Orientation leader Lizzy Stears ’17.5 greeted the new Febs at the Welcome Center in Axinn.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – On Wednesday, February 8, as much of the campus was taking a post-winter term breather, 99 new students arrived in Middlebury, excited to begin their college careers.

The new cohort of “Febs,” who make up the Class of 2020.5, began their adventure at the Axinn welcome center, where they checked in and received information about their five-day orientation. A high-spirited crew of orientation leaders greeted the new arrivals outside with colorful signs and ’80s music on an unusually balmy February day.

Annie Blalock ’20.5, of Baltimore, arrived at the welcome center in the morning before moving into her Gifford Hall suite with three fellow Febs. During her “Febmester” (the time between high school and starting at Middlebury), she worked on an organic farm in St. Lucia for two months, and then returned to Baltimore to work on two urban farms.

“I am definitely interested in environmental studies and sustainability, and that’s one of the reasons I chose Middlebury,” said Blalock. “I have been really looking forward to this.”

Julia Sinton ’20.5 and her parents, Christopher and Diana Sinton, both Class of 1988, drove to Middlebury a day earlier from their home in Ithaca, N.Y. Julia was getting settled in Starr Hall while her parents reminisced about their own time at Middlebury. “Diana and I walked up to Stewart Hall to have a look at my old freshman dorm,” said Chris Sinton. “When we turned around and came back down the hill the view was spectacular, so familiar and full of emotion for both of us. Then the sun came out and shined on the front of Mead Chapel, which was where I proposed to Diana.”

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On their first evening, the new students attended Convocation in Mead Chapel, marking the start of students’ academic life. In keeping with tradition, President Laurie Patton welcomed the students and passed the historic Gamaliel Painter’s cane among them. Painter, a College founder and town leader, bequeathed the cane to Middlebury as a symbol of strength and commitment to education. Four years from now, the Feb class – like all Middlebury graduates – will receive a replica of Painter’s cane when they complete their Middlebury degrees.

At convocation, Dean of Admissions Greg Buckles gave the students a snapshot of their class geography–three countries, 22 states, and the District of Columbia–along with some highlights of the skills and interests they brought to campus. Twenty-six, for example, had been editors-in-chief of major school publications and 30 were captains of their varsity athletic teams.

Buckles said the most popular intended majors among the incoming Feb class are biology, environmental studies, and economics. Many are still undecided, he noted, but there is strong interest in African studies, computer science, English and American literatures, and international and global studies.

“Now, having said all that,” Buckles observed, “our research year after year shows that 66 percent of you will major in something completely different than what you indicated were your first two choices in your application!”

Students will spend the rest of Feb orientation week learning about many aspects of life at Middlebury, including meeting with academic advisors and commons teams, speaking with student financial services, meeting first-year seminar faculty and academic departments, and learning about the honor code, emergency preparedness, and a host of other essentials. They’ll also get a chance to explore the off-campus community and recreational opportunities, including an afternoon at Middlebury’s Rikert Nordic Center and an evening torchlight parade at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl.

Classes for all students begin Monday, February 13.