MiddCORE extends its invitation to UMass students

By Elizabeth Kane

(Official MiddCORE Facebook page)
(Official MiddCORE Facebook page)

MiddCORE, Middlebury College’s leadership and innovation summer program for college students and recent graduates is looking to further extend its outreach to the University of Massachusetts student community. The Vermont university has offered the program since 2008.

Held at Sierra Nevada College in the Lake Tahoe basin, MiddCORE’s four-week program, lasting from June 11 to July 9, is designed to help students develop leadership, innovation and professional skills needed for success in life and work. MiddCORE’s focus on these skills, according to marketing director EJ Bartlett, who has been an essential part of the program’s mission since its founding.

“Since MiddCORE’s start as a class at Middlebury, the goal in starting the program has really been about trying to bridge the gap between the liberal arts program and real-world experiences,” Bartlett said. “Most students in college don’t develop these essential skills through a college education alone, so we want (MiddCORE) to help students realize how it feels to develop these skills and how they can handle leadership and innovation in a real-life work setting.”

Unlike the college academic setting, students who attend MiddCORE enhance their development of what the program views as essential, or “CORE” strengths in small group workshops led by notable business mentors. Margaux Burnham, a junior math major and the UMass MiddCORE ambassador, explained that the mentors’ professional backgrounds allow them to assign students workshop challenges that simulate problems faced in professional business settings.

“The core of the program is that every week you’ll be split up into groups of two or four and a representative will come in from a company or non-profit organization and they will come up with a challenge for your group to promote their brand,” Burnham said. “You usually have a week to develop ideas and design your thinking around finding the best way to market a new company, and the mentor is there to support you in the process.”

According to an email from Bartlett, more than 50 mentors from the top leading fields and professions, including co-founder of Netflix Marc Randolph, and president and CEO of Peet’s Coffee David Burwick, regularly participate in the MiddCORE program. Bartlett stated that the mentors’ presence helps students continuously adapt their skills to real-life situations.

“We bring in design thinkers and experts who usually walk through challenges with students so that they can apply challenges to the real world,” Bartlett said. “Mentors come in different capacities, but every one of them is there as an expert in their field, and they are all readily accessible to students to help guide them through the process.”

Burnham similarly viewed the mentors’ presence as an asset to the program due to their willingness to engage with students in both academic and social settings.

“(The program) brings in mentors to do lunch lectures as well as challenges and panels, and you also get to have the opportunity to have one on one time with them to talk to them and learn from their experiences,” Burnham said. “(Without MiddCORE), I think it’s pretty rare for college students to get to talk to them and make connections that cause them to have mentors for life.”

Burnham explained that her belief in the rarity of making professional connections and developing leadership skills in a college setting prompted her to apply to MiddCore at the end of her freshman year. She added that while she enrolled as one of the younger students in the program, college students equally benefit from the program due to their shared desire to grow as individuals.

“I think that MiddCORE is not really targeted at a specific age level. It’s solely based on a person’s desire for personal and professional growth,” Burnham said. “The main reason I wanted to go to MiddCORE after (my) freshman year was because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and develop my own leadership skills. Being able to do that (from enrolling in) the program was pretty meaningful for me, and I think it will be meaningful for anyone who attends the program regardless of year or major.”

Bartlett explained that MiddCORE’s significance to student growth has motivated the program to extend its outreach to diverse college campuses across the United States. She added that MiddCORE officials would like more UMass students in particular to apply due to their admiration of past UMass attendees.

“At MiddCORE, we look for students that want to learn, are open minded and want to impact everything that they do,” Bartlett said.

Applications for MiddCORE remain open until April 15 and can be accessed on the MiddCORE official website.

MiddCORE graduates gain one Middlebury College course credit through the program, or the equivalent of three semester hour credits, according to the program website. The cost of tuition, room and board total $9,500. Due to the “immersive” nature of the program, students are required to live on campus. A limited number of scholarships are available for outstanding non-Middlebury College students with demonstrated financial need.

“The program provides you with the skills to solve all problems that actually make a difference and impact someone’s life, which is something that I feel is not learned as much in a college setting,” Burnham said.

Elizabeth Kane can be reached at [email protected].