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This web space was created to record the oral history of the Community College of Vermont. We invite anyone who has a story to contribute by contacting Mary Ellen Lowe at maryellen.lowe@ccv.edu or megan.tucker@ccv.edu.

The Community College of Vermont is one of five Vermont State Colleges and has been accredited since 1975 by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.   We provide quality, affordable education to over 10,000 students each year.

Our mission

Community College of Vermont, a Vermont State College, supports and challenges all students in meeting their educational goals through an abiding commitment to access, affordability, and student success.

Larry Daloz

Coordinator of Learning Services, CCV 1972 – 1976

Reinventing College from Scratch

I think it probably began with Steve Hochschild. He and I had known each other at Harvard, and on my return from doctoral work in New Guinea we got together. He explained that he was working as a Planner for a new “open college” in Vermont and proceeded to describe a system that had no campus, no paid faculty, and no credits. And it was free! The president was a “really cool guy” named Peter Smith, at 27 said to be the youngest college president in the country. “We’re inventing higher education from scratch,” Steve told me, “but we need someone who can help us organize our learning systems.” Was I interested?

It was the fall of 1971. Vermont was feeling the first twinges of a back-to-the-land movement that would dramatically reshape the state—and in many ways the nation’s culture as well. As one who was building a geodesic dome in the middle of a Northeast Kingdom hayfield, reinventing higher education sounded pretty good to me.

Influenced by the emerging “open university” movement, elaborated by Peter Smith’s remarkable vision, and saddled with the lamentable moniker, the “Vermont Regional Community College Commission” (how it became CCV rather than “Justin Morgan College” is another story), this fledgling experimental proposition had just received a hotly contested Title III grant from the federal Office of Economic Opportunity. It was convened to bring people who wanted to learn together with those who had the knowledge they sought. Period. That was the deep purpose of the institution—if it could be called an institution at all. We referred to it, rather darkly I thought, as a “learning delivery system.” And the strategy? Well, there were caveats. It was to be student-centered: courses were to be designed in collaboration with the learners themselves. There were to be no time-based credits: learning would be evaluated in terms of outcomes. Credentials for faculty? Naturally, but it was to be the credentials of earned experience, not mere book learning, that mattered. Want to learn community organizing? We’ll hire you a community organizer, not a sociologist. There were some on the staff at the time who were convinced that an advanced degree was a severe handicap. Would there be a degree? Of course, but how it would be determined lay before us, a trackless wilderness. It was thrilling.

So I signed on with a six-month contract as a consultant to design a learning system for the place. The system was to include “student support” on the one hand, and “teacher support” on the other. At the time, in addition to a small central office located on Langdon St. in Montpelier, there were sites in Montpelier, Brattleboro, and St. Johnsbury, each with its own Coordinator and support staff for students. Shortly after that, a “teacher support” person was hired at each site. For the next six months I worked with each site team to come up with a “learning support system” that delineated each person’s roles and the relationships among them. I drew diagrams and maps, typed bullet-points and caveats, spoke of “competencies,” “interventions,” and “evaluation criteria.” Peter thought it was great, Steve was duly impressed, our resident radical, John Chater, and the site Coordinators rolled their eyes, staff shrugged, and I was hired under a fresh Carnegie grant at $12,000 a year to become “Learning Services Coordinator” for the college, its first…um…academic dean.

My recollection of those early days features above all else the boistrous and testosterone-soaked Wednesday morning “Management Team” meetings. At one end of the table Peter, wearing his signature leather vest, leans back in his chair, feet defiantly on the table, and exuberantly shreds this or that academic evildoer; beside him Planner Steve Hochschild, necktied and trimly pressed, pleads for a coherent management plan, while Chuck Parker, the Finance Guy, throws out a stream of pecuniary and scatological jargon and warns darkly of fiscal disaster. Meanwhile, as the Site Coordinators argue fiercely for local control, I doodle in my notes my emerging “wagon wheel theory” of administrative order: everyone at the hub wants the spokes to be identical while each spoke, its outer end regularly ground into the mud, demands autonomy. And at the other end of the table sits John Holden, elder statesman planted among us by unseen wiser powers to provide something like common sense. Proving his sagacity, he rarely says a thing. What he was thinking amidst all that cacophony was anyone’s guess, but his presence must have reminded us when we took the time to glance in his direction, that we were about something more important than our own thrashing impact on the tiny world of higher education in Vermont.

By late 1972, we had lots of courses running, but still no degree program. Community Colleges conventionally offer Associates Degrees, so that was a given. But we had declared credits to be the baggage of a moribund system. How, then, did you know when a person merited the degree? “When they are competent, of course,” roared the competency-based ideology, but how competent, how do you know that, and at what? What’s more, although we were committed to recognizing prior experiential learning, almost every other college who did that (and there were a scant handful at the time) also gave credits. Yet since credits were based on time spent in a classroom, how would we assess the educational value of experience out of the classroom without some academic reference point?

As it happened, Peter had wrangled his way into a coalition of non-traditional colleges under the auspices of the Educational Testing Service to create principles of good practice for assessing experiential learning. Its acronym, CAEL, stood at the time for “Council for the Assessment of Experiential Learning,” and, headed by Antioch’s venerable Morris Keaton, it was to remain a vital force in non-traditional education for decades. I became the college’s academic representative, and over the next several years—we are talking the early ‘70’s here—under steady fire from our fellow state colleges and their nettled faculties, we wrestled with tough and very real questions: what’s the difference between teaching and learning? what is the interplay among assessment, documentation and certification? how do we establish evaluation criteria and assess achievement against standards? The College worked hard to shape a rigorous process of planning, implementing, and evaluating a quality degree program without sacrificing vital student engagement in setting learning outcomes.

The “competency-based” education movement was in ascendance at the time (as it appears to be again today), and it quickly became evident why “credits” were far simpler. Colleges turned themselves and their students into pretzels trying to specify in advance and in excruciating detail precisely what behaviors their students should exhibit. While I liked the idea of being clear about what had been learned, I found the effort to base a curriculum, much less an educational philosophy on so mechanistic and prescriptive an approach, repugnant. Art Chickering, who, with his wife, Joanne, was profoundly helpful to us in those years, put it succinctly. “The goal of a training program is that everyone should come out the same,” he told us once. “But the ideal of a good education is that each student emerge unique.” Out of all this, we became convinced that our curriculum would develop competence but not enumerate “competencies.” And then the Big Question reared its ugly head. I even later used it as the title of a journal article: Now They are Competent, So What? in which I argued forcefully for the primacy of deep reflection on the purpose of learning over the mere “technique” of assessment technology.

