For many students, beginning college can be an exciting, albeit challenging time. In addition to the new academic expectations and experiences, new students are often discovering an entirely new community both on campus and in a new town or state. At Middlebury College, first-year students, 97% of whom come from another state or country, join a thriving campus community of more than 2,500 students in a town of more than 8,500 people. A vital part of integrating into the Middlebury community is finding your place, whether that be through a tight-knit group of friends formed during New Student Weekend, a program hosted by the Anderson Freeman Resource Center, or weekly club meetings organized by one of the student organizations on campus.
At the Center for Community Engagement, our goal is to support each Middlebury College student in finding their place on campus, locally within Middlebury and as a global citizen. We offer a wide array of programs, courses, and clubs that can fit into any schedule, focused on a multitude of interest areas like civic leadership, youth & mentoring, global engagement and language programs, and more. Many of our student leaders are varsity athletes or work-study students, and we find ways to help them find community engagement opportunities that fit with their busy schedules. While each of our program areas may speak to a different skill set or passion project, each shares a similar goal: to encourage students to engage in self-exploration, self-expression, and consider their place and power in whatever community they belong to.
For many students, CCE programs provide a space for students to make friends, build a support network, and find personal and professional growth opportunities. Madelyn Lander ‘23, who founded the CCE supported community engagement organization Yellow House Community Club shared the following quote about her experience at Yellow House Community, which inspired her to start the Middlebury club:
“Every day was different, and every week I discovered a new part of our community here in Midd that I had never known existed before. With Yellow House I traveled to farms in the area, volunteering with Yellow House residents to give back to the community which supports us, went on more hikes than I could count, and spent hours in the kitchen making lunches and helping to prep dinners with everyone.”
In addition to the experiences available through student-led organizations, community connected learning courses provide an experiential learning opportunity that encourages students to engage in hands-on community building activities. CCE staff teach a Community Connected Learning course (INTD 121), which is a great way for new students to start building community with project support. Emily Carfi ‘21, who served as a Community Connected Learning Course Project Assistant said:
“[Community Connected Learning] was a great way for me to pursue community work with great guidance during such a difficult time of year. I learned about fellow Midd students’ involvement in the community, and I also learned about different organizations that are located in Addition County, which I hadn’t heard of before. It was so inspiring to see how all these students contributed to different organizations meant to serve different groups of people in need.”
For students who would like a more individualized connection with the CCE, we offer Find My Place meetings, which students can schedule by visiting go/FindMyPlace. Find My Place meetings provide an opportunity for students to meet with any CCE staff member to talk about options for volunteering that work best for their schedule and capacity. Through these meetings, students can see first-hand how customizable community engagement opportunities are at Middlebury College. We strive to ensure that students can choose their own adventure, with structure and support from the CCE every step of the way.
The Center for Community Engagement is intentional about creating a diverse set of experiences available to students interested in getting involved, but the possibilities aren’t limited to what we’ve already created. Each year, the CCE provides flexible funding through the Community Engagement Organization leadership group so that students can work on individual or group projects which may or may not lead to the development of a new student organization. This year alone, we’ve supported students in creating five new student organizations focused on collaborating with community partners. We also support grant programs like the Cross Cultural Community Engagement Grant that encourages students to dedicate their time to intercultural dialogue and exchange. We fully believe that every student should be able to find their place here at Middlebury, and if it doesn’t already exist, we’re here to help you create it.