Middlebury’s residential system is the backbone of student life at the College. It embodies the College’s conviction that an excellent liberal arts education takes place around the clock—as easily over dinner as in the classroom.
The residence halls are grouped into “living-learning communities,” called Commons, which combine the academic, social, and residential components of college life. They also foster close and abiding relationships among the student residents and among the faculty and staff who are part of their Commons.
The Commons Teams
A dedicated team of faculty, staff, and recent graduates advises and supports students in each Commons and guides the cultural and intellectual life of their community:
The Commons Head (or Co-Heads) is a tenured member of the faculty who serves as the administrative director of the Commons. The Commons head is responsible for programming (lectures, field trips, parties, dinner discussions, and other events) involving students, faculty, and staff and for setting the academic and social tone of the community.
The Commons Dean is a student-affairs professional who administers the daily operations of the Commons and handles all residential issues, as well as academic and personal advising. Any concerns about a student’s attendance, academic performance, or personal concerns are referred to the dean.
The Commons Coordinator manages the Commons office, handles student questions, assists with organizing and planning events, schedules Commons spaces, and much more.
Commons Residential Advisers are recent Middlebury graduates who live in the residence halls. They serve as an on-call resource, mentoring students through social and academic challenges, helping organize events, and advising administrators on student opinion.
The Commons work actively to integrate students’ academic experiences with their residential lives, creating an atmosphere that encourages the free exchange of ideas and builds a robust intellectual community. This integration begins with the first-year seminar: students enrolled in a particular seminar are assigned to live in the same Commons; as a result, they bring their classroom experiences into the residence halls and share them with their peers. Each Commons also offers enhanced programming, often inspired by academic events taking place on campus. One of the most popular Commons-based events involves hosted meals, over which spirited, in-depth discussions take place.
The success of these programs and the College’s commitment to the facilities that support the Commons—residence halls, dining halls, and program space—mean that many social and academic activities are centered in the Commons.
The 4/2 Model
Since the fall of 2008, the Commons System has followed what is known as the 4/2 model. Students live in Commons residence halls their first two years at Middlebury. Then, as juniors and seniors, they may choose from the range of housing options available to them across campus, while remaining members of their original Commons. As students develop strong connections to their Commons, they continue to be involved throughout their junior and senior years, complementing their increasing focus on their major with informal academic mentoring of those just starting out. Upperclassmen can give back in more official ways, as well, by taking on vital roles as residential life staff.