How I Got to Middlebury

Hi all!

Well, it is Fall Family Weekend; the most difficult for me because my family has never been able to visit. Being from Los Angeles, California, it makes it difficult to arrange a visit that will not interfere with my family’s schedules. Even though I am a senior, there are times when I text my mom or call my dad to tell them how much I miss them. Talking to my brother over Skype is heartwarming and overwhelming because every time I see him again, it is as if he has grown two feet! The photos below are a testament to how much I have missed these past three years. The one on the left was June 2014 at my high school graduation, and the one on the right is December 2016 after arriving home for winter break. (I promise, I am not shrinking.)

 

My family continues to give me strength, even from almost three thousand miles away, because they are the reason why I am here and why I have to succeed. This weekend is also really important because I always find myself reflecting on how I got to Middlebury, and the network outside of my immediate family that got me to where I am today.

For the first ten years of my life, I grew up down the street from the University of Southern California. My entire childhood, I was convinced that I would be a Trojan. Even though that is not true because I am a Panther, where I grew up was integral in establishing higher education as a priority and possibility for me. (Below is a picture of me on my first day of kindergarten!)

Throughout my schooling, I have had many mentors who have invested their time and energy into my success, and the one who stands out the most is Dr. Lori Rhodes. Dr. Rhodes was the assistant principal at my high school during my first year and, although she moved on to another school, we stayed in touch. She was an integral part of my college application process because she actually sat down with me to help me create a list of schools that I would apply to. Once we were done with my list, she noticed that I had not listed any schools on the East Coast.  When she asked why that was, I told her that neither me nor my family were ready to commit to sending me across the country. She nodded her head and said that if there was one school on the East Coast that I should apply to, it should be Middlebury College in Vermont. She said that the small class sizes would be good for me since I came from a small charter high school, I would have access to a diverse curriculum, and I would be in a place that was demographically and environmentally different from what I was used to.

So, because she was my mentor and I trusted her, I decided to apply. It was not until I got accepted that I realized the magnitude of the journey I had just embarked on. When I told my college counselor that Middlebury had accepted me, she jumped out of her chair, gave me a huge hug and then started throwing words like liberal arts college and NESCAC around. I had no idea what these words meant at the time, so I decided to find out by visiting for Preview Days. (Below are some photos that I took on my visit. The snow was very exciting for me, considering I was born and raised as a city girl.)

 

Preview Days was so important because as soon as I stepped foot on campus, I knew that this is where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life. My few days on campus were a whirlwind, and I returned home excited and overwhelmed. Was I really going to leave home? Was I going to spend the next four years of my life living in Vermont? YES, I WAS. Decision day came and after I committed, I actually waited until a few days later to tell my parents where I had decided to attend. You can imagine my parents’ surprise when I told them I would be leaving home. But, I think now that I am a senior, my dad has finally gotten used to the fact that I leave home every few months for college.

So, while Fall Family Weekend can be a difficult time for those of us who cannot always have our parents around, it is important to remember what this weekend represents: that our families support us, no matter how far they are, and they are the reason why many of us have made it so far.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Toni Cuevas ‘18

First-Year Seminars and Picking Your Classes!

Hello!

Classes are in full swing now that September is coming to a close. The first due dates for major assignments are looming and the smell of brand new textbooks is fading. Of course, the excitement is not!

First-year students are getting increasingly comfortable here on campus—getting lost less and feeling more confident. This is especially true in the academic setting because of their first-year seminars. This is the first course you enroll in as a Midd Kid. It’s a small, discussion-based, writing-intensive course.

First-year seminars exist in every department across campus. Professors are always excited to teach these classes and often come up with really creative courses. This fall, first-year students had cool options like Fifty Shades of Italy and The Women of Game of Thrones (read more about classes being offered here: http://www.middlebury.edu/academics/fys/courses-1).

I wish I could take The Women of Game of Thrones so I could learn how to be more like Denerys Targaryen…

During my first-year, I took a first-year seminar called Global Youth. It was a geography course where we discussed how young people occupy space and place. It was a great class to take seeing as I was a young person in a brand new place (Middlebury College!).

This semester I am really excited about the classes I’m taking. Harkening back to my experience in a seminar-style class during my first fall semester, I’m taking a history seminar on fascism during my final fall semester at Middlebury. I’m excited to grapple with questions like: what is fascism? Can it exist outside the time period of the Second World War? Are fascist movements defined by their leaders? Maybe I’ll fill you in on the answers we come up with later on in the semester….

