campus encounters

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Archive for the category “Vermont”

University of Vermont

University of Vermont (visited 4/15/14)

~UVM mascotIn case you were wondering, UVM comes from the Latin Universitas Viridis Montis, or University of the Green Mountains.

~UVM 2Located in Burlington, UVM is the state’s flagship, land-grant university. With almost 10,000 undergraduates and 1,800 graduate students (about ¼ of whom are in the medical school), students say that it’s the “perfect size.” Although this is the flagship state university, 65% of students are not from Vermont; “There just aren’t that many students in Vermont,” said the tour guide. There’s a lot of diversity, openness, acceptance, and safe spaces around campus. In fact, it’s the first college in the country to have written into its bylaws that it wasn’t adhering to a particular religious sect – and was also the first school to all women and African Americans full membership status in Phi Beta Kappa.

~UVM sci cntr interior 3

Stairs in the Science Center

“UVM fits any student,” said one of the students we talked to. “It’s inclusive.” In additional to more traditional types of Gen-Ed requirements, the school has a Diversity Requirement. Students must take 1 D1 (Diversity 1) class which covers Race/Racism in the US. They can either then complete one more D1 class or a D2 class which is “Human and Societal Diversity.”

~UVM Sci Cntr interior

Atrium of the Science Center

Some of the more unusual majors are Holocaust Studies, Community Entrepreneurship, Community and International Development, Molecular Genetics, Sustainable Landscape Horticulture, and Neuroscience. Athletic Training, Nursing, and Exercise Science are competitive and some of the most popular majors; nursing is restricted by capacity. They have a 5-year Engineering program with St. Mikes. It’s more difficult to transfer into Engineering or Nursing/health sciences if students don’t declare them coming in, but not impossible. Students completing an Animal Science major have an opportunity to gain early admission to the Tufts University Vet School. People in these departments can still study abroad and minor outside the department which is a bit unusual.

The science center is one of the newest buildings on campus. They made use of local woods for the flooring which changes color to imitate changing landscapes (designed with student input). The building has “awesome lab spaces,” according to our tour guide, including hydraulics, soil, and more. They even have a wind tunnel!

~UVM museum


Their business program puts a great deal of focus on current themes in the business world such as global issues and entrepreneurship. Our tour guide also raved about the strong theater and music programs. They have three main stage events every year, and students are involved in the technical aspect as well. Their art department is impressive, and the university owns the largest art collection in the state (but is that saying much?).

~UVM statue 3Students can be admitted to the Honors Program as a freshman or apply for sophomore admission with a certain GPA and recs from professors. Students in the program live in the newest housing on campus, and the seminars for the first 4 semesters are held in this building. Our tour guide said that her Pursuit of Knowledge was a nice break from Engineering, and the seminars are interesting. She took Discovering a Sense of Place: Transcendentalism. During Junior year, they take a thesis prep course to get ready for their senior thesis.

~UVM theater

Theater Building

~UVM sculptureStudents must live on campus for the first two years. 70% of juniors and seniors move off, but they don’t have to. The tour guides said that there’s way more to do on campus than there’s time to do it all. They laughed when they told us about “The Bored Calendar” which lists all the activities on and around campus. Students complete quite a bit of community service right in Burlington, a city all the students raved about. “We’re in a city on a lake surrounded by mountains.” Church Street is a pedestrian area, well utilized by students and townies alike. When they get sick of the local area, they can hop on the Megabus which goes to both NY and Boston.

Internships and career development are big. The host several career fairs every year with lots of out-of-state employers coming to each. One of the admissions reps said that “Career success is everyone’s job on campus.” Within 6 months of graduation, 20% of alumni are in grad school and 80% are employed.

© 2014

Burlington College

Burlington College (visit 4/18/14) *** CLOSED AS OF MAY 30, 2016

~view of lakeChristine Plunkett, the President of the College, started off our session with a story: Every year during orientation, they take the new students and parents on a lake cruise on Lake Champlain. About 5 years ago, she saw a girl sitting alone so she went over to talk to her. “Are you a new student?” The girl said yes and the flood of tears started. Hailing from across the lake in NY, the girl had grown up in a series of foster homes. “Never in a million years did I think I would go to college.” Her foster mother told her they were going to find her a great place; they found Burlington. She said that didn’t think she could do this – but she did. She got involved in the Legal Studies program to study more about the Foster system. Last year, she applied to 13 law schools – and got into every single one! She just finished her first year of law school, and was in contact with her advisor: “Out of my entire class, I’m the most well-prepared. None of them know how to have a discussion or debate because they come from large text-book based classrooms.”

