Monthly Archives: April 2013

Finding home

One of my first weekends at Middlebury, a friend and I ran up Chipman Hill. As we reached the top, both of us grew quiet. Taking in the vast expanses of the patchwork landscape – the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west – I stood in awe of the place I would grow to call home for the next four years.

From my freshman year, the combination of the natural beauty of Addison County and a curiosity to understand it led me to the study of Conservation Biology. Throughout the campus, and especially as an Environmental Studies major, we often engage in conversations around sustainability. As a budding ecologist, climate activist, and a steward of our natural world at Middlebury, sustainability is more than an oft-repeated buzzword across Admissions brochures. It’s a guiding principle we live every day.

Derived from the Latin word sustinere – to hold up, support, and endure – sustainability at Middlebury is a forward thinking principle that acknowledges the future consequences of today’s human impacts, the interconnectedness of natural and human communities, and the moral obligation to support future generations.

Take my BIOL 0302 class, Vertebrate Natural History with Steve Trombulak. You wake up at 5 in the morning. It’s pitch black. You slowly crawl out of bed, throw on as much wool as you can find, and walk into the biting cold to set out mist-nets. Minutes later you’ll walk the lanes of nets, hold in your hand a Black-capped chickadee, a White-throated sparrow, or maybe a bright red male Northern cardinal. That same afternoon you might go out to Lewis Creek to electrofish or set up Sherman traps to collect a flying squirrel in Cornwall. Or take BIOL 323, Plant Community Ecology, when we hiked through the old-growth hemlock-pine forest of the Battell Research Forest, measured the invasion of European buckthorn and Eurasian bush honeysuckle, and traced the changes in forest composition along an altitudinal gradient.

At Middlebury, our professors do not treat us as students in the traditional sense, but as apprentices in the craft of each field of study. Middlebury students are budding mathematicians and economists, future surgeons and psychologists, or emerging marine biologists. When we learn about how to protect species diversity, conserve natural habitat, and protect wildlife corridors, or the importance of breeding grounds, pollinators, and seed dispersal pathways, this knowledge is not theoretical. It is the work of the future.

All Environmental Studies majors participate in a capstone seminar course which is both project based and in conjunction with a community partner. The theme of this spring’s senior seminar is “issues in transboundary sustainability.” I’m working with a team of five other ES majors each with a unique focus. We are students of political science, economics, biologists, and geographers looking to understand the cross-jurisdictional regional prevention of aquatic invasive species in Lake Champlain. While our professors and community partners are here to guide us with academic support, resources, and expertise, the whole project is ours. Inspired and enriched by this project-based philosophy, we are able to pursue solutions with curiosity, self-discovery, and collaboration.

Four years after beginning my study of conservation biology, the top of Chipman Hill is more familiar. What was once a vast expanse of space has been transformed into place, both personal and specific.

When I arrived at Middlebury, I fell in love with the forested landscape of Vermont with no real regard for its natural history, inhabitants, or processes. Four years later, Addison County is no longer a “landscape” but a place, endowed with value and meaning as I have experienced more attachment to this community. Walking around campus bird songs are no longer undifferentiated calls as I have learned the tones and rhythms of their chirpings. The forest is no longer filled with “trees” but individual species, each with taxonomic nomenclature and natural history. At the top of Chipman Hill, I no longer only see a view, but become a part of what Aldo Leopold pens as the sensory experience of the “theatre of evolution.”

I never thought I’d ever call going back to Middlebury “coming home.”


This is the season for lasts for all Middlebury seniors.

It becomes almost a habit to think of everything coming to an end. This week is the last week that I will work on a thesis regarding Portuguese political movements that has keep me involved for a year and a summer. This Friday is the last time that I will chop and grill and garnish for Dolci restaurant, a project I’ve only recently become involved in. In two weeks I will face my last group of prospective students and parents ever, and for the last time share my amazing time here at Middlebury.

There are so many things that I wish I’d done at Midd–gone to a Pottery Club open house event and gone rock climbing with the Mountain Club to name a few–but so many more things that I’ve dived into and enjoyed.

And I’ve realized that although this is the season for last dinners with freshman roomates and for last trips to see world-class academic lecturers, it is also a time for firsts. For the first time I’m asking other seniors what they will be pursuing as a career, instead on inquiring about their major, and that next step is exciting.

