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Spring Symposium: A Day of No Classes, Tests, or Homework

April 4, 2014

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The creative problem-solving methods employed by Middlebury undergraduates, and the results of their endeavors, will be on full display during the College’s eighth annual Spring Student Symposium on Thursday, April 10, and Friday, April 11.

More than 350 students will showcase their talents when the performing arts take center stage on the first day of the Symposium, and when the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and visual arts take over on the second day of the event. Nearly every imaginable area of study at the College will be represented in a performance, lecture, presentation, or poster session during the two-day, student-centered event.  

“The Spring Student Symposium showcases the diverse interests of our student body,” said Symposium Co-chair Pat Manley, a professor of geology who has been associated with the event since it began in 2007 with about 60 students.

“It is a time where students are not judged or graded on their work but allowed to just share what they have been doing with their peers and the entire college community. It’s a day of no classes, tests, or homework but a day filled with the best Middlebury College has to offer – its talented students.”

On Thursday, for example, at the Mahaney Center for the Arts, 12 students will screen their original short films, four dance majors will preview their senior thesis composition, and two student whistlers will perform chamber music from the 20th century.

On Friday the Symposium will continue at the Johnson Memorial Art Building with open studios in sculpture, painting, printmaking, and other media. There also will be displays of drawings and architectural design projects. McCardell Bicentennial Hall will be transformed on Friday into a hub for the Symposium with about 65 poster sessions such as mapping the “trade areas” of a Whole Foods Market with GIS or Integral-Field Spectroscopy of Dust Obscured Quasars to Probe Quasar/Galaxy Co-Evolution. Also, scores of student-led oral presentations will be given on topics ranging from civil rights to conservation to gender and the body politic to computer-intensive statistics.

The complete schedule of Symposium events is available online in a format suitable for computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Timothy Spears, the vice president for academic affairs and professor of American studies, will open the Symposium on Thursday, April 10, at 7 p.m. in the concert hall of the Mahaney Center for the Arts. Following his welcoming remarks, Spears will introduce the keynote speaker, Vendela Vida ’93, the acclaimed novelist, screenwriter, and editor.

Two of Vida’s works of fiction – “And Now You Can Go” and “Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name” – were named Notable Books by the New York Times, and she was a founding board member of 826 Valencia, a writing center for children and young adults that started in San Francisco and is now in seven other cities.

The Department of Theatre and Dance will present a stage adaptation of “A Clockwork Orange” on both evenings of the Symposium (and on Saturday too) directed by Andrew W. Smith ’97.5, a visiting assistant director of theatre. Performances will be in Wright Theatre; curtain times and tickets are available online. Due to the adult content, the show is recommended for mature audiences only.

Middlebury’s Rehnquist Professor of American History, James Ralph ’82, will deliver the welcome on Friday morning, April 11, at 9 a.m. in McCardell Bicentenial Great Hall.

The Symposium will conclude with a gala reception for all participants and attendees beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, also in the Great Hall.

The Spring Student Symposium is organized by the Symposium Committee with assistance from the Center for Teaching, Learning and Research, and from faculty and staff across the Middlebury campus.