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Student Filmmakers Win Top Honors at 24-Hour Film Festival

Team Middlebury won Best Film at the Sleepless in Burlington Film Festival.

Team Middlebury won “Best Film” and “Audience Choice” at the Sleepless in Burlington Film Festival Oct. 20. Photo: Sleepless in Burlington

A team of five Middlebury College students won “Best Film” and “Audience Choice” awards at this year’s Sleepless in Burlington festival on Oct. 20. The annual competition, tied to the Vermont International Film Festival, pits Vermont college teams against each other to produce finished short films in 24 hours. Befitting the Halloween season, Middlebury’s entry was a short creepy thriller titled “Room for Rent.” Students started casting their films with a pool of professional actors, provided by the film festival, on Saturday morning and submitted their films for screening by noon on Sunday. The teams were also given a couple of props that they were required to incorporate into their stories. In addition to Middlebury, teams from UVM, St. Michael’s, Champlain College, and Burlington College produced films for the competition. The Middlebury crew included Benjamin Kramer ’14, director; James Brown ’15, writer; Joanie Thompson ’14, audio; Ali Salem ’16, editor; and Benjamin Savard ’14, cinematographer.


Updates from Irvine: Team Middlebury at the Solar Decathlon


Inside InSite

Video Walk-Through

Construction Kick-Off (4/13)

Final Scores

Middlebury’s Solar Decathlon team is competing in Irvine, Calif. this year. We’ll follow their progress as they navigate through the assembly, competition and homecoming. Check back here for regular updates and take a look at the team’s Facebook page  and web site for more news. Follow them on Twitter: @MiddSD13.  Photos supplied by Team Middlebury unless otherwise noted.


10/12/13 – Congratulations! Team Middlebury Finishes 8th Overall

Team Middlebury poses for a photo with their third place award in the affordability contest. Photo courtesy Solar Decathlon.

Team Middlebury poses for a photo with their third place award in the affordability contest. Photo courtesy Solar Decathlon.

In a sea of graduate architecture and engineering programs, Middlebury was the tenacious liberal arts college that proved itself over and over, ending up with an 8th place finish in the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. The D.O.E. announced the winners at a ceremony in Irvine, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 11.

“Coming from our Liberal Arts background we are proud to be able to compete with the rest of the teams which are coming from architecture and engineering graduate programs,” said team manager Gwen Cook ’13.

Middlebury did very well in a series of scoring contests, with third place finishes in affordability, communications, and home entertainment. They nabbed 7th place in architecture and top 10 finishes in the other categories.

“The Solar Decathlon is inspiring and training the next generation of clean energy architects, engineers and entrepreneurs, and showing that affordable, clean energy technologies can help homeowners save money and energy today,” said D.O.E. Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Congratulations to the Solar Decathlon 2013 competitors – your hard work and creativity is helping to build a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

“What an incredible accomplishment all of you have achieved over the past two years with InSite,” said President Ron Liebowitz in a  congratulatory note to the team, “capping it all off with a superb showing in Irvine.”

“To have been accepted into the competition, and then to place in the top 10, speaks volumes in a global-wide program that has become so competitive,”Liebowitz said. “The homes this year are remarkable, from top to bottom.”

Team Middlebury began the epic journey to Irvine in fall 2011 when it proposed its plan to the college, then later to the Solar Decathlon competition. Simply being selected among the highly competitive field of applicants is an honor in itself. Middlebury was among 20 teams selected to compete in 2013. Over the course of two years, students worked on everything from design and architecture to engineering, construction and communications. In September, 2013, they shipped their home by train to Los Angeles, where it was transported by truck to Irvine.

The 2013 Solar Decathlon wraps up Sunday, Oct. 13, after which the team will deconstruct the house and ship it back to Middlebury by rail and truck. The house will be reconstructed on a permanent site on Shannon Street in Middlebury, where it will serve as a student residence and educational resource.

10/10/13 – Two Big Contest Results

This was a big day for all of the teams because points were awarded in two of the ten contests. Middlebury had an excellent showing, achieving third place in the Affordability contest and fifth place in the Market Appeal contest. By the end of the day, with points tallied, Middlebury was nicely situated in fourth place overall. Fellow Vermont team Norwich University made their home state proud, tying for first place in affordability and moving up to 10th place overall.

