by Matt Heller
Saint Michael’s College heard Tuesday that the State of Vermont has given the green light for the demolition of Founder’s Hall. District Environmental Commission #4, which serves Chittenden County, issued a land use permit to allow the removal. This permit also authorizes the construction of walkways and a new lawn area. Founder’s Annex will be preserved.
The college must remove the belfry atop Founder’s Hall in a way that it can be preserved and viewed by members of the college community, according to the permit that was granted.
As part of the permit, the college must do the following before the demolition of Founder’s Hall takes place:
- Document and list eight buildings in the State Register of Historical Places: Jean Marie Hall, The Center for Women & Gender, Observatory, Cheray Hall, the Quad Complex (Ryan Hall, Alumni Hall, Lyons Hall, Joyce Hall), Alliot Hall, Nicolle Hall, and the Chapel.
- Develop a Multiple Property Documentation Form that will include a statement on the history of the campus as well as documenting the architectural and historic significance of the newly listed historical buildings.
- Conduct an Archaeological Resource Assessment for the campus.
- Complete a Historic Research Documentation Package for Founder’s Hall.
The permit process was lengthened in part because of concerns from an alumnus. In August and September, Sara Dillon ‘77 filed a request for party status and requested a public hearing. The commission denied the requests because it determined that Dillon failed to show why her interest differed from that of the general public and because she does not own adjoining property to the college, nor does she live or work near the school. Dillon was one of three documented alumni who voiced concern over the demolition of Founder’s Hall.
It is unsure when the demolition will begin, but a message sent on Monday by Associate Director of Facilities Joel Ribout stated that the walkway between Cheray and Founder’s Hall would be closed for the week to run a new electrical service to the Annex. The permit outlines that all work should be completed by October 1, 2023, unless an extension is approved. According to the application for the permit, the demolition will take a year.
Friends, family, and staff reflect on the man who makes them ask, “What would Lou do?”
By Mirando Maiorino
“Who Loves Ya,” “It’s All Good,” and “More to come…”are a mere handful of the unmistakable sayings, or Lou-isms, as students and faculty call it, of Lou DiMasi, St. Michael’s College’s Director of Resident Life. After nearly 39 years of working on campus, DiMasi will retire in December. True to his modest form, Dimasi declined to speak to reporters about his tenure at the college. Nonetheless, his legacy has touched the hearts of his co-workers, students, and family.
“Growing up in Somerville, MA, my dad could always be found out at the park shooting pucks or any game he could get his hands on. He even played professional for three years after being a standout player at Norwich University,” said Margaret DiMasi, resident director of Canterbury Hall. “Lou created the hockey program back at St. Mike’s back in 1982, only two years after he first came to St. Michael’s College. He was the hockey coach here for 25 years, and still holds the only Division II National Championship Title.” DiMasi would later become a resident director, and eventually be promoted to his current title of Director of Resident Life, where he helps students work through residential issues such as roommate disagreements, alcohol and drug problems, and future housing selection anxieties. While known as very stern in his disciplinary actions, DiMAsi often says “There’s no bad kids, only bad decisions,”aiding students without casting judgement on their character.
“I knew right away that Lou was the type of person who would give you the shirt off his back,” wrote Megan Ohler, director of residential operations & systems and Associate Dean of Students who started at the college in 1995. “I’ve gone from being supervised by Lou, to working beside him as a colleague. From day one, I heard the philosophy he lives by, ‘there are no bad kids, only kids who make bad decisions’ and I knew he was all about meeting students – anyone actually – where they were at without judgment and inspiring them to be better than they thought they could ever be.”
Ohler said she feels more people should know about DiMasi’s “compassionate soul.”
“There isn’t a day in Student Life where Lou doesn’t have a zillion situations going on … but when you’re the one sitting in front of him, you would never know that. When you talk to Lou, you are his priority. You can feel his sincerity and concern for any individual in his words as well as his actions. There is nothing he wouldn’t do to help you to get to the next point in your life.”
“When I came to the school, Lou was one of the first people I met as an incoming first year,” said Liam Cahill, ‘20. “He knew that I was probably nervous and anxious about starting this next chapter of my life, so to help he gave me his card with his personal phone number on it. I know that this was a small gesture but it meant so much to me to know that someone was looking out for me. Lou always had that ability to make light of tough situations and make students feel at ease.”