Until Next Time,

Margot Graham ‘18

Moving In, 2017!

Ah, Autumn. The sun is shining, the leaves are turning, fall semester is starting…

FALL SEMESTER IS STARTING.

FALL SEMESTER IS STARTING.

It’s difficult to believe that my final year at Middlebury is starting. ‘Twas only three years ago that my parents were taking the obligatory move-in photo as I was just starting my career here at Middlebury.

Thanks for the pic, Mom.

For my first year, we had to rent a minivan in order to bring all of my belongings up. Let’s just say I’m not a light packer. It’s a struggle playing the annual game of Car Tetris, trying to place all of your variously sized boxes and bags in the perfect orientation. We manage to win, at least most of the time. I haven’t had to sit on the top of the car for any trip (yet). We’ve since been able to manage without a minivan since moving in, but it’s a tight squeeze.

Actually moving into my first-year dorm (Battell–#wonnacottcommons #squirrels #squirrelsarefriendsnotfood) brought its own excitement. As we pulled up to the building, a swarm of residential life students attacked our car, grabbing all of my luggage and belongings from out of my car and taking it up to my dorm room. Everyone was having a great time, enthusiastic about the new first-years moving in and thrilled to help welcome the class of 2018 to the college community.

So young. All moved in!

And the fun was just beginning! Later, we would meet with our whole Commons for our formal welcoming ceremony (stay tuned for more information about the Commons system!) and begin building the relationships that would continue with us throughout our four years at Middlebury and beyond.

As I watched the new first-years move into their dorms on campus and saw their bright, smiling faces as they embark on this next chapter of their lives, I know that their excitement will diffuse itself throughout campus as the semester begins. Just as they’re unpacking all of their belongings, they’re also unpacking the spirit and enthusiasm about Middlebury that I’ve felt throughout my time here.

Wishing the best of luck to the class of 2021 (WOW I’m old), and looking forward to viewing all of your accomplishments!

Back at it!

The new crew of Senior Fellows is here and ready to share what they love about Middlebury with you, both in person and on the blog. Stay tuned this year for regular updates about life on campus, and in Vermont. Senior Fellows from left to right: Josh Goldenberg, Margot Graham, Tabitha Mueller, Christian Jambora, Toni Cuevas, and Atticus Proctor. Not pictured are Elsa Alvarado and Anna Cerf.

200 Days Until… Another Semester?

The senior class recently attended the annual 200 Days Party. For most of us, this senior-only, semi-formal celebration kicks off the countdown to graduation and prefaces the 100 Days Party held later in the spring term. However, for many attendees, including myself, the countdown aspect of the party is not at all relevant. That’s because many of us are not actually seniors but instead senior “Febs.”

At Middlebury, Febs are students who will graduate in February rather than May. Several students become Febs after taking semesters off for work or personal reasons. The majority, however, began their first semesters in February rather than September, having taken the fall term off to pursue a gap semester, or “Febmester.” As a current senior Feb, I will still spend a full four years at the College, and in no way am I expected to condense or expedite my college career to graduate “on time” in the spring with the rest of my class. When my classmates finally don their caps and gowns in May, my fellow senior Febs and I will still have one final semester and winter term to complete before graduating. And we get to finish our college careers in style, receiving our diplomas after skiing down the Middlebury Snow Bowl in our caps and gowns!

The February-to-February timeline is undoubtedly unusual but also incredibly rewarding. My Febmester gave me plenty of time to step off my high school academic treadmill and breathe. Everyone curates their Febmester to their own interests and gains a ton of new stories to share for when they finally come to campus. One of my friends pursued a sea turtle conservation project in Costa Rica; another moved to Los Angeles to audition for television and movie roles. I used my time off to work, travel the world and visit friends at different colleges. Although we chose to use our Febmesters differently, my friends and I agree that our gap semesters gave us ample time to recharge and experience something totally new before beginning college. 

Graduating in February rather than May carries its own advantages, as well. For one, it allows us Febs to combat the dreaded “What are you doing after graduation?” question with a short, sweet and self-assured “I’m a Feb.” While many of my non-Feb peers are busy with job interviews and graduate school applications, my Feb friends are figuring out how they want to spend their extra summer break. I am using mine to pursue another internship, something many of my graduating friends wish they still had the opportunity to do.

