Category Archives: News

Changing Times: Multi-School Coalition and Alumni Mobilization Advance Divestment Movement

17204_1548782685402995_3617527780239181061_nStudents around the world are rising and we will no longer accept silence. Today, the Investure Schools Coalition for Fossil Fuel Divestment sent a letter to each of our colleges’ presidents requesting a meeting between administrators and representatives from our divestment campaigns. We are sending this letter in conjunction with the National Alumni Escalation for Fossil Fuel Divestment and are requesting that our presidents respond by the culmination of Harvard Heat Week for Fossil Fuel Divestment on April 17th.

Logistics of a Commingled Fund:

The Investure Schools Coalition consists of the divestment campaigns from Barnard College in New York, Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, Middlebury College in Vermont, and Smith College in Massachusetts. All of our colleges endowments are managed by an investment firm called Investure, LLC, and students at all of our colleges are working to divest our endowments from fossil fuels. We are in a unique position because our endowments are mixed in a co-mingled fund along with a total of 13 other institutions, which means that our money is treated as single pool and individual schools have very limited control over how the money is invested.

In 2010, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund –previously a client of Investure–and Middlebury College worked with Investure to create the Sustainable Investments Initiative, an alternative pool of sustainable investments within Investure. Both institutions contributed money to the pool, but the structure did not allow for full divestment. After attempts to negotiate full divestment, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund left Investure on September 22, 2014 to divest their $843 million endowment through a different investment firm. Investure’s unwillingness to negotiate divestment with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund showed us that coming to the table as individual clients would not be likely to succeed.  Our circumstances made it essential for us to work together and to pursue divestment as a united coalition.

This coalition was founded out of necessity, but from it has grown a commitment to support each other through the divestment process and the opportunity to leverage our collective voice to amplify our unified message .  We believe in the power of unity, and are coordinating with our faculty and alumni to add their voices to call for divestment.

Alumni Support for this Shift:

This week alumni are returning to their respective institutions in droves to sign divestment petitions and the “Long Haul Organizing Pledge,” engineered by the new Alumni Divestment Network. In addition, alumni groups have established escrow funds in which they can provide donations that will only be made accessible to their respective institutions when divestment is completed. These actions attest to the dedication and endurance of alumni in the divestment movement. Zach Drennen, Middlebury class of 2013 writes,  “In a time when money is legally considered speech, continuing to put our money in fossil fuel companies means stating clearly that we do not take climate change seriously. Middlebury rightly values its image as an environmental leader, and it is past time for its actions to meet that image.”

Through our organizing efforts, we have seen the power of unity within the climate justice movement, and we are dedicated to standing in solidarity with divestment campaigns across the country and world. We are not alone in this. Other divestment campaigns, have formed coalitions to support each other, including the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network and the Ivy League Fossil Fuel Divestment Coalition.

Our Goals:

As students unite in the call for divestment, our colleges cannot continue business as usual any longer. It is time to take action, and we hope that our coalition will help bring students and administrators together and harness our full potential to to make material changes for a sustainable future. As we continue our efforts we will stand in solidarity with our fellow students and adhere to our guiding principles:We believe that climate change is a threat to the livelihood of current and future generations. We believe the assumption that fossil fuels are a necessary part of a stable investment portfolio is outdated and false. We believe that our colleges’ should see the sustainability of our planet as integral to our academic and future success; for our future and the future of the planet are one and the same.

We hope to begin an open dialogue with administrators to create a mutually agreed upon strategy for divestment. Colleges and institutions are divesting from fossil fuels across the world  and we are calling on our colleges to join the movement and be leaders in preserving the planet for their students.

Please support us by joining the student and alumni network at: or by writing letters to your college administration and postponing all donations to your alma mater until it has divested.

And signing each school’s Fossil Free petition:





Written by students Sophie Vaughan (Middlebury College) ’17 and Helen Cane (Barnard College) ’17

Graffiti Found at BiHall, Forest Lounge, CFA, and Munroe


graffiti 1

From an anonymous source:

While works of famous street artists appear on the institutional walls of the Middlebury College Museum of Arts, the street-side white and gray college buildings remain sterile. Last night graffiti appeared on several buildings all across the Middlebury campus. Most of it was erased hours within its discovery this morning. As anonymous commenters on “Yik Yak” denounce the “defacing of college property,” some may wonder why public outrage is not evoked with reaction to the daily killing of black and brown people by police.

The stencil of a riot police officer with the words “TOO MANY COPS/TOO LITTLE JUSTICE,” probably refers to the police shootings that have been protested nationally, most recently about the death of Tony Robinson on Friday night in Madison, Wisconsin.

