Johnson State College
Johnson State College (visited 4/13/14)
Located in the small town of Johnson (population 5,000) in the North Central part of the Northern Kingdom of Vermont, JSC has about 1,550 students who fall anywhere from the “high flyers” to “those needing intrusive advising.”
The campus is lovely and well maintained with many of the buildings surrounding a large and well-used quad. Students here are definitely outdoorsy. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, river sports (rafting, kayaking, etc), mountain biking, and snow sports. There are several ski slopes nearby, and students get reduced price lift-tickets. Many places will give away ski passes, bindings, even snowboards as prizes for events on campus. The college even has an on-campus snowboarding park! It’s not surprising that their Outdoor Education program is well-renowned.
JSC offers a Wellness and Alternative Medicine major (definitely the only in New England; someone said the only one in the country). The students actually complete everything they need to apply to Med School if they do this major, but they also learn massage (and can get licensed before graduation), holistic medicine, non-western means of healing, and more. One recent grad is working a PhD in Alternative Medicine; two recent grads are in Med School.
Aaron, our tour guide, is a Vermonter who came here initially because of financial reasons; he wasn’t a great student in high school (I think he said he had a 2.9) and wasn’t getting any aid anywhere else. He raved about the help he got here in terms of them making it financially accessible to him. His twin brother also goes to school here on a pre-med track. Aaron is in the new Media Arts department; he loves that he got in on the ground floor because he’s really had a chance to help shape it. He showed us the multiple studios (sculpting, woodworking, photography, studio art, and more) as well as all the gallery spaces on campus. They’re clearly invested in helping students show off their work as well as bringing in outside artists to showcase new things. The theater is also a wonderful; it was designed for the Vermont Symphony so acoustics are “the best in the state.”
They are working on increasing retention and graduation rates. Freshmen and sophomores must live on campus. They have a Summer Reading Program for incoming freshmen; this past year was Detroit, and they had discussions, lectures, and even the author come to campus. Aaron said that “It gives people something to talk about and bond over – even if it’s over the fact that they didn’t read it.”
This is an accepting community; although most students wouldn’t fall into what I’d call the “quirky” category, there were kids with dreads, unusual piercings, etc. No one gave them a second look. The party scene is “downtown” – aka off campus, “but even then it’s not a Rave,” said Aaron. “You can do what you want. Weekends are pretty normal; we hang out, watch Netflix, do things around campus.” Students who need a break from the rural area can participate in the National Student Exchange across the country (two current students are in Bozemon, Montana, two are in Honolulu, and several others are scattered across the country); study abroad is also an option. One admissions rep, a JSC alum, said that kids are doing more on campus now such as going to watch the games. They have a rugby pitch on campus, and the Women’s Club team won the 2011 national championship.