Survey to gauge VSC’s future: $160,000 – 10,000 responses – 1 year

Courtesy of Vermont State Colleges

VSC Chancellor Tim Donovan

The Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees has recently embarked on a strategic inquiry as a way to better understand and gauge the future of the VSC.

The board voted Dec. 2012 to embark on this inquiry, and more recently Fifth Element Associates of New England was selected to conduct the study.

“As far as I understand it, it’s basically to look at the VSC’s place in higher education as we move into the future,” said Julie Theoret, chair of the Mathematics Department and member of the VSC Faculty Federation.

“How can we best serve the students? Are we serving the right students? What should we be doing to serve the current students? Can we be getting different students?”

This project will cost roughly $160,000 and take place over the course of one year.

“In this first phase we’re doing multiple kinds of research to gather a lot of perspectives,” said Chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges, Tim Donovan.

“First is a survey sent to not only people within the VSC system, but also within the business and employer community, with schools, with parents and perspective students. So, in that manner we hope to gather information from a lot of people, we hope for around 10,000 responses.

“In addition to that we are going to be conducting 16 focus groups which will be groups of 7-9 people who are chosen partially at random from a number of different constituencies.

“We will do a focus group of students at each of the five state colleges. We’ll do a focus group of faculty at each of the five colleges. We’ll do a couple of focus groups with staff and administrators from across the system. We’ll do a focus group with employers. We’ll do a focus group with high school juniors. We’ll do another focus group with parents of young children in Vermont.

“The purpose of the focus group, over the course of a couple hours, is to dig deeper into not only what people’s perceptions of the state colleges are, but also what their hopes and expectations are for a good public college system in Vermont.

“In addition there will be some in-depth interviews with board members and the presidents of the colleges.

“So that is the research phase of this and that simply lays the groundwork for some activities that I hope will also engage all of the constituencies within the VSCs in really shaping a vision for the direction of these institutions individually and collectively and that will take place probably beginning late summer into the fall.”

Put simply, the study will include a wide range of voices in order to gain the best understanding possible to serve students, faculty, staff, and parents.

“Sometimes, you know, you can’t see the forest through the trees,” said Gary Moore, chair of the VSC board of trustees. “Sometimes it’s good to get people to look at it from the outside who don’t already have biases and preconceived notions about what we do. I suspect we’ll have lots of suggestions that may well be ruled out because they just won’t work for us, but we need to look at things.”

Theoret echoes Moore and Donovan’s wishes to involve all constituencies.

“The most important thing is for every single person in the VSC and even outside it to have a voice,” she said.

JSC students, faculty and staff have received the survey in their JSC email accounts.

To access the survey, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VTStateColleges.