Encouraging Initiative

To meet 21st-century challenges, today’s leaders must be able to take intellectual risks, to think creatively, to develop new knowledge and new ways of thinking, and to be entrepreneurial.


Profiles | Beyond the Classroom

Four Middlebury students developed a community garden this past summer
in partnership with students and teachers at the Bronx Academy of Letters.


One important way for students to develop these abilities is through self-directed projects. Students define an idea, articulate their goals, develop a plan, create a budget, put their plan into action, and then analyze its success or failure. Along the way, they develop creativity and learn organizational, communication, and leadership skills.

Some students have an idea for a business that they want to explore. Others see a way to solve a problem and want to take their ideas to the next level. Still others have an artistic vision they want to realize. Examples of recent projects include:

  • the creation of an urban garden with a school in the Bronx,
  • construction of a hydropower project in Nepal,
  • and development of a partnership with a university in Chile to advance sustainability initiatives.

Funding for independent projects that do not receive academic credit is administered by the Center for Careers and Internships through unrestricted internship funds and grants for service and community action in the U.S. and abroad. Funding is awarded through a competitive process. Students have shown extraordinary interest in developing such original and self-designed work, and there are routinely far more worthy projects than there is funding.