Life has a way, from time to time, of re-focusing us and our priorities. For some, this can be a welcome process of periodic self-examination and reflection. For others, it can create chaos amidst an already fraught effort to navigate and survive daily life. And, of course, there is a wide spectrum of experience in the in-between.
This moment has presented such a challenge on a rare scale. For each of us, this means impacts that span from minor daily changes to radical shifts in every aspect of our lives, and often all in the same day – or even minute to minute. For me, this has been a disruptive, but relatively benign experience.
I am healthy. My family and friends are healthy. I have a home I can stay in, food in my cupboards and work to do.
For so many others, the impact has been existential. My work has changed in this time, along with how and where I do it. I am missing my direct engagement with students, but have amplified my partnership work with community organizations in a time that is stretching their capabilities to the maximum. And, in all of this, I am striving to re-imagine community-connected student learning opportunities when that connection itself is most difficult.
In the days ahead, I hope we can see the opportunities reflected back to us amidst the noise, and co-create a rich, robust and resilient re-imagining of this work. I look forward to hearing your hopes, thoughts and ideas, along with sharing in your struggles, worries and disappointments.
If you get a chance, take a moment to comment with your thoughts. Or, if you prefer, send them to us privately. In the coming days, some of you may also receive a survey from us, asking for your feedback. We look forward to hearing from you! Take care of yourselves, your loved ones and your neighbors. Wash your hands, and call your elders
Read below for our full interview with P&P faculty partner Molly Anderson regarding her course Food, Power, & Justice. Prof. Anderson discusses community-based learning, the class’s recent visit to Starksboro, and the transition to remote learning.
Professor Molly Anderson is one of many faculty members who partner with the CCE’s Privilege & Poverty (P&P) program to bring classrooms and communities together to address the causes and consequences of poverty. As one of P&P’s foundations courses, her class Food, Power, and Justice (FP&J) enables students to more deeply examine the causes and consequences of economic inequality through a specific disciplinary lens.
From Professor Anderson‘s course description, FP&J allows students to “learn to analyze power and justice in relation to the food system.” Through the class, students examine instances in which different groups of people may be experiencing food injustice, such as inequitable access to food, inequitable health outcomes related to diet (e.g. obesity, diabetes, etc.), injustice in opportunities related to food production, and silencing or lack of political participation.
An important component of the course included visiting the village of Starksboro, VT., where students were able to connect their class learning to people’s actual experiences. There, students prepared a community meal at Robinson Elementary School and talked with members of the community about food insecurity, and ways to improve accessibility of services through models like the Rural Fun Delivery (RFD) program supported by Mary Johnson Children’s Center (MJCC). For the past five summers, P&P has sponsored a Shepherd summer intern who delivers meals, social support, and activities to over 250 youth in underserved areas of Starksboro through the RFD program. While the RFD program benefits many, however, the need for more accessible efforts remains, especially for Starksboro’s most isolated individuals.
2019 RFD summer intern Peter Mehler worked with Professor Anderson, CCE Assistant Director Jason Duquette-Hoffman, and MJCC’s School-Age Programs Coordinator Anne Gleason to plan the Starksboro event and do outreach in the community. The community outreach partnership project of the Food, Power, and Justice class help to inform next summer’s RFD program to make it more accessible, and one of the current students in the class has been selected for the RFD internship. The project was funded with an AOE grant.
We interviewed Professor Molly Anderson about Food, Power, and Justice, and gained insights into the course’s importance as well as how it has been affected by the college’s transition to remote learning.
When did you start incorporating experiential learning opportunities into your coursework, and what prompted you to do so?
I’ve been incorporating experiential learning opportunities into my courses for as long as I’ve been teaching — I think it’s impossible to teach about food systems without the experiential side. Students need to understand the very hard work involved in farming and food-service jobs in ways that go beyond reading about it.
What has your partnership with the P&P Academic Cluster looked like?
