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Oceanside city with mountains in background and boats in water.

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From Middlebury to the World and Back Again

Midd2Midd mentoring gives current students the career support and life guidance they want—and offers alums a rewarding and meaningful way to give back to Middlebury.

I think an alumni mentor has a lot of value. Knowing that they’re an alumni brings a sense of camaraderie whether it be having them recommend me or having them open doors for me that I couldn’t open on my own. They see you as from like a very objective standpoint as someone who wants to see you succeed in every way.

The role of a good mentor is to provide guidance. I’d like to distinguish the role of a good mentor versus a great mentor, which I think provides the same but surrounds it with helpful encouragement.

The key from both sides and a mentor mentee relationship Is good communication. A mentor is gonna be more successful if the mentee is forthcoming so that the guidance that’s forthcoming is as valuable as it could be.

Working with alumni who have been through the school and have been on the academic side and understand what that entails. But also be able to understand how they went from being here in the middle of Middlebury to being somewhere else in the world.

Part of it is just taking the time to get to know each other on a human level before you worry too much about, I wanna do this job or I need this advice.

It really meant so much to me to receive this kind of guidance and support. I really love the Middlebury network, I plan on taking full advantage of it for the rest of my time here. I think that’s one of the most defined traits of Middlebury that makes it so special.

Middlebury offers this incredible opportunity to look at the world, we get to zoom-out a little bit whereas much of our life probably feels very detailed. But it’s those zoom-out moments that kind of give you the 80,000-foot view that then you can start to kind of chart what’s next in your life.

When I think about my transitions from, let’s say entertainment over to marketing, I don’t think I would have been able to do that if it weren’t for the mentors throughout my life. And now I’m able to take those relationships and help other people and bring them along. And that’s the really rewarding part about mentoring is like you get to open up these doors for other people behind you.

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Middlebury News

  • Labs, Once a Science Staple, Energize the Humanities and Attract Grant Support


    MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - Labs, long associated with science classes, are now becoming an important component of the humanities at Middlebury College, where a new grant will support their inclusion in a wide range of courses from history and Arabic to religion. The lab courses—where students gain new skills for possible use in their future careers—have the potential to attract more students to the humanities, which have experienced a drop in enrollment nationwide and at Middlebury.

    The College's Axinn Center for the Humanities is the recipient of the new funding—a $143,000 three-year grant from the Davis Educational Foundation to support the center's Public Humanities Labs Initiative. The grant began in July 2021 and will end in June 2024. Febe Armanios and Marion Wells, co-directors of Middlebury's Axinn Center, will co-direct the grant project as well. Armanios is also a professor of history and Wells is a professor of English and American literatures.

    According to Armanios and Wells, each series of labs has two components—experiential and public facing. In the labs, students collaborate with local partner organizations and experts on projects that address important social and cultural issues.

    As a pilot project in spring 2021, Middlebury offered 10 humanities courses with labs, where students learned a range of new skills, including working with new software to harvest data from social media; constructing a student-curated museum space to present specific objects studied in a class on slavery; mining the archives of the Sheldon Museum in Middlebury to learn about local history as they investigated how archives are formed; or exploring the material history of the Bayeux Tapestry by participating in weaving workshops and doing their own embroidery.
    Students in the public humanities lab course "Reading, Slavery, and Abolition" review historical documents at the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vermont. Partnered with the staff at the museum, the students will evaluate its permanent exhibit on the Underground Railroad and work on designing its 2022 season exhibit, tentatively titled “Dissent, Abolition, and Advocacy in Print.”Armanios noted that the pilot project successfully demonstrated the opportunities that the humanities labs offer students. "As faculty, we hear students voice concern about how their liberal arts education will support their career choices after graduation," she said. "By participating in lab projects outside the classroom, students immediately see the relevance of their work beyond an academic setting.""Studies show that employers overwhelmingly value the skills developed across broad education in the liberal arts rather than the knowledge gained from a particular major," said Wells. "The lab courses help dispel the myth that humanities majors are at a disadvantage in their careers. In fact, the opposite is true—the humanities are an asset." When Armanios and Wells put out a call for new or newly designed courses with a lab component for the 2021-22 academic year, they received an overwhelmingly positive response from humanities faculty. As a result, during its first year, the grant will help support labs in a total of 14 humanities courses at Middlebury—seven in the fall, two during January term, and five in the spring. They are currently accepting applications for lab courses for next year."The labs are a spark that have energized humanities faculty to rethink how they present their subjects," said Armanios. "We have an opportunity now to reintroduce the humanities to the students and to ourselves as faculty."

