“Tell us something about yourself that people would never guess just by looking at you,” asks the questionnaire recently sent out to the incoming class of 2014. It’s part of the annual tradition of “Voices of the Class,” a program that has been happening during Freshmen Orientation in some form for much of recent memory. The program clearly has an imprint on students. It’s part of why Alice Bennett ’11 is bringing Voices of the Class full circle back to seniors next year in a project that collects narratives from the class of 2011 and 2011.5 for an anthology.
Bennett prompts her classmates, first through Facebook then via email, to write 1½ to 3 page accounts “describing some person, event or object that impacted who they are today.” Combined with a requested photograph or drawing, these narratives attempt to do something similar to what the Narrative Journalism Fellows do each year. Due just after Thanksgiving, writers have a long period of time to prepare their contributions.
The project stems in large part from Bennett’s Winter Term course with Prof. Catherine Wright called “Writing for Social Change.” Bennett writes, “It was one of the best classes I have taken at Middlebury. The final project had us each write a 15 page narrative on an aspect of our identity…. I came to really look forward to reading my classmates’ narratives and I was sorry to see the editing process come to an end.”
Bennett sees the Orientation version of her project as inspiration, “When I was a first year Voices of the Class made me realize that each of my new classmates had great stories to tell and listening to their writing made me really excited to get to know everyone better. I was a first counselor last year and attending Voices of the Class for a second time reminded me just how interesting Middlebury students are.”
Bennett doesn’t know yet how she wants her final “anthology to be used” and is realistic about the probability of economical publishing of such a book. She says, “At the very least I would want there to be a copy in the Davis Family Library for curious students to look through.”