Jeannine Marble

The year was 1986.  Community College of Vermont was located in a building called Wasson Hall in the Vermont State Office complex in Waterbury, Vermont.  Ken Kalb was president of the college.  This was when I was hired to become a full-time secretary in the External Degree Program.  I spent a total of three years working with the program director and TOP coordinators as well.  TOP (XXXX) sponsored real estate refresher courses, which involved producing flyers, having them printed, using bulk mail, then attending and supervising the seminar.


I did have someone from the staff to assist me.

At the time there were a total of eight CCV sites:  Montpelier, Burlington, St. Johnsbury, Springfield, Brattleboro, White River Junction, Morrisville and St. Albans.  Wasson Hall in Waterbury was the administrative office for all of them.  This meant all grades from all of the sites’ courses at the end of the semester came into the registrar’s office where they were checked and transposed to the students’ records.  I remember this because I eventually became assistant then full-time registrar.

When I came to CCV, I had been a RIF (reduction in force) from a junior college where I taught part time then full time.  As a result of my background, I would teach computer courses for CCV in Montpelier and at the Barre Vocational Center in the evenings in addition to my regular work.

When I became the registrar of CCV, 1989-1999, I was a member of a standing committee for Assessment of Prior Learning, which reviewed portfolio evaluations in the area of Business/Secretarial Science.  The committee recommended credit awards for prior learning to students attending CCV.  This was accomplished through a course entitled Assessment of Prior Learning where students wrote a portfolio detailing life learning and obtaining documentary evidence of that learning from professionals in the field in which credit was being asked.

The staff at CCV planned a luncheon with different recipes from the group.  It was very successful and everyone looked forward to them.  (I don’t remember how often the committee was scheduled!)  However, someone had the idea to collect recipes of favorites from staff and put out a Recipes Book by CCV staff.   It happened.  Talking about food, I received in the mail a clipping of the Burlington Free Press dated Thursday, November 27, 2003.  On this clipping it suggested gifts for the twelve days of Christmas provided by readers.  Unbeknownst to me, my colleague, Nancy Severance of Charlotte, sent in my beans recipe for the ninth day of Christmas!  On the Burlington Free Press clipping there was JEANNINE’S BEANS recipe!  What a surprise!  Needless to say, Nancy had sent me the clipping at my home since I had retired from CCV.  I still have that clipping.  It sure brings back memories of a time of my life that I thoroughly enjoyed.  We all worked hard, but we still found time to enjoy or lunches.

In my time as Registrar at CCV, the college underwent quite a few changes, especially in computer programs.  As an example, we were finally able to print out computer-generated transcripts when transcripts were requested.

By this time Barbara Murphy, who was president after Ken Kalb, left CCV, and Tim Donovan became president.  It was at this time that many of the changes came about in the college’s computer services.  These changes improved our way of doing various procedures.  We then became more efficient and faster overall.  It was also about this time that CCV began to think of buying its own buildings rather than having sites renting space to carry on the college’s work.

I retired on the last day of December 1999, but I try to keep up with goings on at CCV.  I am aware that the CCV administrative offices have now moved from Waterbury.  They are now located in the building on Elm Street in Montpelier that used to be Woodbury College.  This is across from the recreation field.

Currently Tim Donovan is now the Chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges system and Joyce Judy is the president of CCV.

Alison Kirk

Two Eras of CCV—Alison Kirk former Academic Coordinator

I perhaps have an unusual experience of CCV in that I worked for the college twice, twenty years apart, from 1986 to 1988 and from 2006 to 2009.  At the start of my second “term” as a Middlebury coordinator, people often said, possibly viewing me as an awakening Rip van Winkle, “I bet you think the college has changed a lot,” to which I would reply, “It has and it hasn’t.”

I look forward to reading what the contributors to this document who were with CCV from its beginnings have to say.  But when I interviewed for my first time as Middlebury coordinator (then called a “Coordinator of Instruction and Advisement,” or “CIA”), the tradition of the “wild west” days of the college in the early ‘70s, when classes often met in church basements and with coordinators feeling like rugged pioneers, strongly lived on in the culture.  At the same time, I came to see the period of my first tenure in the ‘80s as a time when there was a drive to centralize and standardize the operations of the college, occasionally with some resistance from coordinators used to carving out their own terrain.

With the exception of Montpelier, Brattleboro, Winooski, and St. Albans, a CIA in those days was what my sister-in-law calls the “Lone Arranger.”  Eight of the sites had only one coordinator who did everything –the things coordinators do today, plus all the advertising, student recruiting, a lot of outreach, and, until we were rescued, I believe in the spring of 1988,  the financial aid advising.  There was no opportunity for solitary coordinators to specialize.  Like many others, I enjoyed the creative aspects of the job as much as I enjoyed working with the students.  We wrote (clever) radio and print ads, designed brochures and posters, and wrote newspaper articles – without anyone checking on their quality or expressing concern that the college didn’t have a uniform image or brand.  I remember a meeting in Burlington when coordinators from several sites in the Western Region met with some people from an advertising agency about having uniform, professionally-produced ads.  Some of us felt like something was being taken away from us.  When I returned as coordinator in 2007 and found out that that whole function was centralized, I was relieved to feel less responsible!

