Here we go again, indeed! It feels like only yesterday (though only a very few short years ago) that we made that faithful, fateful leap between Johnson State and Northern Vermont University, and now here we are, jumping with both feet into a new unified system.
I cannot say, readers, that I do not feel a tremor from underneath the ground here in Vermont’s higher education system. It seems we are in for another volcanic eruption, or earthquake– I could not say which. For all the rumblings, however, I hope that those in power who shift those tectonic plates beneath our feet are keeping their ears to the ground.
A great many fantastic, wonderful things came out of the brainchild that was and is NVU– President Collins’ bedazzled NVU shirt tops the list in my book– and all the efforts of the VSCS officials and administrators who spent years of their lives building it conceptually from the ground up cannot be understated. Despite this, we still have a ways to go.
Some view the union of JSC and LSC as a sort of unholy matrimony, a kind of forced marriage that pit each campus against the other in some sort of “we only unified because they were going under” vitriolic spitball battle. Some refuse to acknowledge NVU as a single entity, citing, “Oh, well, it’s still JSC.”
The former is garbage– as Benjamin Franklin once said, “United we stand, divided we fall.” The latter is an understandable sentiment, considering the importance of each institution in Northern VT. JSC and LSC had such strong identities as separate pieces of the rural VT experience. They were, and still are, community centers for their respective parts of the Northern Tier. Letting go of those separate, disparate identities to unify them was a hard pill to swallow, not just for outsiders like me who had come to love their little state college, but also for the people whose lives had orbited one campus (or both!) since before they could remember.
It’s not as if the campuses dissolved, and in their places are shining, brand new campuses with no memory. JSC and LSC still live on. They are not gone. They exist not just as names on diplomas but as touchstones for our communities. We didn’t evolve past their necessity– we co-evolved with them as we attempted to rethink what higher education could look like in Vermont. We didn’t do everything right the first time around, but NVU was what the VSCS needed– a drastic, gigantic target to aim at. As they say, when you shoot for the moon, sometimes you miss. Then, you land among the stars.
We made a good play at this one, I think. We were never going to be perfect, not the first time or the last, but we gave it our all regardless. The admissions teams of Johnson and Lyndon united to recruit for both campuses, a feat that goes nearly unnoticed in the general scheme of college goings-on. Despite a pandemic and a closure threat we maintained our dignity as the two hilly campuses united against the world. We gathered VTC, CCV and Castleton in our arms, marched through Montpelier and said, “You will not destroy us.”
Each campus of this newfound University is like a planet in a giant solar system. We’ll have our own ecosystems, our own flora and fauna, but at heart we still orbit the same Montpelier sun. Just as before, we will attempt to preserve the legacy while rethinking higher education.
I see a bright future for us here in Vermont, but we’ve got to work together. That means no surprise proposals, or attempted coups. That means we are open and honest with each other about timelines and budgets. We need to commit to our communities by reaffirming their individual missions: high-impact liberal arts, hands-on technical training, job readiness, and most of all, helping our students achieve their dreams.
So to policymakers in Montpelier, decisionmakers at home: Dream big. Help us make the new University a success. Keep your ears open, and you’ll hear a million heartfelt stories of what Vermont did and continues to do for its students. Keep your heart open, and you just may come to love our campuses as we do, and believe in them as so many parents do when they drop their darlings off at 18 to start their lives anew.
We are worth the investment– of time, money, and heart.
Editor in Chief