Located about 20 minutes north of St. Johnsbury in the eastern part of the Northern Kingdom of Vermont, Johnson State College is home to just under 1,500 students. For very outdoorsy kids who are interested in Broadcast Journalism and/or meteorology/atmospheric sciences, this could be the perfect place.
They have an award winning news broadcast station on campus; students go on the air live, unlike many other school broadcasts. The director of the program said, “This puts us on par with Arizona State, Ohio State, and other huge schools; even places like Syracuse don’t usually go live to air.” People in the broadcast area can actually give feedback to the student broadcasters, and these ratings become part of the students’ grades. Even the students doing the weather reports are reporting on their own work – they aren’t just getting on the air to report; “they did the math,” said the director. In addition to winning awards for the student production, they have alumni working on air around the country – and the Weather Station was started by JSC grads!
This isn’t the only area that stands out. The Music and Performing Arts students can go into Audio Production, Music and Self-Production, Music Industry Management, and Music Business and Industry. Recently, six students interned with James Taylor in his personal home studio. The Exercise Science students get certified before graduation as Personal Trainers, giving them a second area for a potential job when they graduate (and even before). These students work in the gym on campus, so the other students benefit from their expertise.
The college takes the “I’ll show you how to do something; now YOU do it” approach to education. President Joe, now completing his 2nd year as president, says, “Other people talk about experiential education. Here, we have it in our back pocket.” Even he learns alongside the students. When he came here from Queens, NY, he had never done any of the outdoor things that take up so much of the students’ free time. He promised to at least try everything. Once he went mountain climbing, and one of the older students got him all hooked up in the gear – and then took it off. “Now you have to put it back on.” He and the three freshmen with him all learned to do this for themselves.
President Joe (he really is called that!) has been asked many times, “Why on earth did you come here from Queens? Why would ANYONE come here?” It is amazingly remote, but he said, “People know other people’s names.” He can’t say enough about the place. People are allowed “to live what they love.”
The campus is small, and many of the main parts of campus (many academic areas, the athletic facilities, the library, the theater) are connected in one big building, giving is a bit of a glorified high school feel – although in the long winters and on rainy days, no one is complaining! Our tour guide said that she hated the school the first time she came; her mother insisted she come back during an admissions open-house weekend, and she started to like it better. Now she can’t picture being anywhere else. She said that things can get a bit boring on the weekend, but mostly there’s plenty to do.