by Eva Gudbergsdottir

Screenshot Fernando De Paolis at Virtual Winter Commencement
Professor Fernando De Paolis, dean of the Graduate School of International Policy and Development, presents degrees at the 2020 Virtual Winter Commencement. (Credit: Eduardo Fujii )

In this year of many firsts, the Middlebury Institute community came together to celebrate the achievements of 76 graduates from 15 countries at its first Virtual Winter Commencement on Saturday, December 12.
 

There is so much in this world that needs you: your idealism, yes, but also your hands-on and unrelenting ability to solve problems,” Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton told the students graduating from eight degree programs; International Education Management, International Environmental Policy, International Policy and Development, Public Administration, International Trade and Economic Development, Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies, and Teaching Language to Speakers of Other Languages and Teaching Foreign Language.

 

If this year has taught us anything, it’s taught us that plans are supposed to be crushed, adapted, and remolded—2021 is so ready to be molded for the better.
— Student Commencement Speaker Pia Park MPA/MAITED '20

“We all came to MIIS for a specific reason—some more known than others—but with a common goal to get one step closer to our career aspirations. In this sandbox of the MIIS community, we picked up new tools and sharpened others. We supported each other’s weaknesses with our strengths and grew in our own self-confidence to build our own sandcastle, our way.” If there was a recurring theme to this event, it was summed up by Student Speaker Pia Park MAITED/MPA ’20 in three words as Tenacity, Ohana (family), and Principals, as this graduating class knows a thing or two about adapting to a rapidly changing world and overcoming challenges, the deliberate and important act of maintaining human relationships in a remote world, and staying true and standing up for principals to make a difference. “If this year has taught us anything, it’s taught us that plans are supposed to be crushed, adapted, and remolded—2021 is so ready to be molded for the better.”

2020 Virtual Winter Commencement

Laurie Patton at virtual Winter Commencement 2020
President Laurie L. Patton addresses the graduating class at the Middlebury Institute’s first Virtual Winter Commencement.
Group screen shot at virtual Winter Commencement 2020 - 1
The Middlebury Institute came together virtually to celebrate the achievements of the 76 students graduating in December 2020.
Virtual group photo from commencement
The Middlebury Institute came together virtually to celebrate the achievements of the 76 students graduating in December 2020.
Virtual group photo screen shot winter commencement
The Middlebury Institute came together virtually to celebrate the achievements of the 76 students graduating in December 2020.
Jeffrey Dayton Johnson clapping his hands
“You have developed and improved a capacity for adaptation and innovation that will serve you again and again in the work that you will begin in the next phase of your professional trajectory – and in the world that you seek to transform.” - Jeffrey Dayton-Johnson, vice-president for academic affairs and dean of the Institute told graduates. 
Thor Sawin at 2020 virtual winter commencement
Professor Thor Sawin gave the Winter 2020 Commencement address, encouraging students to continue the “radical act” of language learning.
Pia Park screenshot
“We have redefined resilience and are ready for what the future will bring. Because we are MIIS graduates, Class of 2020.” Pia Park MPA/MAITED ‘20 was chosen by her classmates to deliver the student address. 
Michael Donnelly posthumous degree slide
A posthumous degree was awarded to Michael Donnelly MANPTS ‘20.
Liz and Pat Donnelly
Liz and Pat Donnelly, parents of Michael Donnelly MANPTS ‘20 accepted his posthumous degree and shared a few words in his memory.
Aaron Ensman posthumous degree
A posthumous degree was awarded to Aaron James Ensman MATESOL ‘20.
Brian Ensman
Brian Ensman, brother of Aaron Ensman MATESOL ‘20 accepted his posthumous degree and shared a few words in his memory.

”You shook off the smoke and ashes, the cats on your keyboard, the dread, the cabin fever, and kept logging into Zoom, kept posting to Canvas, kept downloading pdfs, kept creating Google Docs. This was a great act of beauty, and the ultimate expression of your humanity.” As is the tradition for the Winter Commencement, the winner of the Faculty in Excellence Award gave the main address, and this year it was Professor Thor Sawin. He took note of the particular achievements of this graduating class, persevering through one challenge after another, including two semesters impacted by a global pandemic. “I have never been prouder to teach MIIS students than after this year, after seeing what you all have done to provide home and hope to each other.”

I have never been prouder to teach MIIS students than after this year, after seeing what you all have done to provide home and hope to each other.
— Professor Thor Sawin, 2020 Winter Commencement Speaker

Sawin called on the new graduates to a further act of human defiance and beauty and nature – “to continue learning languages, learning the words of the other, learning the ways that people from the other group would word things, would phrase things.” He called language learning a radical act. ”It is the greatest tool that you can use in your future careers, and the greatest hope for creating alliances of change, and even of love and respect in a world that desperately needs that.”

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Institute awarded posthumous degrees to two valued members of our community who we lost in 2020, Michael Donnelly MANPTS ’20, and Aaron James Ensman MATESOL ’20. Both were remembered fondly by their families, classmates, and faculty.

The ceremony was recorded and is available for viewing.

For More Information

Eva Gudbergsdottir
evag@middlebury.edu
831-647-6606