With so many “Lone Arrangers” at the sites, committee, coordinator, and regional meetings were especially welcome.  Then, as now, the people who work at CCV were a remarkably enjoyable group – good-spirited, funny, sharp, and generous in sentiment.  I always appreciated not only the comfort of seeing I was not alone in the kinds of challenges presenting themselves (and picking up good ideas from other coordinators), but I greatly appreciated the restorative element of play.  I’ll never forget the totally unexpected eruption into a regional meeting of Maryellen Lowe and one or two others whose names I forget as the “Dancing Raisins,” complete with the costumes and music of the television commercial.  It was hilarious.  I don’t think that spirit has much changed, but will add that in my second “tenure,” I did feel the reduction in face-to-face meetings as a loss, however commendable the environmental reasons for the change.

As I hinted above, meetings in the mid-80s also gave us an opportunity to kvetch about a lessening of our local autonomy.  One coordinator once said in a regional meeting, “I always hate it when administrators and staff in Waterbury refer to us as ‘field staff,’ as though we are nothing but little worker ants serving the central office.”  Conveniently, Donna Welch, Coordinator of College Relations, sent out a memo to “field staff” shortly afterward that had some clipart at the bottom of the page of six nineteenth-century agrarian workers, plying their scythes to a hayfield.  I copied it for the offices in the Western Region and labeled it “Field Staff,” adding the caption, “Heigh ho, heigh ho.  It’s off to work we go!”  Of course, I also labeled each of the figures for one of the six offices in the region.

The Middlebury site was starting only its fourth semester of existence in 1986 when I came in, a week or so before registration started and after a summer of no advertising during the gap between coordinators.  In a small new site, it felt to some extent like we were creating something completely new each semester, guessing at a good balance of courses in rather uncharted waters, recruiting instructors ($500 per course, which was still a big advance over the volunteer force when the college started), trying to round up students, trying to persuade “old” students to return, trying to persuade students to take an alternative course instead of just getting a refund if the one they’d signed up for was canceled, and so on.  (Yes, some of this hasn’t changed.)  For some reason, at least in Middlebury, we occasionally pitched courses to the lifelong learner population.  Bette Matkowski, the first Middlebury coordinator, successfully ran one or two semesters of Arabic.  I got approval for one semester of Dairy Herd Management, our first successful daytime class, which actually filled to capacity and was probably never offered again.  It’s hard to imagine how such courses would serve the core CCV population and mission today!

In many ways, of course, the college has become much more “traditional” than when I was first here.  Back then, students needed to request having letter grades instead of merely a Pass or an NP, meaning that they didn’t receive credit because they hadn’t demonstrated the required learning.  Like other of the idealists, I was always disappointed that virtually all the students requested old-fashioned letter grades.  I still love the ideal but have to say again that the present system serves our mission and population far better.  Similarly, in the manner of the saucy, upstart college we were, CCV’s promotional literature included a “Campus Map,” which was simply a map of the state of Vermont with the twelve sites and Waterbury pinpointed.  The joke was we had no traditional campus.  We were proud of owning no buildings and investing what resources we had into the students.

The Middlebury site, then as now (2013), was a few rooms on the second floor of the Battell Building, the wonderful old Victorian brick structure at the corner of Main Street and Merchants’ Row.  Our first site office consisted of two very dark adjacent rooms that felt like lawyers’ offices and seemed as though they should smell of ancient cigar smoke.  In spring of my first year (1987), Tim Donovan, then Director of the Western Region, negotiated to move the office to the magnificent large corner room – magnificent because part of it was in the round “tower” of the building, projecting out over Middlebury’s main intersection.

For that round space, symbolic to my literary mind, I had a vision, and strongly resisted any scheme that involved cutting it up, partitioning it off, or converting it into a private office.  The space, I thought, could make the point that the students are the center of the college.  Gail Knapp, our wonderful Site Office Manager, and I had the books for what in some bigger sites was a “Resource Room” in book cases around the perimeter of the circle and a round table with chairs on a round rug in the center.  This, literally and figuratively, was our Student Center, a place for students to hang around or study.  The rest of the large room was open, warm, airy, and light, thanks to the large windows.

We had an open house to inaugurate the new space.  Toward the end of the event, Tim said to me, glancing around the space, “Now all we have to do is get enough students to pay for it.” He could see from the look on my face the pall that remark had cast over the occasion. The pressure to build enrollment felt extreme, and when a year later, my future husband got a job out of state, I was not altogether sad to have a reason to move on, despite my love of the college and enjoyment of much of the job.

