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Dear Readers,

I have asked Lisa Gates, associate dean of experiential education, assessment, and planning, to be this month’s guest blogger. She is writing about the vision behind the new Center for Education in Action and how the center’s work is critical to a liberal arts education. Not only is her post informative, it also raises some intriguing questions about how we choose to spend our time.

Shirley M. Collado
Dean of the College

There’s a quote on my refrigerator from the writer Annie Dillard. It reads: “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” Admittedly, it’s one of those obvious points, the kind of sentiment that ends up on refrigerator magnets in the first place, and yet I always appreciate the message: stop for a moment, think about the myriad things one does in the course of a day, and connect these daily actions to the larger picture. Are the things that I am doing today important to me? What am I learning from these things?

And that’s where the Center for Education in Action—EIA for short—comes in. As students, you are already well acquainted with at least some of our parts—career services, the Alliance for Civic Engagement (ACE), health professions and fellowships advising—but in coming together as one center, our goal is to provide you with a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Together, we bring more comprehensive advising and resources, more funding and more opportunities for interesting, challenging experiences outside the classroom. Because what you do outside of academics, too, is part of your Middlebury education—and it’s a critical part.

So let’s talk a moment about this broad category of out-of-the-classroom experience. These run the gamut from campus jobs to playing on an athletic team, from mentoring kids after school to presenting your work at the undergraduate research symposium, from practicing guitar (or yoga or rugby or you fill in the activity) to doing a summer internship, maybe with a botanical garden in Denver or the Department of Homeland Security in D.C. (examples of internships offered to students for this summer). This is what you do in the course of a given day or week or month. This is how you spend your days. And yet as quotidian—or in some cases necessary—as some of these activities are, they can still tell you something useful about yourself.

Think about these choices you are making. You’re doing all these things, but why these things and not others? What are you learning through these experiences? Are there connections between what you do outside of class and what you choose to study? Can you take what you learn in volunteering, working, or interning and apply it to your academic life? What do you like or dislike? What fascinates you? What challenges you? What puts you to sleep? Thinking about these choices will provide you with valuable information as you make decisions about classes next semester, your summer plans, or what you might want to do after graduation, because, like it or not, that day will come, too. Your learning is cumulative, and the more you can do to make those active connections between these various experiences and your formal education, the better prepared—and successful—you’ll be in choosing your path after graduation. And the happier you’ll be with your choices.

EIA is one of many resources at Middlebury available to support you in your educational journey here. If you haven’t connected with us yet or haven’t talked with us in awhile, take the time to stop by and look at what we have to offer: internships; jobs; funding; community connections, global and local; career exploration; alumni connections; fellowships and grad-school advising; and preparation for med, dental, and vet school applications.

Did you know we provided 91 students with funding last summer to participate in unpaid internships and independent projects? We offered more than 300 Midd-friendly internships and supported community engagement work in Vermont, Gambia, China, and Uganda last year, among other places. We helped students apply for and win prestigious scholarships, like the Fulbright, the Beinecke, the Watson, and the Gates Cambridge. We helped students gain admission to medical and veterinary schools and find jobs with organizations ranging from Teach for America to Goldman Sachs. Behind the scenes, we’re working with our extensive and enthusiastic alumni, parent, and professional networks to identify new opportunities, speakers, funds, and contacts that can help you connect with opportunities and advice in the areas you’re interested in.

Most important, we’re a place for conversation and advice. We don’t expect you to have figured it all out; we just expect to help you in that process. Figuring it all out, after all, is one of those elusive goals that no one, not even a Pulitzer-prize winning writer like Annie Dillard, really achieves. It’s what you do in the course of a day, a week, or a month that matters. One of the greatest joys and challenges of a liberal arts education is that it is not prescriptive. It leaves you to figure out what you are interested in, what excites you, and how you can deepen those interests through the experiences you choose while a student. You’re in charge of your educational path, but we can certainly help you as you explore these fundamental questions.

Want to learn more? Come see us in Adirondack House. Career counselors have drop-ins from 2–5 p.m., Monday–Friday, and all advisers—for community engagement, health professions, and fellowships—are available for appointments and can be reached by phone or e-mail (check out go/eia for a full list). Just give us a call (x5100) or drop by!

