Envisioning Middlebury Moves Forward

Provost+Susan+Baldridge

Middlebury College

Provost Susan Baldridge

By KYLE NAUGHTON

The Envisioning Middlebury program is currently entering its second year of implementation, and both student groups and administrators feel optimistic about the initiative’s future.

“The Envisioning Middlebury initiative is both bold and comprehensive,” said Rae Aaron ’19.5, Speaker of the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate. “[It] forces members of our community to ask ourselves forward-looking questions that expand our day-to-day outlook.”

President Laurie L. Patton initially announced her “Envisioning Middlebury” plan in March 2016, describing it as a way to address institutional issues and reassert communal values over the coming two years. President Patton intended to use this process as a mechanism to define questions regarding Middlebury’s identity, its principles, and the direction it will take moving forward.

“The goal,” Provost Susan Baldridge said, “was a nimble, inclusive, and forward-looking process, leading to a visionary and strategic foundation that is informed by our values and traditions, and can serve as a means of guiding, aligning and prioritizing the future.”

The administration established a steering committee and an advisory committee to gain communal feedback and incorporate a wide variety of constituencies, hoping to draft an inclusive and relevant strategic framework on how Middlebury should proceed. These organizations held a variety of surveys and facilitated conversations to address particular concerns or ideas on campus, ultimately garnering the participation of over two thousand community members.

In May 2017, the steering committee introduced its first draft strategic framework to the board of trustees, revealing the plan to the Middlebury community over the course of multiple open meetings later that spring and during summer.

“This draft framework,” Baldridge said, “[included] an institutional mission statement, a vision statement, a set of distinctions reflecting current strengths that Middlebury can build on, a set of broad strategic directions that will help guide our setting of priorities for the next three-five years, and a set of principles that describe how we will work together.”

In regard to the efficacy of Envisioning Middlebury during its first year of implementation, the administration feels particularly proud of the communal support and participation the program has garnered thus far.

“We hoped that we would engage as many members of the community as possible, over the course of a year-long conversation,” Baldridge said. “That conversation took place in every Middlebury location, in every program, with every constituency, during the academic year and during the summer. Participation was impressive, and the conversation is continuing.”

Additionally, the administration believes the draft strategic framework effectively encompasses specific goals and principles while still remaining broad enough to facilitate communal adaptation and change moving forward.

“President Patton asked us to create a new kind of strategic plan that could guide us through the complicated times we live in,” Baldridge said, “[one] that is not overly prescriptive about specific outcomes, but that acknowledges Middlebury’s distinctiveness, articulates the principles we need to follow, and sets forth how we need to adapt and grow into the future. The draft strategic framework fits nicely on one page, but contains within its broad concepts many possibilities for our diverse community to realize our collective and individual aspirations.”

Looking forward into the upcoming academic year, the administration would like to shift Envisioning Middlebury’s focus from holding a surplus of events and conversations to the realistic implementation of the strategic framework.

“As we pursue the strategic directions,” Baldridge said, “we will be looking for ideas for bold new initiatives, but we will also want to give individuals and groups agency to imagine how they might apply the strategic directions and principles to reshaping their own work and the way they live in this community. The next phase will focus less on public events and conversations, and more on how we can integrate the strategic directions into what we do, and how we can communicate effectively with each other about the intentional choices we make as we set priorities for the future.”

Members of the student body similarly hope that Middlebury will successfully incorporate the strategic framework throughout the coming months.

“Envisioning Middlebury has sought to bring together members of our community to discuss our identity and direction as an institution.” Co-Chair of Community Council Kyle Wright ’19.5 said. “I believe that the institution has made a very necessary step in creating a campus environment in which coalition and inclusive exchanges of ideas can prosper and influence the way we look at ourselves as a community.”

“Specifically through the Envisioning Middlebury conversations,” Aaron said, “I’m optimistic that different communities within the College will take advantage of the chance to contribute long-term changes and improvements.”

“I hope [Envisioning Middlebury’s] conversations can continue moving forward beyond the completion of Envisioning Middlebury,” SGA President Jin Sohn ’18, “specifically in the implementation stage. I am excited to see the final draft of the strategic framework next week!”

The final draft of Envisioning Middlebury’s strategic platform will be discussed in a series of open meetings held on September 26 at 4:30 p.m. in McCardell Bicentennial Hall and September 27 at 7:30 a.m. in Wilson Hall, both of which will be live-streamed. This final draft will then be presented to the board of trustees for approval during the October board meeting.