The stencil appeared on Bihall next to a large sprayed drawing of a security camera and the words “NO CAMERAS,” which was cleaned up this afternoon.

Another stencil of a smiling rat in a suit appeared on various buildings with different phrases. On Warner, home of the Department of Economics, it appeared with the words “IF YOU WIN THE RAT RACE YOU’RE STILL A RAT.”

The same rat-figure appeared on the entrance to the gym with the words “RAT CAGE” and on a trash can at the entrance to the CFA with the sentence, “REPORT TO THE NEAREST ART COLLECTOR,” alongside the stencil of the riot cop.

This last piece seems to call attention to the double standard with respect to works of famous street artists from around the globe that still appears in the Middlebury College Museum of Art inside of the CFA.

Thoughts?  See below for more photos.

Continue reading

TODAY: Salafi Jihadism and the Arab Spring: The Tunisian Case

In early 2011, the Arab Spring was sparked with a vendor on the streets of Tunisia. Now, four years later, the aftermath of uprisings continues to unfold across the region. The dream of democratic government has faded and given way to the increasing power of insurgent Islamist factions. Come listen to Dr. Kahlaoui discuss his first-hand experience with these salafi groups in Tunisia. More on the lecture here:

Dr. Kahlaoui is the Director General of the Tunisian Institute for Strategic Studies (ITES), Tunisia’s foremost think tank on political, economic, and environmental matters.  Responding to the unexpectedly large number of Tunisians who have joined ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliated organizations in the Levant and North Africa, the ITES under Dr. Kahlaoui’s guidance has recently published a report that tracks the upsurge in salafi jihadi recruitment in Tunisia, and suggests countermeasures.  Based on fieldwork and interviews with Tunisian salafi jihadists, the ITES’ report provides firsthand documentation of a phenomenon that until now, has largely unfolded outside of the public view.  Dr. Kahlaoui will speak about the report’s findings and place it within the social and political contexts of post-revolutionary Tunisia.  In addition to his work at ITES, Dr. Kahlaoui is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Art at Rutgers University.

Date: Today, February 26th
Time: 4:30 pm
Place: Axinn 219
Cost: Free

StartupGrid Goes Live! The Student-Run J-term Internship You Definitely Want to Learn About Launches This Thursday

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.51.52 PM

Whether or not you heard about the ambitious yet, until now, fairly ambiguous student-lead on-campus J-term internship “StartupGrid,” it’s definitely time you get in the know. At Middlebury, we’re creative thinkers. We’re do-ers. We thrive off creation, innovation, and problem solving. And if any J-term project embodies this entrepreneurial drive, it’s StartupGrid. For four weeks this January, 25 students of diverse academic backgrounds banded together under the leadership of Jake Vacovec ’15 and Ty Danco ’77 (a tremendously successful venture capitalist) to create, an an early stage online resource providing advice, expertise, and instruction from top thought leaders in the startup and venture capital industries. StartupGrid self-defines with the following statement:

“Starting a company is hard – finding the right advice shouldn’t be. At StartupGrid, we connect you with specialized knowledge from seasoned entrepreneurs, so you can start bridging the gap between struggles and success today.”

As a member of the StartupGrid media team, I can confidently assert this project is pretty damn cool. And successful. After conducting 30+ interviews, collecting 50 hours of filmed interviews with top thought leaders in the startup and venture capital industries, and curating over 1800 multimedia articles, the StartupGrid team has created a one-stop resource for entrepreneurs looking for the right answers, accessible here.

To celebrate our team’s success, we’re hosting the StartupGrid Demo Day, aka the site’s official unveiling, this Thursday, February 18 at 5pm in Axinn 232. We strongly encourage any and all students, faculty and staff to come check out the awesome startup 25 Middlebury students built on-campus this J-Term, featuring a live StartupGrid interview with Pier LaFarge, Midd alum & CEO of SparkFund.

And, to get the celebration really going, the StartupGrid team invites everyone to join us for a reception with free food and drinks, including top-notch alcoholic beverages (of the 21+ variety for valid ID holders) in the Axinn Abernathy Room. The future of StartupGrid is bright – so please come see what we’ve done, how we did it, and our plans for the future. This night of innovative experiential learning, and the best craft beer Vermont has to offer (Heady Topper, y’all), is not to miss.