What, then, was the ultimate purpose of learning at CCV? Peter used to joke that in the early days if we were busted, we’d all be found pockets bulging with dog-eared copies of John Holt, Ivan Illich, Jonathan Kozol, Paulo Freire, and Neil Postman. These were primary texts in our formation, and it showed. The purpose of education was clearly to help people learn how to learn, and the aim of education (Kohlberg’s mighty eponymous essay and Chickering’s powerful Goddard-born book notwithstanding), was autonomy. Echoing a good New England tradition, we called it “education for self-reliance.” I sharply recall Margery Walker, Montpelier’s doughty Coordinator and the only female on the Management Team, raising a Quakerly eyebrow at the individualistic tone of the epithet. “Don’t you think learning happens best in community?” she asked archly. But she was politely ignored and it was only decades later that I came to recognize how right she was.

What kinds of competence would make for self-reliant learners? After a year of painstaking conversation with students, teachers, staff, employers, and the public, I proudly presented Peter with a list of several dozen clusters of competence. “You’ve got to be kidding!” he bellowed. “No more than ten—at the most!” I knew he was right, the clusters hit the shredder, and we went back to the scissors and paste. What finally emerged were ten “Areas of Competence”: Self-awareness, Communication, Cultural Awareness, Community Relations, Interpersonal Relationships, Creative Competence, Manual and Physical Competence, Environmental Awareness, Analytical Competence, and [oh yes!] Knowledge. Looking back, I recognize it as clearly a committee scramble, but hey, we were trying to re-invent higher education, weren’t we? You could do worse.

So there was one more challenge. How would we decide when a person was ready to graduate? And who would decide? What we came up with is not unlike the portfolio process used today in widely diverse educational settings: students developed a “learning contract” complete with learning goals developed in consultation with CCV staff; they assessed their prior learning against those goals, took courses and independent studies to meet them, and throughout the process met with a “Local Review Committee” made up minimally of a community member, college staff, a fellow student, and faculty. Upon approval, the portfolio went to a college-wide committee for final review.

All of this and more I wrote up in a document for CAEL and the College. It remains, frankly, one of my proudest achievements though surely long forgotten and unread. Titled Standard Setting by Students and Community: How Much Is Enough?, it became the founding framework for the CCV Associate’s Degree and a model for a number of other non-traditional institutions seeking to be a part of a truly student-centered, community-based approach to promoting educational quality grounded not in hours spent in a classroom or degrees held by faculty but by the relevance and appropriateness, the goodness of fit with both local and global constraints. It was a bid, I still believe, for a more rooted, integrated, and connected vision of education, but a bid too tender to stand.

Like the CAEL report, much of the founding charism of CCV was far too heady to last. Many of those early dreams were simply the stuff of any initial start-up, bound to take more substantial form in the rub of the world. And much of it was sheer youthful idealism, some avowedly misguided, an outgrowth of our own 60’s counter-dependence. We knew what we were against, but were less adept at creating something that would reliably replace it. Clearly the free tuition and unpaid faculty impulse was unsustainable; tuition and teacher pay rapidly returned, as did the practice of paying for instructional space. And, with accumulating experience, it made sense to hire the same excellent teachers over and over, thus establishing a kind of permanent faculty. Then, several years after our inclusion in the State College system, credits swept back in. A purely competence-based system was too radical an assault on institutional collaboration, too wrenching a demand for the larger system to accommodate. Myrna Miller, who as President in the early eighties consolidated much of this retrenchment, deserves great credit for bringing about changes that were undeniably essential for the college’s long-term survival. And she did so while continuing to nourish the deep commitment to students that has remained at the heart of the college and that ultimately enabled it to thrive.

More than four decades later, I look back on those years, at once appalled by our arrogance, gratified by the courage of our aspirations, astonished by our achievement, and deeply proud of what CCV has become. I leaf through the handsome publications, scan the inspiring diversity of course offerings across the state, see the strength and pride on the faces of the graduates, and am filled with gratitude that we were given the opportunity to lay the groundwork in those early years for what has become such an extraordinary, inspiring, and truly excellent educational institution.

August 11, 2015

Gabrielle Dietzel

Coordinator of Instruction and Advisement at CCV 1982-2004; Director of the Office of External Programs, Prior Learning Assessment, until 2015.

I started working at CCV as a Coordinator of Academic Services in 1982. I stayed in this role until 2004, when I took over the Vermont State Colleges’ Prior Learning Assessment program which is located at CCV. In the summer of 2015, I retired after being part of CCV for 33 years.

In 1982, the CCV Central Office was located above the Howard Bank building in Montpelier, and the Central Vermont Site of CCV was located in Barre, above the old “Lash Furniture” store. (Every time Lash turned its carpet rolling machine on, all conversation had to cease since we wouldn’t be able to understand our students’, teachers’, or our own words.)

On my second day on the job, I got a call from Nancy Chard, who was at that time the Regional Director of the southern region of CCV. The Regional Director of the northern region was Nancy Severance. Nancy Chard told Gabrielleme that: a) I was on the “Curriculum Committee”, b) the meeting was the next day, and c) to bring scissors. Scissors?!? I soon found out. The next day, five or so of my new colleagues gathered around a table, scissors in hand, and we all started cutting up the CCV course lists.

At that time, each CCV site had their own course schedule, and although the course titles were pretty much the same, each site had their own description and version of what e.g. “Applied Math” was all about. So here was the curriculum committee, armed with small machetes, cutting out the nine different versions of “English Comp”, placing them next to one another, comparing, contrasting, and coming up with one ‘blurb’ that everyone in the college would use. Nowadays, that would be called Cut and Paste. And that’s what we did – cutting and pasting the curriculum together. Therefore, on day three of my CCV career, I understood that if something needed to get done, we’d roll up our sleeves and just figure out how to do it, whichever way would work. And that is exactly the way it was, for 33 years. Only the means changed. But the approach was the same.