The best perk of being a Feb is perhaps the most under-recognized: As a Feb, I will have spent only one semester as a first-year but three as a senior. For me and the rest of the class of 2017.5, this means another semester to take interesting upper-level classes and more time to plan and coordinate post-graduate opportunities. It also means we get to attend to another 200 Days Party, this time as “super senior Febs” alongside a new senior class. The countdown of the party will continue to mean nothing to us, but we will still get to enjoy the free food, drink and music. No complaints from us, as February Admissions continues to showcase its advantages, even years after arriving to campus in February!

Spotlight on A Cappella at Middlebury

Hello all!

It’s no secret that there are plenty of Middlebury students who love to sing. In fact, out of the eight Senior Fellows, three of us sing in an a cappella group!

Right now there are many different groups on campus to choose from (check out the full list here). Each has a unique style and vibe. Whether your music preferences tend more towards pop or classical music, and whether you’d prefer to be in a coed or a single sex group – there’s something for everyone!

No previous experience is required in order to audition for any of the groups. I am in an all-female group called the Middlebury Mischords that holds auditions twice a year. I always enjoy the audition process – Every time I am so impressed at the amount of musical talent among Middlebury students.

The Mischords represent a wide array of academic and extra-curricular interests. This diversity of interests was something that surprised me when I first joined. I was expecting everyone to be a classically-trained music major, and that’s definitely not the case! We also have representatives from a wide range of sports teams. Last year was especially diverse in terms of athletics; we had mischords who played soccer, softball, lacrosse, and track.

Although I love the stress-relieving aspect of taking a study break and singing a few times a week, what I love most about being in an a cappella group is the feeling of community. I joined in February of my first year at Middlebury, but I wish that I had worked up the courage to audition in September. Joining student clubs and organizations here is so rewarding. It gives you the opportunity to find the micro-communities within the larger campus community. Through a cappella, I have met some truly amazing people and formed a group of friends that I may not have been able to get to know otherwise.

Last Friday we held our end of semester concert – or “Jambo” – in the beautiful Mead Chapel with our brother group the Dissipated Eight. I am always so impressed by the number of students that take time out of their busy schedules to come watch our concerts. There’s nothing quite like singing to a full audience!

Until next time,

– Nicole

Mischords

(from our Halloween-themed concert)

 

(Here’s a video of one of my favorite Mischords songs – it’s an older video but a song that we still sing today)

 

Feminism in the Global Arena

Every spring, the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies department at Middlebury hosts a week-long symposium called the Gensler Family Symposium on Feminism in the Global Arena. The symposiums focus on the many challenges that women face in our ever-changing social, political, and economic environments. Some examples of broad topics from past years include: “Interrogating Citizenship: Sex, Race, Class, and Regimes of Power,” “The F Word: Feminist Texts, Feminist Lives,” and “Sexual Straightjackets & Queer Escapes.” How exciting do these sound? This past spring, I was given the opportunity to help plan the 2016 Gensler Symposium: “#IntersectionalTV: Mediating Race, Gender, and Sexuality.”

This academic symposium, during the spring of my junior year, was one of the most memorable and exciting academic experiences during my time at Middlebury. I am a Film and Media Culture Major, minoring in Gender Studies –– so the topic of the intersection of television and race, gender, and sexuality was almost too exciting for me to handle. The symposium consisted of a bunch of panels, screenings, discussions, and meals with other students, faculty members, and visiting professors from other institutions. Some of my favorite academic topics included the concept of casting, the importance of women and minority show runners in Hollywood, and the growing Queer TV movement, focusing on self-expression and performance art. Can you tell that I geeked out over this the entire week?

My favorite event of the week was a talk given by Susan Douglas, author of the book The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us from Girl Power to Girls Gone Wild. Douglas presented in Dana Auditorium to an audience full of students across all disciplines, not just students of gender and film. Her lecture focused on everything from problematic contemporary television shows to Beyoncé’s self-proclaimed feminism. The best part of the day was when I joined Douglas and my four professors for dinner in town at Two Brothers Tavern. It was so special to share a meal with the author of a book that I have read in multiple classes and to discuss topics of feminism and pop culture with all of my professors outside of the classroom setting.

