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.

Lisa Daigle-Farney

Site Office Manager

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.

Dick Eisele


(Dick continues to teach for CCV to this day, and he was a long-time academic employee, also.)

I began my love affair with CCV (It was called the Vermont Regional Community College Commission at the time) in 1970.  I was hired by Charlie Parker to teach a class in Understanding Human Behavior to twelve adults, mostly women. Charlie (known commonly as Parker man) was one of the first employees hired by founding President Peter Smith to help get classes for adult learners started in central Vermont. Charlie was also one of three recent St. Lawrence College graduates who roomed, mostly on weekends, in the ski lodge I and my partners had built in Warren.  I had a psychology degree and had been teaching parenting workshops in Waterbury. This along with my elementary school teaching and counseling experience was enough for Charlie to virtually cajole me into becoming a member of one of the first Montpelier cadres of CCV teachers. Little did I know when I agreed to do it, that it would be a life altering and fateful decision.

My first class was held in the basement of the Bethany Church in downtown Montpelier. All CCV classes, at that time, were held wherever free or cheap space could be found. I think the CCV central Vermont headquarters was in an old building on Langdon St. in Montpelier. My first class had twelve students, mostly adult (over 30) women.  Their names were recorded on a lined yellow pad (I really wish I still had that one). At that time, there was no formal registration, no tuition, no teacher pay, no grades, and no credits.  This amazing experiment in community education was strictly a matter of matching adults in the community who wanted to learn something with other people from the same community who had the appropriate talents to teach them. How cool was that? As one might guess, my first experience alleviated most of my substantial anxieties and exceeded my most hopeful expectations. From that first class on, I was hooked on teaching adults.

The typical student in my early Montpelier classes (which was not necessarily the case in all early classes) was a married or recently divorced adult woman who had suspended her educational goals to raise a family and in some cases, find part-time work. These women (of course there were also a few men in my early CCV classes and there were lots of men in early classes like welding) were smart and highly motivated. CCV was providing the opportunity for them to ease back into formal education at the college level and do it locally. I could tell that this was an incredible innovative experiment that had the potential to fill a large gap in Vermont’s existing system of higher educational offerings. Many of these early students got hooked on learning in the same way that I got hooked on teaching them and learning from them.  However, even the best situations often have a downside somewhere. More than a few of the women students, in my early classes, expressed to me that their enthusiasm for learning and the changes they were experiencing were not appreciated at home. In effect, their participation in college courses served to disrupt their marriages, especially marriages that may have been somewhat fragile to begin with.

From ’70 to ’75, l continued part-time teaching each semester, learning a little more about teaching adults and about the college as time passed.  At some point, I think during 73, the college began to collect tuition which was set at $30 a course. But students were advised that they were free to determine how much they would pay based on what they could afford and what they felt their courses were worth. In this infamous “bank by mail” scheme, each student was given an envelope for each class that was addressed to a local bank in which they made their contribution.  I later heard that this experiment died an early death because an examination of the first year’s results revealed that some of the least financially capable students were the most reliable and generous contributors.  Instructor pay was instituted at about the same time at $230 a course.

As I was teaching a variety of psychology and human development courses during the early seventies, the college staff was developing a special way for students to put their experiential and formal classroom learning together into a degree program. One important feature of the program was for each degree student, with the help of a CCV advisor, to develop what was called a “contract to complete.”  As I understood it then, the contract was a tentative plan for how the student might gain the learning she/he needed to attain the degree. I now know that at some point, a “contracting course” was developed to make the process less labor intensive and more effective. The other key innovative program element was an assessment of experiential learning and advising mechanism called the Local Review Committee (LRC) that was set up for each student right in their community. These committees were designed to evaluate the student’s learning already accomplished and to identify specific learning needs that remained as yet unfulfilled in his/her contract. The LRCs were made up of a CCV staff member (who usually but not always chaired the meetings), a local instructor, a community practitioner with an appropriate background, and sometimes, another student.

Any student intending to graduate would bring their contract, evidence of their knowledge and skills (which often included their handicrafts and culinary delights) to their local committee where a discussion would ensue as to whether the evidence for their learning was enough to satisfy the requirements of their contract. All decisions were made by consensus but it was usually somewhat subjective as to just how much learning was enough to satisfy the requirements for a degree.  In most LRCs where I was involved, the student’s prior learning was determined to be a little short so a decision had to be made as to exactly what learning they still needed and how they might get it. This decision was made by the group as a whole (including the student involved) by consensus. When the student and their local counselor felt that they had accomplished the learning specified in the contract and by the committee, the student returned to the LRC for confirmation. This was also a consensus process. The first of many LRCs I served on was in 1974 and I remember how impressed I was at this incredibly personalized approach to community education. My first committee was chaired by Marjory Walker, the central Vermont regional director and another one of the amazingly smart and talented CCV core staff at the time. The LRC was truly a grass roots process and it seemed, from my perspective at the time, to be working. By serving on LRCs I was exposed for the first time to some of the other CCV centers in places like St. Johnsbury, Johnson, and even Hardwick where CCV had a small outpost site in the home of Duane Wells, a close friend of Peter Smith.  Rumor had it that Duane ran his own version of a miniature CCV there in Hardwick.

I was hired in the spring of 1975 to manage the Central Vermont summer program out of Montpelier. It was during that summer where I really got my CCV feet wet, so to speak. My job was to fill out a listing of about 30 courses (some courses and instructors had been previously identified), develop a schedule, find missing instructors, locate classroom spaces, and even help to market our classes in the community. Once we got the semester underway, my job was to provide oversight, respond to student and instructor needs, and solve any problems that inevitably come up. For example, one class we offered that summer was called something like “Wild Foods and Flowers Identification.”  The instructor, who I had been told was highly experienced and well qualified, turned out to have an interesting idiosyncrasy; his personality would change rather dramatically on the full moon so we had to schedule his class around the full moon to avoid any unwanted surprises.