—   Lisa Gates
Associate Dean of Experiential Education, Assessment, and Planning

10 Responses to “Why a Day Matters”

  1. Tyler Lovas '11 says:

    As a student employee of EIA with Career Services and a blogger on the Internships blog, I thought I would add my perspective as a student…
    Now that I am graduating in a matter of weeks, it is more apparent to me than ever that the true value of a liberal arts education is much more than what you may learn in the classroom. Undoubtedly, success in the classroom is crucial to other successes, but Middlebury for me, as Dean Gates recognizes, is much more than A’s and B’s with the occasional B-. As cliche as it is, college is a process and a journey where each activity you become involved with, each time you train for a sport, each person you decide to be bold and say hello to, or each time you are forced to abandon your comfort zone, you are finding, forming, and enhancing the ever evolving self.

    Most of us upon graduation intend on finding a job or starting some sort of a career, but that journey from the first hall meeting your first year to the new employee welcoming party at a Fortune 500 company is quite long and daunting. Dean Gates hits the nail on the head, the Center for Education in Action is here as a resource to make that journey a bit less bumpy and a little more direct. If you have ever read one of my blogs you probably know I like to call the EIA the Laboratory of Dreams, and that is exactly what it is. It may not make the dreams for you but, again cliché, I wholeheartedly believe the EIA can help make your dreams come true.

    Now, if you walk into the EIA thinking that jobs or internships are waiting for you on the buffet line to be taken at will, then you might walk out a bit dissappointed. However, what EIA does do for you, and they do it very well, is provide the resources, guidance, and opportunties for everyone at Middlebury, no matter what your interest or passion is, to work towards and achieve their career goals.

    To continue with Dean Gates’s theme of perspective, that is exactly what you need to have when you walk away from the EIA. From a personal experience, I have applied to roughly forty to fifty jobs and internships (probably more) through MOJO or another one of the job databases Middlebury provides. Out of those fifty, maybe 5% of them materialized into interviews but none resulted into anything offers. Some might say that I wasted my time, but even if I applied to 1000 jobs and did not receive a single offer to interview, I would still say it was worth my time. It was the process and the efforts I put in to filling out those applications and learning how to prepare myself for interviews that gave me the confidence and knowledge to do well in other interviews (not through Middlebury) that eventually led to securing my previous internship and an acceptance letter to graduate school. I encourage all who use the services and resources of the EIA to put their experiences in perspective, not for the sake of appreciating what EIA does, but because that perspective will hopefully give you that drive to continue pursuing your passion.

    Just like any academic building on campus, you go to the EIA to learn. You go to learn what career path you want to take, what a cover letter and resume are, how to prepare for an interview, why not to wear your favorite Burgers in Paradise tie to career days, and to learn anything and everything there is to know about careers. There are endless amounts of resources available to students and Middlebury has a tremendous alumni network of professionals looking to help their fellow Midd kids. But the best part about going to EIA (and what has made it so great to work here) is the people. Each counselor and employee at EIA are not only some of the nicest, most genuine, and straight up awesomest people on campus, but they also only want to help students succeed and they are doing everything to do so.

  2. Candace Deane says:

    The most valuable college experience I had was recognizing the true value of a summer job.

    Getting work as an intern in a substantial company during the summer is not just a simple way to earn a quick buck. Students should look on this opportunity to investigate potential future employers, learn about the specific corporate culture, and introduce themselves to their possible future managers. You may find out this is not where you’d like to work, or you may find it’s an amazing place to spend your career.

    Having already worked inside a company is far superior to simply being another piece of paper in a stack of resumes. Choose wisely, choose early, work hard, meet decision-makers, make an impression. They will want you to work for them if you work smart as a summer intern.

  3. Kuen says:

    Random Facts, Starting each day as a brand new day with a positive smile and attitude.

  4. nikomiya says:

    have a history of ome point? Isn’t is what you learn from sex viet you handle the experience and what you choose to do from that point forward. And let’s not belittle the fact that

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  6. Mylene Cadotte says:

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