When we moved back to Vermont twenty years after I’d last started at CCV, I signed up to teach Introduction to College Studies and to serve as tutor and the library resource person for Middlebury’s rather homeless learning center.  As I said, I found the college at core the same, though different in a multitude of particulars.  I knew from my first ICS meeting that the collective personality of CCV people was the same.  I also learned that the average age of our students was dropping, though to me the obstacles they faced were the same ones I was used to.  (Besides, I’d also worked a lot with adolescents and “traditional” age college students elsewhere.)   One big difference was the number of leadership positions and opportunities distributed throughout the college.  In the ‘80s, a coordinator friend of mine had described CCV as having a very flat organization, meaning to her that there were not enough opportunities for advancement.  This is definitely no longer the case as far as I can see.  Indeed, occasionally it might seem there are too many chiefs, but on the whole I see the opportunities for recognition and capitalizing on expertise in a particular domain as a positive.  Other differences, of course, for me were the numerous new rules and procedures, all the technological tools, which sometimes seemed like the tail wagging the dog, and the overall acceptance and recognition across the state of the college, with its many stately sites.  (No more “campus map” jokes!)

As for the Middlebury site itself, it had gone through many vicissitudes since I was last there.  This is a history that others can best describe.  I understand that there was a time when it was an active administrative hub with a large staff, given the size of the site.  This is when my beloved open space and “student center” in the office were indeed partitioned off and carved into offices, making the present entrance, to my eye, considerably less inviting.  There was also a time (sorry I can’t say when) when there was talk of shutting the site down because of low enrollment and a high rate of course cancellations.  I’ve heard Tim Donovan credited as being the one committed to the site, who created the brilliant concept of making it a “portal site,” offering only courses to meet the general education requirements.  Liberal Studies was the only degree Addison County residents who didn’t want to go north, south, or online could get there.  Finally, to rebuild public confidence in the site, all Middlebury courses were “guaranteed to run” – no cancellations!  This ‘reinvention’ of the site gave rise to the mantra, “Middlebury is different” in college meetings.  And as lone coordinator, Diane Herman-Artim did a masterful job of designing a rotation system of offering a small number of courses that would serve the goals of the site.  There were still only three classrooms that limited the size of enrollment, though a large number of students registered there each semester to enroll elsewhere.  Middlebury became reliable, efficient, and risk averse; the days of Arabic and Dairy Herd Management were long gone.

Yet another change occurred the year of my return (2006).  Diane’s position changed from solitary site coordinator to half-time Middlebury and half-time online coordinator.  The first year the resulting gap was filled by a new half-time site coordinator, and the following year when she left, I was honored to be let back in to my “old” job, thankful not to return to carrying the full weight by myself.

As a half-time person, I was the student services, writing/basic skills, humanities, and social science coordinator.  I worked on giving greater visibility and availability to the “Learning Center” services, extending its hours of operation by staffing it myself from 6 to 7 pm (I use quotes because the center didn’t have its own room; it was a sign that moved around the hallway depending on what space was available).  I also worked on building an environment that would be more appealing to younger, full-time students.  With the help of a particularly good succession of Student Advisory Board members, I encroached on the public hallway of the Battell Building – amazing that no one complained – and set up display tables on various themes or college events along with a bowl of popcorn and apples.  I did this nightly at three-week intervals.  The idea was to create a “place,” an unofficial student center, where students could socialize and get to know each other better.  The SAB took responsibility for providing coffee and overseeing a collection system for the coffee pot, an effort that was quite successful and appreciated despite the trepidations of some staff members over this daring innovation.  In general, creating a warmer, more inviting environment was one of my “soft,” unmeasureable goals.

On a more concrete level, I advocated initiating summer courses, beginning with Introduction to College Studies and then moving on to Access to Success.  I also urged the idea that the time was right demographically to restart day classes (I’d experimented some with that ‘way back’).  I’m proud to say these are now part of the site’s offerings.   At the same time – though I hasten to add I had nothing to do with this – toward the end of my second tenure, the “no cancellation” policy slipped quietly off the advertising, and Regional Director Dee Staffan urged us to offer a “wild card” course each semester and to begin to try some program-specific courses along with the general education requirements.  Middlebury seemed to be becoming a little less “different” in ways I thought were exciting and good.