Another interesting and unsuspected occurrence happened in a course called Seminar in Alcohol Education which was taught by two key figures in the Department of Corrections. At least two of the students in that class were state troopers.   As I remember it, to clear up any doubts about the effect of a relatively small amount of alcohol, at least one trooper managed to get quite inebriated from drinking a few shots of beer and had to be driven home from class. This was the result of an in-class experiment to show what just a small amount of alcohol could do to a large man.

It was during that summer that I was introduced to the college’s business office and the staff of the Program to Advance Veteran’s Education (PAVE).  Their offices were downstairs from the Central Vermont site on Langdon St. in Montpelier.  This PAVE program was aimed at returning Vietnam War veterans and provided them, as I recall, with a complete package of educational benefits. The Langdon St. PAVE crew was determined to capture as many vets as they could and they used vigorous recruiting tactics to get them enrolled. This was all fine and as it should be except that some of the recruited veterans had no interest whatsoever in furthering their education but a strong interest in receiving their benefits. These disinterested vets could raise havoc in a class especially those taught by women. This was literally brought home one evening when my wife at the time, a very experienced and popular instructor, returned home from her class one evening nearly in tears after being harassed by two of her veteran students. I don’t remember exactly what was done about it but we somehow managed to deal with it.

During the late summer of 75, the college received a $500,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation and I applied for the position of director.  I had developed a strong affection for CCV from my teaching, LRC, and summer coordinating experiences so I couldn’t pass up the chance of working full time for the college when it came up. Somehow, I managed to get the job and that fall, began an adventure I could hardly have anticipated as a rather naïve elementary school guidance counselor. Firstly, I found myself in the company of an amazingly talented group of educators. It would be hard to exaggerate this aspect of the early CCV. Peter was only in his mid twenties and he had already been president or its equivalent for nearly five years. One of the first rumors I heard about Peter was that he had hitchhiked to D.C. in his combat boots (actually hiking boots) and leather vest to solidify one of the grants that funded CCV’s beginnings. Peter seemed to be one of those people who was completely fearless with little doubt about what he could accomplish when he set his mind to it. So when he decided to do something, he just went ahead and did it, confident that it would work out.  Another popular story (supposedly true) circulating was that when he was a boy and playing little league baseball, he was such an optimist that one day when he came home after a game and his mother asked him how it went, Peter said it was a great game; we only lost 22 to nothing. I have a cartoon drawing picturing this event. The prevailing scoop on Peter’s CCV initiative was that instead of developing an elaborate plan to get this new “college” underway, he decided to jump right in and offer courses in the community, see what happens, and do the planning later- let people see that it works right from the start.

Then there was Larry Daloz, a long, tall Harvard grad who was the academic brains of the early college and one of the most intelligent people I have had the privilege of knowing. When I came in Larry was working with CAEL (Cooperative for the Assessment of Experiential Learning) on ways to formalize and refine CCV’s fledgling competence based approach to learning and assessment. Larry’s HMIE (how Much is Enough) project was a key academic initiative at the time. I quickly came to realize that CCV, still in its infancy, was right near the forefront of adult higher education in the country. Cloe Pitkin and Mary Wade were the “brains” behind the counseling program, Don Hooper and Tim Welch supported the Central Vermont teachers and were the creators of the first teacher handbook (Educational Wampum), and Margery Walker directed the Central Vermont program. Ken Hood, former Superintendent of the Washington West school district, came in at about that time to help Peter with the management side of the college. Scott Bassage was the registrar who led the college’s effort to organize, institutionalize, and articulate registration procedures and incorporate a record keeping system. In the sites some of the Key figures that come to mind were Tom Yahn, John Turner, Nancy Chard, and Priscilla Newell in the Southern Region, John Findlay in the NEK, and Peggy Williams, Susan Smallwood, and Pixley Hill in the Northwest.

But my main focus during the fall of 75 was to get the Kellogg (Integrated Service Team IST) project off the ground and in place.  And, here is where my real education started. In a nutshell, the project called for CCV to recruit graduate interns and their faculty advisors from the state colleges (with the exception of VTC), UVM, and Antioch New England to work in five teams with CCV staff to improve the college’s ability to assess learner needs and provide effective instructional and advising systems to support them.  This seemed like a great way to get additional resources to support an idea rich but resource poor institution. Besides that, this was a project that emphasized collaboration and collaboration was just what the higher education community was pushing in those days. What could be a better model than getting all these Vermont colleges together in a cooperative initiative.  As is often the case with initiatives like these, however, there was an unacknowledged (at least to me) fly in the IST ointment. I came to discover this when I went to LSC to recruit the Lyndon faculty representatives.

I soon learned that the VSC faculty union, based at the campus colleges, didn’t like us one bit and that the hub of the Vermont Federation of Teachers (VFT) was at Lyndon State, my first stop on the faculty recruitment tour. The extent of how vitriolic the nature of this dislike came when I attempted to recruit the two paid faculty liaisons. I had reserved a classroom where I could present the IST project to any faculty who might be interested. Now, keep in mind that a few weeks earlier I was working in an elementary school counseling students and teachers.  I had planned to give a general introduction to the IST project in the first part of the meeting. Well, I had barely begun speaking when I was ambushed by a couple of union members who obviously came to the meeting prepared to disrupt it. “We want you to explain the qualifications of the teachers you hire and the unusual recruitment practices you use to find teachers.” were the kinds of questions they literally shouted out from the back of the room.  I came prepared to talk about the project and completely unprepared to respond to this attack. So to say they caught me off guard and unable to react in a coherent manner would be a gross understatement. As the attack continued, luckily for me, one kind and considerate professor (Frank Green) came to my rescue and scolded the interlopers, inviting them to leave if they were not really interested in the job. The guilty ones left.  After the meeting, I was cautioned to be careful who sees me park my car the next time I come to campus. The implication was obvious. We are talking about college faculty here. Anyway, as a naïve ex-elementary school counselor, this was my initiation to VSC politics.

As it turned out, my recruitment visits to the other campuses were significantly less dramatic but it was still made perfectly clear to me that CCV was not appreciated by the VFT.  So, in that light, and as I recall, the receptions at UVM and Antioch, where there was no VFT, were different stories all together. As it turned out, however, I got some great faculty from all the institutions including those with strong VFT elements.