I’ve been a faculty partner with P&P since about a year after it started. I attend as many of the events as I can, and try to support students. This year, I worked much more closely with Jason Duquette-Hoffman in setting up a project-based learning experience in Starksboro, and that was great for me even though the project was cut short by COVID-19. Jason was tremendously helpful in organizing trips to Starksboro and keeping me connected with the Mary Johnson Children’s Center, in addition to planning what students could do.
How have community connected experiences deepened your students’ understanding of power imbalances in the food system?
I think just visiting Starksboro was a bit of a surprise for many students. They realized quickly that there aren’t any grocery stores, and there are a lot of people struggling with hardships. At the same time that they were seeing the disadvantages that some people in our county live with, they saw that people in the community really cared about their neighbors.
What have you learned about yourself or the world through community-connected work?
I’ve learned that communities are really complex and tightly-knit. It’s not possible to just show up with a good idea and expect people to pay attention. Communities need to generate ideas on their own, and the best I can do is try to support them. I’ve never felt a need to be recognized as “the expert in the room,” but community-connected work would bash that desire very quickly!
How are you adapting the course to remote learning?
Some of my students are trying to find ways to engage in their home communities with programs that are popping up to help meet food needs for kids and lower-income families. There has been an amazing outpouring of volunteer service in most communities, and I’ve encouraged students to find out what is happening around them and help, if they can do so safely. We had a Discussion Forum right after break where students reported what they were seeing around them, and the responses ranged from hearing sirens all night in New York City to living in a very conservative rural community that thought COVID-19 was a hoax.
Thank you, Professor Anderson!
Stay tuned for more stories relating to this class, community-based projects by students, and more. We hope you are staying safe and healthy.
This week, we are celebrating National AmeriCorps Week by highlighting recent Middlebury graduates currently serving as AmeriCorps members in Addison County!
Americorps is a network of national service programs, made up of three primary programs that each take a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement. Members, like some of our recent Middlebury graduates, commit to serving the community by engaging in youth mentoring, fighting poverty, increasing academic achievement, and more.
The state of Vermont has the 4th highest rate of AmeriCorps members per capita. We are proud of our alumni who contribute to that rating and how community engagement experiences as students shaped their decisions to serve in Addison County.
Read below to learn more about our first AmeriCorps member spotlight, Paola Meza ‘19, and her trajectory from student to part time AmeriCorps member and Open Door Clinic worker.
Where are you from? What did you study? What were you involved in on campus?
My name is Paola. I’m originally from the Los Angeles area. I studied neuroscience, global health, and Portuguese at Middlebury College. As a student, I helped found an organization called UR-STEM (underrepresented in STEM) and worked as a fellow at the Anderson Freeman Resource Center (AFC) and as a peer career advisor at the Center for Careers and Internships (CCI).
In what ways were you involved in the community during your time at Midd? How has this influenced your decisions to stay and serve here? How did this experience shape your time as a student at Midd?
As a student fellow at the AFC, I worked closely with the directors of the Center to design and carry out programs and events primarily for first-generation college students at Middlebury College. I also volunteered as a translator and interpreter at the Open Door Clinic.
How did you grow in your understanding of what it means to be an engaged citizen? In your understanding of service?
A major takeaway from my service year so far has been that impact is greater when you work in team. Over the past 7 months of my service year, I’ve been able to sit down with many students, staff, and faculty, and engage in discussions and actions to better support our community. There are challenges, sometimes it’s frustrating, and there is always more work to be done and not enough time. But service is a life-long responsibility, and each of us have a role in enhancing the community around us through small actions every day.
But service is a life-long responsibility, and each of us have a role in enhancing the community around us through small actions every day.
Paola Meza ’19, AmeriCorps Member
Why did you choose to stay and take your current role? How was this experience (of staying at Midd/Addison Country and being a non-student) been?
Organizing and leading First@Midd, AFC’s pre-orientation program for first-gen students, played a major role in my decision to stay and work at Middlebury College after graduating. I saw first-hand the importance of identity development and community building among first-generation students, and I wanted to continue supporting programs for first-gen students, as well as students of color and queer and trans students as an AmeriCorps VISTA.
