Embracing the Future of the Liberal Arts: Sarah James and Winson Law


Innovation. Social entrepreneurship. Experiential learning. Collaboration. Leadership. These are the buzzwords that educators and students are throwing around college campuses right now. As small liberal arts schools confront the challenges and opportunities that the 21st century, these are the concepts that are increasingly forming higher education’s response. Middlebury is at the forefront of this movement to explore and launch new educational initiatives, with a myriad of programs falling under the umbrella of the College’s roject on Creativity and Innovation. But sometimes all these ideas and concepts seem abstract and amorphous: how do they actually take shape? How are they put into practice? How are students growing as learners and leaders?

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Enter Sarah James ’16.5 and Winson Law ’16. Sarah and Winson are embodiments of a new, engaged kind of learner. They have embraced the exciting and dynamic exploration occurring in education today. They have plunged into the opportunities Middlebury offers to put the so-called “buzzwords” of education into real and meaningful practice. Continue reading

S’mores and Spooky Stories: A Halloween MiddCORE Reunion

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The night was strangely warm for late October. Gusts of wind shook the last remaining leaves from the skeletal trees. The whole atmosphere seemed unsettled and unpredictable. Out of the darkness, the MiddCORE house glowed like a jack-o’-lantern, and flames danced in the old fireplace. You could not have asked for a better night or a better place for Halloween stories. Continue reading

Catching up with MiddCORE Alumna Elyse Barnard

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Three months after MiddCORE Sierra Nevada wrapped up, we got in touch with alumna Elyse Barnard to hear how her Innovation Challenge is progressing. Elyse is one of handful of MiddCORE students who chose to continue pursuing their Innovation Challenges into the academic year. She has currently obtained a provisional patent for her product, a dental device that protects the mouth from the sharp wires that are part of braces and cause pain and scarring. The process of taking an abstract idea and making it into a tangible reality has been a complex and eye opening one, and there’s still a ways to go. But as Elyse, with her characteristic optimism and enthusiasm, said, “I am learning as I go along, and that is such a valuable process.”

Here, Elyse reflects on her time at Sierra Nevada, updates us on the progress of her Innovation Challenge, and articulates the impact MiddCORE has had on how she thinks about her future. Continue reading

Giving Voice to Values

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Ethics is typically taught through:

1.  Awareness

2.  Analysis – how to think rigorously about ethics and values and how to apply specific theories to conflicts.

Mary Gentille’s Giving Voice to Values (GVV) adds a a third component:

3.  Action Continue reading

Jonathan Miller-Lane on MiddCORE

“Education is intelligently directed development of the possibilities inherent in ordinary experience….and that, I think, is really what’s happening at MiddCORE…”

As one of the MiddCORE Facilitators this summer, Jonathan Miller-Lane has been able to get a bird’s eye view of all that has happened for his students throughout the MiddCORE program.  Watch the video above to hear his full thoughts on pedagogy and the MiddCORE program.  Segments of his reflection can be read below. Continue reading

Before I came to MiddCORE I thought…

We’re now at the halfway point of the MiddCORE  journey!  See what students are saying about what they thought MiddCORE was going to be like before they arrived and what they now realize MiddCORE is…

“Before I came to MiddCORE, I thought it would be a one month ab workout.  Now that I am here, I think that it is a one month brain workout.”

“When I first came to MiddCORE, I thought it would be more business – oriented.  Now, I know there are much more important skills learned.”

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“When I first came to MiddCORE I thought that it was going to be more independent now I realize it is about collaboration.”

“When I first came to MiddCORE I didn’t think that I was going to work so closely with mentors, now i’m really enjoying working with mentors on a daily basis.”

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“When I came to MiddCORE I thought it was only about our own leadership, now that I’m here I’ve learned a lot about working with others.”


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Reflections About the MiddCORE Journey

An update from Team Northstar Facilitator, Jonathan Miller-Lane:

We are midway through week two of MiddCORE SNC, Summer 2013. Team Northstar is thick in the work of moving from “themes, to insights, to platforms” as we develop strategies for a national campaign to raise awareness about, and affirm the importance of, First Generation college students.  Chastity Lord, Chief External Officer of Achievement First, who delivered the First Generation challenge during Week One, is now here with us to shepherd students through week two and to our final presentations on Friday morning. Blake Glenn from What If! Innovations has played a key role over the past five days in unraveling the creative process.  Rather than relying on the limited practice of ‘brainstorming,’ Blake has challenged students to develop a much deeper and intellectual understanding of how to move from impulsive reactions to a question, to a rich and nuanced process of data collection, analysis and synthesis.  Not surprisingly, the young men and women of MiddCORE have responded with marvelous creativity and the kind of energy that only 20 somethings can muster!!

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Marc Randolph, co-founder of Netflix and Start-Up Consultant is back with us this week, reviewing students’ individual innovations and offering both critique and inspiration.  Dr. Helen Reiss from Harvard Medical School presented a lecture on the neuroscience of empathy and its relevance to effective group dynamics. EJ Bartlett from Middlebury MiddCORE led students through a Tuesday morning session on how to represent abstract ideas into concrete images and forms.  Once again, like all mentor presentations, EJ’s emphasis was on becoming more conscious, aware and explicit in one’s expressions of ideas and meanings.  Tuesday afternoon, Chastity Lord and Blake Glenn will offer an initial review of team Northstar’s group work to date—examining how students have responded to all the advice and ideas they have heard!

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Evening sessions for the remainder of this week will focus on Financial Literacy and Investment.  In addition, we will continue to work on Communications Strategies with Ben LaBolt and how to conduct more effective research with John Hedden. Our days are full, challenging and inspiring!

-Jonathan Miller-Lane, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Education, Middlebury College
Team Northstar Facilitator

Life is Good Super Powers Challenge


Sometimes we forget that life is good.

After only a weekend to embody the Life is good super powers of WISDOM, COURAGE, FUN, SIMPLICITY, AUTHENTICITY, CREATIVITY, COMPASSION, GRATITUDE, HUMOR AND LOVE students illustrated how life is good to mentor Roy Heffernan, Chief Operating Optimist of Life is good.



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