It is satisfying to feel that one phase is being completed. Yes, the idea of lasts can be scary and there will certainly be tears at Commencement, but one specific first has now been opened up to me: first upcoming Reunion to relive all of the good times!

GlobeMed 5K

Now that spring is officially upon us, Middlebury students took advantage of yesterday’s beautiful weather to support Globe Med’s 5K run to combat malnutrition. Founded in 2008, GlobeMed at Middlebury is one of 50 GlobeMed national chapters working to improve the lives of people living in poverty across the world. Proceeds from the race will help Gardens for Health International in Rwanda combat childhood malnutrition through health initiatives.

Running for a good cause only bolstered the general atmosphere of excitement. With the sun shining brightly overhead, more than one hundred Middkids lined up in front of Proctor Dining Hall for a race that would take runners down past the Ralph Myhre Golf Course, through the cross country trail, which winds up and down breathtaking views and rolling hills, and back up through main campus. Hopefully exhausted runners, looked to the quote “The Strength of the Hills is His Also” – inscribed into the top of Meade Chapel at the hills’ peak – as motivation for one last sprint as they made their way up the final leg of the race

Participating in today’s event was a great way to engage the beautiful weather and share in a collective effort to support communities around the world. I want to thank my friends with whom I ran today for supporting me through the trail and making sure that I crossed the finish line. Perhaps today’s showing will inspire me to consider taking up more short-term races before I graduate next month.


Dolci – A Unique Middlebury Dining Experience


One of the best-kept secrets at Middlebury is Dolci dinner, a five-course restaurant-style culinary experience that brings upscale dining to Atwater on Friday evenings. A student head chef prepares a five-course meal around exciting themes such as breakfast for dinner, geometry, and bacon. With the guidance and support of the Atwater dining staff, student teams of sous-chefs prep each component part of these elaborate meals days in advance of the actual event, where lucky students who were the first to register online get to invite a date to a unique dining experience. Dolci is a real privilege to experience (at no cost to students I should add) and is just one of many great ways to kick off a weekend. After a long week of work and running around, relaxing over blood red orange soda while snacking on pita bread with baba ganoush reminds me that a whole world of culinary traditions has creatively found its way onto my doorstep in Middlebury, Vermont.

Below are some examples of the dishes offered at the two Dolci dinners I’ve had the luxury of attending. From tonight’s dinner (Mediterranean theme) there is a lamb with Israeli cous cous and falafel as well as a desert dish comprised of candied figs and pistachio cookies. The third picture is of a dessert from the geometry themed evening: a molten lava cake with home-made pistachio ice cream and two sauces, one raspberry and one mint.


For anyone looking for activities to add to their senior-year bucket lists, Dolci is a must!



Local foods at Midd

I can’t stop thinking about a trip I took last Saturday morning with some friends. We went to the Middlebury Farmer’s Market, just five minutes away at a local elementary school. It was one of the last weeks the market will be held in its winter location, as it will soon switch to its outdoor setting at MarbleWorks, with a beautiful view of Otter Creek falls in the center of town. A friend of mine has an internship this semester with a local baker, who each Friday teaches her the secret to making the perfect soups, breads and baked goods (which is lucky for me and my roommates, as we get to sample her latest creations each week). Her “baker friend,” as we have come to call her, was selling her goods at the market and hands down had the best table around. Her gorgeous apple crisps, granola bars and cupcakes were piled high. The soups that my friend had helped her make the day before were neatly arranged in mason jars in a metal bucket with ice. It was quite the sight!

Delicious baked goods at the farmer's market

Delicious baked goods at the farmer’s market

Looking around at other tables, I was surrounded by fresh carrots, beets, and more types of lettuce than I knew what to do with. We sampled the veggies and chatted with the vendors, who had come from local farms and were selling their own produce proudly. It’s safe to say it was the most beautiful I had ever seen an elementary school gym!

Walking around the market that day, it hit me (not for the first time since coming here) how lucky Middlebury students are to be in Vermont. Getting to explore the Green Mountains and summit some pretty unbelievable peaks, we also benefit from the flatter portions of the state — the farms themselves. About 25 percent of the food served in our dining halls is from local farms, including the College’s own Organic Farm, which was started by students a few years ago and is located a quarter mile off campus. Taking a walk out to the garden at sunset is one of the absolute best ways to spend an evening, and something I recommend you start doing your first year here.