Since I retired, of course, I continue to encounter CCV students and faculty members around town.  Two examples of students might sum up my experience of the college.  One woman was an outstanding student (and SAB member) who, thanks to CCV, along with her ability and persistence, has earned her B.S. degree and has gone from working as a cook in an elementary school to being a well-respected and well compensated IT professional at B.F. Goodrich (now United Technologies Corporation) in Vergennes.  Last time I caught up with her, she was happy and effusive, well dressed, and sporting a professional-looking hair style.  The other is a former student I regularly see rounding up carts in Hannaford’s parking lot.  She always accosts me by name and tells me about the latest events in her life.  She recently had an opportunity to be promoted as check-out person, but it just “wasn’t her thing.”  I told her, “No one is good at everything,” and she agreed.  The fact that she didn’t ever make it past the basic skills courses at CCV has in no way dimmed her sense of connection with the college as a place where she was valued.  I’m very glad to have been a part of that.

John Turner

Interview Conducted Circa December 1977 by Larry Daloz with John Turner (early CCV Brattleboro employee).

It was in the very early days in Brattleboro.  We had started sort of slower than the other towns (Tom Yahn and Gerry [Hammer]up in Springfield and Carman (? in Bellows Falls).  I was in Brattleboro.  We invited Peter (Smith, the founder and first president of CCV) to come down and talk.  We invited the whole community to come down and learn about the Community College of Vermont.  Peter came down.  Three people showed up.  Peter got into a long discussion with a woman.  It spilled out into the street and just as they were ready to part, a woman who later graduated from CCV, said to Peter, “By the way, what do you do with CCV?”

The other image I have with Peter and some community people [is when in] trying to impress some of the respectable people with the professionalism of the college, and in the process of making a point, he fell over backwards in the chair.

One of my earliest recollections was the very first class, which was held at the Brattleboro Retreat, the oldest private mental hospital in America.  I’d talked to a guy over the phone about teaching creative writing and I’d not had a chance to meet him before the first night of class.  So we had it in the library of this hospital.  I walked in and I found people all over the library, some with their chins on their chests, some looking up at the ceiling, and some twisting their heads around.  I couldn’t figure out which one the teacher was.  They all looked crazy.  I remember going around and saying, “Are you Chuck Miller, are you Chuck Miller?”  It turned out this guy was from the Creative Writers Workshop in Iowa.  He had straggly hair, long beard, and looked like a patient.

Another one we did was one of the first courses when we started to get a “respectable” crowd, some of the mainstream Brattleboro society instead of the commune-hippy crowd.  It was an American Literature course.  The guy who taught it was living in a commune in Putney.  We decided to have the course out at his place.  So, I remember driving these four straight, Presbyterian women up to the course.  He said, “Why don’t we meet outdoors?”  He didn’t have any shoes on.  It was the first time I’d seen him without shoes, and he had purple nail polish on.  So he begins outlining the course and these women are sitting on a wagon, and he’s talking.  Out of the farmhouse bounce four people with a volley ball and proceed to play in front of the class…totally nude.  It was the last time I saw any of these women ever again.

The first time we went into Brattleboro, we invited the editor of the newspaper and all the civic leaders.  The five of us stood up front like a line-up and proceeded to tell these very sophisticated, very tough-minded people we’re going to start a college in your town.  We’re not going to pay teachers any salary; we’re not going to build a campus; we’re going to have a community faculty, and students don’t have to pay anything.  All I remember was the manager of the local radio station saying as politely as he could, “You people will not be around a year from now,” and the editor saying it was a rip off of the taxpayers’ money. [There we were]  Carmen coming in at two hundred pounds; Gerry as skinny as a beanpole; Mike Redmond with an afro and rotten teeth; Tom, the Dartmouth teenager; and myself looking as if some kid had just rolled him in off the street.  It was not a scene to immediately inspire confidence.

[Random Reflections]:

Meetings:   In Gerry Hammer’s house with her six kids running around and Steve Hochschild fresh out of Harvard with his reams of yellow paper trying to help us lay out a planning format.  I remember the responses of people saying< “Who the hell is this guy?  What’s he trying to do?  We’re trying to survive.”  We were meeting for support/therapy.

There was a teacher of poetry who ran away once with one of our student’s poetry.

After two and a half years away, things still hadn’t changed.  There was still that basic dichotomy there, unresolved.  Nancy Chard’s   situation just played out a trend in CCV almost from the beginning.  She lost.  Label it those who seriously want to confront the issue of quality and accountability and the other half who wanted to be fuzzies and supporters at all cost.  If the quality wasn’t good, you still said it was okay because it was more important to be supportive and warm than to quantify or qualify.  Nancy seemed to me to be the next generation qualitatively.  She lost because unlike Peter, she didn’t have the personal skills to soothe the need for touchy-feely relationships.  Intellectually, she probably was smarter than Peter.  Peter’s gift was the ability to put the human together with the leadership.  I would think of picking Nancy’s mind more than of picking Peter’s mind.

Not enough of the people in the college who felt strongly about quality stood up for it.  All of us got sucked into the Gerry Hammer thing of “Don’t pull that Ivy League, highly educated s*** on us.”  We chose too often to placate that.

