Several years ago, Middlebury met with groups of alumni to get a better understanding of how graduates from across our programs connected with the institution.
One of the first things they were asked was to “draw Middlebury.” They were given paper and colored pencils and a few minutes to create an image that they felt represented Middlebury.
The result: almost universally, they drew a physical setting—mostly mountains, especially for College and Bread Loaf alumni. Not surprising, because Middlebury’s places in the world, in Vermont, California, abroad, are striking and inspiring and unique to the institution. Those who didn’t draw mountains drew flags, representing the world, or they drew the world itself. Middlebury is local. Middlebury is global.
But if they had been asked the question of what Middlebury sounds like, the answers would probably have varied widely.
Answers could depend on the season. Right now, in Vermont, our soundscape includes the crunch of autumn leaves under our feet and cheers from Dragone Field and the murmur of collaboration in the group study spaces in Davis Family Library as midterms approach. In winter, it could be the sound of the wind across Monterey Bay, the hush that comes when snow falls in Vermont, the relaxed and curious conversations of J-term.
Answers could also depend on where we are. A conversation in Portuguese, heard over the summer while the Language Schools are in session. A lecture about North Korea’s weapons arsenal at the Institute. A performance of Shakespeare at Bread Loaf. Voices rising together during a workshop with Oratory Now, or in spirited discourse when the Debate Team gets together. A cappella groups. Meditation circles. Improv performances.
But regardless of when or where, Middlebury sounds like questions and answers, challenges and rewards, creativity and critical examination.
For some time, I’ve been thinking about how to best communicate what Middlebury sounds like right now: what we are talking about and hearing at Middlebury today, the diversity of voices, the ways that we’re building and growing community, how we are coming together in new and innovative ways to lead, locally and globally.
This fall Middlebury Magazine has launched a new podcast, Midd Moment; as host, I will be sharing some of those conversations with you. We’ve put together a first season in which you can meet some of the Middlebury faculty, alumni, and friends who are creating powerful change.
Our conversations in the podcast episodes are all very different. However, in each there are moments where everything comes together in a particularly Middlebury way. Those are what I call Midd Moments—and I encountered them when talking to the young Adul Samon, the Thai boy whose proficiency in languages allowed him to interpret for the rescuers who found him and his teammates when they were trapped in a cave; and to Dr. Jill Seaman ’74, who has spent her career improving care for those suffering from infectious diseases in southern Sudan; and to Faris Nasr ’15, an activist who uses dance to promote peace. Again and again in the podcast, you’ll hear themes arise that are quintessentially Middlebury: integrity, respect, curiosity, connectedness, and openness. You’ll hear moments when you’ll say, “Only at Middlebury.”
I know I did, over and over again, in each of these conversations.
So I’m eager to bring Midd Moment to you. We’re making the series available on most of the popular podcast platforms, including Apple, Stitcher, and Spotify. If you don’t know the first thing about listening to podcasts, that’s okay. We’re also making them available at middleburymagazine.com, and we’ll include instructions on how to get started listening.
Creating this podcast has been enjoyable for me, and I hope, when you listen, it’s enjoyable for you too. But beyond the enjoyment, I hope you will also feel inspired to create some Midd Moments of your own. I don’t mean podcast episodes—although I welcome ideas for people we should feature in season two—but ways that you can have similar conversations with people in your life, or people you admire or who inspire you who share those values that define Middlebury.
Take some time to enjoy the season and let us know what you think. I’ll be listening for your feedback, and your ideas. After all, of all the different ways that Middlebury sounds, probably the most Middlebury sounds of all are when one conversation leads to another, building on a thought and drawing that thought out in new and inspired ways, and creating even more inspiration to share.