10/9/13 – Team InSite Reflects on Challenges of Solar Decathlon

10/8/13 – Update from Team Manager Cordelia Newbury ’13

“Yesterday we had the communications and engineering walk-through. Jonah, Gwen, Joseph, and Ari all felt extremely proud and confident in their respective presentations and we look forward to hearing the results on those on friday and saturday respectively. This morning we had our architecture walk-through and the jury was extremely impressed by our liberal arts background and our holistic mission and design. We have the affordability and market appeal walk-through coming up and are excited for the juried contests to come into our scores as they will really help us in pulling ahead!

“The net metering has gone really well- we are keeping steady in our measured contests and are working to improve our processes to improve results. We are doing really well in our energy gain- this is especially important as we are going to enter into a cloudy few days where energy gain might reduce a bit, but we are feeling confident in our net metering right now.

‘The tours have also gone really well and we are getting fabulous feedback on our home- the public seems to think it is the most livable space and extremely accommodating of the needs of a family. For us, this is such an important piece of feedback as we want our ideas to spread as far as possible and to inspire sustainable design across the country. we have also gotten a few comments on our solar path, with families expressing interest in our drawings and specs  to build a solar path for themselves!”

10/7/13 – Photos and Scoring Update
Photos by Brendan Mahoney ’11

As of this posting, Middlebury is doing well in the standings after four contests. They have been as high as first place, but are currently in 10th with six contests left to go. It’s a rapidly changing picture, so keep an eye on them as their standing is likely to change again soon. To keep tabs on the scores and standings, click here.

10/3/13 – InSite Opens to the Public
Video by Matt Lennon ’13 and Brendan Mahoney ’11

10/3/13 – Welcoming the Media (Check out that barn board!)
Video by Matt Lennon ’13 and Brendan Mahoney ’11

10/2/13 – House is Completed – Inspection Time
Video by Matt Lennon ’13

10/1/13 – InSite is Nearly Finished
Photos by Brendan Mahoney ’11

9/30/13 – L.A. Times Features InSite


9/27/13 – Video Recaps of Construction Progress
Videos by Team Middlebury

From the team: “The team in Irvine has been very busy this week. Yesterday they finished raising all of the exterior and interior walls of InSite, completing the form of our home. Today the team will work to place the deck panels and raise the Solar Path. For more photos of the construction process, make sure to check out our facebook page. The team has also been enjoying seeing all of the other teams’ designs coming to life, and we can’t wait to tour all of them!”

9/23/13 – Starting Assembly

From the team: “Started at 5:30 to pack our uhaul. We then got to the front of the line at 6:40 to get on site and met the sun with sun salutations led by Kate. Our crane was the first to set up and now we are waiting for our first container to come on site. Great start to assembly!!”

Later in the day, the team's foundation passed inspection and they were able to lower in the mechanical module.

Later in the day, the team’s foundation passed inspection and they were cleared to lower in the mechanical module.


Middlebury students on the assembly team take a break from building the foundation for InSite.

Team members from Team Middlebury College Solar Decathlon 2013 and Team Kentuckiana Solar Decathlon 2013 warm up with a Sun Salutation while waiting to begin construction at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. (Credit: Amy Vaughn/U.S. Department of Energy) — at Orange County Great Park.

Team members from Team Middlebury College Solar Decathlon 2013 and Team Kentuckiana Solar Decathlon 2013 warm up with a Sun Salutation while waiting to begin construction at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. (Credit: Amy Vaughn/U.S. Department of Energy) — at Orange County Great Park.


Middlebury’s assembly team waits at the “starting line” to begin work on InSite at Orange County Great Park.

9/22/13 – Arrival in Irvine

The assembly team and the container trucks carrying the house have arrived. Assembly begins Monday, Sept. 23.


Team Middlebury arrives in California.



Shipping containers carrying InSite were delivered by train to Los Angeles, then trucked to Orange County Great Park (above).

Summer Scene: PTP/NYC Season Opener Off Broadway


A scene from The Castle

The Off Broadway sensation with a Middlebury connection has opened its 27th season to rave reviews.

PTP/NYC is performing both The Castle, an energetic epic by Howard Barker, and Serious Money, Caryl Churchill’s play about 1980s greed in London’s financial district, this season in New York. The two are in rotation Off Broadway at Atlantic Stage 2 and have already captured the attention of top reviewers from the New York Times, Broadway World, and Time Out.