The Early CCV of the mid-seventies was a remarkable place with an extraordinary mission to serve the whole state of Vt. and do it without a full –time faculty and /or campus buildings. And, the college was also going to do it while attempting to implement a largely untried progressive and innovative educational philosophy. This meant constant experimentation and tinkering to develop best practices for teacher support and advising across the college and to refine and articulate the degree planning and review process.  The additional resources of the Kellogg project were a significant factor enabling us to keep making academic improvements and probably kept the college alive financially.

When I came on board, CCV had just completed its first accreditation self-study and visitation. And, under the aforementioned HMIE project, Daloz and other academics were attempting to pin down “how much learning” was an appropriate amount to complete a CCV two- year degree. Without grades and credits, the college, almost from the beginning, had turned to competence based learning and assessment. A sister project to the HMIE (Pronounced “heimie”) project was the CR*P (pronounced “crap”) project which stood for contracting review and assessment project. The philosophical basis for all of these efforts and for the CCV approach in general was articulated in the famous CCV Credo which was written in early 75. The best way to explain the credo is to include an slightly abridged and paraphrased (in places) form of the actual document written by Larry Daloz.

If you find CCV confusing, you’re not alone. Many people are bewildered by our jargon, frustrated by our unfamiliar procedures, and even angered by our apparent unwillingness to do things the “normal way.”

 INSTEAD of giving grades and credits, we evaluate learning in terms of “learning outcomes,” require long written evaluations, and even ask students themselves to consider whether or not what they have learned.

 INSTEAD of simply requiring a number of courses for a degree, we ask students to complete a “contract” based on “competencies.”

 INSTEAD holding classes on a campus, we hold them in homes, churches, and schools.

 INSTEAD of recognizing only classroom learning, we allow students to count work and even life experiences toward the degree.

 INSTEAD of having a permanent faculty, we hire people directly from the community to teach specific courses.

 To explain why we do things this way, to set forth our assumptions, and to make public our credo, is the purpose of this little paper.

 We assume that people can continue to learn throughout life and significant learning requires change and growth-change not merely in what knowledge is acquired, but also in how people perceive the world and how they act in it. People are not simply at the mercy of the world, they can work to change it.

And finally, we affirm that the ultimate purpose of education is to help people take responsibility for their own lives, to the fullest extent of their capacity. Therefore,


Education must make learners aware of their own limitations and those imposed by society. As awareness increases, the bonds fall away. To learn actively is to dissolve our limitations. The learner is not simply an empty vessel into which truths are poured. Real learning means change and change requires active involvement of the learner. The contracting process has been designed specifically to encourage this kind of active participation. We also ask our teachers to help students to engage information actively rather than simply absorbing it. And, we encourage teachers to negotiate with students as they plan their courses.


We believe that the process of learning is just as important as the content. Someone who knows how to learn can go on learning long after the teacher has gone. Therefore we provide a “core” of skills basic to the process of learning itself-inquiry, communication, problem solving, analytical, and inter-personal skills. Teachers are encouraged to incorporate these skills into the planning of their courses and the contracting process places special emphasis on these skills as students plan, carry out, and evaluate their learning.


A complete learning process involves not merely doing something, but also knowing and understanding the activity. Conversely, knowing is not enough unless it results in action. Knowing and doing go hand in hand.  We recognize the value of learning outside of the classroom and we place strong emphasis on self-evaluation as a means of understanding such learning. In the contracting process, students identify their experiential learning, for it is the learning that we recognize, not the experience alone. The contract is a way of helping students to know what they know, understand what they can do, and prove it. For the “real world” is both the source and the testing place of ideas.


Learning is not a matter for the mind alone, as though there were no connection with the rest of our being. Intellectual endeavor is no more, and no less, important than other realms of human activity. The capacity to work well with others and to use certain physical skills is also important factors in determining work success and life satisfaction. Therefore, CCV’s competencies are designed to encourage attainment and accomplishment in three broad areas: social, manual/physical, and intellectual competence.


Traditionally, educational quality control in higher education has focused on such inputs as campus libraries, faculty credentials, and strict entrance requirements. It is assumed that if the teaching conditions are good, the quality of learning will also be good. We prefer to believe that the proof of the pudding is in the eating—that “quality control” should be focused on learning rather than teaching whether it came from a PhD or a six year old, a classroom, or a job.

Consequently, we do not require courses. Rather, we require that certain skills and knowledge, called “competencies” be demonstrated. Of any learning experience we ask these questions: 1. What skills or knowledge were learned? 2. How well were they learned? 3. Under what circumstances were they learned? 4. What is the evidence that they were learned?

The contract and our course evaluation procedures are designed to put the student in charge of this information.

We do not pretend that the way we do things is the only way to act on these beliefs. Nor do we claim exclusive rights to them. But we are convinced that by adhering to these tenets we help people to take greater responsibility for their lives. And that, we think, is what education ought to do.  L.A. Daloz

The period from 1975 to 1980 was one of rapid enrollment growth and intense programmatic development. CCV’s innovative structure (designed to serve a rural mountainous state without a full time faculty or central campus) along with its progressive academic philosophy was attracting national recognition. The paradox was striking and disturbing. We knew we were at the cutting edge of non-traditional adult education and yet within the state we were still considered poor stepsisters of the campus colleges and, in some circles (the VSC faculty union at LSC for example), we were even considered to be an impediment to their welfare and completely disposable. So, while we were being recognized in a growing number of major publications as a “college model for the grass roots” and a “moveable feast,” we were still struggling to find our place as a respected college in Vermont. Because of the college’s national reputation in competence-based education, Daloz was selected to train other accrediting agencies on how to evaluate competence based higher educational programs and I got to go with him to San Francisco and Philadelphia on a couple of those sessions. There was never a doubt among CCV staff that we had the very best approach to educating adult learners and we and others believed that we were at the head of the pack nationally.