    Students responded positively—at the start of the semester all the fall semester humanities lab courses were full and had long wait lists. The lab courses include Science and Society (philosophy); Art and Protest (history of art), and Death in Latin America (religion).

    Wells said that the labs would not be possible without good connections to local and campus experts as well as the community. Humanities faculty teaching lab courses have established relationships with a growing list of local organizations, including multiple museums, Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury, Vermont Natural Resources Council, and Somali Bantu Community Association of Vermont. Last spring, Robin Foster Cole and Carol Wood, members of the Theatre Department's costume shop, worked with students in the course on the Bayeux Tapestry.

    Wells and Armanios are pleased that the labs appeal to students and faculty since they are both very familiar with the enrollment decline in humanities courses. They documented this development at the College in a July 2020 study—State of the Humanities Report at Middlebury College—that also provides data on corresponding national trends.

    With the support of the grant, Wells and Armanios expect the lab classes to become a permanent feature of the humanities curriculum at Middlebury. "The labs will reshape and revitalize the humanities," said Wells. "It's going to be exciting to see."

    The Axinn Center for the Humanities
    The Axinn Center for the Humanities celebrates the crucial role of the humanities in a liberal arts education through its vigorous support of humanistic research and pedagogy. The center's Public Humanities Labs Initiative gives faculty and students the opportunity to integrate humanistic learning in creative ways into public-facing and community-based projects that address social and cultural issues of urgent importance.Davis Educational Foundation
    The grant to the Axinn Center for the Humanities was received from the Davis Educational Foundation established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis's retirement as chairman of Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. The foundation, established as a public charitable foundation in 1985, supports the undergraduate programs of public and private, regionally accredited, baccalaureate degree granting colleges and universities throughout the six New England states.
    Photos by Brett Simison




  • Middlebury Receives $10 Million Gift to Support Black Studies, Provide Financial Aid