At this time, CCV did not have a president. There was a Dean, Myrna Miller, and she was about to leave CCV for another job. As an interim leader, Richard Bjork (the VSC Chancellor) oversaw us. The college then began a search for a president, and Ken Kalb was hired in 1983. Ken was our leader for over a decade, and many things came together during that time. The college expanded; the Burlington site, now the CCV Winooski center, was opened in Chittenden County under loud protest by the other area colleges who believed that CCV would take away students from their institutions.

This turned out to be both true and not true. CCV attracted students who were not interested in the other colleges, who had not applied to other schools, who could only go to school part time, who were the first in their family to attend college, who did not want to pursue a degree but learn new skills (especially computer skills), who could not afford the cost of other colleges, who wanted to try out college without making a long-term commitment, and who were working adults with professional schedules and family responsibilities. For those students, CCV was perfect as the other schools were not able to respond to those needs the way CCV could through its built-in flexibility and open door policy.

As CCV became more established in Chittenden County, students began to vote with their feet. CCV had so much to offer any non-traditional student. Slowly, traditional age student began arriving at the door. For CCV, this was a switch. I remember a CCV staff training day in the mid-eighties for the sole purpose of discussing the impact the young students would have on the college, and how to best advise, integrate, and teach these students. In the rest of the country, colleges held staff training days that focused on how to deal with non-traditional age students.

More and more young students came to CCV, especially in Burlington. Student numbers grew every semester. The growth of the college was astonishing and rewarding. Burlington CCV staff began, in the nineties, to work on transfer agreements with area colleges. An agreement with UVM’s College of Arts and Sciences would allow students graduating with a certain GPA to have automatic admission into their junior and senior year at UVM. This was huge. Also, it was beneficial for both schools.

Demographics were changing. When I began working at CCV in the eighties, 60% of our students were ‘life-long learners”, not interested in a degree. 75% were female. About 85% were adult students. All of this changed significantly over the next two decades. The college grew and grew. More CCV centers were opened, until there were 12 CCV sites. Then, on-line course began to appear, and the college had its 13th site – the virtual CCV site, now called the Center for Online Learning.

CCV has come a long way. It was exciting, challenging, fun, and required huge commitments from staff. We all worked hard. We did the most amazing things – they are hard to imagine now.

When the new course list came from the printer, CCV staff would drive around in their area and hand deliver the course lists in person, to stores, laundromats, community agencies, companies, local libraries, and so on. This gave CCV staff the opportunity to interact with the community in person, answer questions, entice potential students to take a course, and sometimes receive requests for new courses. It was the kind of public relations effort that no one would be able to make time for. Later, a marketing unit was established that was able to develop statewide advertising campaign and developed a new look, materials, and a visual presence.

Student registration, before computers, was managed by a system of 5×7 cards in a metal box. Students who were officially registered and had paid were noted on the card in pen. Students who had expressed an interest but had not actually paid were written in pencil. Registration forms were filled out in quadruplicate – one for the student, one for the site, one for the financial aid office, and one for the central registrar’s office in Waterbury.

We drove the new technology – VCRs! – to CCV classrooms which were all over the place. We took the leftover soup from one teacher night (the dinner before the semester started) to the next teacher night at another CCV site. Staff often prepared the food. Sometimes, teachers (at that time our instructors were still called teachers, not faculty) prepared food. Materials were transported from site to site or class to class – such as sharing three art history slide sets between everyone in the college, or transporting the one computer, the BLUE EGG, to be used for the brand new “Introduction to Computers” class from the CCV business office, which was by then located in Waterbury, to Montpelier and back the next morning. The joke was that when a new academic coordinator was interviewed: “Yes, she’s nice, but does she have a station wagon?”

Ken Kalb began the tradition of the annual all-college meeting, convocation. Nancy Chard became the first CCV Academic Dean. CCV staff had a “computer training” day at VTC, where we got to touch those machines and print out word processed documents on green-and-white striped paper. It’s hard to imagine now that we all worked on yellow pads and sent around Academic Review Board Minutes, sharing one copy per site. Slowly, computers started to arrive; first for administrative tasks, then for all staff. CCV sites needed to have computer labs. CCV hired a Computer Guru.

Degree Planning Seminar (DPS), a 1-credit course each degree student had to take, required students to design their own programs by meeting nine competencies. Students were often frustrated by this task – they wanted to know what exactly they had to take and which class would fulfill what requirement. Consequently, the first “Red Book” was created – laying out the degree programs (about 10) and specifying required courses. The development of the Red Book was huge and consequential. Advisors exhaled a common sigh of relief, and students were screaming for their copy. Slowly, the nine competencies were adapted and changed. Degree planning became a much more opaque process. President Ken Kalb secretly enrolled in the Degree Planning Seminar and created a degree plan for the fictitious “Thelma Spieler” so he could understand the process better – and Thelma’s plan was sent through the Academic Review Board (ARB). During those days, all student degree plans were reviewed in a two-day marathon meeting of the ARB at the Waterbury Central CCV office. They were chaired by Nancy Chard, clutching her famous coffee mug that said “I’d rather be having a beer!” All students received direct feedback from the ARB. It was a cumbersome but thorough process that is unthinkable today – student numbers were so much lower than today.

The grading system in the 1980s was pass/fail. Students received a written, narrative evaluation of their learning, based on common “essential” objectives that were slowly designed by the curriculum committee with the help of teachers, using Bloom’s Taxonomy. This was a huge undertaking but very successful as it clearly delineated student learning expectations/outcomes common for all CCV courses. CCV academic staff believed strongly in the usefulness of these narrative evaluations. Students, however, felt differently. They wanted grades. CCV staff lost that battle, and pass/fail remained the automatic option but grades could be requested by filling out forms with signatures, etc. In the 90’s, this changed to numerical grades becoming the default.

While not preserving the significance and value (as many advisors felt) of the narrative approach, this made student transfer easier as more and more CCV students started continuing on to other colleges as CCV transcripts had become increasingly accepted in Vermont.

