CCI and CCE move to new locations in Kitchel and Blinn Lane

By Ben Wagner

Florence Wu
The CCI’s new office is on the edge of campus, about four-minute walk from Davis Family Library. The CCE is located behind Ross on the way to the Knoll.The Center for Careers and Internships (CCI) and Center for Community Engagement (CCE) have moved to new offices in Kitchel House and 26 Blinn Lane, respectively.

Adirondack House and DKE, where the CCI and CCE were previously housed, were converted to student housing in fall 2020 to spread students out and accommodate additional on-campus students due to the cancelation of study abroad programs. Staff in both offices spent much of the year working remotely, with some on-campus meetings. 

With record enrollment this fall, the college kept converted houses as residential spaces and moved the CCE, CCI and Innovation Hub to new locations. According to the CCI’s Executive Director Peggy Burns, every non-academic department based in a house has shifted locations. 

The CCI — the largest of the three — moved to Kitchel because it was the largest available location. The CCE and the Innovation Hub are now both located on Blinn Lane, in houses that had previously served as Commons Head houses. The Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life also moved from its house next to the admissions office to 46 South Street. 

Compared to Adirondack House, Kitchel has limited space and is less connected to campus. 

“We had spent four or five years, you know, really cultivating our brand [at the Adirondack House],” Burns said. “Moving to Kitchel House was a net loss of 11 spaces.”

The change has required some creative thinking, such as shared offices, shifting some artistic career advising to the Mahaney Arts Center and using the Twilight Auditorium as a meeting space for larger CCI events.

It has been a challenge, but according to Burns, the staff has been able to adapt. 

Health professions and science advisors also moved out of the CCI and joined the Center for Teaching, Learning and Research (CTLR). 

“That was a strategic decision,” Burns said, “feeling that it aligned better with professional advising. That actually was the model maybe eight years ago.”

Last year, the CCI was temporarily located within the 75 Shannon Street building — an undesirable location due to its lack of ideal space for individual meetings, which have long been a hallmark of CCI’s work.

“It was a decision made in the throes of Covid and where decisions were being made quickly,” Burns said.

The home of CCI for thirty years was the Adirondack House, a space that felt cozy and comforting to Burns and her staff. For Burns, it was “the student byway where [she] got to see all of the fun stuff that was happening.” 

Kitchel house, located across from Twilight Hall, is on the periphery of campus. Despite this, Ursula Olender, director of career advising and employer relations at the CCI, said that more students have been in the area than she expected. Burns and Olender both noted that Kitchel house is not as far from most campus buildings as it may seem — a mere four-minute walk from the Davis Library, according to Google Maps — they emphasized their commitment and willingness to adapt programming to meet the needs of students.

Olender said that if requested, peer and staff advisers could meet with students at other locations on campus. Peer advisors already hold evening quick questions hours in the Anderson Freeman Center and virtually. According to Olender, student consultations and visits with the CCI are similar to fall 2019 levels.

Students who do find themselves at Kitchel House are on the edge of town, which the center is leveraging to foster engagement between students and the town of Middlebury. In an ideal world, Burns said, students would stop by the CCI on their way to and from engaging with the people and economy of Middlebury.

Virtual engagement has also been a part of the CCI’s toolbelt for many years, making their services accessible to students studying abroad even before the pandemic. Burns said virtual meetings can be useful for students to hone their communication skills on-camera.

Olender also said that while virtual visits worked, CCI staff prefers — especially for first consultations — to meet with students face-to-face.

“We’d love to meet students in person, and we also think it kind of contributes to their abilities to articulate their goals,” said Olender. “In-person contact has been very important to students, who for so long could only interact with advisors and mentors online.”

While Kitchell House initially felt new, according to Olender, the paint color is slowly growing on everyone. And old traditions like the CCI’s annual cider and doughnuts — happening Oct. 7 on the Kitchel House lawn at 3:30 p.m. — have made the trip to the center’s new home.