Community Spotlight

In this issue, we hear about final Student Council events this semester, Poetry Week, Lavender Graduation, the Racism and Policy Workshop, some activities specific to degree programs, and some noteworthy community responses to the pandemic published elsewhere.

Highlighting Other Stories of Community Responses to the Pandemic

We would like to highlight stories published on the MIIS website detailing community responses to the pandemic. Please take a look at this article regarding the student emergency fund, an initiative by the Office of Advancement and Student Council. We also recommend you read this story about a MIIS staff member who made face masks for the community.

Student Council End of Semester Activities

Katriya Burkdoll (MPA/IEM 2021)

The 2019-2020 Student Council Executive Board’s mission is to serve the student body and improve the MIIS student experience by increasing transparency, communication, and input campus-wide. Changes the MIIS community experienced during the second half of spring 2020 brought on challenges that the Student Council adaptively worked to respond to, while still adhering to this mission. Following the Institute’s policy to cancel all in-person events and close the campus, the Student Council moved from bi-monthly meetings to weekly meetings as we determined the next steps, in light of the new changes, and brainstormed ways to support MIIS students in this transitional period. 

The Student Council typically hosts numerous events during the spring semester that foster community-building, such as the International Bazaar, the Spring Graduate Party, MIIS Meet & Eat, and monthly Social Hours. With a sizable portion of our funds previously allocated towards these events, the Student Council was in a unique position of deciding how to repurpose our budget. 

We voted to allocate funds towards the Community Initiatives Fund, developed by the Student Council to support opportunities for virtual community-building throughout the duration of the semester. Furthermore, we decided to contribute two-thirds of our remaining budget to the MIIS Student Emergency Fund to support students experiencing unexpected financial needs. Additionally, funds designated for the graduation party are alternatively being used to purchase gifts for the spring 2020 graduates. 

Earlier this semester, Student Council awarded a historically high amount of Professional Development Funding to students to fund professional development events. While many events were canceled, students were still able to seek reimbursement for incurred costs not exceeding previously awarded funds. In addition to their revised meetings, many other Student Council events moved online including program town halls, organized by Student Council program representatives to gather input from fellow students; Student Forums, such as the Finances: The Current and Future State of the Institute and Academic Planning at MIIS; and Student Council campaigns and elections. With newly elected executive board members for the 2020-2021 academic year, the Student Council aspires to continually build community and evolve with whatever changes we encounter to support and meet the needs of the student body.

Poetry Week at MIIS and On-going events with the International Cultural Gathering

By Marie Butcher, Professor of English for Academic and Professional Purposes

What’s a good way to survive shelter in place? We believe the remedy is in poetry. 

During the week of April 12-19, The International Cultural Gathering Club (ICG), professors Rana Issa (Arabic) and myself, Marie Butcher (EAPP), staff Pamela Jungerberg (Library) and Jeni Henrickson (DLINQ) hosted “A Celebration of Poetry Across Languages and Cultures!”

During our series of online events, students from various disciplines, along with faculty and staff, came together and connected through poetry.  We hosted open mics and even a special musically themed session with both President Patton and VP Jeff Dayton-Johnson. 

On Friday, I led a workshop entitled “SIP Poetry“ to honor giving voice to our collective time sheltering in place.  To that end, we created a group poem, whereby each participant contributed a line and we created the following:

On the Day We’re Allowed to Play

On the day we’re allowed to play,

I will extend my hand and hike to horizon,

I will dance from bloom to bloom,

And love will feel real once again.

I will take the first flight to be with you.

I will hold your hand, pull you close…

Dauntless, on fire.

Pajamas off and a lovely dress on,

We are ready to dance all night,

To bathe in sunshine and fresh air

That are selflessly granted.

To warm your bones as the last light

Slips beneath the waves,

To observe pink blooms and green leaves

In their gorgeous display.

I will go to big cities–immerse myself in crowds,

And hug every stranger.

I will see the blossom along the seaside.

We will walk the beach

And gather shells and warm the beach.