The college ended up serving itself and its staff.  I looked back on the college and it was an intellectual wading pool.  You could get into it up to about your ankles, but you couldn’t immerse yourself in the process.  Some people had never been in the water, so it was important, but there was no eight foot end.  I still see that pool as pretty level.  A lot of the people who ran that pool were scared to get in themselves.

At meetings we’d touch on issues and then back off—a real reluctance to get involved on issues of importance.  When you did get into it, your got accused of snobbery.

We had a couple teaching Irish literature who quit in the middle of the summer; we never heard from them again.  I think they must have been running guns for the IRA.  Then we had that woman who was arrested as a student for being in the Weathermen.

Ron Krupp did yoga headstands during staff meetings while trying to do needs assessment.  Staff members would disappear for forty minutes a day to meditate.

Once we printed up a thousand Certificates of Achievement with the word achievement misspelled.

I remember Sig Lonegren yelling, “Be here now!”

There was an excessive need for meetings in those days.

Breast feeding picnic; bring your own.

I remember talking to a woman in the early days saying, “Stick with us; it’ll come.”  We didn’t have any degree structure at that time and she wanted a degree.

I saw a light go on in terms of them saying, “Hey, I really have some potential here I didn’t know.”  That’s one of the important goodies I took away.  When you institutionalize, will you destroy those light bulbs going on in the eyes?

A woman took a consciousness-raising course, having been married for forty years during which she’d never been away from her husband for a single night.  After the group she spent a night in a motel in Brattleboro alone.  She came back to the class and said, “It was like going around the world.  I was scared, but I really made it back.”

There was another forty-five year old woman who had put two or three daughters through school and had zero confidence in herself.  She kept saying she couldn’t do anything.  She turned out one of the best early students we had.  She went on to Antioch and now has a master’s degree.  She still tells me, “It was at CCV where I began to believe in myself.”

Peter always had a good sense of humor about himself.  George Billicic (a former president at CCV for a very short time) has been described as a man with humor.  Also, the fuzzies had little humor.  It was the fuzzies that were most destructive toward Nancy and yet who were most filled with talk about compassion.

The majority of the staff had still not come to terms with that do-gooder, social welfare attitude that the client’s always right and should be believed.  Never question or challenge someone you’re trying to “help.”  It is like helping a fat lady get into a bus from behind.  Instead of helping her lose weight, just shove her into the bus.  She was drummed out by the people who would get up on platforms and say we got to care about people.

I always saw it as basically very revolutionary.  I figured if we can give these people [students] an opportunity to take control of their own learning, to have a major voice in what they learn and how they learn it, it has to run over into other aspects of their lives.  That’s important in our increasingly regimented society.  It’s romantic, but the alternative doesn’t impress me.

I think that you [Larry Daloz], individually, were the critical person in legitimizing CCV to the rest of the higher education world.  You, more than even Peter, were important in legitimizing it.

You articulated CCV more effectively to that higher education community.  You were the translator.  I don’t think we’d ever have been accredited.  (????) said CCV can’t die; it’s too important to higher education in America.  I think that you were the reason it was so important.

You were caught up like the rest of us good guys in that b**S***.  I remember you finally letting you anger out and saying B*******.  On the one had you were dealing with people asking hard, academic questions in places like Washington, and on the other hand, you wanted to feel good about working with people because you were the head of the Learning Services program, and also realized that if you were going to translate our position in the field, you had to have some influence there.

Rick Hurley

I arrived at the Vermont State College system in 1978 as assistant to the Chancellor and was immediately appointed as the liaison between the system office and the president of the Community College of Vermont (CCV).  As I recall, the president of CCV at the time of my arrival only lasted about nine months before resigning.  When that happened, the Chancellor, Dr. Richard Bjork, directed me to develop and propose to him a new organizational structure for CCV.  I was told that the reason he asked me to do it was because he thought I was the person in his office with the best understanding of the college  given my liaison responsibilities.  I had the weekend to accomplish the task.  While developing the proposed administrative structure, I created a position for myself entitled Dean of Administrative Services because I was anxious to grow in my new career.  The structure I proposed included the position of president but Chancellor Bjork downgraded it to Dean and thus “my” position to Director.  Myrna Miller, who already worked for CCV was appointed Dean of the College; she and I came to our new positions at the same time in 1979.

It was an exciting time in the history of the institution as it was in transition from being a FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education) funded idea of Peter Smith and others to a recognized funding obligation of the State.  The original dream for CCV was a desire to create a community college without walls utilizing existing storefront locations for offices and high schools and other similar spaces for classrooms.  Continued state funding for the college was at risk for a variety of reasons so one of the first tasks was to secure support from members of the legislature.  Part of that effort was a for me to visit, in their home or place of work, those members of the legislature who were in a position to influence the final decision on funding.  I often think back on those visits and think how strange it must have been for the legislators to be visited by a young man from New Jersey talking to them about an institution that they probably knew better than I did.  Nonetheless, the effort was successful and a line item appropriation for CCV began to regularly appear in the funding allocated for the Vermont State College system.