Brian Lee, Assistant Dean of Students since 2001 has worked with DiMasi for almost two decades. “He always reminds us, ‘You know, we’re here for the students. What can we do to make their days better and their experience the best it can be?’ We are all supposed to work our hardest in order to benefit the student,” said Lee, “Every morning, no matter how busy the office is or how much he’s running around, he always takes the time to stop and say ‘Hey, how are you?’ or ‘How are things going, honestly?’ to students. He’ll always take the time to check in on them despite his incredible work ethic, and that has to be one of the things I’ll always take with me when moving forward in my career.”
With his eyes staring up at his office light as he reminisces about his friend and mentor, Lee finally concludes with a smile, “While work is work and it needs to be done, Lou always cares about the person first, and always focuses on them first before anything else, which to me is really something to be admired. ”
To many, DiMasi seems dedicated to St. Michael’s College on all playing fields, whether that be hockey, residence, or the students themselves. Even family, as some would say. According to his daughter, DiMasi has accepted St. Michael’s as his own family like that of his own flesh and blood. “I think seeing what the community St. Mike’s is and always being a part of it has been through my dad. It’s always been a goal of mine to work in Res Life and assist students in any way I could, all while learning anything I could first hand from Lou.”
Margaret DiMasi said that her father is someone who loves people and the connections he makes. “St. Mike’s has been a true home for him over the past 39 years, and even now there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t ask myself ‘…what would Lou do?’
Even though DiMasi will leave St. Mike’s for good, purple and gold still run through his veins. Megan Ohler notes, “He’ll still be living right down the road, so we’re almost positive he’ll occasionally stop by for a coffee or lunch,” Ohler said.
What you’re missing in Nicolle Hall
By Meg Friel
Nine o’clock at night on Saint Michael’s College campus means students filing in and out of dorm halls, making a last minute Cumbies run for a late night study snack, or Father Ray quietly sneaking out of Nicolle Hall to break into Alliot for his nightly ice cream treat.
A dozen priests live together on two floors of Nicolle Hall, each individual room equipped with a “living room” area, a bedroom, and a private bathroom. Located to the right of Alliot, Nicolle Hall has housed priests since 1963, and still maintains its essence with minimal changes since its beginning.
“You know who the first person to move in was? Me!” said Father Richard Vanderweel, S.S.E. “I moved in Labor Day of 1963. Physically, Nicolle Hall hasn’t changed much. It’s pretty much what it was. Except that they plopped the Welcome Center in front of us. We can’t find parking here either.”
When you walk Nicolle Hall through its connecting doors to Alliot, on the left you enter the prayer room, where every night at 5:10 the priests gather for their 10 minute evening prayer, or Vespers, except on Sundays, when the brothers begin Vespers at 5:00 to allow themselves more free time.
“It gives us a little extra time to shoot the bull,” said Father Marcel Rainville, S.S.E. “Some guys will have a drink. Then at a quarter to six, we’ll have dinner, sit around, chat. Father Brian, he can be pretty wild. After that, most guys go to our rooms and watch TV.”
After Vespers, the brothers sit down for a drink, their fridge stocked with Coke, ginger ale, and a shelf for beer. On a recent Wednesday night, the brothers shared conversation while eating cheese they joked about smuggling from Canada, laughing while they unwound from the day. After this, dinner is served in their private dining room. The meal is made specially for them by two Sodexo workers, and tends to be a step up from the usual stir fry or hamburger station one would find in Alliot on a Wednesday night. Wednesdays and Sundays the food is “enhanced,” with dishes such as stuffed peppers or chicken and pasta with a creamy sauce.
“We usually try to get together for community time,” said Father Lino Oropeza, S.S.E. “After prayer, we gather in our living room and we talk to each other about the weather, Brexit, the fire in California, you name it. It can be detailed conversations, or it can be really silly. When we’re together, we’ll just play pranks on each other or mock each other. It’s never bad or ill intended. It’s love.”
While Nicolle Hall itself has its rare mishaps, such as a recent toilet overflow, living with 12 men has its own quirks, said Father Lino, one of the younger brothers in the group.
“The walls are thin, and the guys are going deaf,” said Father Lino. “They watch TV or listen to music really loudly. I live across from Father Paul Kocher, and he has this audio system that has a really loud bass, so when he listens to TV, it’s all I hear.”
“As far as the walls, you really can’t hear your next door neighbors,” Father Vanderweel said.
“Father Michael lives above me, and once in awhile I hear him, when I have my hearing aids in.”