The Castle, directed by Professor of Theatre Richard Romagnoli, features Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Jan Maxwell as well as alums David Barlow ’94, Rachel Goodgal ’13, Stephen Mrowiec ‘13, and Aubrey Dube ’12. Sumi Doi ’13 is assistant to the director.

Serious Money, directed by Professor of Theatre Cheryl Faraone, has a cast that stars alums Tara Giordano ’02, Mat Nakitare ’11, Alex Draper ’88, Aubrey Dube ’12, David Barlow ’94, Megan Byrne ’96, Molly O’Keefe ’12, Sarah Lusche ’13, Isabel Shill ’12.5, and Noah Berman ’13. Christo Grabowski ’12 is assistant to the director, and the crew includes Alicia Evancho ’12 as choreographer.

The collaboration between the PTP/NYC and Middlebury began in 1987 and it remains the only collegiate program of its kind to offer undergraduate students opportunities to work in professional theater.

If you’re in New York this summer, be sure to check out the performances! See the website for the most recent information on show times and tickets.

What Humankind Left Behind

By focusing on a subject he calls the architecture of residual landscape, internationally prominent photographer Edward Burtynsky creates an art form that is as engaging as it is provocative.

The selection of photographs, on view at the Museum of Art through April 21, grew from a concept the artist began exploring in the granite quarries throughout Vermont and Canada in the early 1990s. Director of the Arts Pieter Broucke and Juliette Bianco, assistant director of Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art, where the exhibition originated, are co-curators and introduced the show at its opening this week.

The works are large-scale—as are, after all, the deeply cavernous subjects—but the largeness of it all can be deceiving. The artist gives little sense of perspective within the photographs, so the smallest details—the rock striations and geometric cuts, a bright green pool, a chalky white glaze—became almost otherworldly, while at the same time so clearly recognizable as our own earth. It’s a mesmerizing beauty born of industrial destruction. The exhibition also inherently serves as social commentary, but the artist himself is not documentarian; he doesn’t press his opinion but rather propose the opportunity for healthy and ongoing dialogue.

Click through a slideshow of selections below, then make a trip to the Museum to see the show in person—a must!

Danby Marble Quarry #2

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Edward Burtynsky (Canadian, born 1955), Underground Quarry, Danby, Vermont, 1995, digital chromogenic color print. Courtesy of the artist.

Class Assignment: Give Away $100,000

How hard could it be to give away $100,000? Just write the check, make someone’s day, smiles all around.

Of course, it’s not that simple. At least not if you’re weighing the countless factors philanthropists must consider, which is what a group of 25 Middlebury students did during a new J-term course titled “Philanthropy: Ethics and Practice.”

The money was real — $100,000 from the Texas-based Once Upon A Time Foundation, which has made similar grants to several colleges and universities to support the study of philanthropic giving. The class’s charge was to research nonprofit organizations that interested them, and allocate the funds by the end of the course.

Sarah Stroup, assistant professor of political science guides a class dicsussion.

Sarah Stroup, assistant professor of political science, guides a class discussion.

A faculty team of political scientist Sarah Stroup and philosophy professor Steven Viner served as facilitators, crafting the course to blend the mechanics of philanthropic giving with the ethical decision-making tools necessary for such important choices.

For the first two weeks, students delved into the intricacies of nonprofits and philanthropy. They split into five groups and compiled lists of possible organizations to support, then spent a week immersed in research on their prospective grantees, including phone conversations, meetings, and tours. They narrowed the field significantly with each group considering one to three potential organizations.

Sitting with Stroup and Viner, one student group described how they’d honed their list down to one local social services group — the Addison County Parent Child Center. They liked supporting an organization in the local college community and were impressed with the center’s results in reducing teen pregnancy.  But will it persuade their classmates?

Students listened to detailed briefing papers from their classmates on each of the charities considered for grants.

Students listened to detailed briefing papers from their classmates on each of the charities considered for grants.

“I feel like in order for them to keep providing help and education on a case-by-case basis, we need to address the issues of staffing,” said Luke Martinez ‘14. Martinez noted that most of the center’s funding comes mostly from Medicaid and the state, but those sources seem continually at risk as the country digs out of recession.

