Whitmore named executive director of VTSU-Johnson campus


With the ongoing creation of Vermont State University, the one constant for NVU, formerly Lyndon and Johnson State Colleges, seems to be still more change.  Newly appointed Executive Director of the VTSU/NVU-Johnson Campus Michele Whitmore has certainly seen her fair share of that over the years.

Whitmore has worked on the Johnson campus for 29 years and counting and has worn many hats since her arrival here in 1993 from New York. In April of 1994, she applied for a part-time position in the summer for Residence Life and Service Learning at what was then Johnson State College. For her, the first visit to this small rural college made a strong, positive impression.

“That was it,” she said in a recent Basement Medicine interview. “At that point, I was determined to become a part of this community.”

At the end of that first summer, she was hired full-time to support the residence life office. That appointment proved to be a launching pad for a steady career trajectory. “From there, I learned everything I could about student life, continued with my personal and professional development, which included furthering my education, and worked my way forward,” says Whitmore, adding that she feels fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work, grow and learn here.

Whitmore acknowledges that accepting this newly designated position has come with a cost, specifically having to step back from her duties as women’s head varsity tennis coach.  “I absolutely loved the experience, the relationships developed with my teams especially, and with the athletics department staff, coaches, and student athletes,” she says. “For personal and professional reasons, it was time. I could no longer give coaching the time and attention it deserved.”

VTSU President Parwinder Grewal authorized this new position on each campus to manage many of the local day-to-day issues. “Among other responsibilities, the executive director serves as the campus’ primary contact person for students, staff and faculty to support activities or events, to assist in addressing campus concerns, to provide campus specific updates as appropriate, and to be the President’s designee at on- and off-campus events, and for emergency response or other related urgent matters,” Whitmore says, adding the she imagines the expectations and responsibilities currently in place may evolve over time during the transition into Vermont State University.

According to Whitmore, Grewal recognized the need for individual campus point persons considering he would be serving as president of multiple campuses spread across the state.  “Knowing that President Grewal would not be able to be present on each campus on a daily basis, it was important to him to make sure each campus had an immediate ‘go-to’ to provide on the ground campus leadership,” she said. “With that in mind, President Grewal decided to have an executive director on each individual VSC campus, which is why NVU has Jonathan Davis on the Lyndon campus and me on the Johnson campus.”

As executive director, Whitmore says she will report directly to Grewal during weekly meetings with him and the other campus executive directors.

Whitmore pointed out that the new organizational chain of command works both ways, and key campus personnel will report to her, including Barb Flathers, the campus assistant to the president, and Mike Palagonia, the head of public safety on the Johnson campus. She also adds that in her continuing role as dean of students, she reports to Kelley Beckwith, the VTSU vice president of student success. Also reporting to Whitmore are Residence Life, the Wellness Center, and the SGA.

“I see my role as the campus advocate. I believe in the worth of this campus, the worth of the students who chose Johnson and the importance of Johnson in Vermont Higher Education,” she said. “I want our community to know that I am here, ready to listen, to roll up my sleeves, and get to work in addressing all that is good, challenging, and desired to help sustain our campus.”

Along with the certainty of relentless change is Whitmore’s focus above anything else on students, stressing she has an open door policy and a simple way to schedule a time to meet with her. “You, the students, are why we are here; please know that you are invited to reach out, let me know what’s going well, what needs to be improved, what’s missing,” she says.

Whitmore’s office is in Dewey Hall in the Student Life Suite.