Murphy: college can celebrate progress despite challenges


Tom Benton

President Barbara Murphy

Speaking  to a crowded room of students, faculty, and community members on Nov. 3 in Stearns Performance Space,  JSC President Barbara Murphy delivered her last State of the College address, highlighting both the college’s achievements and  challenges in her last year as JSC’s president.

Murphy began by acknowledging some of the achievements of various JSC students. For example, Senior Tia Drake was named the executive director of the Vermont chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America; Alyssa Slaimen was elected the Student Trustee for the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees.; Amber Fitzgerald received the Vermont Space Grant Native American Undergraduate Award from the VSGC and NASA EPSCoR.

Murphy then noted some of the changes that Johnson State College has made to the curriculum this year. The First Year Seminar courses all have mentors to go along with them to help the students enrolled in these classes excel. “[We wanted to] broaden the sphere of cheerleaders and support for first-year students,” said Murphy. Some First Year Seminars are also being paired with other classes so that students can have classmates that they recognize and are comfortable around, and Murphy was hopeful that this would make students more open and willing to talk in classes.

Murphy also addressed the school’s enrollment. She said that although Johnson State College fell short of its projected enrollment goals this year by the equivalent of 45 full-time students, there was a 5 percent increase in returning second-year students and an increase in first-year students as well. It came closest to its goal for first-year students – only falling 4 students short.

The college fell shortest for their goal for EDP and transfer students, although Murphy added that the Admissions department is working on plans to attract more students in these areas. Despite this, out of all of the Vermont State Colleges, Johnson State came the closest to reading their enrollment goals for first year students, which Murphy attributed partially to JSC’s call center. The call center works Monday – Thursday evenings calling potential students to schedule visits. Murphy also said that JSC has been customizing visits for potential students and their families so that they can learn as much as they need to about their areas of interest.

The JSC admissions department will also be getting a full review so that it can pinpoint the weakest areas and work on them. Murphy said that there is an “energetic and growing appreciation” for treating enrollment as a school-wide issue, and not just something for the admissions department to focus on alone.

President Murphy said that JSC’s website was redesigned in an attempt to make it more user-friendly for students and prospective students. Transfer students were also considered in this redesign. President Murphy said that she wants potential transfer students to be able to know from the website alone which of their credits will transfer over along with them.

Murphy acknowledged the continuing budget challenges, but said that admission projections for spring are looking positive and cost-cutting measures have been made to improve the outlook.  Several staff members were let go, the school reduced the number of courses and the hours at the library and health center. President Murphy also said that although there were plans to close down the pool, that plan has been put on hold due to outcry from students, staff, and community members alike.