Goal: $120 Million

As our knowledge of the world expands, a Middlebury education expands. With new investment, Middlebury will develop students’ fluency in the 21st-century literacies of data analysis, cultural difference, conflict transformation, and environmental change. We’ll continue to recruit and support an outstanding and diverse faculty, as well as industry experts—leaders in finance, media, and technology who bring workplace expertise to the classroom. We’ll incorporate the evolving work of our academic and research centers into the curriculum to create new learning opportunities. Building on a model that is innovative and relevant, we will empower students to deepen their understanding of the world and navigate its complexities.

Voices of Academic Excellence

Why I Teach: Noah Graham, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Physics

I’m Noah Graham. I’m the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Physics, and I’m currently the Physics Department chair.

I would say at the undergraduate level, we get to give away the best secrets. So, a lot of graduate education is more math. It’s more detail. It’s fairly valuable, but we get to teach them the uncertainty principle. We get to teach them about E=MC squared. So we kind of give away all the endings of all the good stories. 

So I feel like it’s really a sweet spot, in terms of being able to engage with advanced things, things that are challenging, things that really expand your mind, but not being so far into a rabbit hole of just trying to make a little bit of progress in a specific narrow area, and having that be your entire focus.

I remember showing a demonstration. It’s something that’s very standard in physics with polarized light, and it’s a model for how things work in quantum mechanics. And it was sort of at the end of class, and I remember a student coming up to me at the end, and just being like… He was up on all the equations, and he knew that this was the answer. But he didn’t even know how to express it maybe, and maybe I don’t know how to express it.

But he was sort of amazed that it was actually real. He’s like, “I didn’t expect this to actually happen. I know that this is something you write out.” So, making that connection. You have cases where students, they have that connection to say, “Ah, that’s…” This thing that has come off the paper, and it’s kind of become part of something they understand.

In terms of goals for students, I try not to be too prescriptive, and it’s something I really like about an undergraduate versus a graduate institution. At some places, there’s this feeling like, “Well, I hope for a student they should become just like me. And when I’m retired or gone or whatever, they can just follow in my footsteps.”

Not that I wouldn’t like them to do the kinds of things I do, but I really like to give them something I sort of only gained a little bit at a time, but that broader perspective of “If you learn what we’re teaching, yes, you can go research the things in the same kind of area that you might’ve done your senior thesis on. But like I discovered in going to the software industry, there might be lots of other things that actually you don’t even know, or maybe at this point haven’t even been invented yet, that you will turn out to have just the right skills and experience for.”

I think you can’t ever separate teaching and learning. And one thing I love to do is I love to learn things. I’m trying to learn the piano. I’m not nearly as good at it as my kids, who are taking piano lessons, and I watch them learn so much faster. I’m trying to learn to fix my car. I love to learn things. And one thing, when you learn stuff, you realize that you only understand it if you can teach it.

It keeps me in that cycle of teaching and learning all the time, and that’s incredibly valuable. What I want to do with my time on this planet is to try to learn as much as I can, and that goes with trying to teach as much as I can.

For Jillian Holley ’25, life took an unexpected turn when she fell in love with German.

Jillian Holley: Whenever I first came to Middlebury, we have distribution requirements we have to take. I had told everyone the one distribution requirement I’m not taking is a language. I don’t want to take a language. I’m not interested in it. I didn’t like taking a language in high school. Then registering for my sophomore year rolled around, I really don’t want to take a natural science class. Maybe I will take a language. I think German sounds like it’s cool. And I fell in love with it, and I’ve committed myself to the idea that I would like to spend time in Germany and study in Germany.

I spoke with my study abroad advisor, the German study abroad advisor. I was like, “What would I need to do to be able to go abroad, since I’m into this, and I really enjoyed it, and it would be fun?” and she said, “Well, you have to get up to this level class. You have to take an advanced writing seminar. To get to that point you’ll have to take Language Schools because you started a year late. But I mean, it’s totally feasible.”

Speaker 2: [German 00:00:57].

Jillian Holley: I think that Language Schools has done an amazing job at preparing me to study abroad. Whenever I look back at whenever we first signed the Language Pledge and I was trying to talk to my friends that I had met and it was like everything. I was like, “I don’t know how this is going to come out.” Now I feel like I can talk completely freely, and express most of the things that I want to say, even if it’s choppy or it’s not perfect. I would’ve never expected in such a short amount of time that I could get from “I’ve never spoken a word of German in my life” to “I could live in Germany.” Yeah, I do think that that’s just a crazy jump to be able to make, and to have the resources and people telling you, “You can definitely make this jump.”

Funding Priorities

  • Expand academic programs in new and interdisciplinary areas, including data analytics, environmental leadership, Black studies, and conflict transformation.

  • Support core academic areas including natural sciences, mathematics, humanities, and languages.

  • Ensure that all faculty have access to skill and knowledge development and state-of-the-art tools to enhance their teaching and research.

  • Provide foundational support for leading-edge research at College and Institute academic centers. 

Your Impact

Progress to $120 M Goal

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