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Monday, Feb 26, 2024

Jennifer Bleich in Middlebury, Vermont

Jennifer Bleich

Associate director of the Office of Grants & Sponsored Programs, and 20-year Middlebury resident

Location: Middlebury, Vermont

Submitted April 30, 2020

A view of Middlebury from the TAM on Chipman Hill. (JENNIFER BLEICH)

My husband, Erik, a professor of political science, my 17-year-old son Alex, my 13-year-old son Luke, and I are all working and schooling from home together. A close family member in Manhattan became very ill with Covid-19 and a college friend was hospitalized with this virus as well. Thankfully, they have both recovered. In our daily lives, we are mostly feeling tremendously fortunate to live in a place like Middlebury, where we have a comfortable home with relatively stable internet access and enough space to find solitude when we need it. We also have safe access to healthy food and a hospital that has maintained its capacity to treat patients. And yet, we are full of anxiety for the financial future of the college and the town of Middlebury, for the well-being of families locally and beyond who have lost their jobs, and for the world economy as we acknowledge that we are many months away from the creation and widespread availability of a vaccine for this terrible virus. 

What has been your greatest worry or day-to-day concern as coronavirus has spread?

My greatest worry varies from day to day and hour to hour, depending on how much time I've devoted to reading the New York Times, The Atlantic, etc. I guess I worry most that people we love could die a terrible death as a result of this virus. After that, I worry about financial security now and in the future for ourselves and for so many others. I'm also concerned about the mental health effects of this virus on so many people, but particularly on my teenage sons. And then, because I'm a mom, I worry about the college application and acceptance processes for our son, whose standardized tests were canceled this spring and whose long-dreamt-of camp counselor job for the summer may be canceled as a result of Covid-19. I hope we can find a way to honor and acknowledge each others' losses, no matter how great or small they may seem. Everyone is losing something — or many things — as a result of this pandemic.

What has made you happy over the past few weeks? 

It has been (mostly!) truly wonderful to have more time at home with my sons and my husband. We are normally so very busy that we don't connect with each other regularly during the work week, but this forced pause has remedied that. Even our teenage sons have acknowledged that they are surprised to feel gratitude for this time together.

I'm also grateful that this virus-induced shutdown began when the Vermont weather started to improve. I have lived in Middlebury for 20 years, but for the first time ever last week, I hiked the entire 19-mile length of the Trail Around Middlebury in a single day. So beautiful and so exhausting. We are seriously lucky to have the TAM right out our back door!