two feminine people, one light-skinned, one dark-skinned, delightedly examining some fresh rainbow chard at an outdoor market

Experiential learning opportunities prepare Middlebury students to be world ready and work ready.

From Theory to Practice

A gift to experiential learning makes hands-on opportunities that complement coursework—such as independent research projects, internships, social impact initiatives, or entrepreneurship—accessible to more students and easier to navigate. 

Connecting Middlebury students to opportunities that enrich both their learning and lifelong pursuits is the kind of personalized education that sets Middlebury apart, and your gift helps to make it possible. You can designate your gift to any of the areas described below:

Internships

Internships bring learning to life. They develop real-world skills that set applicants apart. They open doors through valuable networking opportunities. And since many internships are unpaid, access to funding makes it feasible for students to take advantage of opportunities that are often life changing.

Faculty-Mentored Research

Research opportunities enable students to work closely with faculty, think critically, form an argument and defend it. Equally important, research experiences can help identify a future path or serve as an impressive highlight for graduate school applications and job interviews.

Service and Community-Based Learning

Groups and activities focused on advocacy and service enable students to strengthen communities and contribute to the common good. Students hone skills and build meaningful change in working with immigrant, low-income, or other historically marginalized communities.

Global Experiences

The world needs globally-informed citizens. Study abroad and research, internships, and service based in other countries help students develop an international perspective, while gaining intercultural awareness and communication skills.

Experiential Opportunities in Action

Professor Grace Spatafora standing by Michelle Lehman, with a glimpse of a computer rendering of bacteria on a screen behind them.

Bringing Science to Life

Biology professor Grace Spatafora worked with neuroscience major and animation artist Michelle Lehman ’19 to produce a video about the bacteria that causes dental cavities. For Spatafora, it was an opportunity to make her research more accessible to students. For Lehman, it was a rare chance to connect her lifelong love of art and science, as well as an unexpected pathway to a new calling. Now, Lehman is working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the largest U.S. Department of Energy science and energy laboratory. “Animation allows me to communicate complex scientific ideas to specific audiences,” she says.

Claire Contreras in a black-and-white striped top, smiling in front of a dark red siding background

Working in the Wild

Claire Contreras ’22.5 may have landed the ideal COVID-19–era internship.

This past summer, she spent part of her time photographing long-dead bees and part of her time out in the wild collecting live bees. Both activities lent themselves well to social distancing but still provided her with valuable hands-on experience.

Contreras’s work will become part of Vermont’s first bee atlas, a project conducted by the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. While the decline of honeybees has been well documented, Vermont has more than 300 other species of bees that have not been catalogued.

Working in her Middlebury apartment, Contreras photographed specimens from the College’s Duncan J. McDonald Insect Collection. She then posted the detailed photos of bees online so that scientists anywhere can study them. Later in the summer, the conservation biology major scoured the woods of Vermont catching live bees, which she also photographed and identified; she then uploaded the images to an online database.

Contreras expects the fieldwork to pay off as she focuses her studies on the intersection of environmental and human health. “I’m pretty interested in how different environmental systems work together, and bees are a really important factor of the environmental system,” she says.