Students have continued to promote local foods here on campus in exciting ways this semester as well. A few days ago, a new group called “Eat Real” kicked off their efforts with “Real Food Week,” a week full of panels, lectures, barbeques and other types of programming aimed to encourage students to learn about local foods and push for even more of them in the dining halls. I attended to a dinner made with entirely local ingredients that was one of the best meals I’ve ever had on campus. I was one of the lucky students to get let in (word of advice: get to local food dinners early!). Also in attendance were two farmers who sell some of their produce to Middlebury, and who spoke to us about the importance of local foods and what we can do to incorporate them into our lives.

As a senior moving to a city in just a few months, I am definitely enjoying easy access to fresh, local foods as much as possible and can say with confidence that Middlebury is a delicious place to spend four years.

Extracurricular Reflections: Election Season

While the United States picked its president on November 6, at Middlebury we’ll be choosing our next president of the Student Government Association on May 3. It’s an exciting time, with aspiring candidates putting up creative posters, accosting students outside the dining halls, and giving dramatic speeches in random locales in an attempt to woo the undecided masses.

For me, this year’s election season is bittersweet. For the last year I have served as president of the Student Government Association, which has been a unique and fantastic opportunity for me. In that role, I have sent thousands of emails, attended hundreds of meetings, and worked with fellow students, faculty, staff, and administrators across campus. It has been a wonderful learning experience for me, as I’ve had to engage with a variety of issues, learned to work more collaboratively and effectively, and to be a real leader. As I’m getting ready to transition out, I know I’ll miss having these opportunities.

In many ways, as you can see, I’ve learned as much in this extracurricular pursuit as in some of my classes. While my particular role is unique, the incredible learning value of extracurriculars for Midd students is not. Student athletes learn about the value of teamwork on and off the field. Members of performing groups, in addition to honing their various techniques, are also coordinators and leaders who work with others to accomplish shared goals. A major driver of what keeps Middkids busy day-to-day is our extracurricular involvements, and that is a key reason that student life here is so vibrant. We take these commitments seriously because they are as important as what we do in the classroom in driving student learning. But they’re also fun.

As I nostalgically watch underclassmen campaign for my job, it is hard not to think of the extent to which my non-academic commitments have shaped my time at Middlebury—my skill sets and schedule, to be sure—but far more importantly the friendships I have made and the ways in which I enjoy myself. The choices we make on that front sometimes may seem arbitrary when we make them, but ultimately have significantly consequences for how we spend our time. My involvement over the last four years in student government, Hillel, the College Democrats, College Choir, and other groups have fundamentally shaped my time at Middlebury. They’ve each been learning experiences, they’ve been places to make friends and enjoy myself, and the way it’s all shaken out, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

April Fools!

Spring break is officially behind us and we are nearing the “home stretch,” the last few weeks of classes and activities. With the temperature creeping up (yes, people are wearing shorts and dresses this week in celebration of blue skies and sunshine), Midd Kids have started to embrace their well-deserved spring  in a variety of ways. In addition to spending more time outside, a key marker of spring for me is the April Fool’s issue of The Campus. In a tradition that started four years ago, the editorial staff takes a one-week hiatus from reporting on real life news at Middlebury and tries its hand at satire. We create an entirely made-up “joke” issue with some pretty absurd stories about developments on campus, and in the process have a lot of laughs ourselves.  As an Opinions editor, I get to write fake op-eds and columns that poke fun at events and themes on campus. On every other week, my co-editors and I receive pieces submitted from students, faculty, staff and community members who use the section as a platform to voice their opinions. The discussions that play out in our section contribute to serious discourse on campus that I think is incredibly important to have,  but I have to admit it is also a lot of fun to take a break and pull some April Fool’s pranks on our readers.

It’s safe to say that each section rose to the occasion this year. Sports broke news that Middlebury is changing its mascot from the Panther to the Moose to be more original. Local News interviewed a new celebrity in town, a three-year old cow named Trischia. Arts and Sciences reported that a bio lab on campus was revealed to be raising dragons. The final product always tricks some gullible students into believing the stories, until they are told otherwise. Even better than seeing the look on these students’ faces, though, is the making of the issue itself. By this point in the year, the members of the editorial board are pretty close, and we have no trouble poking fun at each other. Of course, helping other sections come up with content for this issue is half the fun.

