Kashif ’92 and Sujatha Menon Zafar ’94


Sujatha Menon Zafar ’94

It clicked for me when…

I realized I was part of Middlebury’s extended family… which was always there when I most needed it.

I came to Middlebury from India, so every one of my wonderful first experiences as a freshman felt like “Midd clicked for me”—incredible friendships; meeting my husband, Kashif; amazing classes and professors.

It was only after I graduated and started experiencing life outside of Midd that I developed a strong sense of what it meant to be part of Middlebury’s family—truly an extended family that was always there when I most needed it.

As a recent grad in ’94, I joined a training program at a New York bank. I went to work every day hating what I did, feeling exhausted, trapped, and utterly hopeless. Headhunters told me they could not guarantee my visa extension if I left the bank. And at that time very few firms considered sponsoring international students.

In desperation, I turned to the Midd alumni network, thinking it was a long shot. I will never forget sitting with Rich Pounder ’67 at BBDO’s headquarters in New York, discussing how much we both loved going to Middlebury and why advertising might be the right profession for me. The connection was instant. The stars were all aligned in my favour and Rich made it happen. Within weeks, with Rich’s guidance and recommendation, I had landed my dream job and the correct visa extensions.

The sheer magnitude of what Rich had done, the humility and warmth he exuded, and his love for his alma mater have always stayed with me. Wherever you are Rich Pounder, thanks! You made the Midd experience “click” for me.


Kashif Zafar ’92

It clicked for me when…

I was riding up to Burlington for an “all you can eat” Indian buffet.

It was the summer of 1989, after my freshman year.

I grew up in Pakistan and came to Middlebury on a very generous financial aid package. As a skeptic, I had pondered why a small liberal arts college in Vermont would give a kid from Pakistan such a generous “need-based” financial aid package. What was in it for Middlebury?

Most of the students who stayed on campus to work that summer were foreign financial aid students, but there were also a few Americans. We lived in the A-frames and became a close group.

One Saturday, an American friend drove several of us into Burlington for an Indian restaurant’s ridiculously cheap “all you can eat” buffet.

I realized that I was sitting in the back seat with an Indian guy and a Chinese guy while a Russian guy sat in the front with the American driver. Suddenly it hit me that Middlebury had brought us together at such great expense because the College had the audacity to think big and an ambition to create a global community on its campus.
The car ride and lunch turned into an open discussion about issues facing our respective countries during what turned out to be the last legs of the Cold War.

The last 25 years have seen Middlebury transform itself into a top-tier liberal arts college and much of the credit goes to the audacity and ambition College leadership has continued to show along the way.

Ellery Berk ’14

Ellery_frame“It clicked for me when I realized that a lot of what I’ve done at Middlebury has been related to food.

“Food intersects with sustainability, both internationally and domestically. I think I’d enjoy approaching these issues from a social entrepreneurship or business perspective. But for me, getting some hard skills will be important first.

“At Middlebury I’ve had a real aggregate of experiences and have made wonderful connections.” A Phi Beta Kappa economics major with math and Spanish minors, Ellery also captains the crew team.

“I had this really wonderful professor—Professor Horlacher—and every time I turned an exam in he would look at me and say, ‘We really need some great women economists. You should be an econ major.’

“After graduation I’ll be working with Analysis Group in Boston. I’ve done an internship with them and found wonderful mentors. They use economics to solve real-world problems like the mortgage-backed securities issue and health-care analytics and outcomes research. They also do pro bono cases using data analytics with hospitals and NGOs like Partners in Health.

“It’s an immediate extension of what I’ve done here as an econ major. But what I like most about it is the potential for my professional growth.”

Ellery has taken advantage of many volunteer opportunities during her Midd years, some of them while living abroad in resource-poor countries.

“I tagged along with a friend to a GlobeMed meeting my freshman year, and I liked the students who were doing it and the message behind it. GlobeMed has 50 student-run chapters at U.S. colleges and universities. Each chapter partners with an NGO in a developing country. Middlebury’s NGO partner is Gardens for Health International (GHI), which helps impoverished families overcome malnutrition.

“Through a paid Middlebury internship, I spent summer 2012 in Kigali, Rwanda, helping GHI with its home garden program. Malnutrition affects 44 percent of children under five there, and GHI provides mothers a holistic education in hygiene, HIV prevention, finance, and growing gardens for a balanced diet. I helped GHI edit its health curriculum and expand its fund-raising capacities, and I conducted interviews and collected photographs to share with its supporters.

“This February break I’ll be leading a MAlt trip (Middlebury’s alternative break service program) at an urban farm in New Orleans.

“I also spent a semester at Middlebury’s School Abroad in Montevideo, Uruguay. It was off the beaten path and I really stuck out there. I was living my life in Spanish—while in class, volunteering for Amnesty International, and with my quirky host family. I had wanted a challenge and didn’t realize just how challenging it would be.

“Together these experiences have shaped how I think and what I’m interested in now. I’m really excited to see what the next few years hold and I’m almost more excited to see the great things I know my Middlebury friends will be doing.”

Shane Scranton ’13

“It clicked for me when I walked through a campus building I helped design.

“Walking through the Center for the Arts renovation once it was completed, I realized how design manifests itself and affects how people interact. That was powerful. I took my architecture thesis in a classroom I’d spent a lot of time designing.”

Shane Scranton ’13 started a business that uses new technology to improve design efficiency. Lightwell just became an LLC and is growing fast.

Shane came to Middlebury because he wanted to study the environment and could tell he’d have the freedom to follow his unfolding interests. “I wanted to tie environmental studies to something I could latch on to. One spring I took my first Intro to Architecture class and started work on the Solar Decathlon. I knew, hands down, that’s what I should do.”

A series of internships, classes, and projects helped him build different skills and dig deeply into landscape, social, and resource issues. On Middlebury’s first Solar Decathlon team, “I became the 3-D guy,” he says, recalling a summer of 100-hour weeks he spent mastering design and visualization software. He took a semester off to intern with SAS Architects, advisers to the Solar Decathlon, and had real responsibility for renovations to Forest Hall and the Mahaney Center for the Arts. “I was so energized by it. There was this wave of new information coming in and whenever they asked if I could do something I said ‘yes’ and I’d learn it. I felt that the architecture world was now open to me.” Later, a class with Professor John McLeod, also a working architect, and a summer internship at the Organic Garden synthesized for Shane how the best design is rooted in knowledge of the landscape.

Shane says of his work making computerized 3-D images of building designs, “Design paired with technology will make a more efficient planning and building process. From a moral standpoint, this efficiency allows architects to spend more time developing buildings that use green technology and reduce waste. And thought-through design creates a human-centered, user-friendly experience.”

See some of Shane’s renderings: