I am a huge proponent of the liberal arts education. Anytime anyone asks me what I am studying, while I say my major, what I really want to say is, “an incredible set of skills.” I think at the heart of these skills is the ability that I have gained to pursue opportunities with a passion backed by both intellect and integrity. A big critique of the liberal arts that I have not only heard, but at times used, is “all you do is talk.” In some sense, yes. We fiercely debate issues, learn new ways of thinking, and push our boundaries in discourse. However, we take what we learn from these conversations and we apply them to the real world with a strong factual background and what I refer to as the liberal arts stamp. This stamp is the inability to hear any speech, news broadcast, or opinion without questioning its content, perspective, and argument. This stamp continues in the way liberal arts students talk to each other. I catch my friends and I having the most academically worded conversations about the most inane things. We’ve learned how to argue with a pure motive and how to only speak when we have the knowledge to back it up. But, these conversations and the ability to speak mean nothing if not put to a good use.
I have thoroughly enjoyed and found great meaning in independent work here at Middlebury College. It allows me to take these conversations and do research and projects that mean the world to me. This semester, I am working on a project dealing with Veteran Affairs. My goal is to find how Middlebury College and its students can become involved with the Veteran community, how Middlebury College can be more intentional regarding the hiring and support of veterans in the faculty and staff, and to create educational opportunities for local veterans. Whenever I mention what I hope to be working on, people are enthusiastic to share their own stories in return. It seems that almost everybody knows someone who has served or questions the treatment that veterans receive upon returning to the U.S. As a Marine Corps officer candidate whose Grandfather was a career Marine, I keep this topic near and dear to my heart. I want to generate a venue through which students can engage with these veterans while also learning from the veterans’ stories that are often times overlooked. I would love to leave Middlebury knowing that this school, which commits itself to community engagement, actively seeks to honor and make life easier for those who served our country.
Having the basis in research, discussion, and organization I acquired at Middlebury, having a passion to apply those skills to and then the chance to explore that passion, epitomizes not only the resources available to students, but also the deep seeded support and trust for students with a goal.