The group also tends to pick up the habits of one another. Their routines are set in stone and recognized by the rest of the brothers.
“Father Ray goes out every night at 9:00 to get ice cream in Alliot,” said Father Lino. Father Paul Koucher comes to pick up the New York Times in the bookstore every morning. Some of the guys have breakfast at 7:00 in the morning. So, you can tell if someone isn’t feeling well if they’re not at breakfast at 7:00.”
“There are pluses and minuses,” said Father Brian Cummings, S.S.E. “I like living there because I’m living with other people. You know, I’ve got 11 other men living with me. Father Ray is across the hall, I hear his radio. We listen to the same music, so I enjoy listening to his radio. My and Father Michael Carter bedrooms are adjoined, and sometimes he’ll hear me at night when I’m having nightmares. We’ll joke about that.”
For many of the brothers, living with older and more experienced priests gives them a mentor to look up to. Father Lino said they often learn from one another and enjoy living with each other because of the sense of family it gives them.
“Sharing and living with our brothers is our first ministry,” Father Lino said. “So, caring for the others and making sure everyone is well is our ministry. The community offers that opportunity.”
“What’s nice about being in a community is that you can engage in conversation and learn things from the men that are older,” Father Brian said. “There are men who are scholars in philosophy and theology and they’re very smart guys. They have strong academic interests, and they’re very well read. I learn a lot from the guys. “
While many of the brothers actively work on campus and in the surrounding community, the community aspect of the brotherhood comes together in the heart of Nicolle Hall.
“It helps to just have someone to laugh with, to sit down with, to share your frustrations once in awhile,” said Father Lino. “At the end of the day, you’re tired and you want to sit down and have a beer with someone and just talk.”
By Victoria Zambello
Laces tied tight. Hair thrown into ponytails. Pre-game music at full blast.
The soccer girls of Burlington High School went through their normal soccer routine on a windy and chilled October night game under the lights.
But this was not their average soccer game. After conducting multiple interviews with media reporters from Boston to Vermont senior captain Maggie Barlow held a large smile across her face during warm-ups. By the time the game was over, she and her team showed up on CNN, The New York Post, CBS News, Glamour and Fox news among other outlets.
“We were inspired by the U.S Women’s National Team, specifically Megan Rapinoe to helping to lead the fight for equal pay for equal pay,” said Barlow.
“It also goes to show if one team starts with such a big heart and such a big passion to make something spread, it gets global,” said Payton Carson, junior BHS soccer player.
The #EqualPay jerseys sold both online and at the game itself cost $25, but this time men were invited to pay an additional 16 percent to symbolize the current gender wage gap.
“It’s really empowering that the boys team decided to also join us because I think it’s one thing to start a movement with gender equality. But to get the boys team to be there beside you is such a step,” said Senior Captain Helen Worden.
“Women in Vermont make 84 cents to every dollar men make, translating into a 16 cent wage gap,” noted a press statement from the Burlington School District. All proceeds from the sales will be toward the Greater Burlington Girls Soccer League. Specifically, the #EqualPay jerseys will provide scholarships and equipment donations for girls within the community.
“The wage gap has lasting impacts. Women in VT draw half the social security benefits that men do,” according to the Burlington School District press statement.
After working closely with the Burlington girls soccer team, Jessica Nordhause, Director of Strategy and Partnerships for Change The Story, an initiative to improve the economic status of women in Vermont, said that the group’s effort is incredible. “Their ingenuity and energy is inspiring. That’s how we are going to change the story around inequity for women,” Nordhaus said.
With three minutes left in the game, senior captain Helen Worden, along with three other teammates, shot, scored, and pulled her soccer shirt up to reveal her #EqualPay jersey underneath.
Just like the fans at the Women’s National game back in July, the crowd cheered “Equal Pay! Equal Pay!”; however those players received yellow cards for excessive celebration.
Maia Vota, Senior Team Captain year and BHS player wrote over text message that the school administration “has responded really well.”
“We have had to turn our assistant principal’s office into a recording studio for interviews a few times now,” said Vota.
We even had the chance to give Senator Leahy a jersey. It’s validating to know that such a large number of people are behind us. All of the players can’t stop talking about the community’s response at school!”
As the BHS girls watch their role models to support them, Voita explains how it feels to have college classes talk about them. “It feels surreal! We’ve had a couple of graduates who played on our soccer team reach out and tell us that they talked about it in their college classes,” said Vota.
