BENNINGTON -- Bennington College held its annual convocation on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 1, to invite back returning students and welcome the Class of 2018 in time for the first day of classes on Tuesday.
Speakers at the convocation took note that incoming freshmen aren't only joining the community that exists on the college campus, but the community of Bennington alums all over the world.
Bennington graduates across the globe are also not the only community of similar minds and resources students have available to them. Now, that sense of community on campus has branched out. The college is breaking in a new year with an effort to make its student body a part of the college sports community and the Bennington community at large.
Bennington College last week formed an athletic consortium, signed off by the National College Athletics Association, with Southern Vermont College to allow its students to play sports at SVC. Bennington College had only offered intramural sports to its students prior.
Also, as college president Mariko Silver announced during her inauguration this spring, she has taken steps toward welcoming area residents to campus by installing new kiosks at entrances to the college and opening the north gate.
A mother whose family are now members of the community themselves, Silver said she is making it a point to extend everything the college has to offer to the Bennington community by opening its gate.
"We are very excited: The community within the college is very excited, including the students. It was something that early on somebody had pointed out to me that (the gate) has been closed for a long time. To be frank, it wasn't until I had to hoist a double stroller over the gate myself that I realized it needs to change."
The college has also cleaned up the entrance to its hiking trail. Silver said she hopes that the community feels welcome to use the trail as well, and to walk about the campus and the woods.
The college is working with the Village of North Bennington to lay a sidewalk leading to the north gate of the campus. The new gate will be designed by the college's supervising technician, John Umphlett, to make the campus look inviting for the public to walk, run or ride a bicycle through. The gate design will at the same time make it apparent that vehicles cannot come through that portal. It will be open within a month.
The college has always encouraged its students to reach out to the community. Silver said she wants to welcome any organization in the Bennington area to reciprocate an outstretched arm.
"We have students all the time saying they would like to volunteer," Silver said.
"Most students find things on their own, but we have students working all over town and I am sure there are many more opportunities. I would love people to raise their hands and let us know that they would like students to participate."
Umphlett will also be working with students to design a kiosk at the north gate and a kiosk at the south entrance to the campus. The kiosks will display campus maps and will be a place where students and faculty can post events and personal ads for the public. The public will also be welcome to post any community information aimed toward the students.
"This will enable people who are walking by or driving by to see what's going on at the college. We would love to have more members of the community coming to events at the college, of which there are many," she said.
The kiosks will be installed during the spring semester. Anyone in Bennington who may have volunteer, intern, performance or freelance opportunities for students should contact the dean of field work term, Holly McCormack, at email@example.com, and post those items to the kiosks once they are installed.
Find events such as art exhibits, concerts and more online at http://www.bennington.edu/.