Advisors/coordinators, at that time, served also as financial aid counselors, until in the late 80s specialized Financial Aid counselors were hired, much to the relief of the academic advisors. In some CCV sites, academic staff at CCV was divided into specialized coordinators – those working with teachers, and those working with students. In the mid-80s, this changed through the creation of a more comprehensive role for coordinators – they became the “CIAs” – Coordinators of Instruction and Advisement.

In the late 80s, CCV started to establish a library. This development came in response to concerns by the regional accreditation teams. How could a college exist without a library? Students had had to mainly rely on their local libraries. Under the guidance of Eileen Chalfoun, a distinctive, decentralized library system was developed: each CCV site had a dedicated, small library with common titles that would hopefully meet the resource needs for students writing lower level undergraduate research papers. At the same time, students were able to call a 1-800 telephone number, free of charge, to get help in designing research papers and accessing resources. Library staff wrote the first CCV library manual – “Bibliothec”. Several librarians were hired and located at various sites. It was a unique and creative system that was continuously adapted as technology changed.

Staff meetings were often held at the homes of staff. Regional course lists were planned and hashed out over pizza on someone’s back porch. Everyone knew one another. Relationships at work turned into lifelong friendships. There were few ‘bosses’ – the governance structure was quite flat, and it was easy to access anyone in charge of something, and to suggest and create changes. I believe that is one reason for many staff to stay as long at CCV as they do.

There was, and still is, a lot of work to be done by CCV staff. But CCV was a very mission driven institution, and the mission was shared. I am not suggesting that everyone was always happy; but there was a shared belief in the ‘big picture’ of the significance CCV had in our communities. There was lots and lots of discussion between staff and many projects were tried out (some failed, some changed the college forever, for the better). New staff either stayed on for a year or two and left, or basically stayed forever.

In the 80’s, a lot of staff was hired due to the colleges’ growth and expansion. There was a large group of staff, especially among coordinators, who had come to the college with an ethic of personal engagement and certain political beliefs resulting from growing into young adulthood in the 1970s, and time of societal change, upheavals, and new ideas about community and individual responsibility as being part of common community responsibilities. Problems were addressed and worked out until there was some kind of smart solution to the issues. Long-time CCV staff Dee Steffan used to say: “CCV staff is less polite, but more respectful”.

Much of this is still true at CCV to this day. But the college is so much larger now that it’s hard to know everyone the way we used to. However, if you put the entire group of coordinators in one room, and I expect the same is true for a college-wide group of administrative staff, there is a ‘hum’ and excitement in the air that is palpable. Colleagues are glad to see one another. Staff actually likes to be on committees. There are still silly skits, jokes, wild costumes, lots of tongue-in-cheek performances, sassy and funny comments, and various types of sanctioned outrageous behavior. There is also shared grief and caring for one another during difficult times. CCV has grown into a mature and established organization that affects the life of thousands of Vermonters in a positive way.

It has been a pleasure and privilege to be able to contribute to this institution’s success.

Maryellen Lowe

Site Office Manager, St. Albans; Assistant Registrar

In 1978, I moved to Vermont and after two weeks began working in the Office of the Chancellor, Vermont State Colleges. It was almost immediately after that when I first heard about Community College of Vermont and its mode of operation. I was very excited to learn about its non-traditional methods. I had become familiar with non-traditional colleges as my closest friend was a student at Empire State College in New York at that time. As someone who was herself an adult student working toward her degrees, I knew immediately that CCV was the place where I wanted to continue my education.

Mel-3I enrolled as a CCV student after a year working in the OC-VSC in order to gain residency and free tuition. As someone interested in the Humanities, I began with literature classes mixed with general education requirements. This was through the St. Albans location, as that was where I lived. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to take classes where I was living. One class that stood out was an independent student I took in Modern British Literature with Michael Sawdey. (Please see the piece that Michael wrote for the CCV history.) This was the first independent study I ever took, and it was perfect to have an excellent instructor all to myself. Of course poor Michael had me constantly picking his brain for all of the information I could garner. This added contact with CCV increased my passion for the College, so that when the opportunity arose to transfer to CCV and in St. Albans, I became a CCVer, something I never regretted as I remained so for thirty years until I retired.

CCV back then in 1981 was very different in some ways than it is today in 2014. It was much smaller, and there was little staff turnover, so that over the course of a few years despite the lack of geographical propinquity, everyone became familiar with everyone else. New staff was added occasionally as the college grew, and when an all-college meeting was held, you knew immediately who the new person was as that was the only face that you didn’t already know.

After a few semesters, I realized also how well I knew all of the students. It became possible to greet each student by name as they would come in for classes or advising. It truly was a family where everyone looked after each other and helped each other along the way. Of course, the “down” side was that it could take hours to go out to purchase a loaf of bread or a quart of milk. There was always a student or teacher that would cross one’s path, so long conversations would ensue. To a certain extent this is still true about CCV today despite it incredible growth, but only with certain students with whom each individual works rather than everyone.

I can remember one time in the early days when I was in the center late just before classes began. One of the students came into my office just to talk. Then another one joined us, then another, and another and another. Pretty soon it was like an impromptu family party with laughing and everyone sharing how their classes and lives were going.  At the end there were about twenty-five students, young and old, science and English students, Vermonters and movers in, male and female, and any other diversity in existence all in my office which was twelve by twelve feet.

Space in my early days was always an issue. The first two site locations when I began working had limited classroom space, and it wasn’t always the best, being crowded, irregularly shaped, cold and sometimes not too private. In the first building there was a back classroom that bordered on two sides with an unheated storage area; that was frigid during really cold winter days. I participated in one class there where all students were wearing their winter coats by the end of class. Enthusiasm was not frozen out, though. Another very small classroom also doubled during the day as an advisor’s office and lunch room. That was all right until the day the refrigerator broke and began to give off gas. Fortunately, it wasn’t at night when students where in a class. This was in the first location where I worked.

