“I know Middlebury’s the best for language study, and that’s what I knew I wanted to study,” an international politics and economics major told us. Middlebury offers courses in ten modern Eastern and Western languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Several students we surveyed mentioned the strength of Middlebury’s Chinese program, while another Middle Eastern studies major tells us, “I wanted to study Arabic, and Middlebury’s languages are renowned—for good reason.”
In addition to language courses offered during the school year, the Middlebury Language Schools offer immersion instruction in eleven languages in the summer, during which the campus transforms into a multilingual community. The languages are the same as throughout the academic year with the exception of Korean, which was offered for this first time in summer 2014. Middlebury students take advantage of this intensive program in order to prepare to study abroad. Given the school’s focus on languages and summer study offerings, it is perhaps no surprise that more than 50 percent of Middlebury students study abroad. Most students do so through the Middlebury Schools Abroad, located in sixteen countries and thirty-seven cities. All of the study abroad programs usually include opportunities for students to have an internship or other volunteer experience. Students may also take advantage of The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, which offers integrated degree programs in significant internationally focused areas, allowing college students to earn a BA and MA in a total of five years.
Even students who remain on Middlebury’s campus are given an international education. The college is well-known for its major in international and global studies, which blends disciplines and provides students with a deep understanding of a specific geographic region. One Japanese major tells us that Middlebury’s “position as a leading International Relations school put me at an advantage in connecting my various international interests,” while an international studies major explains: “Middlebury is committed to cultivate future leaders who are passionate about environmental and social issues and ready to effect positive change in the world.” Outside of the major, Middlebury demonstrates this commitment through the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs, which works with Middlebury faculty to create co-curricular programming such as lectures by distinguished scholars and professionals, annual symposia and conferences, and a student internship program.
Students on our survey applauded Middlebury for its “emerging focus on creativity and entrepreneurship,” as one environmental studies major puts it. Alumnus Pier LaFarge was able to capitalize on this focus during his time at the school. “At Middlebury, I learned the most important lesson of my career: I love to build things. Whether it was starting campaigns with the Sunday Night Group, or organizing events and building infrastructure for student engagement with the outdoors through the Mountain Club, I realized that what I’m most committed to is the simple act of building systems that can shape the world and help solve difficult problems. Middlebury provided the perfect context to gain early experience at a small scale, and that experience has directly shaped my interest in entrepreneurship.”
Middlebury provides these early experiences in entrepreneurship through several innovative programs. For example, during its month-long January term (or J-term) students can enroll in “Middlebury Entrepreneurs,” a course which requires students to move quickly from idea to company launch with hands-on mentoring both from professors and visiting entrepreneurs and investors. At the conclusion of the course, students compete with their classmates in a pitch competition. To enroll, students must submit a business proposal.
Middlebury also runs the Center for Social Entrepreneurship, which provides students with funding, training, and opportunities to achieve social impact. For example, alumna Emily Nunez, the co-founder of Sword and Plow, a company that recycles former military gear such as tents into attractive bags, started her company while still at Middlebury with the help of a $3,000 grant she won in the Center’s annual MiddChallenge competition. The center is one facet of Middlebury’s Programs on Creativity and Innovation (PCI). Through PCI, Middlebury also offers Midd Ventures (a student organization that fosters the entrepreneurial spirit on campus), MIDDSTART (a micro crowd sourcing fundraising site created and maintained by Middlebury College for student projects), Davis Projects for Peace ($10,000 grants from Projects for Peace for summer projects that promote peace), and the New Millennium Fund (a fund that pays half of the employer’s cost for internships for students who wish to work for Vermont-based start-ups, small companies, non-profits or NGOs.
MiddCORE is an intense mentor-driven leadership and innovation program that builds skills and confidence with collaborative and experiential learning. Through frequent challenges, students gain experience in leadership, strategic thinking, and numerous other skills. Professor Holmes, who is also the director of MiddCORE, explains the program in more detail: “This four week (160 hour) program is for students who want to develop the skills, experience and confidence to be successful in life and work. Through mentor-led, hands-on workshops, students learn skills in teamwork, innovation, trial-and-error exploration, networking and practical problem-solving. The program is highly collaborative and students work closely with each other and more than forty mentors from varying fields and professions. During the program, students participate in several strategic partner challenges, working with peers to solve actual business problems posed by mentors. They also work on their own to develop a new product or service or a new way to address a social problem. Graduates leave MiddCORE with a strong foundation of leadership and innovation skills that prepare them for future successes: they’re ready to solve problems, ready to perform as part of a team, ready to persuasively communicate their ideas and ready to have an engaged and meaningful life.”
Middlebury alumni are conscious of the valuable skills they acquired during their undergraduate years. For example, a recent survey of alumni by the school focusing on MiddCORE, highlights the program’s value to Middlebury graduates. Professor Holmes informed us that “94 percent felt MiddCORE gave them the skills to be confident in the workplace, 98 percent could approach strategic challenges in new, creative ways, 91 percent thought MiddCORE was one of their most important undergraduate experiences and 79 percent felt MiddCORE opened their eyes to new career pathways.” Given this appreciation for their undergraduate programs, it’s not surprising that alumni remain involved with the school. An economics major we surveyed cites the “family-like alumni” as the main reason for choosing the school, while Professor Holmes expounds on the alumni connection from her perspective. “I am in contact with many of my former students. They often check in when they want to go back to school or change jobs, get married, have children, or are coming back to town for reunions. A good number send me news articles that remind them of something we discussed in class—I love those emails as it means they retained material from class, years after graduation.” One alumnus Pier LaFarge details his continuing involvement with the school. “The college network is a core part of my personal and professional networks, and I continue to benefit from the support and mentorship of professors, staff and administration. I’m active as a fundraiser in the alumni network, SparkFund has hired more than a dozen Middlebury alumni as full-time staff or summer fellows, and will keep hiring more as we grow. The college has been very supportive of SparkFund, inviting me back to speak to students and through programming at the Center for Social Entrepreneurship.”