    Middlebury has received a $10 million gift from Ted ’83 and Kathy O’Connor Truscott ’83 to support faculty and students. The gift will create an endowed professorship in Black Studies, expand financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students, and provide unrestricted support for institutional priorities.“Middlebury is at an exciting juncture, led by an exceptional president with a compelling vision for the future,” Ted Truscott says. “Having been involved in Envisioning Middlebury—the recently completed strategic planning process—we felt it was important to step up now and invest in that future—or, as we often put it, to help our students become world ready and work ready. We wanted to demonstrate our support for President Laurie Patton and her leadership. We look forward to others joining us.”“Ted and Kathy’s gift will help ensure our students are prepared to share the educational gifts they’ve been given with a world that needs them,” President Laurie Patton says. “We are profoundly grateful.”Black Studies Professorship to Honor Trustee Emerita Deborah Thomas ’75The Truscotts’ investment in Black Studies will enable Middlebury to hire a leading scholar for the program, helping to expand curricular offerings and promote rigorous and creative scholarship and research. Created in 2019, the interdisciplinary program focuses on the intellectual, cultural, and political aspects of Black life and Black people in a global framework. The program incorporates faculty in the departments of Luso-Hispanic Studies, History, Film and Media Culture, and Music. Earlier this year, Middlebury received a separate gift to establish an associate professorship in Black Studies.“Middlebury is taking steps to deepen and sharpen its curriculum,” Patton says. “We want to make sure that our students are fluent in cross-cultural understanding as it is practiced in the 21st century. We are particularly focused on building our new Black Studies major and on integrating the study of race and anti-racism across the curriculum. A fully endowed professorship will allow us to attract a superb scholar and teacher—strengthening the department and accelerating the pace of its expansion. This professorship will also create more intellectual possibilities and pathways of study for our students in the classroom.”The professorship will be named in honor of Trustee Emerita Deborah Thomas ’75 in recognition of her distinguished career as a lecturer in Yale University’s Department of African American Studies, as an administrator at Yale, and of her service to Middlebury. As associate dean of the graduate school, she oversaw the administration of graduate education, the awarding of fellowships and grants, and the recruitment of underrepresented students. She also served as associate secretary of the university and assistant to the president. A high point of her career at Yale was her work as a member of the Yale Corporation Fact-Finding Delegation to South Africa, which led to the establishment of new educational initiatives. Thomas served on the Middlebury Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2019, chairing the College Board of Advisors and the Educational Affairs Committee during her tenure as a trustee.“Because of my work on Envisioning Middlebury, we knew that a professorship in Black Studies was an immediate and critical need,” Truscott says. “Endowing the professorship enabled us to meet that need and to honor a remarkable alumna we had come to know as a dear friend. Deborah’s keen understanding of higher education, her perspective as an alumna and Yale administrator, and her skills in critical thinking and analysis made her an exceptional board member. Her kindness and generosity make her an exceptional friend. We are so pleased that she will be recognized through this chair.”Investing in StudentsTed ’83 and Kathy O’Connor Truscott ’83The Truscotts’ $5 million gift for financial aid will preserve and strengthen need-blind admissions for domestic students at the College and provide support for students in graduate programs. A significant portion of the gift will be used to inspire other donors to support financial aid through matching gifts.“From our own experiences, we know that the opportunity to attend Middlebury can change the arc of students’ lives,” Truscott says. “We want to ensure that financial circumstances are not a barrier to attendance. That’s critical for individual students and because of the contributions Middlebury students will make in their communities, locally and globally.“Middlebury is a private institution, but we’re also a public good,” he notes. “And a public good should be accessible to all. We hope others will join us in creating opportunities for today’s and tomorrow’s young people.”The third component of the gift is to the Annual Fund, which provides immediate and flexible dollars to fund the people and programs that make Middlebury exceptional. Annual Fund gifts fund new initiatives that accelerate the pace of progress and maintain the institution’s entrepreneurial culture. They are an essential complement to the endowment.A History of Leadership and PhilanthropySince graduating from Middlebury, the Truscotts have been consistent and generous donors and volunteers. They had previously established two professorships, one in 2002, the other in 2007. The first, in the Chinese Department, honors Professor Emeritus John Berninghausen. An East Asian studies major, Ted wanted to recognize Professor Berninghausen for “his commitment to excellent teaching, his ability to expand the mind, and his courage in establishing a Chinese language program at Middlebury College.” The second, in environmental studies, honors Professor Emeritus John Elder, acknowledging the significance of the intersection of humanities and environmental studies.By working with the Office of Advancement staff and their own financial planners, the Truscotts were able to structure their recent commitment as cash and a charitable lead trust, resulting in a gift larger than they had originally thought possible. “The idea of combining an outright gift with a charitable lead trust accomplished multiple goals, including advancing several institutional priorities that are important to us,” Truscott says.While an undergraduate, Ted Truscott attended the Chinese School and went on to earn an MBA at New York University. He is CEO of Columbia Threadneedle Investments, a leading global-asset manager.Kathy Truscott majored in economics at Middlebury and attended both the Spanish School and the Schools Abroad in Madrid. Before her retirement, she was vice president and co-owner of Abbot Cards Company, a mail-order greeting card company. She serves on the board of trustees of Plummer Youth Promise.

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