~Burlington main buildingBurlington started in 1972 as the Vermont School of Community Involvement at which point all the students were adult learners. There was no campus; classes were held in offices, living rooms, anywhere around town. Even today, the college is still housed a single building.  Courses involved negotiation between teachers and students and culminated in narrative evaluations. Although it’s become a little more traditional due to accreditation, their progressive tradition still allows the student to help focus the learning. There are still narrative evaluations (with options for grades), and the students and teachers have to agree on the grade/evaluation! They both sign it after going over it together. If they cannot come to an agreement (a rare event), there is arbitration available.

Burlington art studio

One of the art studios

Not surprisingly, the college’s tag-line is “No Boxes.” Students are a little quirky in that they have passions they like to combine. Because they only enroll about 220 students, it’s easy to have a non-traditional idea of a college class. Most only have 5-10 students, “15 if it’s a big class,” said one student. People sit around a table and talk. Students who “are conversationalists and who know themselves will be the quintessential perfect fit. These are the students who will be able to reach past boundaries.” Students here learn how to formulate questions, assess information, and use it. That’s the key to the first two years of seminars. The next two years are project based. They learn really amazing things like how to draft legislation. Teachers will start with a leading question like, How do you change the world a little bit at a time? – and then they work to figure it out.  Students are creative, engaged, independent, and self-motivated (they have to want to be here). A student has been a voting member on the Board of Trustees, actively engaged in committees, helps make financial decisions.

~Burlington statueThe college community is embracing, intimate, and inclusive, and ties to the town are very strong. The college is located in the North End of Burlington where there are lots of immigrants as well as long-term residents. One student interned with a neighborhood planning commission for the local ward; she so impressed them with her ability to think things through and her engagement with the community that the ward made it the first “town-gown NPA.” Part of the reason that relations are so good is that most students live in town.

BC only has about 40 slots for student housing (on a first-come, first-served basis) ranging from right across the parking lot to a couple miles away. However, there’s lots of housing within walking distance, and a lot of students bike or ride the bus. They have a housing coordinator who will check out housing options for kids over the summer. He said, “The major question is, ‘Would I let my own kid live here?’” The school is conscientious of the fact that students share apartments and other living spaces and need quiet spots to study, so there are a few rooms designated as Quiet Study Spaces year-round with more designated as Quiet areas during finals. Students also get free memberships to the YMCA in town; one is located 2 blocks away; the other is a 10-minute drive, but that one has a pool. “We have a gym, but our library is using it right now!”

Student art on display

Student art on display

Most of the classes are scheduled in 3-hour blocks, and many students are able to work somewhere in town.  Law and Studies program offers a Paralegal Certificate (the only one in Vermont). They’re about to launch a new Music School based on Music in Society.  Their Woodworking program (yes, you can major in that!) is located in Fairfax: “It’s a bit of a schlep,” said a rep. Film and Documentary Studies and the Psychology departments are worth noting. They offer Early College (the only Private school in the state that does this). There isn’t housing available so it’s really only for local students.

Admissions is rolling. “Some of our most successful students are those who are a bit in limbo. They may not even have college on their radar or aren’t sure if they’re ready.” They’re more than willing to spend time talking to students to make sure that Burlington is a good fit: “Any of us will come to you – from a student to an admissions person to the president!” They also work with transfer students, offering a 20% discount to students with an AA degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. They also run a summer semester for students who want to get ahead, try out the college, and/or save a great deal of tuition money.


Library in what had been the gym

Their first-year retention is currently at 70%, up from 40% several years ago. This happened shortly after implementing the FYE program, comprised of five weeks of themed seminars help students transition. The first-year advisor is there to make the academic and social transition as easy and successful as possible. She reaches out to students as early as April before they even start, and then meets with them individually on campus after orientation.

They plan to triple in size by 2020 and then stay at that size. They own 16 acres and will put housing on that area. They currently are only using about one-third of their current building and are slowly working on renovating the rest.

© 2014


Bennington College

Bennington College, Bennington, VT (visited 4/17/14)

~Bennington Art building Bennington College, with its enrollment of 500 students, is housed on a sprawling campus with eclectic architecture – a bit like their students! Academics are strong and individualized. The open curriculum means that there are no core requirements, and students create their own majors that almost always end up being interdisciplinary. Therefore, the students must be curious, independent, willing to be challenged beyond their comfort zone, and able to connect many interests.

