College to examine social altruism at conference

MIDDLEBURY — A symposium at Middlebury College will explore why those who are the most effective at seeking positive change in our society often have a strong sense of self. The event, “On Leading a Life of Meaning and Purpose,” is the Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s (CSE) fifth annual symposium, which will take place Jan. 27-29. Cheryl Dorsey, a pioneer in the social entrepreneurship movement and president of nonprofit Echoing Green, and Charles MacCormack ’63, former president of Save the Children, will join Middlebury President Laurie Patton for separate keynote conversations during the symposium. Dorsey and MacCormack will each receive one of the center’s 2016 Vision Awards as well.
“Since the fall, we’ve had discussions at Middlebury about creating opportunities for students to reflect more on what they learn,” said Jon Isham, director of the CSE and professor of economics. “With the ‘Slow Food’ movement in mind, it’s time to create ‘Slow Learning.’ Too often we rush, we assign more, we expect more, and we pursue more, as do the students. And perhaps as a result, they learn less.
“Our hope is that the symposium will encourage students to slow down a little and decide what matters to them. Social entrepreneurship is just one way to help them do that,” added Isham.
The symposium will kick off on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 7:30 p.m. when MacCormack joins Middlebury President Laurie Patton in a conversation, “Social Engagement and a Life of Meaning,” in Mead Chapel. MacCormack is currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. He served as executive in residence at Middlebury from 2012 through 2015. He was president of Save the Children, the world’s leading independent nonprofit organization serving children in need, from 1993 to 2011.
The following evening, on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7:30 p.m., Dorsey and Patton will engage in a discussion, “Unleashing Next Generation Talent in Social Innovation,” in the McCullough Student Center. As president of Echoing Green, Dorsey leads the organization’s global effort to support the next generation as it works to solve world problems ranging from hunger to lack of adequate healthcare and education. As an Echoing Green Fellow herself in 1992, she helped launch The Family Van, a community-based mobile health unit in Boston. Dorsey became the first Echoing Green Fellow to head the social-venture fund in 2002.
Since 2009, she has served as vice chair for the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Dorsey earned a medical degree from Harvard Medical School and a master’s in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School.
Prior to Dorsey’s discussion on Thursday, Tracy Himmel Isham of Middlebury’s Center for Careers and Internships will lead workshops using Echoing Green’s “Work on Purpose” curriculum. The activities are designed to help students and other participants identify the issues they care most about and think boldly about their tactics.
On the symposium’s final day, Friday, Jan. 29, participants will engage in interactive discussions with faculty, staff and students on the topics of mindfulness and current global challenges. Students who have already pursued work on social issues with the help of fellowships and internships available through Middlebury will speak about their experiences. The symposium will wrap up with a design thinking session led by all participants.
All symposium events are free and open to the public. For a full schedule and more information, visit or contact Mustafa Babak at [email protected] at 802-443-3285. 

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