The whole idea of an online resource providing seemingly infinite startup entrepreneurial advice is intriguing to say the least, but the whole “internship” process is a little vague. So, to give you a sense of the StartupGrid leadership, team work, short and long term goals, and day-to-day work these 25 students engaged in, middbeat’s conducted an informational interview with StartupGrid co-founder and project manager, Jake Vacovec ’15So, without further ado, read up, and show up this Thursday at 5pm in Axinn 232.

MB: So, what is Startup Grid anyways?

JVSimply put, is an easily accessible website where you can find startup advice. It’s a collection of blog posts, videos, and interviews from thought leaders in the startup and venture capital industries. Our main goal is to curate the best startup media into a navigable website, a project which, until now, has not been done.

Entrepreneurship is on the rise, making startup advice more relevant than ever. But though demand for startup advice is fervent, such advice is largely disorganized and inconsistent in quality. So, rather than leave it to a time-starved entrepreneur to navigate the noisy world of startup advice, the StartupGrid team has taken on this challenge with great success. What sets StartupGrid apart is our library of exclusive interviews with 40+ entrepreneurship thought leaders providing the inside scoop on hot companies like Ello, IrisVR and Bridj.

MB: Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get involved, and how did the idea for this project develop?

JVMy name is Jake Vacovec, I am a senior economics major and I am one of the Co-Founders of StartupGrid. When I graduate in May I will be working in Manhattan at a FinTech startup called Behalf. After working at Behalf last summer as an intern, I got a taste of the startup world and was immediately hooked. My ambition to start my own venture carried me through a network of Midd Alumni. Eventually, I was introduced to a member of the Board of Trustees, Rick Scanlon, who started a VC/PE firm, Marker LLC. Rick then introduced me to one of his employees, a recent Midd grad, Brian Foster. Brian worked with Ty Danco, a tremendously successful venture capitalist and also a Middlebury alumnus, while enrolled at Middlebury and for a brief stint before joining Marker LLC. Brian offered to introduce me to Ty, and after working with Ty for a few weeks we had outlined what would soon become StartupGrid. All we needed was a team to bring it together.

MB: At the beginning of J-term, what were your goals for StartupGrid? How did you go about preparing to accomplish those goals?

JVI spend the entire first semester working on developing all the operations and processes for StartupGrid in order to accomplish our high-level goal – a useful website. After recruiting 25 talented, diverse students, I was hopeful that the semester would be a huge success, but also feared it could crash and burn given the limited time we had. We were essentially a case study for future projects of this caliber and I knew we would be under a microscope. It was a lot of pressure, so my main goal was to clearly define role expectations and have a strong process in place. Ultimately, I wanted to end J-Term with a tangible product that everyone involved was proud of and the larger community of entrepreneurs and “want-repreneurs” could benefit from.

MB: Who composes the StartupGrid “team?” How did you assemble this team and what demographics do they represent?

JV: The StartupGrid team is comprised of 25 exceptionally talented Middlebury students, all of which are either juniors, seniors, or were super senior Febs. The best part about the team was that it was truly an interdisciplinary group of students. We had majors ranging from English to Computer Science. The founding team was divided into five sub-teams: (1) Product & Project Management (2) Programming & Design (3) VC Research (4) Film (5) Social Media Strategy. Each member was put onto a team, but the group quickly learned that at a startup, it’s all hands on deck. Everyone did their jobs but also developed skills beyond their expected function.

MB: Over J-term, what did your day-to-day, week-to-week schedule look like? How did the StartupGrid team go about building the site and accomplishing their goals?


JV: Every week the team met 5 times for 2-hour period. Each meeting had a different purpose, some were to review the weekly goals, others to relax and enjoy a beer. My favorite meetings were our Wednesday night meetings – the Heady Topper brainstorm sessions. Before every Wednesday meeting I would drive up to Williston to pick up a case or two of Heady Toppers and buy a couple pizzas from Nino’s on my way back. These meetings were where we fostered our cohesive, collaborative team culture. We were able to accomplish our goals, and had a good deal of fun doing so.

The programming and design team assigned themselves weekly sprints and standups, for which we would define the goals for the week and each member would ‘standup’ and explain what they had accomplished the previous week. Every Friday Ty would come to campus and meet with each team over the course of 5-6 hours, which was an incredibly educative experience. We also benefited from advisement from Adam Bouchard, CEO of Agilion Apps. On two occasions, Adam invited us to his cottage off Route 7 and helped us define our product market fit using a lean vision exercise.

MB: Tell us a bit more about Ty Danco. What’s he all about?

