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Middlebury Goes West

June 27, 2005

Middlebury College and the Monterey Institute of International Studies are both known for their language programs and the study of global cultures. Based on that common strength, the two institutions announced Friday a tentative deal under which Middlebury would take over management of the institute.

Monterey has been struggling financially for several years while Middlebury boasts a large endowment and growing popularity among undergraduates. The deal is expected to result in a stronger infrastructure for Monterey, which is known for its graduate programs. And Middlebury and Monterey plan cooperation on graduate programs and foreign campuses. Monterey, with its California base, has a strong emphasis on Asia while Middlebury has been pushing to expand its language and cultural programs on Asia.

At Monterey, which has been seeking another college with which to affiliate for several years now, there is relief that a partner has been found. At Middlebury, both faculty and student groups criticized the concept of Middlebury taking over Monterey this spring and recommended against it. While full details about the affiliation were not released, several measures respond to some of the faculty concerns.

For instance, many professors have said that they worry about finances being diverted from Middlebury's campus. But college officials said that the funds Middlebury is putting toward Monterey (a total that was not released) would come from gifts restricted to Monterey and from secured loans, not from any redistribution of the college's budget or endowment.

Ronald D. Liebowitz, Middlebury's president, said that the emphasis on language and international study at both institutions made them an excellent match. "You can just start imagining the potential," he said.

At the beginning, very few changes should be evident at Monterey or Middlebury. A new, five-member board will be appointed by Middlebury to make certain high-level decisions about Monterey, such as the appointment of a president. The first president, once the deal is finalized, will be Clara Yu, formerly vice president for languages at Middlebury. Monterey will keep its name, but will likely have "of Middlebury College" or "an affiliate of Middlebury College" tacked on at the end.

Liebowitz said that Monterey has managed to keep its academic programs strong, despite a severe financial crunch in which the institute ran several annual deficits. But he said that the institute got by through cuts in areas like admissions and fund raising, and he said that the financial support called for under the agreement would help strengthen those areas. Middlebury already has gifts or pledges of $7 million specifically to strengthen Monterey, Liebowitz said.

The college will benefit from the arrangement immediately, but in indirect ways, he added. California alumni have been excited about having a Middlebury outpost in their state and Liebowitz said that the visibility for Middlebury there should attract applicants.

Over the long term, Liebowitz said, he could envision all kinds of collaboration. Middlebury's graduate programs tend to educate teachers and focus on language and culture. Monterey's graduate programs have more of an emphasis on translation, international business and international affairs. Liebowitz said that he foresees the development of joint programs, students or faculty members visiting the other campus and/or collaborating on projects, 3/2 or 4/1 programs where students would earn undergraduate degrees at Middlebury and graduate degrees at Monterey, or any number of other possibilities.

He said it was too early to get specific because all of these programs would need to come out of the faculty.

Jeffrey Cason, chair of the Faculty Council at Middlebury, said that professors there had not had time to meet and discuss the agreement that was announced Friday. Speaking for himself, however, he said that it appeared that the plan had "moved in a more reasonable direction" and that he thought some of the faculty concerns may have been addressed.

He said that many professors feared "a drain on resources" and would likely approve of the way the deal was structured to prevent that. He also said that faculty members who worried about intrusions into Middlebury's liberal arts mission may be pleased with the statements that most of the collaboration will come at the graduate level and with foreign campuses.

Cason, who is a scholar of international relations, said that some of his colleagues "find the potential for collaboration to be quite intriguing."

William W. Monning, a professor of negotiation and conflict resolution at Monterey, said he hoped to see a "convergence" of the "academic communities" in foreign languages and international studies at the two institutions.

Liebowitz said he understood the faculty caution over the Monterey arrangement. But he noted that while Middlebury is known for undergraduate education, it has also gained from selected, highly regarded programs that aren't for undergraduates. He cited the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, held at Middlebury each summer, as an example.

"We're an institution that is 205 years old and that has made changes over time," Liebowitz said. "You can't sit still. Middlebury needs to keep bringing energy to itself, and this change will be adding strength to strength."

 

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