The Burlington High School #EqualPay protest has continued to be covered and supported nationally, but it does not end at the Oct. 18 night game.
“I think that everyone should get the jerseys like all sports. Because it represents that we are saying the same thing not just for soccer but for every woman,” Carson said.
by Matt Heller
As of the mid-October census, there are 392 first-year students, and 427 new students including transfers.
While the administration had predicted low enrollment this year, this is the first time in recent history that an incoming first-year class has been below 400. While exactly 400 students were enrolled at the beginning of the school year, the school lost 8 students between then and when the census was compiled. This brings St. Michael’s total undergraduate enrollment down to 1,556 students.
A class that is more than 50 students smaller than last year’s incoming class and 183 students smaller than 2014’s incoming class can also spell financial problems. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average yearly price a St. Michael’s first-year student who was awarded a grant or scholarship paid was $31,323 in the 2017-2018 school year. Multiplied by 51 students, this is nearly $1.6 million the school got last year but did not this year.
Of the 3,967 total first-year applicants for the class of 2023, 83 percent were accepted for fall 2019. Only 12.1 percent of those who were accepted enrolled.
Tenured faculty to teach increased course load
Tenured faculty members will now be required to teach more classes. Associate and full professors with tenure [see “Tenure system explained”] now have a 3-3-3-3-3-4 load. This means over the course of a three-year period, these faculty members will teach three courses for the majority of the semesters, and teach four courses during one semester. This is an increase from teaching just three courses per semester.
A faculty member can choose to teach the fourth course in a semester, or they can teach a summer, winter, or “SMC First Class” course, as well as faculty-led trip, to fulfill this requirement.
Assistant professors who are not tenured will still teach a 3-course load per semester, and full-time instructors, who are not tenured, will continue to teach a 3-4 load.
“In our financial situation, we need to do some things to cut costs everywhere,” said Jeffrey Trumbower, Vice President of Academic Affairs.
Trumbower said these increased teaching requirements are a final piece of work towards cutting costs. For example, a professor who teaches summer courses gets paid to do so. Now, every third year will count for the fourth course, meaning they will not get paid extra, saving the college money.
Also with an eye towards reducing costs, scrutiny has been placed on courses that have an enrollment of fewer than six students. These courses will continue to count as a 4-credit course for students but will count as only 2 credits for a faculty member’s teaching load. Professors who consistently teach these low-enrollment courses will be exempt from the new 3-3-3-3-3-4 requirement.
Department chairs and program coordinators receive monetary compensation and course releases for their administrative work. While this will stay true, there have been reductions in compensation, according to Trumbower.
Additionally, some programs have reduced the number of classes they offer, and some have combined classes, all in an attempt to prevent a high number of low-enrollment courses.
Health Care Administration Minor
An unsuccessful search for a full-time professor to teach upper-level courses for the health care administration minor means the school will no longer offer the minor. According to Trumbower, students who are health science and public health majors interested in administration can minor in business. An elective for the business minor can be an intro-level healthcare administration course, a class that is currently offered.
Trumbower explained that health care administration professors can be hard to come by, as they often make more money in their profession than they would teaching.
There are no current plans to reopen a search for a professor to teach the upper-level courses and allow the minor to be offered.
Tenure system explained
The change of faculty requirements applies to associate and full professors who have tenure. But what does all this mean?
Generally, a “tenure track” professor is hired as an assistant professor. They then go through a probationary period of about six years, at the end of which they can then apply for tenure. The tenure review is an extensive examination of their teaching and scholarship. If they get tenure, they have a position at the college as long as the program in which they teach is offered, with a few minor exceptions.
After a number of years as an associate professor, they can put together a portfolio and apply to become a full professor, which is an increase in money and status. Tenured professors undergo a fifth-year review, where they put together a portfolio and are reviewed by a committee including the dean of faculty and the department chair of the program they teach in.
Adjunct professors are contract-based by the courses they teach. Adjuncts can teach no more than two courses a semester, but may teach a summer or winter course, totaling no more than five courses per year.
This is a revised version of the original article. It was originally stated that the Board of Trustees voted to increase faculty requirements. While the Board did discuss this during their October meeting, the final decision was an administrative action.
by Matt Heller
Every time a vehicle leaves through one of St. Michael’s three exits, a camera records the license plate number. Cameras are also rolling near almost all card-access entries on campus. At the Robert E. Sutton Fire and Rescue station, dispatchers such as Matthew Thompson ‘19 have an eye on the monitors that play live security camera feeds from across campus. These measures are only part of those addressing school-wide safety issues.