JV: First off, this project would not have been possible without Ty. I was beyond fortunate to meet Ty and spend the past 6 months working with him and learning from his entrepreneurial expertise. Ty is one of the most passionate people I know, and is constantly overflowing with ideas; he epitomizes entrepreneurship. Ty has had a full career and I’m probably doing an injustice to him by only highlighting a few tidbits. After graduating from Middlebury in 1977, Ty became a two time Olympic athlete (casual, right?) before beginning his career in finance. Later, he founded a startup that was acquired by CalPERS. He is an angel investor and also works as a Director for the accelerator, Techstars.

MB: So, how’d it turn out? Did you accomplish what you aimed to? 

JV: To be blunt, the StartupGrid project turned out fantastically. It’s not easy to pull together 25 students and give them 25 days to build a legitimate startup. In truth, we have collected more data than we know what to do with, which is exciting because the room for growth is exponential.

To date we have curated over 1800 multimedia articles, conducted interviews with 40 experts and amassed over 50 hours of film. All of this content has been fully integrated into The real accomplishment was the duality of this educational experience. We studied theoretical learning through research, curating, and interviewing as well as experiential learning through the creation of a legitimate startup. This experience was like none other at Middlebury and gave us a taste of what it would be like to work for a startup.

MB: What do you hope for the future of StartupGrid?


JV: StartupGrid needs to be polished up a bit, but it’s future really depends on how we decide to pivot from here. We could make it an open source resource for the entrepreneurship community to add to, similar to a company like Wikipedia. Or we could make it a University package, where other schools sign on and build off of our platform – providing students with a theoretical and experiential learning opportunity. For the next few months its activity will flat line but once we decide our growth strategy it will pick back up. Some of the members, including myself, will be working on this for the rest of the year and even years to come. I see it as a great side project where I will eventually transfer into an advisement position.

MB: Do you think StartupGrid will ultimately be profitable, and if so how?


JVOur main focus is to create a website that benefits our audience before we begin to consider how to make a buck off it. I guess it also depends on what you consider profitable, any website can be profitable through ads but another way to think about ‘profit’ would be to amass a badass email list of users, which in some minds can be considered even more profitable. For me it is less about the money and more about the future benefits an experience like this offers. For now we are not focused on profitability, but the avenues to get there are certainly available.

MB: What skills have you gained through this process? What skills have the group members at large gained? Continue reading

Middlebrow Improv Comedy, TONIGHT

Middlebrow FALL 2014 #1 jp

The Middlebrow Society for Improvisational Comedy will be having their one and only show of J Term tonight in the Chateau Grand Salon at 10:30 PM.  The group will be performing long- and short-form improv and is looking to build up some momentum before going on their annual Feb Break Intercollegiate Tour.

Super senior Luke Smith-Stevens ‘14.5 will be performing with Middlebrow for the final time, and had the following to say, “It’s been a long journey.  I feel wiser on this end of it.  Being in Middlebrow was the best and worst thing that could’ve happened to me in college.”  Newest Middlebrow member Will Lupica ’18 says of Luke’s leadership in the group, “He’s like a father to me.  I really mean that.  He’s like a father.”  And Jackson Prince ’17, “He’s legally my father now.  I can show you the papers.”

After graduation, Luke will continue his work in comedy as a writer for SNL, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Mike and Molly, The Simpsons, Futurama, and the Turks and Cacaos Nightly News at 6.

Where: Chateau Grand Salon
When: 10:30 PM
Cost: none.

MAlt El Paso: Screening La Jaula de Oro

10888707_10152997836702232_3760776912483142334_nThis Saturday MALT El Paso will be screening La Jaula de Oro, a riveting film about teenage Guatemalan immigrants and their journey to the U.S. Tickets will be sold beforehand and at the event and will support MALT in its efforts to spread awareness of border and immigration issues through immersion trips.

You can buy your tickets at the event on a sliding scale from $5-$15. We appreciate anything you can donate to make our service education trip possible!

If you can’t make the event, but would like to support a migrant shelter in El Paso and our service/education trip, please donate here:

When: Saturday, January 17 6pm
Where: Twilight Auditorium

Tunisia after the “Arab Spring”: Can It Be a Model for Other Countries in the Arab World?

Mabrouka M’Barek

Mabrouka M’Barek

Tonight from 4:30 to 6 in the Robert A. Jones ‘59 Conference Room, member of Tunisia Constituent Assembly Mabrouka M’Barek will be giving her talk, “Tunisia after the ‘Arab Spring': Can It Be a Model for Other Countries in the Arab World?”.