During this early period, I was reveling in being a part of CCV’s evolving academic philosophy and practices, and working with the incredible staff who I had come to know as colleagues. However, CCV, like most organizations I had worked for, had internal conflicts. My first direct exposure to one of these came when I was called on to mediate a Southern Vermont regional office meeting in Springfield. Evidently the Brattleboro head and the Springfield head were not on speaking terms and my job was to somehow get in the middle and calm things down so that they could proceed with the meeting.

Tension also was clearly evident between student support staff (then known as counselors) and teacher support staff. The tension was over which function was getting a larger share of the small resource pie and appreciation for what they do. Also and not surprisingly, the site programs were seeking more operational independence from the central office and also a larger slice of that same pie. This was good-naturedly illustrated in a poem sent to us in the central office from Pixley Hill, our St. Albans coordinator:

Hail Best-Smelling Cheese:Our Central Office

There’s a cheese that stands alone
Central Office is its name.
They wonder sometimes what we do.
We wonder just the same.
When we are sweating deadlines,
They are out of town.
Their deadlines run a separate race
When we are winding down.
And so we toast with great and real affection
Their job descriptions and agendas
That keep the CCV connection.

My early experience at CCV was full of surprises in terms of what I had expected it to be like. I can’t say that I was surprised that my desk would be purchased from the local surplus store and the crew that got this monster of a steel desk up the stairs to the second floor of the Howard Bank building was us. But I along with everyone else was definitely surprised when a memo came out of Peter’s office suggesting that CCV’s “new look” required that we “save the old and blue jeans for the week-end”.  At least a few of us were unaware that there was a “new look.”  In retrospect, that memo may have been symbolic or prophetic of the significant changes that were coming down the road.

As noted above, one internal issue at the time of my rookie season revolved around the workload of the TSSers and counselors (soon to be known as student support staff) in the sites. As part of my orientation as the central teacher support coordinator, I received a must-read document that put the teacher support role clearly in perspective (at least from one teacher supporter’s partly tongue-in-cheek viewpoint/spoof). It was called, A Transcript of Testimony Given by John Turner at the Watercloset Hearings on his role in the PIE-IN-THE-SKY, A TARGET POPULATION IN EVERY POT SCANDAL of the YAHN ADMINISTRATION in the S.E. VERMONT during FISCAL YEAR 1973.  In this cleverly constructed mock hearing, Turner lists over a dozen teacher support functions, roles, and “bit parts” and the degree to which they were carried out or sacrificed to other tasks in Brattleboro during that year.

The big push during this period was the agreed upon need to streamline, consolidate, standardize, and articulate the whole degree program aspect of the college. A sticky issue was the aforementioned Central Office/Site staff relationship. I found it interesting that no one seemed to know exactly what the role of the central office was in any kind of official sense and that every site office had their own system for just about every administrative and academic function. In any event, the established process for tackling any important issues of the day was to have a retreat, develop a task force, or create a committee, have meetings, and communicate the results to the College Council and Decision Team. When I came in, the college was working on incorporating CCV’s self-reliant learner/APIE philosophy into all levels of its operations.   Self-reliant learners are skilled at assessing their learning needs, planning educational experiences to meet them, implementing the plan, and evaluating the results. And, the idea was to set goals and make every effort to create the same systematic approach to planning, implementing, and evaluating all academic and administrative functions of the whole college.

One area that needed attention in 1975 was the need to develop a college-wide model for collecting and recording tuition income. Prior to the development of this model, there wasn’t one. No college-wide system for tuition collection, banking, and recording existed.  One interesting feature of this early model for tuition collection being developed was the inclusion of what was called a TPA or an agreement to pay.  A TPA was a signed contract between the student and the college stating that the student would basically pay their tuition when they could. Those were the good old days.

As I recall, everybody seemed to realize that we had created an academic/degree program that was unsustainable given the college’s growth and the program’s labor intensiveness.  While degree students only made up a small portion of the college’s student body, we were spending a great deal of time and energy trying to preserve the ideals that we believed to be indispensable.

In early 1976, someone connected to the VFT had evidently submitted a request to the legislature to abolish CCV so that its appropriation could be distributed among the campus colleges in support of higher faculty salaries.  According to a memo I saved from the chancellor to the legislature, their request document was filled with inaccuracies and misinformation which the chancellor pointed out item by item.  In the same document the chancellor outlined many of the benefits CCV was uniquely positioned to provide to the state. In any event, CCV staff, its teachers, students, and quite an outpouring of support from the communities we were serving, saved the college but could not keep us from getting a cut in our already rather meager legislative appropriation.  One of the most powerful voices in support of CCV came from a highly respected former legislator from Barre, Cornelius Granai Sr. who told a joint session of two legislative committees and, as quoted in the Times Argus, “Closing the state’s Community College would be a most disastrous and infamous gesture.” This was powerful testimony that certainly helped to turn the legislative tide in our favor.  Little did we realize that we would have to go through this kind of attack again in three years.

Meanwhile, the efforts to improve and systematize the degree program continued.  There was a clear need to solve the problems with the narrative evaluations of student learning that had been identified by the accreditation report.  According to one of my memos, our task was to design a consistent but flexible college wide form and process for narrative evaluations of learning experiences. In short, just about every component of the college’s academic program and delivery system was undergoing examination and some kind of modification. Also during this period, administration functions were being tinkered with as well.  Rob Billings, the business manager, Ken Hood, and I had developed a proposal for teacher pay that included college-wide policies, procedures, and, for the first time, an actual record keeping system.  Registration was another area where each site had its own semester class schedule and we were trying to see if we could have at least some “boundaries” (first and last days of classes) that everyone in all the sites could live with.

In mid 76, the college attempted to clarify and standardize the structure and authority of the LRCs along with the integration of “vocational” programs into the existing format through an enhanced “goal statement” and better competency statements. The goal statement and competence statements would also be integrated into the ten competence areas so that both “vocational” goals and general education requirements (the ten areas) would be met.  It was also established that when a student’s contract was completed, the LRC would send it to the CCV Review Board for final approval or for return to the student’s LRC for more work.