Can you see yourself staying longer, after your service year is up?
I love the work that I do at the AFC, and I have definitely grown close to the students that participate in our programs, as well as the staff and faculty that support our programs. I anticipate staying in Vermont for at least another year to serve the greater Addison County community through access to health care.
I saw first-hand the importance of identity development and community building among first-generation students…
Paola Meza ’19, AmeriCorps Member
Paola plans to continue working in Vermont to serve the greater Addison County Community through access to health care after her service year ends.
This week, we are celebrating National AmeriCorps Week by highlighting recent Middlebury graduates currently serving as AmeriCorps members in Addison County!
AmeriCorps is “a network of national service programs, made up of three primary programs that each take a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement.” Members, including some of our recent Middlebury graduates, commit to serving the community by engaging in youth and mentoring, fighting poverty, increasing academic achievement, and more.
The state of Vermont produces the 3rd highest rate of AmeriCorps members per capita! We are proud of our alumni who contribute to that ranking and the role that their community engagement experiences as students played in their decisions to serve as AmeriCorps members in Addison County.
Read below to learn more about our first AmeriCorps member spotlight, Ellie Dickerson ‘19, and her trajectory from student to CCE’s AmeriCorps VISTA member.
Where did you grow up, and what did you study at Middlebury?
I grew up in a little North Central Nebraska town called Ainsworth. I studied International & Global Studies with a focus on Latin America, and spent my Junior Spring in Montevideo, Uruguay. During my time at Middlebury, I was involved in Community Friends and the Privilege & Poverty (P&P) Academic Cluster.
How did community engagement shape your time as a student at Middlebury?
I became a Community Friend during the second semester of my first year. My engagement with the community deepened considerably during the summer after my first year, when I was a Shepherd Intern with Charter House Coalition. I also became very involved in Middlebury’s Memorial Baptist and began leading the 7th-12th grade youth group during my Senior year.
These experiences allowed me to form relationships with community members, learn about community needs first-hand, and feel like a member of the larger Middlebury community. They offered me a break from the constant demands of campus, and they helped me gain perspective on those demands. Getting out into the community helped me to remember that I am only one part of a much bigger world, and that connecting with and serving others is so much more important than getting good grades.
How did these experience deepen your understandings of civic engagement and service?
My internship with Charter House, combined with weekly CCE reflections and P&P academic coursework, allowed me to reflect deeply on what it means to “serve,” especially from a place of privilege. I analyzed and questioned my actions and thoughts in an effort to unpack my own biases. Was I saving, or was I serving? Was I projecting, or was I relating? The “real-world” piece combined with the academic research and classroom discussions complicated my understanding of service and helped me to grow as a person.
I analyzed and questioned my actions and thoughts in an effort to unpack my own biases. Was I saving, or was I serving? Was I projecting, or was I relating?
Ellie Dickerson ’19, AmeriCorps Member
What led you to decide to serve as an AmeriCorps member in the CCE?
My involvement with the CCE played such a huge role in my experience at Middlebury. I wanted to be able to support students in their connections with the community just like CCE staff and faculty partners had supported me. My love for Vermont also influenced my decision. Vermonters care about vulnerable populations, as is evidenced by the hundreds of non-profits in Addison County alone. I know that if I have an idea for making change, I will have a supportive community behind me. My husband and his family all live in Addison County, which has further connected me with the community.
I know that if I have an idea for making change, I will have a supportive community behind me.
Ellie Dickerson ’19, AmeriCorps Member
How has living as a non-student in Addison County been?
Being here as a non-student has honestly been lovely. So far I’ve found that without the stresses of student life I have been able to take advantage of all that Vermont has to offer. I get some of the perks of student life (such as access to the fitness center and the library) without the drawbacks. Beautiful.
Have you given any thought to what comes next?