M’Barek was born into a family originally from Bir Ali Ben Khalifa in the center of Tunisia, and studied law and economy in France. After moving to the US, she worked as an auditor specializing in financial control, risk management and fraud prevention, until she left the for-profit sector to dedicate her work to humanitarian NGOs and human rights-based civil societies in the Middle East. After the Tunisian revolution in 2011, she returned to Tunisia to join the Congress for the Republic and was elected to the constituent assembly.

If you are not in M’Barek’s Winter Term class titled “Writing the Tunisian Constitution: Process and Problematics.”, take advantage of this rare opportunity to hear a member of the Tunisia Constituent Assembly speak on the problems and potentials faced by Tunisia and the Arab World in the wake of The Arab Springs.

Date: Tuesday, November 18th (today)
Time: 4:30-6:00 p.m.
Place: Robert A. Jones ’59 Conference Room

Debate – Should U.S. Military Spending Be Drastically Cut?


The new campus club Debatable will be hosting a discussion regarding U.S. military spending on Saturday, November 15 at 5 PM in Crossroads August Hutchinson ‘16.5 writes in:

How dangerous is our world? How powerful is the U.S? Will spending cuts help the U.S, or make it, its allies, its interests, and the rest of the world intolerably endangered?  The U.S. military is an extremely powerful and influential entity whose presence and activities shape global affairs and individual lives, for better and for worse. Getting a better understanding of its impact on us, and on others, is essential. Come watch some of our debaters spar over these and other important questions!

The debaters arguing that military spending should not be drastically cut:

Ben Hawthorne ’17
Phil Hoxie ‘17.5

Those arguing that it should be drastically cut:

Rod Abhari ’15,
August Hutchinson ‘16.5

Those in attendance will be given an opportunity to grill the debaters during a Q&A portion of the debate. As for organizational involvement, I’d warmly welcome anyone who wants to get involved either in debates or our debate magazine (see the magazine tab of go/debatable).

When: Saturday, November 15 at 5 PM
Where: Crossroads
Cost: N/A

ISIS in Iraq: What Are Our Options?

Photo credit: CNN Online

Photo credit: CNN Online

Every day news is infiltrated with updates on ISIS, the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria, and our nation’s response to their actions, movements, and threats. Known for killing dozens of people at a time and carrying out public executions, crucifixions and other acts, ISIS has taken over large swaths of northern and western Iraq, and while many Middlebury students are highly educated about ISIS and American foreign policy in Iraq, many are aware of little more beyond the violence ISIS inflicts. Thus, the talk being held today, “ISIS in Iraq: What Are Our Options?” provides an invaluable educative opportunity for those already in the know, and those lagging a bit behind.

The lecture will be given by Joseph R. Núñez P’12, who completed a 30-year career in the U.S. Army in 2007, retiring as a Colonel. He also served as an Associate Professor of Comparative Politics in the Department of Social Sciences, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, and as a Professor of International Relations in the Department of National Security and Strategy, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Dr. Núñez recently completed an assignment with the Department of State as the Senior Economic Advisor for U.S. Consulate General Basrah in Iraq, focusing on oil, gas, construction, and planning. He spent over five years in Iraq between 2007 and 2013, almost all of it with State, focusing on capacity development through advising, establishing programs, and reporting on politics, governance, economics, security, and humanitarian assistance.

Be sure to attend, all are welcome.

Date: Today, November 13
Time: 4:30-6 pm
Place: Robert A. Jones ’59 (RAJ) Conference Room

Super-Resolution Microscopy: The Physics of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry – Explained!


Calling all science-nerds/lovers/intellects: If you’re into chemistry, tryna win a Nobel Prize, or just like pizza for lunch, you’re not gonna want to miss today’s event. “Super-Resolution Microscopy: The Physics of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry – Explained!” Because my explanation of anything regarding chemistry would be useless, read up about the lecture below:

This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded for super-resolution optical microscopy, the ability to image objects near the molecular scale using light. This presentation will explain the physical concepts behind microscopy and how the classical resolution limit has been overcome by these new techniques. Examples of how this Nobel-prize-winning physics research can be applied to biological imaging will also be presented. No prior physics experience is necessary.

Michael E. Durst joined the Department of Physics as an assistant professor in Fall 2014. Why would a physicist be so excited about the Nobel Prize in Chemistry? Cutting edge research increasingly occurs at the intersection of many interdisciplinary fields, including biology, chemistry, and physics. Prof. Durst’s research in biomedical optics employs lasers to image deep within the body without making an incision. For more information (or to join his research team), please visit his website at go/durst.

Plus, there will be a pizza lunch available @ 12:25 PM!

Date: Today, November 5
Time: 12:30 – 1:30 pm
Place: BiHall 216