~Bennington student studying 2There are two core components of the Bennington Academic Experience:

1) Plan. “It’s a little foreign and scary to families,” said the Director of Admission. The process recognizes the students’ curiosity and capacity to learn beyond what they think is possible. This lets them figure out what they need, how they learn best, and more. They can push boundaries and take any class they want.

  1. The first year is all about the excitement of education. They meet regularly with the advisor, sometimes as a group, or meeting for lunch, or after class. In the first year, the advisor is one of their teachers who will push them to be analytical about why they chose certain classes and verbalize what they’re interested in. They’re pushed to think about whether there is an essential question or theme among all of them.
  2. In the sophomore year, students meet with a committee of 3 or 4 teachers who will make sure that the student has a liberal arts education. They’ll plan out classes based on the student’s interests. Students declare an area of study (a major) during this year.
  3. During junior and senior years, students complete the plan and work on a final senior project. Our tour guide’s senior project was writing a graphic novel. Ideally, she would like to work for DC Comics.

2) Fieldwork Term (FWT): This is a yearly, 7-week internship/mentorship/fieldwork/ something educational outside of the classroom. This must be completed every year, and has to be different every year. They can get grants for this; they have to write a budget and a proposal. Scholarships are also available for internships with a global impact ($250-$2000 depending on what they’re doing).

~Bennington outdoor class 2Students get narrative evaluations in classes, but can opt for grades if they want them. This can be done on a class-by-class basis, or they get grades for every class. Sometimes they want reassurance that grad schools will take them seriously. However, Bennington is in the top 40 of schools sending students on to get PhDs. Academics are clearly strong.

I was less impressed with the students than I thought I’d be. It was a beautiful day, but very few students were out; those who were out didn’t greet each other as they crossed campus, but the students I spoke to seemed friendly enough. One of the other counselors had heard that students there were cool and a bit stand-offish, and what we saw seemed to back that up. We asked our tour guide about her impressions and if she would agree with that. She said, “some of the kids are pretentious, but it’s drilled out of you.” There’s definitely an aura of affectation here.

~Bennington picnicThe graduation rate (67%) isn’t great, and they spend a long time talking about that. They’re interested in graduating the students – if this is the right place for them! This is a test-optional school; just over one-third of students submitted test scores. The average GPA is 3.56, ACT 29, SAT 1295. The total cost hovers just over $63,000/year (making them one of the most expensive schools out there), but 90% of students get financial aid. The average loan debt at graduation is $24,000. The Director of Admissions said, “There is some value in taking on some debt. It’s an investment. It’s not a car; it won’t depreciate.”

~Bennington welding studio

Welding Studio

Art Studio

Art Studio

They have an amazing arts complex with extensive, open labs for ceramics, sculpture, and more. They have 4 black box theaters and an extensive prop shop. Students complete labs in lighting, costumes, props, and more. There’s usually 1 faculty-run production which is directed by a professor; almost all the rest are run by students. One of the facts they like to share is that they’re the first college to have included the arts (visual and performing) into the liberal arts curriculum/ college. They offer animation classes, and one called “Nature and Artifice” which deals with a lot of architectural issues. Not surprisingly, over 40% of their students major in something relating to the visual or performing arts.

~Bennington dorm

One of the Houses

Almost all students live on campus (easy to do with the small enrollment). Dorms are called Houses, and many are Themed. The one we saw had a large lounge, a working fireplace, and a drum set and piano. Freshmen and Sophomores usually get doubles; Juniors and Seniors almost always live in singles.

There is no Greek life on campus, nor are there varsity sports, but plenty of club sport opportunities, including fencing and archery.

Although there are very few students majoring in the physical sciences, there are some interesting things going on there, as well. For example, there’s an Octopus Lab because the professor thought that “their brains are cooler” (according to our tour guide).

© 2014

Marlboro College

Marlboro College (visited 4/17/14)

~Marlboro 2~Marlboro pronounsI lucked into a tour run by an admissions rep, himself a recent alum of Marlboro. He was clearly passionate about his alma mater and loved showing it off. He was articulate, interesting, enthusiastic, and slightly quirky – a true embodiment of Marlboro students! He cut right across the grassy areas, took us into buildings that “aren’t on the tour just but you have to see it!” etc. This is one of the most interesting colleges I’ve seen. Students are curious, motivated, able to work across disciplines, and caring about the wider community. They’re life-long learners; they love the inquiry.