The staff in the St. Albans Center was extremely close in those days and for years everyone’s talents seemed to dovetail. This was fostered by making do creatively with little to make things work. When I began at CCV, there were no computers. We used to do everything “manually” or with typewriters. The course list was generated by using small pieces of paper that would then be assembled. This process often generated late nights. One rainy fall day, the St. Albans staff at the time (me, Joan Kaye, Pixley Hill, and Michael Sawdey) worked on the course list until literally midnight. I probably shouldn’t say, but a good time was had by all helped along by some wine. This was the only time I can remember actually having an alcoholic beverage in the center. We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves at the end of the evening. It was a good thing that no one lived truly far away.

Closeness among staff remains to the present day. After a few years when Pixley left the college, these connections were still evident. Her family owns The Tyler Place Resort on Lake Champlain in Highgate.   Each year for a long time for the St. Albans staff retreat, Pixley invited us to stay at the resort for an evening, overnight, and the next day. We did work hard, but we had fun, also. Quite a few college get-togethers in the early days were held there.

After a couple of years, we moved literally next door. This was space that was much more suitable. The classrooms were larger and configured more logically for a college class, although there still were not enough. Most classes at the time were held in locations throughout St. Albans or other locations such as Swanton and Enosburg. Classes were held in high schools, church halls, and once for a class that I took in one of the student’s home. These locations were sometimes problematic, as when the church hall was a Sunday school classroom where the desks were more appropriate for younger and smaller individuals. Probably obviously, students overwhelmingly preferred to have classes in the CCV building. Eventually the College moved a second time while I was working. This was to the current location, which was built for the College specifically by Jim Warner, a local developer. (Please see the Warner history piece regarding this also posted on the CCV stories website.)

Moving from location to location was an adventure in itself. The first move I participated in was, as mentioned, literally to next door. Because of the closeness, moving was done primarily by staff in “free” moments. This wasn’t too awful, except it was during the cold months, and there was an alley between the two buildings; flowing from the alley across the sidewalk was a thick tongue of ice, rather like a miniature glacier. Carrying computers across this ice was nerve wracking. Another adventure in this move was the fact that for a short time the phones rang in the new building while everyone was still in the old.

The second move to the current building was hired out. That went much more smoothly and came off without any pause. We held classes in the old building in the morning; the movers came and moved everything to the new building in the afternoon, on a day when there were no classes; without missing a beat we held evening classes in the new building…no time was lost at all. For the first few years a small part of the building was occupied by Vermont Adult Learning/Adult Basic Education; however, eventually CCV purchased and occupied the entire building. Now classes are held in our own space, creating a true sense of a vital and vibrant college community.

One of the comments that used to irk me (to put it mildly) in the early days was when a student or potential student would come in and say something like, “I’m just here to take a class or two before moving on to a real college.” Invariably I would respond, “We are a real college.” As the years progressed, CCV grew, changed, and gained a reputation for excellence. Those types of comments disappeared. Other area colleges would even advise students to come to CCV in the summer to retake a class, for example English Composition, which they had failed during their regular academic year. Afterwards, often a student would tell us that they came expecting the class to be a snap, but they realized that our class was actually more difficult than the one at their home college. A number of times one of those students would transfer to CCV rather than return to their original school.  I loved that.

Eventually, our graduates entered all types of jobs in the community. Soon everywhere I went I encountered a CCV student whom I had known, and as the student body grew so that it was impossible now to know everyone, I would enter somewhere (a bank, a local supermarket, or just about anywhere), and someone would proudly reveal that they were a CCV graduate or student, or that someone in their family was. We had husbands and wives, siblings, or generations of students from the same nuclear family. The College had come of age.

One of the best things about working at CCV (other than the other staff, faculty and students, of course) was that it was impossible to predict what any given day would bring. Occasionally, life can be sad or tragic, as when we would lose a student to a car accident or illness, but mostly incidents would be hilarious. Once toward the beginning of my time at CCV, a man with long hair and beard came in inquiring about becoming a student. We talked for about fifteen minutes; then he asked to use the bathroom. Taking the literature I had given him, he went down the corridor. After a while, I realized he had never returned. Fearing he was ill, I went back. He was gone, apparently having left by the back door. However, the bathroom sink, toilet, and floor were covered with hair. He must have cut that long hair and beard off! Why? We speculated all sorts of things from disguising himself after having robbed a local bank to just being tired of the hair in the heat of that hot summer. This was a mystery never solved. We never knew what would come through the door; however, it was always fun.

Getting together with staff from around the college was always enjoyable and an opportunity to build collegiality. Sometimes this was work, as when site administrative staff would get together to do mailings in the days before a professional mailing service was used. This was known as slapping labels. The participating staff would assemble, usually in Montpelier as that was centrally located, and find heaps of course lists and labels waiting. Dressed in very casual attire, hilarious conversations would ensue as those labels were affixed to the course lists in zip code order with a friendly rivalry to see who could “slap” the most labels. It was a chance to share what was happening in various sites, make contacts with peers, share personal stories, and realize that no person was alone out there in an isolated site; we were all part of the same college.

One of the best times was (and is) when the entire college staff convened formally for Convocation or currently for Staff Development Days.   Even here times could be funny. I believe it was for the first Convocation when I and two other staff became lost and arrived late after the president began his remarks. We thought we could unobtrusively slip in the back of the room, disturbing no one. However, it was a wooden “nightingale” floor; every step we took creaked embarrassingly loudly. Everyone turned and looked at us.

One of the best things about working at CCV was that even though there were the everyday, unvarying tasks that go with any job, there was always something new to be taken up. Often these wee self-assigned. One of the things that I enjoyed the most was working on Vermont Affairs. This was a journal that existed for two/three years that was published by CCV; it took on issues that affected the state. For example, it carried articles on the ski industry, interviews with prominent Vermonters, the relationship between Vermont and Japan, eugenics in the state in the early twentieth century…to name a few. I was privileged to act as editorial assistant and proofreader. It was conceived and brought to fruition by David Buchdahl, former Coordinator of Instruction and Advisement, Regional Director, Academic Dean, and Director of Institutional Research and Planning, now retired. I only wish that the journal had endured for a longer period of time; it was an ornament in CCV’s crown.