Much of my work in the next two years centered on bringing more order and structure to the operation.  Policies and procedures were developed and catalogued and various processes were improved.  I remember a lot of attention being paid to improving the quality of offerings and the experience for students.  We also had to focus on increasing enrollments and launched an aggressive public relations plan that included the development of a musical jingle that could be used on radio stations around the state to announce registration periods.  All of our efforts on this task proved to be very effective as enrollments began to soar.

My time at CCV was relatively brief but I have very pleasant memories of it not the least of which is a staff retreat we held one year in St. Albans at a lakeside camp owned by the parents of one of our site directors.  Anyone reading this missive who was there for that event is probably smiling right now while thinking about it.

I left CCV in the fall of 1981 to take the position of Director of Administration at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in Washington D.C and am pleased to know that thirty-two years later, CCV continues to thrive.

Rick Hurley, President, Mary Washington University

Formally Office of the Chancellor, Vermont State Colleges

Linda Gribnau

Through my thirty years at the Community College of Vermont I was able to observe and actively engage in this dynamic institution as it grew to better serve the needs of its student population. From teaching classes to expanding the financial aid office I worked directly with students and staff and saw firsthand how flexible CCV is in its attempts to meet the needs of its students through the courses that are offered and their commitment to make education available to everyone. I was able to witness every day how the college stays true to their mission statement as it “supports and challenges all students in meeting their educational goals through an abiding commitment to access, affordability, and student success.” As CCV grew, so too did my involvement in the college.


In 1982, after the birth of my son, I applied for a part-time position as a Keyboarding instructor at the Community College of Vermont in St. Albans. Mi

chael Sawdey offered me the position and I held my first class at Milton High School and quickly found that I enjoyed teaching keyboarding to adult learners. After a few semesters, I was approached by Dave Buchdahl about teaching Word Processing an

d took the opportunity since I had word processing experience in my previous position. David was relieved and later admitted that all he knew about computers would “fit on his thumbnail.”

In 1985, my family relocated from Fairfax to Shelburne and I began teaching at the Champlain Mill in Winooski. I continued teaching two sections of Word Processing each semester and later added a Microcomputer Applications course.

Bette Matkowski, the Regional Director of CCV, approached me about applying for a part-time position as a Financial Aid Counselor. I love math so it seemed a good fit but I found myself quickly learning about the process from Theresa Bell, the work-study student that I was supposed to be supervising!

Once I gained an understanding of the financial aid process, I started to look at the system as a whole and found inefficiency in some areas and procedures that could be improved. CCV was supportive of these improvements in an effort to make the students’ educational goals achievable academically and financially. In order to reduce delinquency, I made sure that finances were cleared before students could register for classes. As the CCV student population grew, it became unfeasible to meet with each student individually. I developed a system called the “Financial Aid OK List” so that advisors would have access to students’ financial aid information before they registered for classes.

As the CCV student population continued to grow in the early nineties, my position’s hours were increased and I was asked to supervise an Administrative Assistant. We became more efficient with someone available to field phone calls and answer questions. Our office continued to grow throughout my tenure and at the time of my retirement we had three financial aid counselors, one Administrative Assistant and two Work Study Students.

When CCV moved from downtown Burlington to Winooski, the Financial Aid office merged with Admissions. With the costs of education skyrocketing, I became interested in helping students understand the costs associated with college loans. By increasing students’ financial literacy, we would help students in long-term planning and decrease the delinquency rate of payment. I chaired a loan committee to assess the situation. We sent letters to students that were adding unrealistic amounts of debt and made sure that students who were near defaulting on their payments were aware of their options. As a proactive measure, I created a loan counseling spreadsheet that helped students project their estimated debt when they finished their degree and compare it to realistic salary projections in their field.

After my many years working at CCV, I find myself thankful for the opportunity to teach Keyboarding, Word Processing and still Microcomputer Applications to many students. It was rewarding to help students gain the means to pay for their education. I found myself touched when one student began to cry with joy when she realized that she had the means to go to college! The Community College of Vermont’s ability to adapt to the students’ versatile and changing needs, as well as allowing their staff the flexibility to make necessary improvements, is the reason it has grown into the successful institution it is today. I am proud to have been a member of this team.

Roger Cranse

Dimensions of Learning at CCV – the Early Days

Organizational growth runs an arc from chaos to consolidation to Concretization.  Innovation, whether good or bad, is most possible in the span between chaos and consolidation.  After that, organizational change will be slow, incremental, usually modest, and will take place within the hard confines of ornate regulation, rote practice, and vigilantly guarded turfdoms.


In this brief essay I’ll describe the beginning of the special services program, Dimensions of Learning.  This essay supplements a longer paper,

“Dimensions of Learning at Community College of Vermont,” delivered at Johnson State College, April 24, 1982.

