The Middlebury Campus

MiddCORE Expands to Summer Program

By Anna Chamby

This fall, the College announced the launch of MiddCORE Immersion, a new summer leadership and innovation program to be based at Sierra Nevada College (SNC). MiddCore Immersion, which will closely resemble the College’s existing winter term MiddCORE course and curriculum, will run its inaugural month-long session from June 17 to July 12 of summer 2013.

MiddCORE, which first started as an intensive winter term class five years ago, aims to build leadership, communication and entrepreneurial skills and insights to create opportunities and expand networks for its students.

MiddCORE is part of the Project on Creativity and Innovation in the Liberal Arts (PCI) at the College, which seeks to develop productive environments on campus in which students can exercise creativity, innovation and risk-taking. Over the past five years, PCI has grown significantly in its number of programs, and the scaling up of MiddCORE to include a summer program is the most recent development in a growing portfolio of PCI initiatives.

Under Jessica Holmes, the current MiddCORE director and associate professor of economics, the MiddCORE program has expanded over the past year to include a paid summer academic internship at the College, a semester-long workshop series on campus, and an additional winter term course at the Monterey Institute for International Studies.

In summer 2013, MiddCORE Immersion will run its inaugural four-week program at Sierra Nevada College, located near Lake Tahoe in Incline Village, Nevada. The course, which will cost $9,500 per student, is open to current students and recent graduates of any college or university, with an enrollment limit of 60. According to Holmes, applications will be reviewed by members of the MiddCORE staff, and applicants will be assessed based on indicated creativity, drive and ingenuity that is demonstrated through recommendation letters, written responses to “rather unconventional essay questions” that accompany the application and students’ transcripts.

“The stars were aligned to consider a [MiddCORE] expansion,” wrote Holmes in an email. “First, after fielding calls from several other institutions interested in establishing a MiddCORE program on their campus, it quickly became apparent that we had a unique niche and an enviable program.”

Sierra Nevada College was identified by MiddCORE’s CFO Patrick Norton as an ideal establishment for the summer program, and was selected because of its small size, picturesque setting and its west coast location, which allows for a new network of possible mentors who would perhaps be unable to travel to Vermont for the winter term course.

In its mission to cultivate future leaders and innovators, MiddCORE relies heavily on its mentors — a group of carefully chosen individuals that includes CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, artists, actors, political leaders and doctors — who have a proven record of accomplishment in their fields and are willing to help students develop strengths in leadership and innovation.

“I would love to see more faculty and staff get involved in MiddCORE,” Holmes wrote. “The only prerequisite is a strong willingness to engage with students and an appreciation for the importance of developing strengths in leadership and innovation.”

The decision to expand the MiddCORE program and make it available to non-Middlebury students was made without consulting most members of the faculty. The Faculty Council, which includes the Educational Affairs Committee that oversees the general direction of the college curriculum, did not play a role in the creation of the new summer immersion course, and its members were purportedly unaware of the launch until the College’s press release.

“Speaking personally … I see the merit in making the theory-praxis connection systematically,” Sujata Moorti, secretary of the Faculty Council and professor of women’s and gender studies, said of the program. “However, as Middlebury sets up credit-granting programs, we as a community need to discuss what this means for our understanding of a liberal arts education.”

The decision to create a summer MiddCORE program stemmed from the recognition that the time-intensive nature of the College’s winter term course may have prevented some students from taking the class. Also, aside from attracting additional students from the College, the CORE team hopes that the summer program will draw a diverse group of highly motivated students from around the world.

Ernie Parizeau, a six-year winter term MiddCORE mentor, former venture capitalist and current Babson professor who will be one of the Immersion mentors this summer, sees benefits to students in the expansion of the program.

“Expanding the program to Sierra Nevada College on Lake Tahoe seems like a great opportunity to me,” wrote Parizeau in an email. “It is close to west coast mentors in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Mentors from the west coast could open doors for students interested in careers in fields with significant west coast presence like technology or entertainment.  Further, opening the program to students outside Middlebury offers a great opportunity for cross-fertilization and networking.”

Emma Kitchen ’14, a winter term 2012 MiddCORE student agreed that inviting non-Middlebury participants to apply to MiddCORE Immersion will bring benefits to the program. Kitchen also founded Concussions Speak, a website for athletes to share their concussion stories to raise awareness about athletic injuries, after first pitching the idea to her MiddCORE peers.

“I think [the new program] will be a great way for MiddCORE to attract more students that want to make use of their summer … [and] a great way for the students to utilize a whole new set of awesome resources out on the west coast,” wrote in an email. “Taking MiddCORE was the best decision I’ve made at Middlebury.”

Holmes and the CORE team have discussed several possibilities for further future expansion, but also acknowledge the rapidity of recent developments and the program’s current limits.

“We have [had] tremendous growth for 2012,” wrote Holmes. “That said, with additional donor funding, I can imagine expanding the MiddCOREplus internship program to more students and multiple cities, but the real constraint there is funding.”

While the program has some competition in the Dartmouth Business Bridge Program at Tuck and the BASE program at Berkeley College, MiddCORE Immersion seeks to fill an untapped niche in the market for college-level summer programs. “

MiddCORE is different in several ways [from its competitors],” said Parizeau. “It makes great use of experienced mentors from businesses, non-profits, government and various other non-academic institutions.  It focuses the learning on highly immersive, experiential exercises that drive learning by doing.”

MiddCORE Immersion at SNC is accepting applications for its 2013 course through a rolling admissions process.

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