“I’m walking away from this course with a lot of amazing things, but I think the most significant one is a new self-perception.Before MiddCORE, I never thought of myself as a risk-taker, or an entrepreneur, or a public speaker, or an “idea guy”. But after this month, I’ve seen that I can be all those things and I really think I found this new self-awareness thanks to MiddCORE.”

Alec MacMillen, MiddCORE ’13

MiddCORE, Middlebury’s Leadership and Innovation Program – 2014 Awardee

Middlebury’s MiddCORE is a mentor-driven, experiential learning program designed to build skills, create opportunities, and expand networks for tomorrow’s leaders and innovators. One person with an idea, even with a great idea, changes nothing. Visionaries succeed with leadership skills, communications skills, and entrepreneurial insights. Building those skills and insights is the CORE of MiddCORE. Skills developed include leadership, collaboration, idea creation, strategic thinking, empathy, persuasive communication, design-thinking, ethical decision-making, negotiation, crisis management, financial literacy and self-reflection.

Through its flagship four-week immersion course, its internship program, and its workshop series, MiddCORE prepares students to engage the world. The key to MiddCORE is our mentors. Carefully chosen mentors develop hands-on challenges that inspire students to think creatively, operate outside their comfort zone, and deal with ambiguity. In MiddCORE immersion, there are no tests and no essays. The course is pass/fail by design. We want students to take risks and fail forward. We want students to learn by doing. Students learn to think strategically by addressing authentic challenges faced by partner organizations. They learn to innovate by developing and testing the feasibility of their
own ideas. They learn to communicate persuasively by engaging in improvisation exercises, idea pitches, and story-making workshops. They learn to negotiate by resolving conflicts. They learn to handle the unexpected by managing crises. And they set their own moral compass by grappling with ethical dilemmas. CEOs, artists, psychologists, governors, change-makers, leadership coaches, and other practitioners are carefully selected to lead workshops, share insights and provide specific feedback.

View Jessica’s corresponding powerpoint presentation here.


MiddCORE students complete a pre and post assessment of CORE strength competencies. These assessments provide us with information regarding students’ expectations and actual experiences as well as changes in self-perceived confidence in CORE skill areas. This link illustrates the program’s success in improving student confidence in the CORE strength areas

Additionally, mentors, faculty and peers give continual feedback throughout the month on persuasive communication skills, approach to teamwork, creativity, etc.

How can people become involved in or replicate your innovation?

Students and recent graduates from any institution can apply to attend Middlebury’s MiddCORE at Sierra Nevada College. Dates for Summer 2014 are Jun2-27. Apply here.

MiddCORE is always on the lookout for strategic partners willing to engage bright, motivated MiddCORE students on authentic challenges facing their organization. MiddCORE is interested in partnering with both for-profit and non-profit organizations. New dynamic, engaging mentors always welcome as well.

You can also get involved in the following ways:
Become a strategic partner organization
Become a mentor
Host a MiddCORE workshop on your campus
Become a MiddCORE facilitator jholmes(at)middlebury(dot)edu

Contact Information:
Professor Jessica Holmes | Director of MiddCORE | jholmes(at)middlebury(dot)edu
Catherine Collins | Associate Director of MiddCORE | cmcollin(at)middlebury(dot)edu
Mike Kiernan| Instructor in Persuasive Communication | mkiernan(at)middlebury(dot)edu
EJ Bartlett | Marketing Director of MiddCORE | ebartlett(at)middlebury(dot)edu
Kathryn Benson | MiddCORE Outreach Fellow | kmbenson(at)middlebury(dot)edu
General Info: MiddCORE(at)middlebury(dot)edu

Cordes Innovation Awards

In partnership with Cordes Foundation, Ashoka U seeks to recognize globally relevant teaching, learning, and partnership practices that may be adapted and replicated across the field.