Another task that I volunteered for was to act as the librarian in St. Albans for a time. I was always interested in that area, and as the student body grew a great need arose to help students find resources for research papers or simply topics in which they were interested.   CCV began to develop a virtual library where students could access information through the computer system and/or order books via interlibrary loan. However, staff was small, and someone had to show students how to deal with the system to obtain what they needed. For a while I helped students piecemeal, when I could squeeze in the time, and faculty would also ask me to make a presentation teaching their class as a whole. Despite not always feeling the most comfortable speaking in front of groups, I still took on this task until finally CCV grew enough to support someone dedicated to the “library” to do this.

One of the tasks that I most enjoyed was working with the Linnell family and the Linnell Fund. Robert and Myrle Linnell were Vermonters who worked in higher education at the University of New Hampshire and then the University of Southern California. When Bob retired and returned to the Vermont and New Hampshire area, they wanted to help poor Vermonters. They chose CCV and donated three thousand dollars to the college in order to assist struggling students. One thousand dollars of that money was given to the St. Albans Center. I was asked to administer that fund. A method was developed to select deserving students and small awards were given out in increments of anywhere from twenty to a few hundred dollars. I always reported back to Bob and Myrle regarding the disbursement of the funds. They continued to donate a thousand dollars a year to St. Albans (sometimes giving extra during a given year). It became a joy to have contact with them. After Bob’s death, Myrle continued helping, and upon her death shortly before I retired Bob and Myrle’s four children continued the tradition.

The Linnell Fund was the only task I retained when I made the switch from being the St. Albans Center Office Manager to Assistant Registrar. I have to give a huge nod of appreciation to Tom Arner, CCV’s Registrar (dux meus, optimus, maximus), for stealing me from the St. Albans Team and recruiting me to his. This worked incredibly well for me as I continued to work in the St. Albans Center, thus, in a sense having my cake and eating it too, as I did not have to leave my St. Albans colleagues/friends.

Being the new Assistant Registrar was incredibly fun, a good move for me, and working with Tom was perfect. (I had even found another person who has the same macabre sense of humor and love of language.) This new work was renewing and interesting. It gave me the opportunity to delve more deeply into Colleague, the college’s database, helping many of the staff when they had problems with using the academic/registrar’s section of it. This enabled me to have more contact with staff than most other CCVers. I never felt isolated, and retain friendships to this day. For a time I was also the College’s Residency Officer. This was tough at times, but always interesting. There were also always those “other duties assigned.” However, a large part of the position involved being the individual who admitted and tracked out international students studying at CCV on student visas, and an even larger part was covering military/veterans affairs.

Having been born and lived on and off for nearly thirty years in New York City, I was used to and enjoyed being around a great cultural diversity. Losing that when I moved to Vermont was a bit of a culture shock for me. With the opportunity to work with CCV’s international students, I regained that diversity. It was a pleasure to speak with students (and sometimes their parents), whether traditional age or “adult.” from literally all over the world. We had students while I was engaged in this duty from countries as diverse as Argentina, Kenya, China, Vietnam, Japan, Botswana, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and many others, including many of the nations of Europe from Great Britain to Russia. Learning something of their customs and phrases of their languages was always something I looked forward to every day. It was also interesting to hear their viewpoints on many subjects. While CCV never had as many international students as other colleges due to our non-traditional format of delivery, those who were attracted to us generally did extremely well and added an important dimension to our student body.

One of the responsibilities that I enjoyed the most was working with CCV’s veterans and military students. I grew up as a military brat, as my father was a career Air Force officer, who flew in World War II, then from the late forties into the early eighties. It was a culture I understood. When I began, the college had 117 veterans; when I retired, the veteran population was 400. It was important to be timely in certifying our veterans to and working with the Veterans Administration in order to obtain for them their benefits, as many of them depending upon receiving benefits in a timely manner in order to pay living expenses. During this time as our military student numbers grew, the College recognized the need to focus on this population and as a result did many things to assist them. There was an academic coordinator appointed in each Center assigned to work with veterans and military students, a special one-credit workshop was developed to assist military students acclimate to college life, and there were workshops for selected staff to educate them about military students’ needs. Now there is even two dedicated Veterans Services staff, one in the northern and one in the southern part of the College.

I and others in the College also worked closely in conjunction with the Vermont Army and Air Force National Guards to assist guard members; this was especially important as during this time mostly all of our state guard were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and the new veterans’ GI Bill, Chapter 33, went into effect. Myself and other CCV staff were intensely involved in the weekend Yellow Ribbon Events evolved by the Guard for returning members after deployment. The Chittenden Center even offers each year a special night of events for our military students around Veterans Day. Upon being asked for a representative, the College appointed me to Vermont’s Military Family and Community Network; there I was the only representative in the group for the State’s post-secondary education community. This was a fascinating opportunity to learn about and connect with Vermont’s military and others intent upon serving them. Among our student population, there is no group more appreciative of the help we give them than our military students, whether veterans, active servers, or guard members.

I have always felt that it was a privilege to have had the good fortune to spend thirty years working for CCV. It was an incredibly difficult decision to make when I retired even though it was the right one. Leaving all of the people with whom I worked over the years at CCV, whether staff, faculty or student, was one of the hardest things I have ever done. However, many of them I still see, and they are still friends. I enjoyed every minute. Who could ask for more?   But I was lucky to have more.

I was asked to return to the College after a year’s retirement to start this history/stories project.   It gave me an opportunity to reconnect with many of the people with whom I worked for so many years and with the college, itself. I was fortunate to speak with individuals from more than thirty years ago to the current day, all of whom had some connection to CCV. It demonstrated to me and reinforced the knowledge that CCV is, indeed, a special and unique organization.   I believe that the College has changed the lives of countless Vermonters to date, and through those individuals has changed both their families because their example and the State of Vermont in incalculable ways via their talents and contributions. We would all be poorer if CCV didn’t exist. As the future unfolds, I am sure that CCV will continue to be a force for the good of Vermonters and the State. For all this we have to thank Peter Smith, our founding president whose clear vision created CCV.