Keeping up the tradition of the April Fool’s issue is not only a nice break from the normal newspaper schedule, but it shows what is in my mind one of the very best things about Middlebury students: we try not to take ourselves too seriously. With all our obligations on campus, we have busy lives and packed calendars. At the end of the day, though, we are all still kids looking to have fun. We are capable of juggling our classes, meetings and practices, but aren’t too busy or serious to celebrate April Fool’s day to the fullest.

Oh and don’t worry – the mug shot picture of Middlebury College President Ronald Liebowitz on the front page is a joke too.

Spring Student Symposium

As I am always telling my information sessions, I have two favorite days every year at Middlebury: Chili Festival and Spring Student Symposium. The reason I love Chili Fest is obvious, I think, because I get to sample dozens of kinds of chili while casually strolling along Middlebury’s Main Street on a balmy day in March. But the reasons I love Spring Student Symposium are a little more complicated.

Spring Student Symposium takes place on a Friday in late April, and classes are cancelled for the day. McCardell Bicentennial Hall (“Bihall”) transforms itself into the college-level equivalent of an elementary school science fair, and hundreds of students put up posters, make presentations, and give all sorts of demonstrations. The topics? Anything they want—papers they’ve worked on, research they have undertaken, senior theses, work done while studying abroad. The Symposium is a celebration of the huge amount of undergraduate research that takes place at Middlebury.

The presentations really range the academic spectrum. I’ll give an example, using two roommates I know. One is a physics major, and was part of a team that converted a tractor to run on hydrogen. (I went for a ride.) The other roommate is a classics major with an interest in the civil rights movement—so, naturally, he translated the works of Malcomb X into Latin. So Spring Symposium presentation topics truly range the gamut.

The reason I love Symposium is because it is an opportunity to see what friends and peers are up to and to marvel at the amount of research that goes on here, in some really fascinating different fields. We all know that our friends are smart and that our friends work hard, but to see them presenting the results of their hard work in a group setting can be inspiring. In my mind, Middlebury’s emphasis on undergraduate research—across the curriculum and at all levels—is a unique trait and one that cannot be understated.

This year, I will be presenting at Symposium for the first time. I’ll be discussing my senior thesis, which is about Internet censorship in China. I’m excited for my friends, peers, and professors to see what I’ve been up to all year, and I know that it’ll be a proud capstone for my Middlebury experience. But I’m more excited to see what my friends and peers have been up to this year—I know I’ll be astonished and inspired by their work.

Stepping Out Into Vermont

Vermont is as big or small as you make it. It can seem huge if you try to hit up all of the ski spots of the state during your time here, or if you take off on a maple sugar and local cheese tour, or if you are stuck in a snowstorm while driving the mountain passes back from Boston. But it can also seem quite small, centered on Middlebury, if you’re running a student organization on campus, or taking 5 classes and spending all evenings in the library. The state is amazingly flexible, stretching to the appropriate size for how much free time you have.

This semester, I decided to expand the state just a tad bit. As a senior taking just two courses and a thesis, I decided that I had gotten into a rut—I still love the organizations that I’m involved in and the things that I dedicate my time to, but I needed both a new challenge and a weekly excuse to get off of the campus and into VT.

So I can now proudly introduce myself as Bridport Central School’s new Communications Intern! I was shocked at how readily the opportunity was available—all it took was responding to one of the myriad volunteer opportunity emails, interviewing for 30 minutes, and committing myself to 5 hours a week of writing features on the goings-on in Bridport!

More than anything, I think that this is a perfect example of how dynamic and fast-paced Middlebury is. All that getting involved with a new project takes is taking the plunge—there is a constant stream of emails urging students to act as a Big Brother or Big Sister to a community youngster, or serve food at a town dinner, or give French lessons to kids at a Middlebury elementary school. Getting off campus every once and a while and pledging a few of your talents to the Vermont community is really a rewarding experience, and I’m glad that I figured that out, even if just in my last few Middlebury College months.