I came on board CCV in 1980, ten years after its founding.  The needle was perhaps a third of the way from chaos to consolidation.  There were three regions, eight storefront sites, fewer than 2,000 students, and a full time staff you could fit comfortably into several VW buses.  Each site created its own courses and had its own catalogue.  The frontline staff members at a site were called coordinators of instruction and advisement, “CIAs,” an odd acronym for an institution founded in the full anti-establishment ethos of the 1960’s.  Our president, Myrna Miller, in heels and rustling silks, moved among us like a monarch.

Myrna temperamentally understood the potentials of chaos; she also understood the need to move toward consolidation, thus deftly joining the two.  Myrna’s instincts were to decide and to act; she had limited patience for prolonged deliberation.  She once said, after hiring me as the first director of special services, “Roger, if you come to me for advice about something, I’ll make a decision.  Just so you’re aware.”  A month or two later I went to Myrna to brief her on the development of our new program.  She listened carefully for ten minutes while I told her about a multi-dimensional learning and support program for “disadvantaged” students.  “What are you going to call it?” she asked.

“Not sure yet,” I replied.

“‘Dimensions of Learning,’ that’s its name,” she said, her eyebrows arching in a so-shall-it-be-written, so-shall-it-be-done kind of way.

That was small potatoes.  The potential I think Myrna saw in an organization not far from baseline chaos was that a chief executive, with little to hold her back, could make big dramatic decisions all on her own.  One came at a college retreat in the early 1980’s.  In the evening, after dinner, Myrna stood before the entire college and announced – proclaimed – that we would have centrally-approved college-wide courses, with course numbers, in a single college-wide course catalogue.  No more freelance courses at individual sites, no more let’s-make-it-up-as-we-go experiments, no more wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if offerings.

As far as I know, Myrna hadn’t shopped this idea around, hadn’t consulted important constituencies and “stakeholders” (why does this word always make me see vampire slayers in a forest at midnight?), hadn’t worked behind the scenes to disarm opponents.  None of that.

I was pretty new and the reaction in the crowd floored me.  People leapt from their seats.  “No!  No!” they hooted.  “You can’t do that!”  People threatened to resign.  (Several actually did.)  “You’re destroying the college!”  “Myrna, you should quit!”

Myrna appeared unfazed.  She understood, I think, the true nature of power.  You don’t have to be afraid.  You don’t have to get angry.  You have the power.  What you say will happen.

And it did.  The college swerved onto the road of legitimacy – and convention.

Another big Myrna decision was to imprint a particular theory of learning on the entire college.  Most of our students were “adult” learners, twenty-five and older.  Most were women.  Myrna believed the findings and theories of adult development were especially relevant to the work of the college and she therefore arranged for all the full time staff to take a three-credit course in the subject.  Joanna Noel and Larry Daloz taught the course.  The centerpiece was William Perry’s scheme of intellectual and ethical development.  Perry’s idea, based on research with Harvard undergraduates, is that students move from a simplistic, black and white, right vs. wrong understanding of the world, a position Perry calls Dualism, through the confusions of Multiplicity, an intellectual and ethical region where everyone’s right, no one wrong, to Contextual Relativism where evidence, logic, and analysis within specific contexts can sort out sound conclusions and make reasoned ethical choices.

For Perry, the progress along this continuum was impelled by challenge, and took place in the context of a residential college: “The first challenge often comes from peers, and especially in the dorm,” he writes.

The question that Myrna put to us was: how can we pose this challenge in a non-residential college to adult students?  In developing Dimensions, our original team of special services coordinators – Joan Kaye, Leonard Foote, and Elliot Kaplan (Elliot moved on after a year and was replaced by Bill Callahan) – took up this challenge.

The Dimensions program was funded by a federal TRIO grant.  Dick Eisele wrote the original grant.  The program Dick devised centered around “cluster groups” of students; it was unclear what these “cluster groups” would do.  I don’t have much tolerance (or understanding) of “process,” of T-groups and D-groups yakking away about inward-looking concerns.  I’m much more confident with content, substantial content.  So early on I decided the “cluster groups” would be a sequence of three credit courses with diverse content.

One of the first places I visited after being hired was the Dartmouth College bookstore.  I asked to see the reading list for Freshman English.  (This was way before such information was posted on-line.)  The list included a collection of American short stories; Diaries of Women, edited by Mary Jane Moffat and Charlotte Painter; and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four.  We added Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” and these became Dimensions’ texts.

I was a child of the 1960’s.  Like the rest of the special services team, I was an egalitarian; I believed people were differentiated from one another by social and economic class, and by race, not by inherent intelligence.  In high school I hung out with the few kids who didn’t go to college, the ones who worked on cars and went in the Marines, whose parents were called “low income.”  I knew these kids were as smart as the sons and daughters of our town’s lawyers and ad men and docs and execs.  Then at Rutgers I fell in with a leftie crowd, red diaper babies, and they articulated the reasons and theories behind my feelings about my high school friends.