There are over 200 security cameras on-campus, according to Doug Babcock, director of Public Safety. Some of these cameras record large areas such as the 300’s field, while others focus on single hallways. There are, however, some places where cameras are purposely not placed. This includes residential hallways in which there is a common bathroom, typical of most first-year living accommodations.
“You as a student have a reasonable expectation of privacy right outside your bedroom door, and we will not violate that by putting a camera there,” Babcock said.
Incidents can be missed when there’s not a camera around. On October 20, a racial slur was written on the first floor of Ryan Hall, and because Ryan is a residential hall with a common bathroom on each wing, there are not any cameras in the hallways.
Between September 27 and 28, when Patriot Front, a white nationalist group, placed stickers around campus promoting their cause, security cameras were in the area, and the footage is currently being reviewed by the FBI.
“Someone might feel like their privacy is being violated, but other students would feel safe. Past putting [security cameras] in freshman dorms, I don’t think there’s a violation of privacy,” said Vanessa Bonebo, secretary of student life for the Student Government Association.
The effectiveness of security camera systems came up as a topic of concern at the October 22 Student Government Association meeting. Bonebo said the cameras are not of good quality and students need to call out administration. She reported this year’s sticker incident, and thought the Public Safety dispatcher wasn’t taking her seriously, and noted that an Assistant Director and Resident Director on duty had to take down some of the stickers themselves.
There are no federal regulations, nor any state regulation in Vermont that requires the use of surveillance systems on college campuses. So, this is up to the institution’s discretion, and they must decide how to use these systems properly and ethically.
According to Babcock, few departments on campus that have access to their cameras. Departments within the college and any outside entities must go through Public Safety to obtain the footage. The college may decide there is no need to release the footage, in which case the department or other entity would not be granted access.
“We have firmly admonished our readers that they need to be beyond ethical, policy as far as those who have access to the footage, when they’re revealed, they have to be very careful, beyond transparent in my humble opinion,” said Robin Hattersley-Gray, Editor-in-Chief of Campus Safety Magazine, a national publication produced for those involved in security at hospitals, schools and universities.
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), photos and videos of students are educational records, subject to specific exclusions. Therefore, Hattersley-Gray recommends institutions should have a policy that outlines appropriate reason for use, who will have access, how long the footage should be stored, and how it should be destroyed, among other recommendations.
In terms of the stickering event, there’s not a lot of legal action that can be taken. Since none of the words on the stickers constituted a hate crime, the only likely charges that the perpetrators could face would be unlawful mischief, a misdemeanor. This would simply cover the labor to remove the stickers.
If it was found that a St. Michael’s student wrote the racial slur in Ryan Hall, little information could be released, only that the incident occurred and it was taken care of by the administration. Public Safety is working with Student Life to reach out to those who live in the building.
“Maybe if this campus felt like a community for all, it wouldn’t be such a problem, people wouldn’t be reacting the way they are,” Bonebo said, expressing the need to take preventative measures.
Theoretically, if all problems were limited to the first-year class, according to Babcock, all 427 of them have had just over 10 weeks as a St. Michael’s community after 18 years of experiencing the world in different ways. Despite this, only one person thought it was ok to write a racial slur in a hallway.
“I want to offer some context and say that may not mean that the world and St. Mike’s are horrible places,” Babcock said. “We do need to continue to work and we must be advocates for people that are affected and impacted,” he added, noting that incidents won’t cease to exist, and the community must be able to respond and address.
Bonebo, however, would still like to see more openness on Public Safety’s behalf, especially when it comes to investigations, as well as improved immediate responses to incidents.
For Babcock, catching a suspect only satisfies part of the concern. “The rest is that it happened or how the community responded. And that’s the part I really need to get right, and that we as a college need to get right,” he said.
By Lorelei Poch
Some parents and students have noticed that the cost of attendance at Saint Michael’s College increased this academic school year by $1,670. What used to be called the Student Activities Fee, priced at $325 since the 2012/13 academic year, is now named the Comprehensive Fee and was set at $1,995 for the 2019-20 school year. The fee covers the cost of services outside of tuition and room and board for students.