St. Albans Storytelling Class

Submissions from COM-1180 Storytelling through Media

Samantha Barrette.Storytelling
Susan Pregent.Storytelling
Sabrina Brault.Storytelling
Nicole Canto.Storytelling
Patrick Clark.Storytelling
Jennifer Keserel.Storytelling
Jeremy Chevalier.Storytelling
Jenna Savard.Storytelling
Heather Pruss.Storytelling
Cody Schmoll.Storytelling
Alecia Ricardo.Storytelling
Brandon Coburn.Storytelling
Airk Doehlman.Storytelling

Sherry Blankinship

Office Manager, Bellows Falls Office, 1977-
Course Coordinator, Springfield, Office, 1979–1983

I did not choose CCV, it chose me. I was a fairly recent graduate from Keene State College and Paterson State College. I had done my course work in New Jersey and when we moved to Saxton’s River, I finished my degree in elementary education at Keene. At the time, there was a big demand for teachers and I quickly found a wonderful job teaching a small group of kindergarten students who for a number of reasons (emo­tional, mental, physical or a combination) were not quite ready to enter school. This was a federally funded program so they had funds to do all sorts of innovative things. I was extremely happy with this position. Fortunately as well, it was in the Saxton’s River Elementary school where my kids went to school.

I so clearly remember that in August of 1978, while visiting my parents in Massachusetts, the phone rang. The principal called to tell me that my position was not going to be funded and I was without work. Of course, I was shattered. Only a month until school started. I was a single mom with two kids and now no job. What would I do? Fortuitously, I qualified for CETA (The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) which was a government program to train workers and provide them with jobs in the public service. The opening closest to my home was at CCV in Bellows Falls where there was a need for an office manager. So, by beginning of the 1978 school year, I had a new job.

CCV was located next to the CETA office and there was much reciprocal interaction since many of their clients were our students. The CCV office was pretty rough and the CETA office only a bit better. We had desks, phones, typewriters and a few book shelves.

The highlight of the office was the bathroom. It was in the basement. The door was at the farthest end of office, down the stairs to a dirt basement and then a walk back to the front of the building where there was a wooden enclosure with a toilet. Dark, dank and scary but worse of all were the rats and roaches. We would bang and make lots of noise to scare the rats away who were pretty much out of sight during the day any­way. We kept the light over the toilet on constantly so that we could see any roaches before stepping up to the toilet. Alternatively, we could go to the CETA office next door which was marginally better but often had a line and smelled dreadfully. In hindsight this seems pretty awful but we just treated it as the way it was.

What stands out to me besides the intriguing and varied CCV employees was the range of students. Many seemed lost, others were desperate, some eager to begin in higher education, and others who wanted a single course to improve employment possibilities.

The various CCV staff certainly made up for the basic environment. They were always encouraging and cheerful to the student as well as supportive of the teachers. At some point the office closed and I was transferred to the Springfield office which was certainly an improvement in terms of office space. By 1980 I became Curricu­lum Coordinator, one of the most enjoyable jobs of my entire career in academics. I mostly worked with the high school for space and then local business and arts people for teachers. At the time the accounting courses had the biggest demand. My challenge was to find great accounting teachers. Fortunately, I was able to recruit from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. A couple of their graduate students came to Springfield a few nights a week to teach.

We also had a large interest in painting and drawing and woodworking. Most were evening classes but there were some in the afternoon.

My favorite part of this job was assisting the teachers with book selection, curriculum development and assessment. The narrative evaluations took time and were difficult for many to write…and then quite labori­ous for us to file.

The staff in each of these offices was small:  the office manager, curriculum coordinator and a student counselor. We all became quite close. The secretary at the Springfield Office, Sylvia Myers, supported stu­dents, teachers, and staff.  Her husband cleaned the office and since they had chickens kept us in eggs.

Our big break from the daily routine was our trips to Montpelier for meetings with the central office. Not only was it fun to have time away from the office but typically, Nancy Chard (Southeast Regional Coordina­tor) from the Brattleboro office, would drive. She would pick us up along the way north. Nancy was full of energy and kept us laughing in the best and worst of times. She worked hard to get the appropriate support for the Southeast. It was also fun to see in person the people with whom we would talk at the most once a day. These were the days of phones where long distance charges were steep so we had a running tally at the phone of our needs and to whom we wanted to speak. At the appointed time each day (as I recall around 4 pm), we would line up to talk about the various issues to the appropriate person in Montpelier.

Once again, CCV interceded in my life and career. I had taken several of the art courses while working there. I loved art and it was a great way to engage with the community, students and teachers. By chance one of the offerings in Springfield was a design course offered by Stephen Plunkard, a local landscape architect.

He was young, engaging, energetic and enthusiastic. In reality I had little idea exactly what design was but felt that it would be an area to explore. Stephen gave us some pretty interesting challenges i.e. design an island. After a few assignments, he said to me, “You missed your calling.” Well, by the end of the semester, I had to agree. This was far more exciting/interesting to me than any art classes ever was. I decided that I had to pursue this area of my education. I worked for another year at CCV while apply to graduate schools in design. I sold my house to pay for my education and took my two kids with me to North Carolina State where I eventually received my MFA in Graphic Design. This was the best decision of my life. I continue to design and teach design. I have been able to live all over the world as a design educator. This amazes me as much as anyone I meet, all a result of taking a course offered at CCV.

I could go on with all of the wonderful people with whom I worked, but I have difficulty remember their names. One colleague who continues to enrich my life is Bill Callahan who worked at the Brattleboro Office. He was such delight as a teacher and administrator and brought energy and charm to everything he did. Now retired and still living in Brattleboro, he reads extensively and writes with such wit.

Marilyn Jackson was a writer in the Bellows Falls office who helped with course descriptions and editing of the course offerings. She move on to Boston to work as an editor and continues to expand her quilting endeavors.

But I have lost track so many others who worked tirelessly to provide the best education for those who would not otherwise have had such opportunities

Lisa Daigle-Farney

Site Office Manager
Newport

lisadf2As an employee of CCV for twenty two years, I must say it was quite a ride. The best part was working with my first partner Kathi Rousselle. Kathi and I worked in a small office with plaid linoleum and liquid toner in the copier.  That was 1980.  We were so excited when we got a hand me down Selectric typewriter.  Now, we were high tech!  We worked hard and laughed a lot.  I recall years of working on the course list with Kathi, staying late to enter all the data, selling textbooks out of our office and putting together pot lock teacher orientations.   I feel fortunate to have seen the growth at CCV and continue to support CCV in the current work I do.   I met so many amazing people at CCV and still have a strong connection with the organization.  My work at CCV prepared me to continue to work in education with many students who are not able to succeed in the traditional manner.   I thank Tim Donovan for my career move and the rich experiences I have had since leaving CCV.   I could mention many people at CCV who I admire and respect but I think you know who you are.

