College and University General Interest Magazines: Middlebury College - Bronze Medal

Category 17: College and University General Interest Magazines
Middlebury College, Middlebury Magazine

Contact: Matthew Jennings, editor, Communications, 5 Court St., Middlebury, VT 05753, Phone: (802) 442-5670, e-mail:

Objectives: Middlebury Magazine—a general interest, quarterly publication—is dedicated to communicating, through excellent writing and design, the high level of academic and cultural achievement at Middlebury College; the accomplishments of its outstanding alumni; and the intellectual, cultural, and social life on campus.

The magazine seeks to highlight faculty scholarship and teaching; to report on student academic, artistic, and athletic accomplishment; and to illuminate the professional and personal lives of Middlebury alumni. Through captivating visuals, the magazine also attempts to communicate the natural beauty of the college and Vermont.

Yet, while Middlebury is a liberal arts college with a strong sense of place in the Champlain Valley of Vermont, it also has global components and a respective global outlook and mission. Through its affiliate, the Monterey Institute of International Studies; its nine language schools, which operate on the Vermont campus each summer; its graduate School of English, which has sites in three states and two countries; and its Schools Abroad, which operate in eleven countries, Middlebury stretches to all corners of the earth, and it’s incumbent on the magazine to reflect this global reach.

Middlebury is also a college with a rich literary history. Robert Frost lived a stone’s throw from the college’s mountain campus in nearby Ripton, Vermont. He taught at the college’s School of English and joined a long list of literary luminaries (Cather, Welty, Ellison, Stegner, Capote, Didion, Morrison to name a handful) who have spent summers teaching and writing at either the School of English or the college’s Writers’ Conference. This life of letters should also be reflected in the pages of Middlebury Magazine, both through literary writing and creative story selection that speaks to these storied programs.

How does the magazine accomplish these goals? Well, we strive to capture on the page the sensibilities of the college and its alumni. In this manner, we should be provocative, humorous, and challenging. We must be inquisitive, creative, and vibrant. Our graduates (and students and faculty, too) are adventurous, but also reflective; inspirational, yet largely humble; stewards of the mind, but also the soul. Middlebury Magazine should be seen this way, as well.

Two full-time: editor and alumni editor (class notes)
Five part-time: art director, assistant editor, graphic designer, production assistant, editorial assistant (student)
Audience: The magazine is mailed to all undergraduate alumni, faculty and staff, and current parents. The magazine is also mailed to degree holders from the college’s graduate programs, language school attendees (five years and out), and friends of the college.

Frequency: Quarterly

Number Pages: 88 pages

Circulation: 44,000

Annual Budget:
$165,000 for printing
$75,000 creative fees (art, photography, writing)

Average Cost/Issue: $60,000

Unit Cost: $1.36/per issue

Response: A recent survey of Middlebury alumni found that 85 percent of respondents cited the magazine as their primary news source about Middlebury College. More than 85 percent said the magazine did a good or excellent job in including an interesting mix of stories in each issue, while 90% rated the magazine as good or excellent.

The magazine’s Letters section continues to serve as a vibrant forum for discussion and debate. Each issue is chock-full of letters that comment on stories we’ve run; criticize and compliment the views of authors, editors, other letter writers, faculty, and the college administration; and correct (sometimes gently, sometimes not) errors we’ve made. Such a lively section keeps readers engaged with the college—and serves as an apt reminder that Middlebury is a place where impassioned debate, critical dialogue, and opposing points of view are not only embraced, but also celebrated.

We also look to our Class Notes section as a barometer of the magazine’s overall health. Class Notes—personal, lively, conversational missives—now run almost 30 pages. Filed by more than 70 class secretaries, the class columns offer a voice to each class year in each issue—and give us a window into the everyday lives of our alumni. This news abundance not only provides us with plenty of story ideas, but also speaks to the continued engagement of our readers and their desire to use the magazine to further this dialogue.

In recognition of the college’s standing as a leader in literary studies (through the Bread Loaf School of English and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference), the magazine launched an annual short-story fiction contest in 2003. Now in its fifth year, the contest attracts more than three times as many entries as in the inaugural year.

And while numbers may produce an accurate chart that measures the overall health of the magazine, the voices of readers place those numbers in context.

  • Voices such as that of the alum from the class of ’48, who says: “I commend you on the most recent issue…I read it from cover to cover, something I haven’t done in a long time, if ever in the 56 years since my graduation in 1948”;
  • the scholar-in-residence, an award-winning journalist and author, who writes: “Just a note to say how fine I thought the new issue of the magazine was. The cover story was really fine, esp. the lede. And the whole issue read great. And looked great, too”;
  • the alum who asked for 10 copies of a recent issue so that his “colleagues and friends could read this inspirational story”;
  • the tourist who picked up the magazine while staying in a local inn and called to ask to be added to the mailing list;
  • the high school English teacher, who picked up a magazine while attending the Bread Loaf School of English, and asked for permission to use the winning Fiction contest entry in her class;
  • the alum, a producer at 60 Minutes, who called the college’s public affairs office to book a faculty member for an upcoming program—after reading about the professor in Middlebury Magazine;
  • the same alum who wanted to track down another magazine profile subject—a woman in her mid-40s who overcame cancer and Lyme disease to make a run at the U.S. Nordic ski team;
  • the National Guard units around the country who wanted copies of a feature story on a Middlebury alum and guard psychologist who counsels soldiers returning from Iraq;
  • the alum, an executive at the World Bank, who read a profile of a young Afghani student and subsequently offered the young woman a job
  • the language school alum, who writes: “what a flood of wonderful memories came back to me while reading the most recent issue”;
  • and that student’s mentor from the Japanese School, now the school’s director, who asked the magazine to pass along an e-mail to his former pupil, the letter-writer: “After 25 years, it was wonderful to read that you are still using your Japanese and to hear how fondly you recall your studies at Middlebury.”