For decades this fee was recognized as the Student Activities fee which funded the Student Association in part. “Now with the comprehensive fee, we’re going a step further to say the fee covers lots of things in your Saint Michael’s experience, but not in an itemized, explicit way,” said Vice President of Finances Rob Robinson.
The breakdown of specific categories included in this new comprehensive fee, for example, the cost of library services, the fitness center, health services, streaming services and IT, are bundled into the single comprehensive fee and not itemized for students or parents.
The structure of the former activities fee has an important historical context. “At some point 15 years ago someone said we want to implement a student activity fee to protect SGA’s funding,” Robinson explained. This revenue was kept separate from tuition, room and board to ensure funding did not waver from any instability in Saint Michael’s funding. According to Robinson, the cost of attendance typically increases 3-4 percent every year. “That has been applied equally to tuition and to the residence fee but not to the Student Activities fee,” Robinson said.
“For the current year we froze tuition and increased the residence fee at a higher rate based on the analysis of where we stood in the marketplace. We changed the fee structure to now be a comprehensive fee. Those things combined led to a total cost of attendance increase of just over four percent. But we didn’t apply any of that to tuition.
“There are lots of parallels, Netflix, for example. You can’t sign up for just television shows and not movies, you do not then ask Netflix, well of my $10 a month how much is related to television shows or movies? It’s packaged together as a thing. There are elements of the comprehensive fee that are like that. No one at SMC is experiencing it in the entirely same way. You don’t go into Alliot and say how much is for vegetable-based proteins versus meat -based proteins. If you’re vegetarian and not interested, that’s something that’s there if you are interested,” Robinson said.
Since this fee is non-negotiable in order to protect aspects of the Student Association, no financial aid may be applied to this charge. Despite this, Saint Micahel’s is still trying to competitively enroll students who require financial aid. “We want to be competitive. You can’t be academically successful if you’re worried about financial aid,” said Kristin McAndrew vice president of enrollment.
The process to change the fee was relatively quick. According to Robinson, the comprehensive fee was encouraged mostly by Robinson and Sarah Kelly, the former vice president of enrollment and marketing. The President and the President’s cabinet were also involved. “The cost of attendance is really integral to what enrollment does. So when the fee was set Sarah Kelly and I made a presentation to the SGA to talk about the change in the fees and some of the rationale behind getting to that,” Robinson said. “We looked at a variety of things and the places where our expenses have risen and tried to make some determinations about which of those things were and weren’t funded conceptually in which category.”
Tenley Mazzerolle ‘21, SGA Secretary of Finance, said she was not particularly fazed by the change and increase in the fee. Nor was she concerned about the broad sweep of the fee, rather than an itemized list. “I think transparency never hurts. So, it could be fair if they posted everything that was being paid, but it’s gonna have to be paid one way or the other whether I pay it toward the fee or for tuition. So it doesn’t bother me that much,” Mazzerolle said.
“It would be wonderful if we didn’t have to raise fees, but that is unfortunately not the financial reality,” Robinson said. The reasoning behind the fee, he explained, was to collect money where Saint Michael’s needed more and to be comparable to other institutions.
By Molly Humiston
Three weeks away and a single Thursday already hangs in the collective American mind, Thanksgiving.
For students, it is a chance to leave classes and schoolwork behind for a short while, but when they take off for home, 113 international students who can’t go home for the holiday.
The international students range from a stay of eight weeks to four years, said Christina Mager, the associate director of English Language Programs and an instructor of Applied Linguistics.
“Cross-culturally there’s a lot of similarities, and I think for us as Americans and for Chinese, Latin American, Vietnamese, whatever they are, family is something that is shared and something that is valued in all of our cultures,” said Mager. She has opened her home to international students and provided them with a traditional American Thanksgiving.
For those whose time in the U.S. overlaps with the holidays, some chose to travel the U.S. or go home with American students to celebrate with their families.
“I’m going to travel New York and Quebec City with my Japanese friends,” said Kumi Nagano ‘21, an exchange student who came to St. Michael’s last spring from Osaka, Japan. “This is the last time for me to see around the U.S. and Canada during my studying abroad so I’m happy to have this long holiday.”
Lia Christ ‘21 enjoys Thanksgiving with her family in Vermont with Brazilian friends and other international students from campus. “Everyone else is doing [Thanksgiving], so we might as well,” Christ thought after she moved from Brazil to Stowe, Vt. when she was 13. “My parents try their best to have their own little holiday and then make food and invite friends over,” said Christ. “We usually get together, have food together and we make some kind of Thanksgiving food and some kind of Brazilian food and Brazilian desserts.”