Mike Holland

I was appointed as President of CCV in August of 1991, but returned to Oregon after only three years in the position.  As such, it is important to remind myself that my time with CCV was brief and long ago.  I hope what follows is reasonably accurate.

mikeHWhen I arrived in Vermont, I was surprised by most of what I discovered at CCV.  I marveled at how the prior Presidents, and the wonderful staff at CCV, had created a vibrant college with pure energy and imagination alone.  CCV received almost no money from the Vermont State Colleges yet served more than half of the entire system’s headcount enrollment, paid all employees starvation wages, operated out of derelict facilities, and was almost totally without modern technology (e.g., information technology).  Facing these challenges, the former Presidents had delivered a college that somehow worked and was actually hungry for an even larger role in Vermont’s higher education community.

I was also surprised by how CCV was viewed by some of the other leaders in Vermont’s higher education community.  Rather than encouraging CCV to expand its offerings to include recent high school graduates and employers, there was a determined effort to limit CCV’s work to low income adult Vermonters who would not otherwise have access to college.  The fear, often expressed explicitly, was that CCV’s statewide presence, low tuition, and entrepreneurial energy would tap into student markets that more traditional colleges wanted to preserve for their own recruitment efforts.   An aggressive CCV worried its sister institutions.

The final surprise I will mention was discovering the depth of CCV’s pool of talent.  I have worked in higher education for nearly 40 years, only three of these years in Vermont.  However, if asked to name the 20 most talented people with whom I have worked in 40 years, it would surprise many to see the number of Vermonters on my list.  I should also add that these wonderfully talented people were deeply attached to the mission and students of CCV; attached in a way that was striking then and remains a clear memory to this day.

So what did we actually do when I was there?

A)     The very first thing I wanted to improve was the physical spaces our staff and students were using.  With the exception of our site in Brattleboro, every other teaching site in Vermont was impossibly inadequate (and often unheated and unsafe).  Over the course of three years the college developed its first “built for CCV” building in St. Albans.  This was followed by another new building in Springfield.  Soon after Springfield, CCV was fortunate enough to partner with the State of Vermont and relocate its Burlington operations to a new state office building in downtown Burlington.  During my three years we also relocated our Rutland site, White River Junction site, Montpelier site, and were close to relocating the Bennington site.

With these improved sites came appropriate signage announcing our presence and presenting our brand in a way that was much more visible. (The current maple leaf logo made its earliest appearance at this time).  It is very important to note that none of these improvements would’ve happened without the leadership of Tim Donovan.   When I first arrived I immediately became aware of Tim’s talents and energy, and brought him into the central office to fully engage him in transformational projects, including these buildings.

B)      Beyond buildings, it was also necessary for CCV to enter the electronic age.  When I first arrived, sites communicated with each other by telephone or courier.  Desktop computing was rapidly being deployed throughout America and networked work sites were transforming the workplace.  CCV needed to join this movement and when a cash surplus appeared in the spring of 1992, we decided to take the plunge.  In a little over a month from the time the decision was made, every full time CCV employee had a desktop computer and the computers were all networked (another Tim Donovan miracle).

I still remember with amusement the conversation I had with one staff member about “why are we wasting money on these damn computers.”   Six months after installation we had a brief power outage at the Waterbury office and this same staff member was in the hallway saying he should go home because he couldn’t do any work without his computer.    While CCV wasn’t the only place transformed by personal, networked computers, the decentralized nature of the college magnified the importance of this step forward.

C)      While I was at CCV, we also began to rethink our degree attainment model.  In 1991 it was expected that all degree seeking students would engage in a deeply introspective, but staff guided, process to design an individualized degree plan.  Final plans might look very similar for any randomly selected group of students, but it was in the college’s DNA that every student had to walk their own path to arrive at a degree plan.

While it was difficult to argue with the good intentions of self-discovery, the degree attainment process was very labor intensive for staff and served as a kind of natural limitation on how much we could grow enrollment.  Sites with only two coordinators can only serve so many pioneers on the path to self-awareness.   CCV did not complete this process while I was there, but the rethinking and reimagining of the curriculum had started.  And, with typical CCV concern for its students and its culture, it was critical that the transformation leave intact important student accountability elements.   Barbara Murphy, serving then as CCV’s Academic Dean, was a masterful guide as this difficult work began.

D)     When I came to CCV I was struck by how modest our efforts were to serve employers in the State of Vermont.  Our price structure and flexibility were advantages that, to my mind, ought to be attractive to businesses that needed customized training for workers.  I soon learned that the VSC was not terribly excited about CCV becoming ambitious in its outreach to employers.  The concern was that an active, inexpensive CCV option for employers might have a negative impact on the traditional role of Vermont Technical College.  CCV and VTC never did work out “rules of the road” while I was at CCV, but I was proud of the fact that CCV began to be more assertive and ambitious in its work with business and industry and that today its workforce role is robust and valued in Vermont.

A short tale to close, most of which is true:   When I was at CCV, Tim Donovan constantly bragged about this wonderful coordinator what worked in our Springfield site.   I finally got to meet this wonderful person whose name was (and is) Joyce Judy.  Tim was right in his talent assessment, and after being at CCV for several months, I noticed that Joyce did not have a Master’s degree.   The next time I saw Joyce I pulled her aside and said I thought she should complete her degree.  I told her she had limited prospects at CCV without the degree, and unlimited prospects with the degree.  A short time later, Joyce completed a Master’s degree program.  I wonder what became of her.

It was my honor to serve as CCV’s President from 1991 through 1994.  The wonderful work of the college, and the unbelievably good people who worked for the college, changed me more than anything I did to change the college.   I will remember fondly, and forever, the time I spent at CCV and hope that I had a small positive role in its development.    My best wishes to all.