At this point, I am still unsure of my next steps, but I would love to continue to serve in the area if possible. I have so much Vermont pride. I have also formed relationships with people here, from Charter House Coalition to my Church Family to my husband and in-laws, that make each day meaningful and root me to this place.
Stay tuned for more upcoming blog posts about our other Middlebury alumni AmeriCorps members!
Application deadline for Summer 2020–TODAY! Visit: go/jssl and access the application on the bottom of the page.
The Japan Summer Service-Learning Program (JSSL) is a collaborative, intercultural service-learning program that brings together undergraduates from Middlebury, International Christian University (ICU), and multiple member universities of the Service-Learning Asia Network. Participating students work, learn, and engage with local residents in the Tokyo metropolitan region as well as in Tenryumura – a small village in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. While this is usually a four-week summer program, our summer 2020 session will be for three weeks, ending prior to the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
Last year, student participants reflected on their time in Japan using the new Middlebury Experiential Learning Life Cycle (ELLC) hub website. This is a new reflection resource that educators across Middlebury College created together to support students across different immersive learning experiences to reflect on their learning.
Below are reflections from some of last summer’s participants.
Xiaoyu Wu ’22:
My name is Xiaoyu, and I am a
participant in a summer program called JSSL (Japan Summer Service
Learning). This program lasts for one month and provides participants
the opportunity to experience urban and rural life of Japan. I enjoyed
every minute of this program, but the thing that gave me the strongest
impact was the monument of Chinese soldiers, which I saw in a rural
village (Tenryu Village) in Japan.
Sometimes I wonder why I am doing
volunteer services in Japan while my own country needs help. The answer
became clear after my journey to Tenryu Village. There were a lot of
tragic stories in this village during WWII— Families broke apart because
of the war; foreign soldiers and prisoners of war were forced to
participate in the construction of the dam. When Kawakami san was giving
this speech about the local history, I felt a mix of conflicted
feelings— Anger, unfamiliarity, frustration… Why do we have to uncover
the scars of the past again? The purpose is not to re-trigger the hatred
but to remember the war, just as Kawakami san mentioned in his speech,
“悲劇を忘れないように語り継、この事実を後世に伝えるのも我々の役目かなと思っています (I think we should not forget
the tragedy, and it is our role to convey the story to the future
There are indeed a lot of stereotypes exist between China and Japan, and it is our mission, the younger generations’ responsibility, to rediscover the good in humanity and break down these stereotypes. Because many people do not know that when forced labors were suffering, villagers shared their limited resources with them. Even after the war, there is a Japanese lady who places flowers in front of the monument every day for over 50 years.
Sam Hernandez ’22:
Sam Hernandez and I am a participant in the Japanese Summer Service
Learning program. During the month of July, me and an international team
of students set out to participate in various service projects
throughout the city of Mitaka and the rural Tenryū village. Something
that has pleasantly surprised me about this experience was how easy it
has been to work with people from various different cultures in a
country where we are foreigners to make a difference in people’s lives.
While I say it has been easy, that means relatively. We have worked incredibly hard as a group and put in a lot of effort. But the reward we get, the memories, the experiences, the connections, they’re all so incredibly valuable that having to put in some effort is nothing. The benefits to this program will be lifelong. Not only that, but we have done meaningful service as well. The benefits for those we served are hopefully even more meaningful. Essentially, I learned that it doesn’t take much to make a difference. Whether it be helping your members make paper at a service center or pulling up ragweed in a park. Even just listening to an elderly citizen recount their youth and most valuable memories. We made an impact together as a team of various people from different backgrounds, beliefs, ideals, and goals. In only a month, we became friends. Our differences were embraced and welcomed. It was a most pleasant surprise.
Consider applying for this amazing program. Visit go/jssl and access the application at the bottom of the page.
Queenie Li ’22 writes about her and three other students’ experience in attending the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) Conference in Pittsburgh, PA early this Spring.