Talia Torkomian ‘21 brought home a Japanese and a Taiwanese student last year for Thanksgiving. “I didn’t realize how special for my family the holiday is until I got to share it with people who didn’t know the full concept of it,” Torkomian said. “When my family came over, I thought that they were going to be kind of shy, but [they] completely opened up and kind of took on the day by themselves.” The two international students even broke the wishbone.
“Living abroad myself for a number of years, I always appreciated when someone welcomed me into their home during a local holiday,” said Ben White, the Chair of Applied Linguistics/TESOL Department. “Not only does it enable one to observe meaningful traditions in a new culture, it provides the opportunity to participate and engage in those traditions.”
Mai Thi Thao Chi’s first thought of St. Michael’s was whimsical. “The college is very lovely with old buildings like castles in stories and also this is the first time I see the color of the fall.”
A lecturer at Vietnam’s Danang University of Architecture in business administration, marketing, and entrepreneurship, Chi, 32, is here as a fellow from the American Council for International Education. At home in her free time, she goes to the beach, watches movies, and goes to coffee shops with her husband and 5-year-old son. On-campus she has worked with the Business Administration Department since October 18 and will be here until November 19.
You are a trainer at an incubator for startup teams in your home city. What’s an incubator?
It’s a business incubator. Teams want to start their project, but they don’t know how. So, they can go there, and we provide training courses and we help them to build [a] network. We have an incubation journey and an acceleration journey. After the incubation journey, you will have a model that you apply. We will help them connect with partners or with investors. Startups is something that our government is investing very much at the moment.
What do you hope to accomplish at St. Michael’s?
I have three goals here. The first one is to observe the teaching practice, so that’s why I go to different classes. The second one is that I want to learn more about entrepreneurship here. We went to The MakerSpace and The Generator in Burlington. We also went to Entrepreneurship Club in University of Vermont. In my university, we haven’t had an entrepreneurship club yet, because we don’t know to do it. So, I want to learn more about it so I can come back to my university to create something like that. The third one is because I have a social project, which is called “a better Vietnam”, where I connect the volunteer native English speakers with English learners. So I also want to recruit new teachers and broaden my network so when I come back home I can keep in touch with them and find new teachers for the project.
How does the Vietnamese media portray the U.S.?
Before I came here I never heard about Vermont. I just know about America from movies. Recently I watched some vlog on YouTube. Some people make a video on their daily life. I know a little bit more, not only about New York but Las Vegas.
How different is the weather from Vietnam to here?
Vietnam is a tropical country, so it is very different from here…We have the dry season and the raining season. Usually, the temperature in summer is 33-35 C. [91-95 F]. In winter, the lowest temperature is maybe 15 C. [59 F]. Right now, in my city, the temperature is 30 C. [86 F]. Because of the humidity, I sweat all day.
What do you want people to know about Vietnam?
In Vietnam you can see motorbikes everywhere, you can see a whole family on a motorbike, a husband and wife and two small children. We also live in a community that we help each other, and we are friendly to people around us a lot.
What do you like about Vermont and St. Michael’s?
I like the environment and the architecture. It’s really historic and beautiful and peaceful. We don’t have autumn in Vietnam and I like it very much. Also because St. Mike’s is quite small and the size of the classes are also very small, just 18 or maximum maybe 25 it is very like a close community, that really knows each other. The professor can pay attention on each student. In my university, the average number of students in a class is 50 so it’s very crowded. Because I am staying in a townhouse, it is very convenient.
When I knew about my placement, Vermont, and St. Mike’s, it is a little bit not what I expected. I thought about [a] fancy city, New York. But when I came here, I am very pleased with this placement because I love nature. It is a very normal side of American life, it is not something you can see on television on social media very frequently. It is a chance for me to explore more about America. I really love this placement.
What do you think about American students? Do you find the classroom climate very different?
Students everywhere are quite similar, some are very good, some are lazy, some pay attention on other stuff but not on studying. Therefore, for me, the classroom climate is not very different. However, there are some minor differences that I can think of.
In Vietnam, students show a little bit more respect to the teachers. For example in greetings, students enter classroom usually have to say hello to teacher; or stand up when teachers enter the room.
American students seem to be more mature and be given more responsibility. They wear suit when having presentation or they drive school’s van to take other students to volunteer activities, to hiking mountains which makes me quite surprised.