Middlebury is the kind of place where it’s cool to geek out over getting to meet an author. The 2016 Gensler Symposium was a week at Middlebury that I will never forget –– and I am looking forward to the upcoming one in 2017!

Here’s the poster from Gensler 2016:

intersectionaltv2

Weekends at Midd

The following is a schedule of an ideal average weekend at Midd (as in, nothing is out of the ordinary but it’s a great time!) All entries are based on true events. See www.middlebury.edu/events for a detailed account of some of the amazing happenings at Midd!

Friday

  • 9:30-10:00: Make a breakfast Panini on the Proctor dining hall Panini makers (think English muffin, eggs, spinach, cheddar, cayenne)
  • 10:00-10:10: Take a leisurely walk to my class in Axinn, my favorite academic building. Analyze the state of the foliage. Say hi to friends on the path. Smile at the same people I pass every Friday at 10:05.
  • 10:10-11:00: Go to my American Studies class with Professor Nash called Livin’ for the City. Discuss and debate readings, integrate current events, and try to stump the unstumpable professor with challenging questions.
  • 11:00-11:15: Go to McCullough Student center to pick up a package (remember, this is my ideal weekend, so grandma sent me cookies!!!!!) and my paycheck for my campus job. Get distracted looking at the bulletin board… will I make it to all of the interesting lectures and events this week?
  • 11:15-12:30: Enjoy a prolonged lunch in Atwater dining hall. It’s Friday, which means it’s burger day. It also means the dining hall might be playing pump up music over the loudspeakers! The sun beats through the floor-to-ceiling windows and I hop from table to table to chat with friends from all different social circles
  • 12:30-1:00: Run over to Bi Hall, our science center, to chat with my geography professor and advisor. We talk about research methodology for my semester-long project on the urbanization of Native Americans, we discuss possible ideals for a future independent study project, and we review which classes I’m registering for the fall (we are both very excited about cartography!)
  • 1:00-5:30: It feels wrong to schedule my Friday afternoons, because the beauty of them lies in their spontaneity. Sometimes it’s a time for laundry and tidying up. On nice days, it’s the perfect window to go for a hike. Occasionally I’ll go to local Drop-In Brewery for a tasting with friends. After especially busy weeks, I curl up in my bed with a book and ginger tea. I love Friday afternoons.
  • 5:30-7:30: Unless something really unusual is happening, I spend Friday evenings with Hillel, the Jewish organization, celebrating Shabbat. We have a service followed by a homecooked meal.
  • 7:30 onward: Hang out with friends… it’s been a busy day. Who knows what tonight will bring!

Saturday

  • 10:30-11:30: Brunch in Ross dining hall. Should I make a Belgian waffle with homemade peanut butter? Local yogurt with homemade granola? Cinnamon swirl pancakes?
  • 11:30-2:30: Do work at Midd Chocolates. Enjoy a mocha with homemade whipped cream and marshmallows along with unlimited chocolate samples. If I need wifi to do work, I might go to the Stone Leaf Teahouse in Marbleworks, another one of my favorite spots.
  • 2:30-4:00: Go on an afternoon adventure to get some exercise and enjoy the Vermont outdoors. Maybe I’ll check out the Trail around Middlebury or Chipman Hill, both within walking distance from campus.
  • 4:00-6:00: Continue doing work or hang out with friends…only time can tell.
  • 6:00-8:00: Cook dinner at home with my housemates. Perhaps we will make a homemade pizza and salad again?
  • 8:00-10:00: Pop by a college-sponsored event with friends. Maybe it will be roller blading in the student center? A Riddim hip hop concert? An a capella performance? A student-produced play in the Hepburn Zoo (the Zoo is a performance space—there are no live animals there)?

Sunday

  • 10:00-10:30: Breakfast in Proctor
  • 10:30-1:30: Head to one of my favorite spots on campus to do some homework: the tables in the back of the library, the Abernathy Room in Axinn, a nook in Bi Hall, the cubicles with amazing natural light in Hillcrest…so many options!
  • 1:30-2:00: Grab more food. We don’t have a swipe system, so why not? The more the merrier!
  • 2:00-4:00: Check out a sporting event with a friend. This weekend we will be attending the Quidditch tournament, which is especially exciting since Muggle Quidditch was created at Middlebury! #BringQuidditchHome
  • 4:00-6:00: Continue catching up with friends, or do homework, depending on the weekend.
  • 6:00-7:00: Grab dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. So much to catch up on!
  • 7:00-11:00: Go home and get ready for the next week. This includes but is not limited to calling mom and dad (normally I’ve already called my mom like 10 times by now, but I’m putting it on the calendar just in case)

They Came To Vermont? Like, Actual Vermont?

