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As we go into our last classes and finals, I want to pause and take stock of the things that stood out for me over the year. Here are a few observations:

1. In Vermont, winter without snow is like a barbeque without charcoal. It’s just plain pitiful. The first year I lived here, I learned the hard way what happens when you don’t put snow tires on your car. So this fall, I put them on early! And there they were all winter long: a constant reminder of just how uninspiring it was to have none of that freezing, slushy stuff to contend with. Gazing at my tires one gloomy day, I realized that what I missed most about snow, besides its beauty, was the basic challenge it presents—survive or surrender.

2. As a clinical psychologist, I can’t help but analyze myself once in a while, and I admit that I am a little ambitious. I teach a psychology course once a year, which is quite a time commitment when combined with my full-time administrative job. But it’s not just the time commitment that makes it ambitious, it’s also that I’m trying to focus part of my energy in a different way, to relate to students in a different way, while doing something I love. I’m trying to be grounded in Middlebury’s academic pace, apart from the complicated and rewarding student issues I normally deal with in this gift of a job. Students keep me honest and rooted as a college dean. Teaching keeps me connected to my field and the most important reason I am here—to educate and support the development of students. So, when I’m up late poring over papers and prepping for class, I may be yearning for a long rest, but I’m also very happy.

3. The mods became superblocks last year, and room draw went relatively smoothly this year. All of the campus discussion about housing reminded me of my college years, when, for the first time in my life, I had my own room. I reconnected with the feeling of just how important housing is to students. Certain things may change—like types of housing options—but caring about how you live, your community identity, and friendship groups will never change.

4. Middlebury’s creative spirit is a source of inspiration for me. The ingenuity and artfulness that pervade campus help me stay in touch with my creative side. I find it magical to be surrounded by so much experimentation, outside-the-box thinking, and innovation—from the projects at Old Stone Mill, to the Solar Decathlon, to slam poets and music groups, to theater of all types, to the art exhibitions and lectures, to the student research symposium and experiential projects, and the management of the Crossroads Cafe. This is all good for the soul.

Please share some of your observations and thoughts. Are there any takeaways from this year? I would love to hear from you.

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