Writing is a way to tell our stories. Our stories are about honoring our truths.  Our truths help us to find a way forward through these uncertain times. The ICG continues to sponsor an International Poetry event, every third Sunday of the month.  Everyone is welcome to attend and read a poem in any language.   Visit to learn about more virtual (and eventually a return to in-person) events.

QAAAM’s Lavender Graduation

By Angela Luedke (IEM 2020)

As QAAAM board members were brainstorming what events they could hold virtually for the remainder of the semester, the idea of a Lavender Graduation came up. This was something they could host online to honor LGBTQIA+ graduates in a special way. Lavender Graduation first started in 1995 at the University of Michigan and has since become a tradition at dozens of colleges around the country. They are a special way to acknowledge LGBTQIA+ students’ achievements and contributions to the university. QAAAM hosted Monroe France, the Associate Vice President for Global Student Engagement and Inclusive Leadership at NYU as the keynote address. Graduates, fellow students, family members, and friends were all present to celebrate these students attaining their master’s degrees and to continue supporting them as they start the next part of their journeys. This was the Middlebury Institute’s first Lavender Graduation, and it was a huge success! It was the start of a new tradition.

Racism and Policy Workshop

By Pushpa Iyer 

On the first weekend of May, I held a workshop on Racism and Policy in which 22 students participated. The course focused on racism in the United States with a narrow focus on discrimination based on skin color. Beyond a historical look at racism in the United States, the course explored institutional racism as seen in organizations, politics, and policy. 

Three students Angela Luedke, Heather Smith, and Karen Terkel, who participated in this course had this to say:

“The course first addressed the groundwork to be done in regard to the self. Addressing our own (un)comfortability levels on the topic of race was a key component in preparing for discussions. Through continuous self-reflection, we were able to have open and honest conversations on the role of race in public policy. In addressing white privilege, white fragility, and institutional and systemic racism in the United States, some of the following questions were discussed:

  • Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to speak up against racism? Did you or didn’t you? Reflect on why.
  • Why are some organizations reluctant in explicitly addressing racism in their policy work? Why might organizations lead with addressing racism? 
  • How can policies and their implementation break free from the structural inequalities that shape and execute them?  

Some key takeaways for students were the need to continue to self-reflect on implicit biases and to recognize inequalities in all situations with the goal to step up and take action. At the end of the course, students were challenged to present a personal goal to continue working against racism. This call to action is necessary because there is still a lot of work to be done in the U.S. in regards to racism and policy. In this work, it is always important to remember what social justice activist Bryan Stevenson has said: ‘… [we] have to fight against hopelessness. . . [because] hopelessness is the enemy of justice.’”

Program Activities 

Included below are some contributions from student council program representatives on special activities and conversations that occured over the course of last semester.

Representing ITED, Bryan Herbert writes: “Julius Moye, an ITED student, MIIS Student Council member and CACS staff member, has been working with CACS and our ITED Program Chair’s to create a weekly ITED newsletter consolidating international trade-related information and job postings for students. He has also helped our program chairs spearhead a mentorship program with MIIS ITED alumni working in various fields of trade. Julius Moye’s actions have helped bring a greater sense of community to the program as well as get students thinking critically about their first steps after grad school.”

And from Rachel Salay of IEM, we have the following story: “One thing that came out of this planning is the Canvas course forIEM-ers, or the ‘IEM Community Hub’, as we call it. There is a calendar of events, contact information for each faculty member and student rep, as well as discussion boards where people can share resources, playlists, photos (pet photos, in particular, have been a hit), and offer each other support. Faculty have also stepped up and volunteered to host regular “drop-ins” (coffee hour, social hour, virtual board games, etc.) in our IEM Zoom room. This has been a nice way to remain connected and see each other’s faces, even when we can’t be together physically. Since shelter-in-place went into effect, faculty have also been receptive and willing to do their best to address student concerns as new challenges arise. This includes things like being flexible with deadlines, providing extra support with practicum searches, and simply taking the time to check in with each other at the beginning of class. While it can feel daunting to think about the future right now, it certainly helps to know that the IEM community is there for us.”