert insight. She never assumed she had the right technique and took our class’ projects as learning opportunities for her own work, while pushing us to find projects and storylines which were both engaging and respectful. I was excited to come to class because I knew I would be pushed yet heard and I learned so much in our class together.
I remember first taking a class with Professor Povitz freshmen year and being absolutely blown away by her grasp of the material, the way in which she engaged the class, and her astonishing intelligence. Since then Povitz has only grown in my mind as an incredible role model and friend. I do research with her that is both engaging and cutting edge. I do not know what Middlebury would be for me without Povitz, but I imagine it would be a lot less interesting, joyful, and challenging. Povitz has pushed me to grasp material in more nuanced ways, both encouraging me while helping me receive my full potential. Povitz is a gem of this community and I think Middlebury would be doing itself a great disservice to not recognize her for what she truly is: a cornerstone to the Jewish studies department and an incredible human and scholar.
I took Professor Povitz’s History of U.S. Radicalism course in the spring of 2021. It was one of a handful of classes I’d taken at Middlebury that truly changed how I viewed the world. The class was incredibly well organized, each day’s materials building on the last and leading into the next. Professor Povitz’s introduced me to a variety of scholars, writers, and resources that are often left out of typical academics. We discussed radical movements on the far left and on the far right, thinking about which had worked, which had not, and why. Professor Povitz structured the class in a way that pushed me to think deeply about the issues at hand. She expected a lot from each of her students but also understood that we were in the midst of a pandemic that was challenging us all in various ways. Professor Povitz was both rigorous and compassionate. Preferring that students learn and come to class excited than that we get lost in dense readings, she changed up the syllabus at times to ensure that students were able to do the work. She also taught us important skills such as how to skim readings in a productive way that enables learning. Even though I was a senior when I took this class, hers was the first that truly taught me how to ask critical questions that tie together multiple readings and topics. These skills are ones that can be used in graduate school and even in other classes at Middlebury. Additionally, as a young Jewish woman at a college surrounded by mostly Christian peers, having a professor who shared those identities with me is inspiring and incredibly important. I was floored when I heard that Professor Povitz was not being offered tenure. She is an invaluable member of this community who has contributed so much and will continue to do so. If I were administrators at the college, I would offer her tenure in a heartbeat.
Last semester, I took “Modern American Jewish History” with Professor Povitz, and it was my favorite class of the semester. I took the course hoping to learn more about my own place in American society, and the history of my ancestors, and I certainly got way more out of the class than I expected to. Professor Povitz’s course reshaped my thinking of Judaism and my relation to it, and connected me more with my own family and relatives. That one class with Professor Povitz has sparked deep discussions about religion among friends at college who haven’t even taken the course, which has been one of my favorite examples of learning and critical discussions taking place outside of the classroom. Outside of class, I greatly enjoyed talking with Professor Povitz about topics related to class and topics not at all related to class. It is very important to have such professors on campus, people that students can feel comfortable talking with and who happily make time to listen to the every day thoughts and musings of students. I hope that next year, I will be able to continue seeing and talking with Professor Povitz on the Middlebury campus, and be able to take more interesting and unique classes with her that cover topics and groups underrepresented in the Middlebury curricula and otherwise wouldn’t be taught here.
Professor Povitz is a kind, genuine, and thoughtful person who also happens to be an incredible teacher. She teaches with grace and is able to create a learning environment where students are comfortable and open to engaging in conversation and getting deep into the topics at hand. Professor Povitz allows students to be creative in their learning, and empowers them to take everything they can from the class. My brief time at Middlebury would not be the same without Professor Povitz’s class, and it would be a truly devastating loss to the History department if the diversity of underrepresented topics she teaches is removed from the course offerings. Jewish studies is already a small department, and losing a professor of her kind will cause serious detriment. Middlebury needs a professor like professor Povitz to encourage acceptance of Jewish people of all intersections. I implore you to offer Professor Povitz a tenure track or partner hire for the sake of hundreds of students who her teachings have touched, and the hundreds more to come.
