About the Programs

Why Innovation Matters

High-achieving college students tend to focus on doing things "right"—passing exams, getting high marks, securing positions after graduation—often avoiding the messy processes and risks that come with experimenting with new ideas. Yet, innovation takes trial and error, the willingness to accept mistakes and less-than-perfect results. (How many attempts did the Wright brothers make before their first successful flight?) Our project encourages Middlebury students to experience challenging, creative processes.

How the Programs Work

The project's effectiveness is derived from three components: Teaching/learning opportunities and challenges that occur in non-graded or pass/fail environments; financial support and prizes for innovative work, projects, and competitions; and access to inspiring, liberating space for individual and group projects.

Program Goals

  • Encourage an environment in which students exercise creativity, pursue innovation, and become more comfortable with intellectual risk-taking.
  • Provide opportunities for students to explore their creative skills and to practice problem solving outside a strictly graded environment.
  • Encourage students to draw from and build upon the excellence of Middlebury's academic program when working on creative projects.
  • Make creativity and innovation a more deeply ingrained part of the Middlebury undergraduate experience.
  • Encourage the program to become student driven, responding to and guided by the students.

Innovation is a Midd Tradition

For two centuries, innovation has been an integral part of Middlebury. Our renowned Language Schools and our Environmental Studies Program were the first of their kind in the U.S., and they continue to break new ground today. The College inventively built upon the concept of the Language Schools when it opened the Bread Loaf School of English, a summer program devoted to English language and literature, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference became the model for writers' conferences everywhere. Our affiliation with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) and our strong curricular emphasis upon cultural and language fluency exemplify the College's innovative approach to education in the 21st century.

Similarly, Middlebury students are always initiating forward-thinking ventures. Examples include: the College organic garden, Middlebury's initiative to achieve carbon neutrality by 2016intercollegiate Quidditch, student-owned and operated Campus Storage Inc., and the Middlebury Musicians Guild.

To learn about many of the ideas, projects, and companies that have taken off at Middlebury through our programs, watch the PBS segment below on our culture of innovation. The segment features students and alums, including Emily Núñez Cavness '12 of Sword & Plough, Terrance Goguen '16 of JoyRydeIron Eyes Cody, and Cameron MacKugler '09 of Cloudfarm.

Programs on Creativity and Innovation in the Liberal Arts

Heather Neuwirth '08
118 South Main Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
802.443.5961 - work

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