Also in the summer of 1976, the first CCV two week residency program was held at Johnson State College. According to a report written by Kellogg intern Jayne Shephard, over thirty people attended in each week of the program. As a side note, among the offerings was an Assertiveness Training and People Building Workshop, a course called Exploration of Self and Others, and one called Reading the Woods. A well-attended evaluation session at the end of each week indicated that CCV and JSC should continue to work together, continue the summer program and even expand it.

This trend towards standardization and articulation continued in practically every area of the college’s business. I was asked in July 76 to collect a copy of all teacher and staff resumes to be put on file in the Central Office and I was even asked to review new teacher resumes prior to contract signing in the sites.  I think there was a sense, at least among some, that our survival meant getting our shit (I mean act) together. Another clear sign of this came in an October 76 memo from Ken Hood to the Central Office staff strongly reminding us of the need for more “orderly arrangement of all work areas, desks, etc.”  So, we could no longer wear our Levis and we had to clean up our workspace too. It could be argued, although I’m not sure that we realized it at the time, little by little we were inexorably heading toward “normality.”  But, many of us wondered what we might be sacrificing to get there. Which babies were going out with the bathwater, so to speak.  While everybody else wanted us to be normal, the last thing we wanted was normalcy.

In early 77, the movement toward “legitimacy” and standardization took a major step with the establishment of a “Final Review Committee (FRC)” which would authorize final approval for the degree, provide a final point of appeal for students, LRCs, or staff who wanted a final ruling on a particular matter. It was also designed to provide a “mirror of community standards and reactions to student work,” and finally to “carry out continuing review and evaluation of the entire contracting and degree process and make recommendations for changes.” The FRC membership included: a CCV staff member; a student; Ned Herrin, president of Vermont Technical College; Sister Elizabeth Candon, head of the Agency of Human Services; Charles Johnson, Superintendent of Montpelier schools; and Dale Gibson, of Vermont Tap and Die Company of Lyndonville. This “high powered” makeup of the FRC was another important step on our journey toward legitimacy and it was the end of the individual LRC having the final word on “how much was enough.”

Our first Learning Services Newsletter was printed in May 77.  And at the urging of Ken Hood, a committee-based process for course list scheduling, standardization of all-college information, criteria for consistency and quality of information, and course list problem resolution was established. The following are some the initiatives described in a June 17 meeting of teacher supporters and designed to bring more standardization to our materials and procedures while allowing the voices of resistance to the whole business of standardization to be heard.

The first item on the agenda was to develop the contents of a teacher packet which would spell out instructor responsibilities but not according to one participant, “beat them over the head with warnings,” establish criteria for good evaluations written in common language and terminology and which spell out how much “leeway there is for instructors,” provide more explicit criteria for selection of staff but “not necessarily for instructors,” portray the fact that we are a college and not a “Home Dem.” And, make sure that administrative needs should not “entangle the education process.”

It was also determined that enrollment forms needed to elicit more student information and they needed to be more CCV centered and make other agency needs less prominent. Terms needed to be standardized and the same forms should be used college wide. Concern was expressed that “some of the forms had never been seen before.” The fact is that, at the time, there was no standard enrollment form or policy-driven standardized enrollment procedures.

At this time in out evolution, we had several alternative learning models (Independent Studies, field experiences, practicums, internships, degree planning workshops, etc.) and no official college policy that covered them. So that was another area for guideline development. Evidently we determined that each site establish a small group to help make credit equivalent determinations for these “oddball” offerings so that Scott (the registrar) would have something to go by.

Also on the college’s agenda in mid 77 was the need for college-wide systems in reporting of class attendance and a policy for dropping from a course. We had to deal with the inadequacy of the “Carnegie umbrella” for contact hours for some courses and for the oddball stuff. And, we had to decide just what should go on the cumulative record.

While there was a Course List Review Committee, many staff claimed that they didn’t know what the committee did and how much authority it should have.  According to the meeting summary, there evidently was a discrepancy between the course descriptions put in the catalogue and the goals and objectives outlined for the individual courses. That had to be corrected.

The last issue addressed in this meeting was whether the writing of end-of-course narrative evaluations should be a completion requirement for students. “Central Vermont has been doing it and feels that it makes good sense.” This final remark by Jim Dawson pretty well captures the flavor of those times. The following is a direct quote from my summary memo. “Jim mentioned that, from his perspective, in the past when there was a policy or procedure that people didn’t like, they ignored it. Then when an outside agency like the V.A. or BEOG comes in and looks at the records, they find discrepancies. The student often ends up the looser. He suggested that when we have policies and procedures we should live by them and when we don’t like them we should throw them out.

These programmatic and administrative problems and efforts would soon pale when compared with the upheaval that was coming next in early 78.

Of course the news that Peter was leaving created a little more insecurity about the college’s future. And, at the same time, a new chancellor, Richard E. Bjork, was hired by the VSC board and the rumor was that he was going to shake up the whole system. What helped us quite a bit was that, before he left, Peter had hired an interim president, Nancy Wylie, a tall, thin blonde woman who was a very interesting person to say the least. She came with only a BA degree but she had a huge brain to make up for any lack of credentials. As I remember it, she caught on to the CCV culture, philosophy, and practices in an amazingly short time. Her understanding of the college was expressed in May of 78, when she wrote a memo to chancellor Bjork titled, The Role and Scope of the Community College of Vermont. This document was a thorough overview and examination of the college’s place in the Vermont higher education community. From my perspective, she got everything right.

An acting president is one thing but a permanent president without an advanced degree was another thing so the VSC Board established a search committee to do a national search with the chancellor as chairperson. While obviously not mentioned in the official criteria established for the selection process, rumor had it that the board was looking for a president who might be sort of a “grandfather figure,” maybe symbolic of the college’s continuing maturation as an established institution.  By September, after a series of interviews with six finalists, we selected a new president, Dr. George Bilicic.

