Dear Middlebury Institute Community,
Even though we are in more of a steady rhythm now, we didn’t want to let much time go by without updating you on the progress we are making determining how Middlebury—and the Institute in particular—will operate in the months ahead. Like every institution around the country, we have been scenario planning. Scenario planning is its own form of storytelling.
As of this moment, our story is a cautious one. The well-being of our community remains paramount, and as we have done since January, we will continue to be guided by the expertise of health officials, public orders issued by Governor Newsom and Monterey County, and the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We are also guided by who we are at MIIS and what we do so well. In all the discussions about teaching and learning during this most disruptive time, we have kept our focus on the core elements of a MIIS education—and are committed to providing them in whatever formats will be available to us, even if remote learning were our only option this fall. At a recent Student Council-organized forum, we learned emphatically what MIIS students appreciate most about their education: the problem-driven group work with real clients, deadlines and deliverables; the connections faculty have to their professional environments and the way they incorporate those in their teaching; and the scenario-making and simulations that cross disciplinary boundaries, among other things.
Those elements will continue to be integral to our pedagogy no matter what method of delivery: onsite, remote, or some hybrid model.
During the upcoming weeks we will continue to monitor the fluid situation we are in and complete our discussions about what fall 2020 will be like. We will have a decision about the fall term on June 15 for the Institute community.
Our goal is to provide clarity as early as we can since we know that students in particular have important decisions to make about where to live, how to prepare for fall classes, how to incorporate MIIS into your personal and professional lives. Students, your faculty and a host of Institute staff members will be working hard over the summer on their online offerings so, no matter where we land given health considerations or public mandates, we will be prepared for all contingencies to offer the most robust educational experience we can.
Never has MIIS felt more crucial as an institution. It is true that the pressures we have faced at the Institute are accentuated right now. Yet we keep advancing through this crisis because we know the world will be in some increment better because our students will be working in it, as our graduates are at this moment. MIIS is and always has been about adapting, responding, pivoting as circumstances demand, which only underscores our relevance and timeliness.
You and the entire MIIS community have our deepest respect and appreciation for continuing this work.
We would like to close by recognizing that the COVID losses and everyday challenges people are feeling on both Middlebury coasts are deeply real. As a way of archiving those challenges and losses, many of us are turning to storytelling to make sense of our experience and a record of this time. Just as searches for the terms “Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918” have skyrocketed, “COVID-19 2020” will itself become an archive for the generations that follow us. On the Vermont campus, student editors have created the COVID storytelling project and are looking for submissions. For other ways to keep community close—from a distance—check out our MIIS speaker series or take part in the Monday staff Zoom lunch, the Student Council’s weekly open sessions, and Town Hall meetings for faculty, staff, and students.
The stories we tell now and the examples we set may be an unexpected form of inspiration, caution, or education for future generations facing their own global challenges.
In the meantime, here is a link to our calendar of decision-making with key dates to keep in mind. And thank you for your care and support as we make plans for MIIS and Middlebury thriving well into the next century and beyond. We are walking what Midd alum Dan O’Brien calls, in a beautiful essay, the “wilderness trail of recovery.” We’d like to meet you on that path.
Dean of the Institute