Last night, along with hundreds of others in a standing-only, busting-through-doors Mead Chapel, I saw New York Daily News Senior Justice Writer and political activist Shaun King speak on the relevance and reality of the Black Lives Matter movement, and field questions from the audience. As perhaps the most widely shared and circulated writer on my Facebook feed right now, to finally see Mr. King in real life was a fantastic experience. When he first began to speak, his natural ease made the gravity and significance of his points so much more impactful that at some lines, he was met with a deafening wall of silence, completely at a loss because of the truth to that point. To not only see this event, but see it for free and a five minute walk from my suite was incredible.

But this sort of relevance in performance and events is not new to this talk or this year: Middlebury College, and in particular its student leadership, has consistently done a great job bringing things to our campus here in Vermont.

An event that comes to mind for me is last fall’s performance of the King’s Singers, a world-renowned all-male vocal sextet from the UK. These guys. In Mead Chapel. My God, were they good. They performed a two hour set, the first half consisting of classical church hymns and the second half a collection of songs from their album, “Postcards,” traditional songs from various world cultures. I accidentally rose to give them a standing ovation at their penultimate song, but it was well deserved if not poorly timed. They gave an encore performance of Paul Simon’s “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy,” and if that wasn’t the most beautiful thing I’ve heard come out of a person’s mouth in my life then I just have no conception of beauty.

It speaks volumes about the College for it to bring such a group here. At my time at Middlebury, I’ve gotten the opportunity to see Donna Brazile speak on the state of politics, watch artists like Chance the Rapper and Misterwives live in an intimate, small college venue, and that’s on top of the range of visiting scholars and academics that come pretty much every week for smaller lectures and discussions. This past Friday we had our annual International Politics and Economics symposium on the global illicit drug trade, featuring researchers on the subject from top organizations and programs, and next week the primary Art Critic from the Wall Street Journal will visit campus.

And on top of all the wonderful student acts and performances, I think seeing these events is when I feel luckiest to be at Middlebury.

shaun-king

Best,

Danny Dignan

Halloweekend at Midd

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I’ve dressed up on the whole spectrum of costumes from the classics (witch, ghost) to puns (taping two quarters on me to be “50 Cent”) to completely random (an olive… just an olive. Not sure where I came up with that one). We’ve had pumpkins out in my suite since the beginning of the month, and had costumes planned from the beginning of the school year. As college students, you may think we’re pushing the limit of acceptable trick-or-treating age. You’d be right. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t get into the holiday spirit in our own way here on campus. This past weekend, MCAB hosted its very first Haunted House, and I got to be part of it!

MCAB is the Middlebury College Activities Board, a student group in charge of organizing fun campus events including concerts, speakers, dances, and themed events like the Haunted House. They’re responsible for bringing performers to campus, which is great because the concerts are affordable and convenient for Middlebury students to attend. In my time here we’ve had some big names like Chance the Rapper, Matt and Kim, T-Pain, Borns, and many more. MCAB is allotted a hefty budge to host these types of events, and as students we get a say in how that money is spent.

Any student can submit suggestions for a campus-wide event they’d like to see happen, and this year people showed interest in a Haunted House. MCAB took that idea and ran with it, going all out with spooky decorations and incredible costumes and makeup. It was held in the Bunker, an open performance space that was converted into a dark maze with various themed rooms. They recruited actors and affiliates of the theater department like myself to perform as zombies, mummies, prisoners, ghosts, and other scary figures.

I may have gotten a little too into character as a creepy haunted spirit (black and white face paint can do that to you), but we all had so much fun. I guess we all played our parts well, because we managed to make some guys on the baseball team scream like little kids. All my friends who went through the house said they were genuinely terrified, which means the event was a success! I decided to keep my costume on for the rest of the night because at that point I was committed, although I did notice other students keeping their distance from me as we crossed paths. I later realized that the friendly smile I had on just made me look like even more menacing with my blackened eyes and lips and long, ragged dress. Oh well – all in the Halloween spirit!

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