Caroline Kahlenberg '14: There seems to be a common trend among college students that goes as follows: many who had any level of a religious childhood (whether they went to religious school or maybe just celebrated holidays) see college as a time where they are free from religious obligations that the were once forced to attend. Both of my parents, for example -- who grew up in very religious households -- hardly ever participated in religious life on campus. I, however, have found myself going the opposite direction: because I didn't have much religious experience growing up, I saw college as a place to explore such an identity, and it has been extremely rewarding.
This ability to explore, I think, is crucial to the liberal arts aspect of religious life here at Midd. I actually think that students on campus--whether or not they themselves are involved in religious life--understand this well. Specifically, that being a part of a religious group, or attending services, does not necessarily mean that you identify as a particularly religious/spiritual person or that you have any major commitment to one faith. On a campus like Middlebury, there is room for, and acceptance of, religious exploration. For instance, last year I went to Middlebury Christian Fellowship's (MCF) weekly Bible study group, knowing that I didn't identify with everything we learned, but still got a lot out of it because of the acceptance from my peers in the group. I'm also a board member of Hillel, which has served as another avenue to explore my religious identity. And just last week, my friend and I wanted to see what Quakerism was all about, so we went to the meeting and really enjoyed it. The opportunity to have access to such a diversity of religions is incredible and perhaps unique to a college setting, and I think many students are able to take advantage of it. On this note, I think Middlebury's liberal arts mission is well reflected in its religious life/organizations.
Perhaps some would see my attendance at both Hillel and MCF as contradictory, but for the most part I've found that Middlebury students have an openmindedness about such explorations, similar to the thoughtfulness they bring to class. I hope people understand that involvement in religious life does not necessarily translate to a narrow commitment to that faith, but rather that these organizations serve as social and intellectual platforms.
Overall, if you had told me in high school that I would be a board member of Hillel at Middlebury, I don't think I'd believe you for a second. But after experiencing the uniqueness of Middlebury's religious organizations--the social, intellectual, and religious components they bring to college life--I certainly see them to be a big part of my experience here.