Dear Administration, In the fall of 2019, as I began to finish up my college search process, Middlebury trended towards the top of the pack. Still though, my parents thought I should sit in on a class before applying Early Decision to a school so far away. After combing damn near the entire catalog, searching for what I thought would interest me the most, Professor Povitz was one of the two people I reached out to. She was teaching a class called History of US Radicalism, which sounded right up my alley. I was then happy and excited to see I had gotten an email back that I was welcomed to the class. Excitement turned to apprehension as the day drew nearer. Had I really just decided to waltz into a 3-hour discussion seminar for college students? And I had to do the reading? And I had to find something called LaForce Hall? (That’s not LaForce! That’s Ross! Oh, I guess it’s LaForce.) Anyways, the day finally arrived, and believe it or not I did do the reading, and I managed to find Laforce Hall, and I managed to waltz into class. Still, the being in class part is probably what scared me the most, I had sat in on my other class earlier that day, and wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. But, when Professor Povitz and the other students walked in, I immediately got caught up in it all. The content was full of things I had never heard of, all of which I wanted to know more about. The discussion was stimulating and kept me engaged. Most incredibly of all, when you needed to go to the bathroom, you didn’t have to ask! At the center of it all, though at the same time managing to stay in the periphery, was Professor Povitz, who moderated and pushed forward the discussion so well three hours felt like half of one. The solitary, unconfident move by myself to say something during the entire class was immediately noticed by Professor Povitz, who encouraged me to share. She took my idea seriously, and we included it in the discussion going forward. As a high school senior unaccustomed to having these sorts of academic discussions, it meant the world to me. When I left the class, more than anything I wanted more of that. I went home and applied Early Decision to Middlebury College. I’m here now (History Major! Class of ’24!). Last semester I took Modern American Jewish History with Professor Povitz. It was surreal to find myself back in class with the professor who for me had meant Middlebury to me before I even really knew Middlebury. It was everything I had wanted and more. Professor Povitz is the kind of professor who is keenly aware of students’ needs. Week by week, the class followed a strong and reasonable arc. As a faculty member, her classes deal with issues not touched on often enough. As a lecturer, she knows students’ limits, and works to keep them engaged. As a discussion leader, she knows how to challenge and push a class to formulate its thoughts. As a human, she is kind and empathetic. That last point truly is central to my understanding of her. Still though, I haven’t gotten the opportunity to take History of US Radicalism beyond that single class. I would really love the chance to do that. -Ewan Inglis ’24 PS. I had Professor Ayoub over J-Term and I learned a truly mind boggling amount of Arabic. That class was one of the most enriching and amazing educational experiences I’ve ever had! I loved it!
I have heard amazing things about Professor Povitz’s impact on my friends who have been in her courses. She is a highly beloved professor on this campus and if would be a tremendous loss to the school to see a professor who touches so many students and teaches about to many important topics go.
Professor Povitz has been one of the most impactful professors I have had during my time at Middlebury. I am a senior Neuroscience major and took Professor Povitz’s History of Sexuality course the Spring of my Junior year. I am interested in history yet primarily study STEM. History of Sexuality was such a profound learning experience solely due to Professor Povitz’s expert knowledge and ability to teach the material in a challenging and exciting fashion. She engages with her students and seeks to offer any support she can. She encouraged all students to come to office hours so she could get to know our interests beyond the classroom. Professor Povitz is the best lecturer I’ve had at Midd and she cares deeply for her students, something that is not always immediate in the classroom. After History of Sexuality I proceeded to take two more courses with Professor Povitz during my Senior year. I took her J-term course Practicing Oral History and I’m currently enrolled in Black and Jewish Feminist Perspectives. All of her classes have been my favorite classes at Middlebury. The latter class is a 400 level history seminar. I am taking it because I am interested in the material and because I so enjoy Professor Povitz as a professor. The class meets once a week during the night… Evidently, Professor Povitz is that good of a professor where time of day does not matter to take one of her classes. The fact that I am taking a 400 level history seminar course when I am not a history major or minor should also speak to Professor Povitz’s teaching abilities and the immense interest she garners with the courses and topics she teaches. Professor Povitz’s queer identity and interest and expertise at teaching queer histories has been incredible for me personally as a student. Having Professors with a shared identity as you who also teach incredibly important and often untold histories has been instrumental in me feeling like I belong on this campus. Professor Povitz’s importance to this campus cannot be put into words. She is an excellent Professor who should be kept on staff due to the many reasons I have outlined above. I know my positive experience from Professor Povitz’s classrooms is not unique. Any student who takes one of her classes leaves with a greater understanding of marginalized histories and in my case, a greater sense of Middlebury community (I know this is true of many others too). Please reconsider Professor Povitz’s position at the college. She deserves a tenure track or a partner track. Write the wrong that has been assigned and flip the narrative on the heteronormativity prevalent in partner hires at the college.
I was doing an exchange semester at Middlebury through the AVIC program when I met Prof. Povitz as I was taking her class, The Histories of U.S. Radicalism. Through the course, I was introduced to some major works of Black feminist writers, and Prof. Povitz guided me in framing research questions and connecting it to my work in other classes. This class proved to be the seed for my current PhD studies, as I study the aesthetics Dalit-Black solidarity in the twentieth century at the Comparative Literaure program at Northwestern University. Prof. Povitz insisted on creating a warm and welcoming space for her students, where we were repeatedly encouraged to (un)learn and grow together. She makes the classroom a space for deliberate discussion and thought, where we are constantly provoked to think about our complicity and role in creating a world we want to live and build together. It would truly be a loss for the Middlebury community to lose Prof. Povitz, as her incomparable scholarship and thoughtful critique is at the helm of new critical inquiry in history. Prof. Povitz is an academic mentor, and above all, a beacon of light who has the capacity to transform the experience of Middlebury as a space for intellectual learning and personal growth for her students. It is imperative for a private liberal arts college such as Middlebury to keep Prof. Povitz as a voice of concern, critique, and care in the institution.