~Marlboro library interior 2Trust and independence are the cornerstones of a Marlboro education. Things are run on the “New England Town Meeting style” by both students and faculty. Buildings are unlocked 24/7. Students are on the honor system to check out their own books at the library. Faculty members treat students as colleagues. There’s no competition because everyone is doing their own individual work. “It’s great to see what everyone is doing!”

~Marlboro library stair

library stairs

Dining Hall

Dining Hall

Students learn to hone their passions in an aggressive way in order to pursue what they love. The first two years allow for exploration of different fields in seminars of 5-15 people. The students’ individual concentrations are then done in the junior and senior years when they design small seminars (often 1-on-1) with professors. In order to earn their degree, students must pass a writing requirement within 3 semesters, complete a plan of concentration, complete 120 credits, and complete an original project within the field which is independent of faculty feedback or advice. This gets mailed to an outside person for review who will come in to do a two-hour oral exam. Once the student passes that, they’ve officially finished their degree.

~Marlboro campusThe most interesting topics pull in several fields. One current student is a highly trained musician doing high level math to understand computer programing so that he can produce electronic music. Another is doing environmental studies and architecture along with sociology. He researched sustainable design, ethical practices, neighborhood needs, etc and ended up designing a greenhouse on campus. He did a Masters in Architecture in Germany and is about to go to San Francisco to do sustainable urban housing. About 75% of students go onto complete further post-graduate degrees, often in education, creative arts, health care, agriculture, and environmental or sustainable practices. They often get into prestigious graduate schools and law programs (including a physics program at Stanford this year). One law-school student is look at “space law.” However, the admissions reps admit that “Technical trades can be tricky here.”

~Marlboro dorm


20% of students live off campus, but housing is guaranteed all 4 years. After freshman year, students can live in places like cabins in the woods and can be off the meal plan. There’s one apartment style building tucked up into the woods called “Out Of The Way” which houses several non-traditional or married students. Dorms are coed – as are some bathrooms. “There are definitely gender politics going on here,” our rep said.

© 2014

Norwich University

Quad used by Cadets

Quad used by Cadets

Norwich University (visited 4/14/14)

I knew that Norwich had a military component, but I didn’t know that it was the birthplace of ROTC or that a third of the students were “civilians” and not at all involved in the Corps of Cadets. This is a residential campus; all students must live here except those who grew up in town. However, the two sides of campus are pretty well separated: “Civilians know that the cannon goes off at 5 am, but don’t want to hear it. The Cadets know that the civilians can have an x-box, but don’t want to see it.” One of the admissions rep is a Norwich graduate who was on the civilian side; when asked why she choose to go to a school with such a strong affiliation to the military when she had no interest in joining the Corps, she said she came for the academics and the community. She liked that the college was different.

~Norwich quadNorwich, now located in Northfield, was founded in 1819 in Norwich, directly across the river from Dartmouth. It burned in 186; the rumor was that the fire was started by Dartmouth students when they couldn’t get dates (all the Dartmouth women were supposedly dating Norwich men). They moved to their current location at that point.

~Norwich acad bldgStudents in the Corps of Cadets are not obligated to go into a military career upon graduation. One of the admissions officers said that this is a good way for them to “Take a military career for a test drive before they sign on the dotted line” by giving them a good taste of the life. The first year is called “Rookdom.” The first week in the corps of cadets is “a little rough,” said one tour guide. They’re separated from the civilians and it’s very much like boot camp. For the first semester, they only get one 10-minute phone call a week and 30 minutes on Facebook. They march everywhere facing forward. Doors to their dorm rooms must be kept open any time they’re in there except during lights-out. Things start easing up during second semester (more access to their cell phones, doors can be shut for more time). “If you can’t be responsible for yourself, you can’t be responsible for others,” said one tour guide. Students are able to move to the civilian side if they can’t handle the rookdom – as long as there are beds available. However, there’s a definite pride in making it through: “If you can get through Rookdom, you can do anything.”

~Norwich museumCorps students have to choose a branch of the military and take that ROTC class. They can get an ROTC scholarship towards tuition and need 6 semesters of ROTC to graduate with that distinction on the diploma. One student wants to be an AF officer. He had Jr. ROTC experience, but this is not necessary to be part of the corps.