While the presidential search was going on, the college staff was preparing for a group interview with David Lesley of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Virginia. This visit demonstrated that the college continued to be of interest to the higher education community on a national level. At this time we also lost several staff including key administrators which meant that staffing needs became another addition to the pile of stuff requiring the college’s focused attention.  A few other items of some note:

  • Learning Services distributed a questionnaire to the college as part of an intensive process to affirm the role and plan for the future of the academic component of the central administration and to create a job description for a new coordinator/director.
  • The college has implemented most of its plan to move regional and local offices to street-level space.
  • In August, JSC submitted a proposal to the board to expand its programs to outreach offices in locations around the state in a community-based delivery system. CCV and several other colleges were opposed to this concept and without support from the Bjork and the board, it died a quick death.
  • Dick Bjork in September of 78 proposed that each VSC campus identify their academic programs that are distinctive, essential, and expendable with an eye toward “the necessity of discontinuing some programs early in the process. This, of course, was not popular with the college presidents. Basic skills and remediation were two areas where CCV and VTC seemed to have the primary responsibilities.
  • At CCV, the FRC in a major effort/meeting outlined the areas in the contracting and review process that needed clarification and accountability to “insure that contracts falling below a minimum standard not be permitted to ‘slip through’ any cracks in the process”.
  • The FRC also “unanimously and emphatically stated that a well-written, complete, and properly documented contract reflects an academically rigorous process and a mature and valid degree. They affirmed support for the ten areas of competence and the structure of the degree process as outlined in the Blue Book.”
  • George Belicic appointed Nancy Wylie as head of learning services which ended my role as director of learning services.

In October of 78, Nancy, in a major proposal to the decision team, president, and college council outlined a plan for the operation and responsibilities of the learning services team. According to Wylie’s memo, “The plan reflects an overarching concern with the evaluation of programs and systems to insure consistent application of academic standards, and a role for Central Office staff which is neither ‘directive’ or ‘reflective’ but is rather ‘initiative’ in its orientation.” Her memo also noted the changing roles for some regional staff in this plan. As I see this now, the document represents one of one of the most thorough and extensive examinations and subsequent recommendations for administering the college’s academic programs in the history of the college.

Also in October, Ed Elmendorf, president of JSC, proposed a plan to formalize, strengthen, and expand relationships between CCV and JSC.

In a very unpopular move, near the beginning of his presidency, President Belicic formed a secretarial pool in the Central Office (eliminating assigned secretaries to specific people) and established the position of Central Office Manager.

A significant conflict erupted between Vice President Wylie and Tom Yahn, the Southern Region Director over Yahn’s attempt to unilaterally establish residency programs in that region.

President Belicic submitted his plan for academic development of the college and for the academic staffing configuration of the Central Office. The plan included specific functions for the central staff, the regional staff, and functions that would be carried out jointly. The plan was never implemented.

Nancy Wylie left at some point right after that plan was submitted and Myrna Miller was appointed to the position of Acting Dean of Academic Affairs effective December 1 while retaining her position as Director of the External Degree Program. Tim Donovan was appointed as a one-fifth time Coordinator of Academic Affairs. At that time Nancy Chard was director of the southern region, John Findlay was director of the northern region, Peggy Williams director of the northwestern region, and Don Hooper was director of the central region.

In a rather strange move, given their reputation as being unfriendly towards CCV, the Vermont Federation of Teachers (VFT) sent out a letter to most CCV staff inviting them to attend an information meeting to promote union membership.

In late November, learning services held a series of forums on the contracting and Local Review Committee product and process. According to my Dec. 5 memo to the college administration, the forums raised the following concerns:

  • The need for explicit statements of generalizable thinking or reasoning skills,  the need to discourage the heavy use of statements of religious or dogmatic beliefs.
  • The need to be more explicit about how much is enough to establish level of competence.
  • The need to provide more specific details in goal statements where personal growth is the primary focus.
  • The need to insure that linking statements define both the competence area in the student’s terms and provide a link to the student’s goals.
  • The need for competence statements to make a clear distinction between learning and experience.
  • The need to avoid making “sweeping generalizations” in competence statements.

Other issues discussed at that time had to do with documentation, bibliographies, dealing the areas of competence (cultural awareness, analytical, knowledge, and community relations) that are difficult for students to articulate satisfactorily.

In retrospect, it is clear that at this point in time (late 78) we were still trying to fine tune a degree program and process whose survival, over the long haul was questionable even then given the events soon to follow.

1979 began on a sour note when central office staff was advised not to make any expenditures of funds (including supplies, phone calls beyond the watts line capacity, printing, and mileage) without the prior approval of the president.  That memo ushered in what could be argued was the worst period in CCV’s early life. It was becoming clear to us in the CO that there was, to put it mildly, serious tension between Chancellor Bjork and President Belicic and between Belicic and the CCV staff. But the big battle ensued because the VSC had a large shortfall in revenue and were carrying a significant out-of-balance budget. And, so, in its misguided wisdom, the appropriations committee of the Vermont Legislature actually voted to axe out CCV’s total budget and then they proposed to allocate some of CCV’s funds to the other state colleges and most of the rest to the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. Here we were, the most innovative educational program in the state, the only college serving adult learners in their own Vermont communities, the least expensive college to attend and to operate, and we were considered the “weak sister” by the legislative budget slashers.  So, they voted 9 to 2 to completely eliminate CCV’s state allocation which, if carried out, would essentially eliminate the college.

As it turned out, as it did in 76, our life was saved but we were seriously injured. The outcry from the public, from our students, from present and former staff, from faculty and from the majority in the legislature (105-38) beat back this misguided appropriations committee decision.  In fact, according to the Vanguard Press, Henry Carse, the appropriate committee chair, in what one could guess was his embarrassed reaction to the overwhelming support of the college, admitted that “giving CCV the axe was only a ploy to shake up the VSC trustees—merely a prod to make them realize that the legislature refuses to support deficit spending forever.” However, in the end, the VSC, and especially CCV, took a significant budget hit, enough to require layoffs and some program cuts. This was a new low in CCV’s brief history.  However, if the state funding was cut, we were going to go all out writing grants in hopes of keeping the energy of the staff and the vitality of the college intact. I was recruited to write sections of a Special Services grant and a Title III grant, both of which were for substantial funds and for important programmatic improvements. We also, as I recall, submitted a grant to The Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE). So, as the eighties approached, and we had licked our wounds, we were ready to turn the page with hope that things would get better.  Another boost in morale came with a survey the college completed which showed enthusiastic positive response from students about their CCV experience.

