On a cool and sunny December afternoon in Monterey, friends and family cheered as 69 graduating students from the Middlebury Institute walked cheerfully from the Institute to the nearby Marriott Hotel while being serenaded by Professor Michael Gillen’s bagpipes. The procession was led by Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Institute Jeff Dayton-Johnson, members of the faculty, and the traditional color guard of flags representing the 12 different homelands of the graduating class.
Dayton-Johnson remarked that not only do Middlebury Institute students learn skills and theory in the classroom, “but from the very beginning, they’re going out and applying that knowledge in a real-world context, working to address real-world problems. Whether they’re studying language teaching or environmental policy or interpretation or social entrepreneurship, our students have the opportunity to engage with real people and real issues in the community, and make a real difference through their work.”
The elected student speakers were Molly McKeon MAIEP ’15 and Muhammed Sayed MBA/MAIEP ’15, who noted that while they began as Monterey Institute students, they are “excited to finish as part of the Middlebury family.” The deep and lasting friendships formed during graduate school were high on their minds, not least their own friendship forged “through fire” and their “nerdier than average” work at the Institute’s META Lab. As for their motivation to speak, they told the audience that they figured it was best to grab this last moment of glory while they still could—plus, since they were both born outside the U.S., neither of them can run for president.
While there is a lot to look forward to after graduation, the duo noted that “the world can also be a scary place.” There is a lot of work to be done, and difficult problems to take on. “As members of the MIIS community,” they said, “we’ve all taken a first step towards addressing those challenges. It will be an upward battle, but thankfully this will be one journey we won’t have to take alone.” We can’t help but believe that the scales are already beginning to tip to the positive side as these graduates start rolling up their sleeves.