~Norwich library interiorSeveral things that make them stand out from other military institutions. It was the first military school to admit black students (in the early 1900s) and women (in the 1970s). They’re the only one with a US National Guard facility on a campus. There’s no live ammo on campus, but they do have a simulated rifle range. There are 12 buglers on campus (West Point, VMI, the Citadel, and others use recordings). They have the oldest collegiate marching band, and they have the largest collegiate ring – 44 pennyweight. If it were 45, it would be a weapon, although they still have to register it as a weapon in several states, including Massachusetts. It’s already had 2 confirmed kills in Iraq, although I’m not sure how.

This is a diverse campus in all senses of the word. Many states around the country are represented, and there are many women in the Corps (and in the Civilian side, although that’s not news-worthy). The student we talked to said that they have a strong bond. She’s a nursing major so she studies with a lot of women on both sides. She feels that she has the best of both worlds: guys look out for them, and women have each other’s backs.

~Norwich dorm 1Academics are strong, and students get one-on-one attention.. Their Computer Security program is ranked as #2 nationally. In the last two years, the nursing students have all passed the NPLEX on the first try. The Environmental Science programs are hands on; they spend 12 of the 15 weeks in the semester outside. They’ve implemented a Leadership Studies minor. There’s integrity, and people take the honor code seriously: “We are men and women of integrity. We do not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do”.

One of the tour guides called Norwich an “and” school. It’s balanced, and students can get involved in lots of things. Their athletics are DIII, and 17 of 20 teams moved to post-season play. Pegasus Players is the theater troupe. “Disney Field” is the on-campus ropes course; “Lower Disney” has the volleyball and basketball courts, grills, and more.

© 2014

Middlebury College

Middlebury College (visited 4/14/14)

The director of admissions described Middlebury as a “quaint, quintessential small new England Liberal Arts College – but we’re not content just to be that.” They’re working to expand both programs and buildings and programs. For example, they’re expanding their relationship with the Prose Foundation for students interested in STEM programs. They also have new study abroad offerings in India and Cameroon with more being added all the time.

They are currently downsizing because they have actually overenrolled over the last few years and are hovering just under 2,500 students. This year, they brought in 575 new freshmen and 85 new in February. Middlebury’s mid-year enrollment has been around a lot longer than other schools who have recently started up the trend, and it remains popular here; the term “Febs” is a common word in the vernacular to refer to these students. Middlebury provides as good an orientation for them as for those starting in the fall, and the Febs cohort becomes close. Because many of them also graduate mid-year, they hold a “Ski Bowl graduation” (and they’re also welcome to walk in the spring).

This year, apps were down by about 10% but overall have doubled in the last 10 years. Their main overlaps include Bowdoin, Williams, Brown, and Dartmouth. One of the admissions reps said that size is the difference; it offsets the location. Most students live on campus; they can apply to move off during junior or senior year, but usually don’t. They have Social Houses (their version of Learning Living Communities) in which students can propose the themes. All students are on the all-you-can-eat meal plan, so they can come and go as they want. The tour guide said that this was great for when they want a cup of coffee or a snack between classes. Two of the dining halls serve all three meals; one only serves breakfast and lunch.

They have a strong honor code, but this has come under scrutiny lately.

Most of the buildings are impressive, and made of gray stone. Campus is sprawling and well-maintained with large grassy areas, occasional sculptures, and some trees that students are happy to put to use for hanging their hammocks.  There are lots of bikes on campus which I imagine are useful; the campus is certainly walkable, but also fairly large for the size of the student body.  Several students were out and about; many seemed a bit preppy.

Middlebury offers the full range of majors that you would expect at a liberal arts institution with a few unusual additions including Neuroscience; languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, and Japanese (not surprising since they’re known for their language instruction); History of Art and Architecture (including concentrations in Museum Studies, Architecture and the Environment, and Architectural Studies); and Film and Media Culture. They have a strong involvement in the arts, but many more people participate than will major in theater, music, and dance. Several students participate in the Potomac Theater Project. They have to audition to participate as an actor or technician, but if they they’re accepted, they spend 6-8 weeks in NYC during the summer to work with equity actors. Mostly juniors and seniors go, but sometimes sophomores are accepted.