(To Be Continued—Please check in a few months!!!)

Connie Yandow

Academic Coordinator, CCV (retired)

ConnieYWhen I was hired, I was the first full time CSSS (Coordinator of Student Support Services) the Newport site had had.  At that time, the pay for the coordinators was under discussion, CSSS being on a step lower than the CIA (Coordinator of Academic Instruction). I am not sure why the distinction existed, except that there was a teaching component required of all CSSS – teaching Dimensions of Leaning I every semester.  At the end of my first fiscal year with the college, the pay changed and both coordinators were placed on the same pay step. The focus of the position was on basic skills courses (scheduling and hiring instructors as well as supervising them), academic support in the form of tutoring,  and new students who needed to be placed in those courses as well as working closely with Reach-up workers and providing support to their clients who became our  students.  In addition, all basic skills testing, scoring and placement was done by the CSSS.  In the beginning, no testing or enrollment in basic skills was mandatory for students, just highly suggested. When I began, my mandate was to try to get every new student tested and placed correctly, so my mantra became “take the tests and then we will talk about course selection” and basic skills testing became mandatory in our site.   As a result, I became known by our current CSSS director as the “queen of basic skills.”  CSSS has their own director, even though they also worked under a regional director.  Under that director’s guidance, meetings were held to discuss basic skills testing, how Dimensions I and II were to be taught (including instructor training as more faculty and fewer CSSS taught the courses), creating a college-published text book for Dimensions of Learning (I later became the editor of this text), and curricular changes and refinements in the basic skills courses/curriculum.  As enrollment in the college as a whole grew, so did the CSSS job, encompassing supervision of other curricular areas and advising a more varied group of students.  As a result of that, teaching no longer was a required part of the job.

On my first day I was handed a pile of registration forms and quickly thrown into the excruciating job of calling students to inform them that their chosen class(es) had been canceled and help them choose other(s).  Knowing nothing about what requirements there were, or the students’ abilities or past achievements, I spent a lot of time doing research and calling students back.  I was also quickly initiated into Newport’s famous or infamous “bathroom wall” course layout.

In the Newport office at the time was a very large women’s bathroom, whose walls were marble, just off the front of the site and the hall that held the coordinator’s offices.   One such wall was the largest, clearest space easily accessed by all staff, so the site office manager and secretary posted every course on its own sheet of paper, and during registration, students names were entered on those sheets.  The principle behind the wall was that the courses were easily viewed – this was long before computerized registration and site course numbers – so the coordinators could see how courses were growing or not, and have a solid handle on what needed to be bolstered or canceled.    I attended many “bathroom meetings” with the other Coordinator  (and sometimes other site staff and regional directors) to discuss course enrollments.

The Newport site was housed on the third floor of the state courthouse building – on the first floor was Probation and Parole and Motor Vehicles, second floor was the actual courtroom, and third floor was CCV.  There were times when staff and students got to ride in the elevator with prisoners in shackles and later, when security tightened, all were wanded and searched before being allowed to enter the upper floors, including the president of the college on her first visit to Newport’s site. In addition, when the court was short jurors, our students were stopped on their way in and preempted, sometimes on the first day of classes.

After a number of years in the state courthouse, CCV Newport outgrew its space and was offered the opportunity to become a resident of the new State building that was being constructed on Main street, facing Lake Memphremagog, just at the other end of the main block.  Even though the site was moving a city block away, the planning for the move was quite an undertaking; and I, Nan Conley (Reach-up Coordinator),  and the Site Office Manager, Lisa Daigle-Farney, did most of the logistical planning.  In the new site, Newport was originally going to have almost half of the first floor, with classrooms facing the lake, offices facing the cement retaining wall and a very large library space.  The library space was scaled down and integrated into the main part of the classroom layout when it became apparent that the college’s library would become more centralized and computerized, meaning that each site’s book collection would be small.  As the building was constructed, staff from Newport made many visits to see how things were progressing and to have some input into the layout of the site.  We even had an instructor evening in a restaurant across the street from the building with a tour of the site as the highlight.  When the time came to move, Lisa and I had a multi-page plan for how things were going to happen.  The move-in was scheduled during the week before spring semester began, so we were moving in ice and snow.  Unfortunately, I was unable to physically take part in much of the actual move – I was able to pack up my office; however, my final role in the move was to direct traffic in the new site as the furniture, office machines and other office materials arrived.  Finally, we were pretty well settled in and ready to open for business on the first day of class, spring semester).  What an exciting time – even today, the site has the best views in the college, with most classrooms and the student lounge facing the lake and a balcony for staff and student use once the weather warms.  I have even held meetings and classes on it in the summer.

Carol Vallett

Research Associate Professor
University of Vermont

Coordinator of Academic Services, 1991-1999

I interviewed for and was hired as a Coordinator of Instruction and Advisement with CCV St. Albans in August 1991.  At the time, the site was located at 81 North Main St., the current home of Howard’s Flower Shop.   The building was similar to many other CCV sites in use in that era—downtown location, very limited parking, cramped for space and in our case, few windows which made for a dark interior with an environment that was cold in the winter and really hot in the summer.


There was a tiny reception area where the secretary-receptionist worked, a small office for the office manager and two crowded classrooms on the first floor along with a miniscule room with a few computers (aka-the computer lab).  A steep and enclosed staircase lead to the upstairs where there was a maze-like corridor that eventually revealed six irregularly sized offices for the remaining staff.  I was hired into a new position as a fourth coordinator and assigned to a long and narrow office that looked out on Main Street.  It was just big enough for a desk, a chair and a visitor’s chair. But it did have a lot of shelving built on the walls.   About a month later I found out that my office had a previous life as a book storage closet and was quickly clean out and repurposed as an office before I was hired.