So yes, our disadvantaged students would read the same stuff Dartmouth students read.

I learned a lesson from Myrna early on.  I could decide more or less on my own what overall shape Dimensions would take; my team played the invaluable role of bringing these ideas to life.  That’s the reason for this brief excursion into biography.

If our students read what Dartmouth freshman read, we would have to teach differently because, despite our egalitarian sentiments, CCV students were not, by and large, as well prepared for college as Dartmouth undergraduates.  The techniques we devised and used are detailed in “Dimensions of Learning at Community College of Vermont.”  In brief, we proceeded very carefully through a text, making sure our students understood what they were reading, how and if the material applied to them and their world, if there were larger metaphoric meanings in the text, and the like.  These careful, close reading excursions into challenging materials were designed to achieve several results.  First, by learning to understand and interact with “college-level” materials, students, many of whom told us they were “not that smart” (a heartbreaking phrase we heard often) developed a sense of academic self-worth.  Second, the study of these materials was also meant to challenge students in a Perry-like way, to impel intellectual growth.

I was also determined that Dimensions would award college credit, that is, it would not be stigmatized as a remedial “bonehead” course.  Myrna agreed and made that decision – again, as far as I know, entirely on her own authority.

The special services team spent the fall of 1980 developing Dimensions, and in the spring launched it statewide.  The special services coordinators taught three or four sections each (I can’t remember which); I taught two.  We were also advisors to our students.  For each class I prepared a detailed, minute-by-minute lesson plan, and mailed copies to the coordinators.  I recall Nancy Chard, southern regional director, snorting contemptuously at these plans.  Yes, I was a control freak; the point, of course, was that we were teaching in a new way, thus the detailed plans.

As we developed Dimensions in the fall, I visited each site to brief CIA’s on the program and to solicit their feedback.  A few seemed skeptical but nearly all welcomed the new program.  There was almost no resistance to its implementation.  Again, I attribute this welcoming attitude and lack of resistance to the very fluid state of the College at the time – a third of the way from chaos to consolidation.  The great organizational irony, of course, is that the programs we added and the decisions we made with such ease moved the College toward a place where it was no longer easy to do new things.  For good or ill.

The grant required we collect data on student progress, persistence, and dropout rates.  Was Dimensions working?  We did collect this data and tabulated it, all by hand.  Our research was continued in more sophisticated and accurate ways over the years and decades.  It’s now clear that students who take Dimensions persist in their college educations at significantly higher rates than students who don’t.  I think you can say, therefore, that the assumptions we made initially – those wild, idealistic notions that flourished in the 1960’s – were true.

After Dick, I wrote two more special services grants incorporating our ideas and Dimensions.  Both were successful.  I then moved on to direct the Adult Degree Program at Norwich University.  Over the years, truthfully, I’ve had a lot of second and third thoughts about leaving CCV.  I now teach part-time at the College and feel really at home, once again.

During my seven years at the College I had four offices: over the Howard Bank (now TDBank) in Montpelier, over Lash Furniture and under Pro’s Gym in Barre, at 5 State Street in Montpelier, and finally over Montpelier’s Lobster Pot.  You were either over or under something in those storefront days.  In Barre, Lash Furniture had an antique rug-cutting machine that growled and shook while up above at Pro’s Gym weightlifters groaned and grunted in an almost sexual way before dropping three hundred pound barbells on your classroom ceiling.  When the Lobster Pot closed for two weeks in the summer the cockroaches deserted the kitchen and came up in crowds after our brown bag lunches but, like a lot of other obstacles in the early days, we beat them back.

Bill Callahan

Academic Coordinator, Brattleboro, late seventies and early eighties

By 1982 the Mad Men of my generation were well past middle age and approaching geezerhood. We were slowly coming to terms with notion that the masculine dominated world of the early 20th Century had long moved on and women were now an integral part of the workforce.  My resume listing Bentley College, The U.S. Army and the United States Post Office, then traditionally exclusive male bastions, did little to prepare me for the very different universe I was about to enter.  I joined a staff of 90 women directors, coordinators and advisors —I was one of 5 men tooling along with them.  80% of our students were determined women in their 30’s and 40’s, many of whom were seeking to re-enter an interrupted education—along with many students I faced a steep learning curve. The place was abuzz with student learning, staff development and preparation for the five year accreditation review by the Association of New England Schools and Colleges. To my delight, my new colleagues swiftly introduced and helpfully guided me into CCV’s supportive and collaborative world dedicated to excellence and learning.

CCV is now the jewel of the state college system and I marvel how fortunate and privileged I am to have been part of its early development.