© 2014


New England Culinary Institute

New England Culinary Institute (visited 4/15/14)

neci 5Occupying several buildings on a main street in Montpelier (the smallest state capitol in the country, and the only one without a Burger King, a McDonalds, or a Starbucks), NECI (pronounced “necky”) does amazing work training students in a variety of culinary arts, including Baking/Pastries, Culinary Arts, and Management. Both the restaurant and the bakery are open to the public: “The big difference with NECI is that there’s a customer at the other end. It makes it immediate.”

neci 7We were lucky enough to eat dinner at the restaurant, and we had time to chat with students, faculty, and admissions reps. One of the chefs we talked has a cookbook coming out called Real World Farm to Table. One of the instructors is Chinese and is providing language classes for students in the BA program. Another one (Jean-Louis) won Chopped. He sat with us at dinner and provided some great entertainment! The student at our table is a first-gen college-goer. She was the first female to do an internship with a butcher. She grew up on a farm and understands the process, but said that being at a butcher was still a big adjustment.

neci 8There are 500 students enrolled at any given time, but only half are on campus; the other half are off doing internships. Students complete several modules on campus separated by 6-month internships. They have a strong presence in Napa, New Zealand, Germany, and many the big cities around the country. Students are encouraged to stay in the country for their first internship. After that, they can go abroad.

neci 1neci 2The classes and work on campus are set up to mimic the industry, so the students are scheduled for about 55 hours a week. Another way that they distinguish themselves from other culinary institutes are that students can’t hide here. Other places may have 100 kids in a lecture and 18 in the kitchen; here, classes are capped at 20 and no more than 10 will be in the kitchen at a time. In addition to all the experience working in both the bakery and the restaurant, they get other types of great experiences: we got to see Easter Bunny Chocolate Racecars that they made. There is also the annual “Wedding Cake Challenge” when groups are given a specific task such as to coordinate the cake with something like a specific article of clothing or to tea cups. They give tastes to the public who get to vote on appearance and taste.

neci 4To expand some opportunities for students, they have looked at the Five-College Consortium and are now trying to get NECI, Sterling, Green Mountain, and Vermont Tech linked so students can do a 1-semester exchange among the colleges. They also offer Dual Enrollment for high-schoolers who can enroll online first by doing 9 weeks online and 1 weekend in residency. After that, they start on site. October is the traditional start for kids coming out of high school. Non-traditional students usually start in April or November.

© 2014

Southern Vermont College


~Southern VT pond 2SVC sits on a sprawling, open 370-acre campus surrounded by mountains. Bennington, a small city of about 20,000 people, is about a mile down the hill from campus. The campus is divided into two sections: a modern residential section at the bottom of the hill, and a large stone mansion at the top of the hill which houses academics. The college was founded in 1926 as St. Joseph College but became independent when it was turned over to an independent board. Although it is a private institution, the tuition usually is about on-par with in-state tuition after aid is granted. About 90% of students receive Financial Aid; 35% are Pell eligible. The school only enrolls about 500 students, almost 2/3 of whom are first-gen students. They offer excellent student support on campus including LD support, tutoring, and career services.

~Southern VT 1Admitted students average about a 2.8 GPA and 940 SAT. Admission is rolling, and the do a holistic, portfolio approach to making decisions. On-campus housing is guaranteed for first-year students. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors can have cars on campus for free because many of them commute, and so many of them have internships in town. However, even for students without cars, getting around isn’t an issue. They can walk into town, and there’s a lot going on on campus. The Activities Board plans lots of things on the weekend, including trips off campus to NYC, Boston, and Northampton.

~Southern VT fire pitBefore the tour, I spoke with two of the tour guides: Stephanie, a senior from Massachusetts who is majoring in Health Care Management, and Bridget, a sophomore Nursing major from Connecticut. Stephanie was one of the few guides I’ve met who shook hands – initiated! “We came because it’s small. Instead of being another face in the crowd you can be your own person here.” Bridget said, “I can know everyone if I want to. We’re on first name basis with professors and they give us their cell numbers. They’re here to support us. If I miss class, the professor will call me out on it later!”

~Southern VT dining hallBecause of their limited enrollment, they only offer 16 majors, but they do them all well. Nursing is Direct-Entry (min 2.8 GPA, 500 per section on the SAT, and a C+ or better in Bio and Chem). The Healthcare Education Center is located 1.5 miles away. Clinicals can be done at the VA hospital, the hospital in town, at Pittfield, Mass., the SW Regional Cancer Center, and more. Our tour guide (in Health Care Management) did a 130 hour practicum with a Women’s Advocacy Center.

