MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-The 580 expected members of the Middlebury College class of 2008 will begin arriving on campus on Wednesday, Sept. 8. Coming from 40 foreign countries and 48 states, the first-year students will take part in orientation events through Sunday, Sept. 11, ranging from convocation to dinner with the new president of Middlebury College, Ronald D. Liebowitz, who began serving in this position on July 1. Six percent of the students in the incoming class are from Vermont.

The new students bring with them a variety of skills and experiences.

Htar Htar Yu was born in Rangoon, Myanmar-formerly known as Burma-a country that has been under the rule of a military dictatorship since 1962. She lived in hiding in the jungle for the first eight years of her life because of her family’s involvement in the Burmese pro-democracy movement. Three of her siblings died there due to illness and lack of medicine. Since that time her family has moved to Thailand and she herself has spent much of her life working to restore democracy to Burma. She was also a student at Spaulding High School in Barre during the 2002-2003 academic year and studied for a semester in an intensive English language program at St. Michael’s College in Colchester beginning in Dec. 2003. While in the United States, she has spoken to groups about human rights and women’s rights in Washington D.C., New York and Burlington.

Kolbe Franklin of Charlotte, N.C., is committed to continuing to help an Argentinean orphanage where she worked during the summer in 2002. Less than two months after returning to North Carolina, she founded a nonprofit called Amigo a Amigo in order to collect donations from organizations and businesses, including Wal-Mart and The Gap. Once she had gathered a number of items, she was able to send three boxes of clothes, toys, educational materials, and general supplies to the orphanage. Franklin returned to the orphanage in the summer of 2003 with more supplies and a monetary gift to establish a bakery where the boys who live there can work when they are not in school. She plans to expand her foundation to other Argentinean orphanages in the future.

Ian Burgin of Ashfield, Mass., has many talents but his passion is tinsmithing. Burgin, who received training from one of the last tinsmiths of New England, owns his own business and sells his goods at craft fairs. His specialty items are candlesticks that he constructs with handmade 19th-century tools.

Tristan Axelrod of Washington, D.C., is an expert tchoukball player. Pronounced “chook ball,” this Swiss game most closely resembles handball and does not involve any physical contact between players. In the summer of 2003, Axelrod became the first American to represent the U.S. at an international tchoukball competition when he competed at a tournament in Italy.

From Sept. 4-7, prior to orientation, approximately 350 first-year students will participate in the optional “Middlebury Outdoor Orientation” (MOO), which offers students the chance to choose between overnight trips featuring a number of outdoor activities: trail maintenance, canoeing, rock climbing, fly fishing, backpacking and community service projects. Currently in its 17th year, MOO is a student organization that was founded by members of the Middlebury College Mountain Club. MOO’s trips take place in Vermont and in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

Once on campus, new and returning students alike will become familiar with a new library, two new residence halls, and renovations completed in a number of buildings, such as Carr Hall, which houses the Office of Institutional Diversity and PALANA (Pan-African, Latin American, Native American) Center. For the first time, Middlebury students will also have access to digital song subscriptions through the online music service Napster, due to an agreement between the College and the company that owns Napster.

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