Asian Students in Action (ASIA) took four undergraduate students to the East Coast Asian American Student Union conference in Pittsburgh, PA early this Spring. The annual ECAASU conference brings together various colleges to participate in workshops about the Asian and Asian Pacific Islander (AAPI) identity and diaspora, form connections between students, and to celebrate the AAPI identity. This conference is the largest and oldest conference for Asian Americans in the United States. Due to the support in part by funding from Community Engagement at Middlebury College, we were able to attend, gain knowledge, and make connections with other AAPI college students.
Being surrounded by other AAPI students, we were empowered, reaffirmed, and felt deep sense of belonging. The conference was comprised of a diverse selection of workshops and caucuses. One workshop of note that two of us attended was entitled “Why Are We Here? The Role of Collegiate Asian Organizations,” inspiring us to reexamine ASIA’s mission and the community we serve. We left that workshop inspired and are now working to put on an inaugural AAPI conference here at Middlebury to serve colleges and folks in the northeast who were unable to attend ECAASU.
Of the caucuses, we were able to attend closed affinity caucuses or open caucuses about broader issues that we wanted to discuss. In light of recent news, there was a caucus dedicated to examining the coronavirus and the subsequent rise of xenophobia towards the AAPI community. The topics of discussion at ECAASU were reflective of current events as well as of continual issues that impact the AAPI community. Workshops and caucuses tackling recurrent issues offered deeper and niched perspectives that allowed for a new approach and understanding of the issues.
[The caucus focusing on coronavirus and the rise of xenophobia] was personally very powerful for me to be able share my emotions with many people and see that people share the same concern and frustration as me
Shuyi Lin ’23. an ASIA member at the ECAASU Conference
Apart from the workshops and caucuses, we found the conference valuable as it introduced us to other AAPI students from other schools. Due to our location in rural Vermont, being an AAPI student is often very isolating and we have little to no relationships with other collegiate AAPI organizations and AAPI students. The conference fostered those connections and we have left with new friends and collaborators. We are excited to have found companions and support on our journey as AAPI students. More importantly, we are thrilled to also be able to provide support to our new friends and to begin to provide support to AAPI members of the Middlebury community.
Stay up to date with
Asian Students in Action! Like our Facebook page (go/asiamidd/) or follow us on
I spent my February break this year a little differently. I went back to Los Angeles, the place I have been calling home for the past 11 years, with nine other Middleury students. At 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday our plane finally landed in LAX, and I felt our group’s collective excitement and eagerness to learn about the intersectionality between climate change and religion and what roles we can play in helping mitigate this global crisis. Although it is true that our trip was not the most physically demanding–we may have gone to the beach this week more than I ever have in one summer–I believe that it was one of my most intellectually and emotionally engaging experiences at Middlebury College.
On our first full day, we visited the Metropolitan Church of Christ, a church centered on Creation. The whole community welcomed all of us with open arms, reflecting the core of their sermon that day: we humans are “the salt of the earth.” They shared the message that humans are one of earth’s most valuable resources and we have a duty to be kind to each other. This kindness must also extend towards all of God’s creation. We have a duty to protect and nurture the earth and everything that resides in it because we are simply sharing the earth with other living beings. Theirs was a call for responsibility. Although this was a clear articulation of the connection between climate change in religion, the most powerful experience I had in this church was more personal.
They did the Holy Communion a little differently from other more traditional churches. We were invited to join if we desired. I took the “body of Christ” with my own hands from a tray and dipped it in the chalice filled with the “blood of Christ.” After eating this, the deacon took my hands and touched our foreheads together in a very personal prayer. My eyes started to water as her words touched my heart. She said: “Blessed be are those who are young. For they really are the hope of the future.” At that moment, I realized that the older generation places so much faith in us to do better and to take better care of our shared world.
