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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

Student Proposes New College Image Associated with Frost

Author: [no author name found]

The Robert Frost School of English does not exist, and it is not part of Middlebury College. Students cannot receive a degree from the Robert Frost School of English, nor do any of our professors teach there. But all of that could change. Middlebury College could be the home of the world-renowned Robert Frost School of English for the total cost of about $0. That's how much it would cost to change the name of the Bread Loaf School of English to the much more marketable Robert Frost School of English. While they're at it, Middlebury should also build a few Robert Frost statues around campus, and maybe create a Robert Frost Achievement Award.
I solemnly believe that sometimes little, seemingly superficial changes can be very meaningful, and, over time, they can make a substantial difference.
Last spring, Ted Virtue, a Middlebury grad and the current chairman of Deutsche Bank Capital Partners, complained to a roomful of Midd-kids that the College has no "brand" and that it does not do nearly enough to "get it's name out there." It doesn't take a Wall Street millionaire to know this; how many times have we told acquaintances that we go to Middlebury College only to receive a confused shrug (if you Bostonians do not relate, try spending some time in California)?
One of the best ways to improve a college's brand is to infuse it with something that people will recognize. That is, specific images need to come to mind when people think of Middlebury. Right now, very few people think of anything specific when they hear the word "Middlebury." At best, they think "languages," but more commonly, they think of the same things that come to mind when hearing "Colby," "Bates," "Trinity" and so on.
This is a serious dilemma, and one that other academic institutions work hard to avoid. Those of you familiar with the University of Pennsylvania will know that you can't look in any given direction without seeing some reference to Ben Franklin. Though he was one of the founders, we all know that Ben had about a thousand greater priorities that outranked Penn, just as there are about a 1,000 people affiliated with the school who have done more to shape the institution. That said, Penn skillfully associates itself with the founding father so that it can have a unique image that comes to mind when high school students are trying to decide which elite college to choose. The same goes for Princeton: Half of their applicants' dream of entering its world-famous Woodrow Wilson School.
Even NESCAC rival Bowdoin followed this example when they opened the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, named after its two most famous graduates. Middlebury needs more illustrative images, and no image better decorates a school than a famous associate. Robert Frost was one of Middlebury's closest associates, and he did more for Bread Loaf than Ben Franklin did for Penn. What's more, many of his poems, which are read by almost every high school senior, read like a description of our back- yard. Why, then, does Middlebury not take advantage of this ultra-prestigious connection? Why can't Robert Frost be Middlebury's, or at least Bread Loaf's Ben Franklin?
Many may believe that we should rise above the supposed superficiality that plagues so many schools, and that Middlebury doesn't care if random strangers don't know the school. A newly named Robert Frost School of English, one or two prominently displayed Robert Frost statues and a prestigious new Robert Frost award would be a great place to start. Try walking every high school tour group past a 12-foot statue of Robert Frost with "I took the road less traveled by" quoted at the base. I absolutely guarantee you that they will have a new image to associate with Middlebury College come application time.

Bryan Goldberg is a sophomore from California.