New outdoor spaces and student events are in store this spring

By Charlie Keohane

Tim Parsons
New outdoor options will include fire pits and an ice rink near McCullough Student Center.

Facilities staff constructed 25 new fire pits near McCullough Student Center and on Battell Beach as part of an effort to set up new outdoor spaces and plan pandemic-safe social events for students. Nine heated tents have also been put up around campus. Among them are two larger capacity 5,000-square-foot tents, according to Associate Director of Facilities Services Luther Tenny.

“We hope to create a warm, welcome environment and encourage students to spend time outside in the Covid era,” Tenny said. 

Amanda Reinhardt, director of student activities, has been planning various new events for students. The Student Activities Office (SAO) is primarily focusing on providing students with entertainment during the first six weeks of the spring semester. 

“I think the first six weeks will be the most difficult time for students, with the weather and adjusting back to congregate living,” Reinhardt said.

Reinhardt noted that the SAO has approached event-planning with two things in mind: offering a wide array of activities and providing opportunities to have fun amid pandemic-induced stress.

“Everyone has different interests, and there’s different things they’re looking for, so we’re trying to have a diverse offering so people can step in and out. There might not be something for everyone but we hope there is,” she said.

Students can expect activities such as painting projects, film festivals, salsa lessons, karaoke and game nights. According to Reinhardt, there will be a mix of one-time and recurring events, mainly hosted on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. She also anticipates more hybrid and in-person events.

“Last semester in the fall, it was just so new for everyone. I think we learned how to be on campus in a safe way and that we can do it,” Reinhardt said. “Now that we know how to do it safely, let’s make it more fun.”

Trishabelle Manzano, Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) president, also acknowledged the importance of social interactions. 

“We’re pushing for more hybrid, in-person events to help with Zoom fatigue and also for that social aspect that a lot of students have been craving,” she said.

Much of the programming is built to be flexible so that, depending on Covid-19 conditions on campus, it can be moved online if necessary. Other activities involve supplies like painting kits, Legos and plants that can be delivered to student rooms.

Courtesy Photo
On-campus students will be able to take advantage of nine new heated tents, including some as large at 5,000 square feet.

Reinhardt and Tenny also want students to enjoy the winter weather safely. 

“We are hoping to use the physical landscape to our advantage,” Reinhardt said.

The SAO has organized about 40 pairs of skis and snowshoes, as well as about 20 tubes for students to use. The Kirk Alumni Center is being converted into a space where students can rent gear and use the golf course to learn how to ski.

“We’ve been having beautiful weather here,” Tenny said. “I hope it stays; there is great snow on the ground.” 

The SAO is also rolling out a new program called “The First 50 Days” to help first-year students and Febs acclimate to Middlebury. Students will meet in small groups to learn about campus resources and make new friends. 

Both MCAB and the SAO will be partnering with other student organizations to provide more events. 

“We’re pretty much ready to hit the ground running,” Manzano said. “We’re super excited with the events we currently have in store.”

Reinhardt is also feeling optimistic about the spring and hopes that students will continue to follow the Covid-19 safety protocols that made the fall semester a success.

“I do think it will be a different semester,” Reinhardt said. “It will still have its challenges, and I think as a community, what we saw in the fall is that we do really care about each other.”