Parking for the staff was in the alley of the building that could fit maybe four cars.   This involved a delicate car ballet around staff arrival and departure schedules.  As all of the parking was metered in downtown St. Albans at that time, I chose to park a few blocks away, up a hill so I managed to get in a nice walk each morning.  A walk that was sometimes not so nice in the winter.

The lack of interior space meant that we were limited in what functions could occur at the building (none really), what equipment could be in the classrooms (not much) and how many students could be in the classrooms (I think 12 was the maximum for one room and maybe 8 for the other?).  I don’t recall much being accessible via our current ADA standards, but I do remember staff moving a small wooden ramp in and out of the front door area when we expected a visitor who might not have been able to make the step into the building.

Dawn of a New Era

I didn’t realize at the time I joined CCV, but I had the incredible good fortune to be part of a new era for the College.  Within a year or so, each and every staff member had a desktop computer and, more exciting for the St. Albans site, a new building was being planned!  This wasn’t a move to another storefront building along the downtown row, but rather a new building, built by James Warner, a local developer, specifically as an educational site for CCV.  I believe that Mike Holland was still the President and Tim Donovan had recently been assigned to a new position heading up technology, and then eventually facilities.  CCV was beginning a growth phase and St. Albans was to occupy the very first building custom built for the College.

David Buchdahl, the Regional Director at the time and the site staff (Mary Ellen Lowe, Judy Putnam, Kathi Rousselle, Penny Lynch, Dian Ulner, Janet Dooley and myself) were all involved in the planning and layout of the one story, 10,000 square foot building.  Located at 142 S. Main Street, the building was to have plenty of office space (each with a window), five classrooms (including a computer lab and arts/science room), a combined library and study space, student lounge (with vending machines) and an instructor room.  And central air-conditioning.  But best of all, were two amenities that incredibly improved our working lives—a kitchen and a sizeable parking lot!

I believe the new building did much to contribute to the site’s growth since we could offer more daytime courses, we were fully accessible to students and we became much more visible in the community.  Most importantly, I think our new and up-to-date space sent the message that CCV was a growing and thriving institution and our students deserved to learn in a modern and technically connected environment.  The site became a showplace for a few years; in fact I recall that we even hosted a Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees meeting.

Since then of course, CCV has improved its facilities in all locations beyond our wildest 1991 dreams!  Even though I left CCV for a position at UVM in 1999, I was so pleased to attend the dedication of the beautiful, functional and enormous CCV Winooski building in 2010.  It clearly sends that message that CCV has arrived as an institution.

I recall as a coordinator, a new student once told me that she’d like to take a few CCV courses and then someday attend college.  My response to her: “We are a college!”  There is no doubt that CCV  now  clearly sends the message not just through facilities but by its publications, programs and people that it is indeed a college and one that garners a great deal of respect from the Vermont community.  I’m proud to have been a part of CCV and still marvel at the dynamic and thriving culture of the organization and the success of its students, faculty and staff.

Bill Harrison

In the Fall of 1988 I applied to the Community College Of Vermont (CCV ) in Montpelier to teach a Psychology Course.  I went to the CCVbillH2 office to be interviewed by Eric Sakai and somehow got the job. The office was over the Lobster Pot Restaurant and during the interview the enchanting smell of “fresh “ fish floated throughout the office. I subsequently got to teach the class in what I recall as one of only two classrooms in the office.  The classroom I was assigned had the added attraction of having a bathroom next to it that could only be reached through the class room. There was also no door on the bathroom but a very attractive curtain separated the two rooms.  This made for a wonderful situation during breaks and when students from the computer room and other class would knock on the door wondering if they could interrupt to use the bathroom.  Coupled with the refreshing ambiance of the “fresh” fish from below, my first experience was interesting to say the least.

At the time I was still an active member of the Regular Army preparing for retirement.   Periodically I would go into the CCV office to pick up material and the Office Manager, Joyce Prosser, and Secretary/ Receptionist , Brigitta Dahline, constantly made fun of my “shined shoes.” Both became students in future classes and remain friends to this day.

After retirement from the Army I went to work at Norwich University but continued to teach for CCV at High Schools, Churches, Hotels and Senior Citizen Homes in Montpelier and at various other sites throughout the State and of course over the “Lobster Pot.” In 1991, I applied for a Grant Position with the Vermont State Colleges Office of External Programs (OEP) administered by CCV and led by Brent Sargent.  The Grant was a cooperative venture in partnership with the State Department of Education. After they ran through all the applicants they decided to interview me.  The State guy didn’t like ex- military folks.  With nobody left they hired me, and the state rep and I got along fine.  A year later Judy Fitch, a Coordinator of Assessment Services and future good friend, applied for a Coordinator of Academic Services position in Montpelier.  She was hired and my boss Brent encouraged me to apply for the Assessment Position as it was also administered by OEP and I had an assessment background.  After another fun filled interview I was hired at the going rate of about $1.98 an hour.

Over the next 13 years I remained the Coordinator of Assessment Services.  I had the chance to visit all CCV sites twice a semester and feel the ambiance of other sites not just Montpelier.  Cramped dilapidated offices and classrooms were rampant but today that seems like another world compared to the sites and technology that we presently enjoy.  I continued to also teach and after CCV retirement I began teaching the Assessment of Prior Learning course both for the Montpelier Site and Upper Valley as well as various Psychology courses. I also taught in Burlington and Morrisville.  To this day, I still continue at the Montpelier site.

I’ve had a great time and met some great staff as well as fascinating students. It initially seemed to me that the military culture and culture of CCV could never mesh but I was wrong.  Both institutions have a mission statement and for the most part both work professionally and ethically to fulfill that mission.

After teaching at several other institutions I can say that I have found CCV students to overall be the best I’ve encountered. CCV has made a difference in so many students lives and helped make them successful  in both their professional and personal lives. Watching the light bulb turn on in the eyes of a student in a CCV classroom, sometimes for the first time, is a truly rewarding experience.  Hopefully CCV will be able to continue its unique model and rewarding mission far into the future.