The Radiological Sciences, creative writing, criminal justice, healthcare management and advocacy, and business (with concentrations in management, sports management, and entrepreneurship) are also worth noting. “Business is strong because of our ability to integrate with the community. Bennington is a wonderful town. My classes always have a community component.” The bank in town provides $5000 for philanthropic funds. They do needs-assessment, write requests for proposals, solicit applications, create scoring rubrics, and do site visit checklists. Basically they go through the entire grant process.

The Castle located up the hill

The Castle located up the hill

Five things are happening this year that they wanted to highlight:

1)      They’re launching a new Women’s Lacrosse team (which will be the 11th varsity team on campus)

2)      They’re starting a new BSN program

3)      A Vet Scholars program is being initiated

4)      They’re opening a new admissions/welcome center

5)      The Everett Mansion turns 100

~Southern VT stairs 4The President was very proud of their “Book Ends of Your Education” program. Students get a book (signed by the faculty) when they enter the community and another when they leave. It seems like a wonderful idea – but I found it interesting that our tour guide, a junior, couldn’t remember what her freshman book was.

This is an excellent college choice for students who might need a little bit of academic or social support as they transition into college. It’s a small, supportive community in a beautiful location with excellent hands-on educational opportunities.

© 2014

Champlain College

~Champlain academic buildingChamplain College (visited 4/15/14)

~Champlain dining hallChaplain College has a small campus straddling a main street in town with a nice mixture of new and renovated older buildings. They have what they call “Agile Programs” enabling them to adjust their curriculum and academic offers with the market. They prepare students for a career through three separate avenues:

1)      The Major (career based programs). They use an “Upside Down” curriculum providing in-depth classes in the freshman year. This allows students to know early on if they really are interested in this area of study.

~Champlain sculture and tables2)      The Core (Liberal Arts curriculum). This is an interdisciplinary program. One of the first classes is “Concepts of Self” incorporating history, neuroscience, and psychology. They started this program 7 years ago based on employer feedback: they wanted communication, teamwork, etc.

3)      The Life Skills Program (such as community service, career management).

This program is working; in 2012, 90% of their graduates were employed, most of which were in career-related jobs, and 40% of them receive promotions within 6 months. This was based on a 95% response rate of the 2012 graduates.

~Champlain loungeChamplain central plazaThe 2000 undergrads (62% of whom are male) are accepted into one of the four academic divisions. When they apply to the college, they can apply for a specific major or as undeclared within a specific division.

Business School (Management and Innovation, Management of Creative Media)

  • Info Technology and Sciences (including an AS in Radiology, and BS degrees in Computer and Digital Forensics, Cybersecurity, and Game Design)
  • Communication and Creative Media (including a BFA in Creative Media, and degrees in Broadcasting and Streaming Media, Public Relations, and Professional Writing).
  • Education and Human Studies (including a BSW and degrees in Environmental Policy, Organizational Psych, and Legal Studies or Criminal Justice with a specialization in Computer Forensics)
Google Glasses

Google Glasses

The head of the Cyber Security department talked to us about their program which is ranked as the #1 CS program in the country, graduating about 45 students a year. He’s committed to making sure they the students are up-to-date on current technology, but also have the critical thinking and creative skills to succeed in a field that is rapidly changing. For example, they have an entire class on Mobile Device Forensics. He will bring in all sorts of devices to have them work on, take apart, and learn from.

Applications to Champlain have increased 12% last year, and have doubled in the past three years. Admitted students’ average GPAs are 3.3 with an average of 580 on each SAT section or a 26 on the ACT. During the admission process, students applying to Professional Writing, Game Design, Graphic Design, Digital Film, Creative Media, or Game Art and Design must submit a portfolio.

Champlain dorm


About 80% of students live on campus; they’re in the process of constructing 3 new dorms (1 is already open; 2 more will open this summer). There is no housing requirement, but most students still choose to live on campus (maybe because it’s cheaper to live on campus than in Burlington).  The Old Dorm holds 55 students and is one of the biggest; the smallest dorm holds 17 people.  There are 2 rooms on campus that house 5 students which I’ve never heard of before, but these are usually comprised of  2 or 3 connected rooms.

© 2014

Lyndon State College

Lyndon State mapLyndon State College (visited 4/13/14)

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.

Tv Studio

Tv Studio

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!

Lyndon State acad bldgThis 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.

Lyndon State loungeThe 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.

© 2014

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