The most physically demanding–and emotionally exhausting–day that we had came on the third day of our trip. Half of the group, including myself, worked from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Hippie Kitchen situated in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles’ notorious Skid Row. This neighborhood, called “Hell on Earth” by some, creates a stark contrast from the bustling and wealthy area of Downtown Los Angeles as you see streets upon streets filled with tents, shopping carts, trash, and items usually found inside a house. When you leave this neighborhood, you can immediately see a completely different set-up of the city: high-rise buildings, fancy restaurants, expensive apartments. As a native Los Angelena, I knew of and have seen this place in person–but only from the outside. Going inside the heart of Skid Row was, therefore, a surreal experience. I felt exposed and, admittedly, scared. When we got inside the Hippie Kitchen, I felt a sense of relief–no longer would I have to stand outside surrounded by the marginalized and unrepresented as the Kitchen’s four walls became my temporary refuge. I felt weird and I felt wrong.
Going inside the heart of Skid Row was, therefore, a surreal experience. I felt exposed and, admittedly, scared. When we got inside the Hippie Kitchen, I felt a sense of relief–no longer would I have to stand outside surrounded by the marginalized and unrepresented as the Kitchen’s four walls became my temporary refuge.
Isabella Primavera ‘21.5, MAlt LA Participant
As we rotated jobs once the Hippie Kitchen opened, I found myself serving salad to those experiencing homelessness. At this station, I distinctly remember one moment: One of the regular volunteers asked a regular patron where his wife was. He answered: “She’s in our tent today since she’s not feeling well.” That response hit me hard. In my everyday life, the “tent” would be substituted by “home” or “room,” sturdier and more personal spaces, places that are supposed to provide a comfortable shield from the outside. Hearing this man’s response, I felt a sense of shame. It was shame for being able to find comfort in going back to a comfortable house–with a bed, a heater, running water, a warm blanket–while my counterparts lived in their tents.
Before we started our shifts, we came upon the volunteers praying in a circle, holding hands. When they saw us (Middlebury students standing outside the kitchen), they opened up the circle and invited us join the prayer. The prayer, I faintly recall, was a prayer by St. Vincent de Paul–a priest who has dedicated his life to serving the poor. The prayer talked of our duties to the poor–that it is our duty to help them and even when they disrespect us, we must treat them with more kindness. I deeply respect all of the volunteers; their belief in the word of God drives their selflessness in serving the community in Skid Row. I respect those experiencing homelessness as well. Despite their situations, some of them come to the Hippie Kitchen filled with hope and gratitude. It is another day that they are alive and another day that they can eat and for that they are thankful.
There is so much that we did on this trip–so much learning, engagement, reflection–that one blog post would not be enough to talk about all of it. I’ve highlighted these two days of the trip because they contained the most impactful moments for me. While the first experience shows the direct connection between climate change and religion I experienced, the second experience shows that solving the climate crisis cannot stand in isolation from creating broader social justice. Climate change is a social justice issue. For how can the marginalized and underrepresented worry about the environment when everyday they have to worry about satisfying their most basic needs–food and shelter? This trip has made me realize that climate change is not just this abstract, global problem but a systemic problem–those who are not in the top 5% wealthiest parts of the population are the ones who experience most of climate change’s effects, but those with the most wealth are responsible for creating and maintaining most of the systems of dependence on, and actual emissions of, fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses that are causing the problem in the first place. The marginalized hold some of the fewest choices for taking personal action, too. People who need jobs must take the jobs available, even if they are in places like oil refineries. Those experiencing homelessness use single-use plastic because they don’t have access to sturdier containers. All of these complex problems are part of climate change.
Climate change is a social justice issue. For how can the marginalized and underrepresented worry about the environment when everyday they have to worry about satisfying their most basic needs–food and shelter?
Isabella Primavera ‘21.5, MAlt LA Participant
Although these issues seem so big and unsolvable–believe me, I was feeling hopeless for a while–the communities that we have seen in action are all doing their part to try to fix the system from the ground-up. Faith communities as well as normal neighborhoods are all working with the people in their communities to tackle the climate crises–the Metropolitan Church of Christ and the Hippie Kitchen are just two of these examples. Because of these groups, I have hope that we can work together to change the world for the better.