“That won’t be sexy to present in front of the class, but it’s the fact of the matter,” added fellow group member Emmy Masur ‘13.

Week four marked a transition to the hard work of narrowing the list even further in preparation to make awards. To help create a baseline of shared information about the charities, each student group presented a briefing paper that included background, structures and strategies, financial information, oversight and monitoring, evidence of impact, and reasons why to support them.

They narrowed the field to four finalists: Gardens for Health International, which fights malnutrition; Grassroot Soccer, which works to reduce HIV infection through education; and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), which reduces parasitic worm infections in Africa, and the local Addison County Parent Child Center.

The class took numerous hand votes to narrow down the finalists, but ultimately voted on paper to reach consensus.

The class took numerous hand votes to narrow down the finalists, but struggled to reach consensus.

But along with a smaller field comes stronger advocacy from the student groups. When students had a chance to ask each other for additional information, there were sometimes testy exchanges as students slipped into the role of advocates. They all knew what was on the line for their charity and wanted to make a compelling case.

“I think we expected this,” said Stroup, “that as the decision moment came closer, students were not thinking about these questions in abstract terms. They were thinking about them in the particular context of the charities that they felt passionately drawn to.”

On the last day of class, the moment of truth arrives, when the class must decide — together — how they’ll parcel out the money. Everyone knows how much research and emotion the other teams have invested, but they really want their group to come out ahead.

Stroup and Viner, now in full facilitator mode, guide the students into a decision process that’s fair and logical. Viner has suggested a kind of “Robert’s Rules” system to keep the class on track. Trying to narrow the decision further, the class takes a series of votes: how many charities to fund, which are your preferred charities, if we vote for only three, what would they be, and so on.

Ian Stewart ’14 (center) broke through the stalemate by suggesting a paper vote.

Ian Stewart ’14 (center) broke through the stalemate by suggesting a paper vote.

Three solid hours of deliberation yields a stalemate, and a new group dynamic. Quite simply, it is difficult to sit in a circle of friends and peers, and tell them you don’t want to support their cause. Ian Stewart ‘14 proposes a solution that breaks the log jam: Each member of the class write on a piece of paper how much money they would allocate to each of the four groups and then tally the class average for each. It’s an imperfect solution — some groups get more, some less — but it nicely illustrates the need for compromise and progress. Gardens for Health and SCI end up with $35,000 each, while Grassroot Soccer and the Parent Child Center end up with $15,000 each.

With a decision finally made, the mood turned from tension to joy, exuberance, and relief. And despite all the wrangling that came before, the class seems satisfied that the will of the group was reflected in their decision.

Viner applauded the students’ efforts, especially their perseverance when it might have been easier to split the money evenly and call it a day. “That’s a sort of life lesson about us learning how to do good with our money,” he said. “These are difficult decisions, but there’s also an undercurrent of another sort of problem that arose, which is coordinating with others to come to a decision about how our projects will clash with, and come into tension with, other people’s projects even when they’re both good projects.”

“Our class introduced students to both ‘what is’ in the American nonprofit sector as well as to perhaps ‘what should be’ in terms of our responsibilities to others,” said Stroup, “and we hope that the conversations that we began over J-term continue as students grow as citizens and leaders.”

Here They Come!

With an expected sense of nervous excitement, this summer’s latest batch of new students arrived at the Bread Loaf School of English last Monday. But any signs of anxiety quickly gave way to calm comfort as many of those students were greeted by none other than the director herself, Emily Bartels. With her warm smile, welcoming hand, and wonderful sense of humor she set the tone, once again, for a fun and rewarding summer.

A Classic Journey

Fall Family Weekend marked the seventh year that the Classics Department staged a marathon reading of one of four classical texts: Iliad, Aeneid, Odyssey, and Metamorphosis. “We alternate between Greek and Latin,” explained Trish Dougherty, academic coordinator for classics and classical studies. Trish is a key organizer of the event, and she provided much of the background in the following slide show from the weekend’s event, which took place just inside the entrance to the Davis Family Library and featured the Odyssey.

Stay tuned to MiddMag for more Fall Family Weekend stories, including links to the President’s address to parents, panels and discussions, and other editorial coverage.

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"Marathon readings are pretty popular in classical circles because that’s how Homer rolled," says Trish.