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Professor Emeritus Russell Leng ’60 will teach the course titled "Years of Upheaval: Diplomacy, War, and Social Change 1919-1945."

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Middlebury Launches Online Course for Alumni, Parents

February 10, 2015

Watch a trailer for the new online course.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Middlebury will offer a new web-based course this winter titled “Years of Upheaval: Diplomacy, War, and Social Change 1919–1945,” free of charge to alumni, parents, and friends of Middlebury. 

“We are very pleased to roll out this new offering,” said Provost Susan Baldridge, who led the development of the course. "I hope that alumni in particular will enjoy the opportunity to reconnect with Middlebury and revisit the kinds of educational experiences they had as students."

Taught by Russ Leng ’60, the James Jermain Professor of Political Science and International Law, the web-based course includes 10 sessions covering what Leng describes as "one of the most turbulent and cataclysmic periods in American history and world history.” Leng brings the material to life with a blend of multimedia, including historic photos, videos, speeches, and music.

  Professor Emeritus Russell Leng ’60 reviews notes before a video shoot for the new online course.
  Middlebury alumni and parents will recognize many of the locations used in the course for video lectures, including the reading room at the Axinn Center.

With no homework or required reading, the course is aimed at those with a pure love for learning. Leng begins each session with an introductory question followed by related social science concepts, then a narrative of what happened during that particular time period. Each session wraps up with a conversation between Leng and his former student Frank Sesno ’77, a former CNN anchor and current director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

Leng says the course offers plenty of opportunities to “leave the beaten path” and get more information about topics of interest. “My guess is that students will also enjoy the interplay of some very powerful personalities: Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Hitler, and even Japan’s Yosuke Matsouka,” says Leng. “It is a pleasure just to listen to some of the speeches of Churchill and FDR."

"One of the things I’m most excited about is how the course reflects qualities that I think are quintessentially ‘Middlebury,’” says Baldridge. "As an alumnus, a faculty member, and a trustee, Russ Leng is about as Middlebury as you can get!  Frank adds another great Middlebury voice, and we produced the course with a company, In The Telling, cofounded by alumnus Kevin Johnson ’84.  We also hope that alumni will recognize many of the locations on campus where we shot Russ teaching.”

Most importantly, Baldridge notes, it is very much a liberal arts course. "Russ incorporates political science, history, music, and literature, examining this era from many different perspectives,” says Baldridge. "And although the course is primarily delivered via video, we have tried to incorporate elements of the interactivity that is an essential feature of learning at Middlebury."

Last February, following a presentation about the online learning landscape that Baldridge gave for Middlebury’s Board of Trustees, Leng volunteered to work on the pilot project. He was already planning to teach an on-campus version of the course during winter term, so the timing seemed right.

Making his first foray into online teaching, Leng says the combination of lectures, conversations, and digital media offers students a rich learning experience. “Our hope is that they will learn something new that will stay with them,” he says. “But I hope the learning goes beyond just observing what happened to gaining a better understanding of why the traumatic events occurred, and appreciating not only what it was like to be caught in the cauldron of World War II but also appreciating the difficult moral, social, and legal issues the war created.” 

Learn more about Middlebury’s pilot online course, "Years of Upheaval: Diplomacy, War, and Social Change 1919–1945."


Wow wonderful to have an online course/lecture series for (old) graduates! I can hardly wait to begin ( M.A. '69)

by charles Roehrl (not verified)

What a wonderful and exciting offering. I'm really looking forward to it.

by Madeline Hartm... (not verified)

This period is of great interest to me, since my parents were in their prime at that time and I was a little girl.

by Ilse Raymond (not verified)

Fantastic idea! Class of '60 still has the firepower!!

by Dick Sacco (not verified)

In order to help prove the possibility of learning to enjoy musical instruments again late in life, I have a personal plan to which I shall add this opportunity now that I am alone. "Why should I then grieve?" is the name of organ music that I studied in my one lesson with Emory Fanning at a Reunion. The thought is appropriate. My husband is still living, but recently moved to slightly distant nursing home that I'll visit once a week. I invite fellow 1946 classmates to join me in this LATE LIFE LEARNING journey. It will be interesting to
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see how they have recorded the history of our own era! I was a political science major in the Robert Rafuse era.
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by Mary Elizabeth ... (not verified)

As a newly retired Navy Veteran and a President McCardell History disciple, I can't wait to join Professor Leng's course about this transformative time in world history. Instead of attending class in Professor Tillinghast's living room, I get to invite Professor Leng into my home via my mabook! Can't Wait !! (M.A. '92)

by Chip Muir (not verified)

I had the chance to benefit from Professor Leng's wisdom while at Middlebury ... and to babysit for his lovely children. I have a soft spot for all of them in my heart. I would very much like to take part in this class. It will bring back great memories of my senior seminar.

by Claire Gwatkin Jones (not verified)

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