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Davis United World College Scholars


Pilot Schools Reflect on 20 Years

Middlebury College

Nearly 500 Davis UWC Scholars have studied at Middlebury in the 20 years since the program began. The first Davis UWC Scholars brought a new dimension to the College community, one that continues to this day—Davis UWC Scholars tend to linger in people’s minds.

Ask professors about Davis Scholars, and they will recite a long list of names and recall interesting stories and anecdotes about the students, some decades ago.

One of Middlebury’s most celebrated examples is Yohanne “Kido” Kidolezi. Arriving on campus in 2001 from Tanzania and Red Cross Nordic UWC, Kido brought an exuberant enthusiasm with him that people still remember, and smile about. As a student, his work was exceptional, culminating in a research grant to investigate child labor in Tanzania. The Middlebury community was proud when Kido graduated with honors and went on to obtain an MBA from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management. And the community is proud of him today, as he works in the health-care field in Africa and Pakistan.

The fact is, Kido changed Middlebury. 

He left something of himself behind, including a beautiful tradition from his home halfway around the world that has become part of our community’s fabric.

It began one day when Kido and his classmates were hiking on Snake Mountain. Kido began to run downhill while singing a song in Swahili. In his small town in rural Tanzania, schoolchildren run and sing daily, an activity called Mchakamchaka. He explained to his friend that the entire school would run and sing, and the older students would run with the younger ones and teach them the songs. His friend was intrigued and joined in. And Middlebury Mchakamchaka was born—a student group that meets after dark to run and sing.

Professor Karl Lindholm witnessed Mchaka- mchaka for the first time when walking to his car one night. A group of shadowy figures came toward him on Proctor Road “running at a fairly good clip, singing, out loud and strong, a rhythmic song. Their song, their activity, was a celebration, an unmistakably joyous sound cutting through the darkness and chill of a late February night in Vermont.” 

Davis Scholars leave something of themselves behind. 

An artist leaves evocative portraits of indigenous people on the walls of the Rohaytn Center; a brave journalist, who has risked her life to report about political peril and corruption in her home country, inspires Middlebury staff and alums who follow her stories with a mixture of admiration and angst; under the leadership of Davis UWC Scholars, the highly popular international student fashion show transforms over time into a showcase for the cultures of the international campus community, in the UWC tradition.

Each adds a brick to Middlebury’s foundation, which reaches into the past and the future.

On campus: They come with skills to work across difference.

Middlebury Admissions recognizes that the Davis Scholars are likely to be resilient and more mature. “They have made adjustments that other students haven’t,” says Karen Bartlett, associate director of international admissions. “They have learned how to get along and how to push conversations forward. At UWC, they can’t afford to lose friends over difference—they know how to deal with difference.”

It is the general consensus that conversations taking place on campus are improved by Davis Scholars, whether with roommates, in student government, in campus-wide discussions about important issues, Davis Scholars are practiced at listening and helping to hear each other.

These skills have proven essential as the College becomes more diverse. Middlebury’s 500 Davis Scholars have helped to bridge geographic and cultural differences, while helping to make the College community more global.

In the classroom: They bring vitally diverse viewpoints.

When Davis Scholars’ viewpoints are added to discussions, the discussions can be vastly enhanced.

Professors comment that Davis Scholars are among their most challenging and exciting students. Tamar Mayer, professor of geography, calls them risk takers, willing to engage in complex discussion for the sake of the discussion, not the grade. “The Davis Scholars I have had in my classroom have been interested in political and global issues in a way that many of my American students are not. This has made for excellent discussions. My courses always have had global orientation, and these students fit perfectly in them.”

Middlebury + Davis Scholars = Optimism for the Future

Davis United World Colleges Scholars transform Middlebury with the impact of their talent, hard work, unique cultures, and their willingness to engage in mutual learning. One in three of our international students is a Davis Scholar, and their numbers ensure that they are a force for change and understanding at Middlebury.

If you ask Davis Scholars about Shelby Davis, they will speak in complete awe about how one person can change so many lives. Shelby made it possible for them to come to Middlebury to learn. They have earned our respect and their degrees, and they have returned so much to our community.

It has been a remarkable, wonderful 20 years.