Dr. Michael R. Sawdey

MichaelSawdeyRemembering CCV – Coordinator of Instruction and Advisement (1980-83), Director, Western Region (1983-85)

I moved to Vermont in 1979 when my wife, Dr. Laurel Church, accepted a visiting professorship at the University of Vermont. In this tag-along situation I taught speech at UVM in the fall of 1979, along with working on a number of editing and publishing projects left over from my business in Illinois. During that fall term I got a call from the Student Activities office at UVM wondering whether, pretty-please, would I help out a student who was attempting to restart the yearbook at the University. In due time I found myself serving as yearbook advisor, working with the editor, Alida Bryant, who often seemed hard to find because, as she explained in her rapid-fire Boston fashion shehadaninternshipatCCVinStAlbans. Once I translated I learned that, yes, there was a community college system in Vermont, that it worked out of regional offices throughout the state, the nearest one of which was in St. Albans, 28 miles north of Burlington, where I lived.

When Alida learned I had a doctorate in English she shifted into full recruiter mode and got me to agree to teach a couple of classes for CCV, and, although she tried to get me teaching locations near Burlington, she made veiled references to some mysterious prohibition on actually holding CCV classes in the city itself. For the spring semester of 1980 I ended up teaching a developmental composition class in the VFW hall in Milton, 9 miles north of Burlington, and a class in Modern British Literature in a public school classroom in St. Albans. The mileage to and from was more than an academic consideration, since the compensation was a princely $234 per class.

The Modern British course was one I had taught before at other schools, and was even related to my doctoral specialty; one might remark, however, that it might be the first and last time that Lady Chatterley’s Lover received an in-depth treatment in St. Albans, Vermont. The Developmental Composition class was a bit more of a challenge. I had never taken a composition course in my life, since I placed out of it as an undergraduate, and I had only taught it a couple of times before, in a very different institution, and as a regular freshman comp. course, not as a remedial exercise. When I showed up at the VFW hall, I found a group of ten tough-looking women and one very scared male veteran, possibly a bit the worse for Agent Orange. Before I could introduce myself, one woman asked “You married?” “Yes.” “Shit. Just my luck.” It was more or less uphill from there. In fact, that was one of the first Vermont language facts I learned. After having the students write a bit about “why they were there” (did I need to ask?) so I could gauge their existing writing skills, I found I needed to go back to square one with the exercises I set them. One that worked well was to have them write out directions for getting from their homes to the classroom. That’s when I discovered that Vermonters may not necessarily know “east” or “north,” but they do know “up” and “down,” and these words appear much more often in driving directions there than they do, for example, on the Illinois prairie.

In the process of setting up the courses, I got to meet Pixley Hill, who said she was “the CIA in St. Albans.” I knew that St. Albans had the distinction of being the site of the northernmost battle of the Civil War, but I didn’t know they had their own intelligence service. Anyway, as the Coordinator of Instruction and Advisement, Pixley was the (CCV) law in town—obviously doing a lot of things (hiring instructors, ordering textbooks, evaluating transcripts, arranging veterans’ benefits, filing financial aid forms) that would have occupied about a dozen people in a traditional school. This began to look interesting (I bore easily). During the semester, Pixley mentioned that the college was adding a second CIA in St. Albans that year, and in due course I applied. I was also applying elsewhere, and was offered a faculty position at Clarke College in Iowa, but Laurel was offered an extension of her visiting professorship at UVM, and since she also offered to leave me if I took the job in Iowa, it “worked out” for me when I was hired by CCV starting in the fall of 1980.

At the time, the St. Albans CCV office was in space shared with the Agricultural Extension Service. The  downside was that we had only two tiny cubicles and some shared space to meet students, provided our schedule didn’t conflict with a session on re-using canning jars. If there was an upside, it was that government offices shut down at 4:00 p.m., so we had an excuse for a comfortably short work day. But business was booming and the first order of business that fall was to find larger quarters. We looked at a number of unpromising premises that met the criterion of low rent. (One was a gutted shell of an old municipal building, where our offices would be on the second floor. When we pointed out that there would need to be an elevator to meet accessibility requirements, the landlord snorted, “Elevator’s $40,000…hell, for that I could buy a forklift.” It was unclear whether he thought the forklift would alleviate the need for an elevator. In any case, we kept looking.) We finally settled for a one-story building on Main Street, an 1860s feed store that had undergone a number of transmogrifications, most recently as the home of the local telephone company. Once it became the home of CCV, we (almost affectionately) dubbed it Hungerford Hall, in honor of the landlord, who, it was rumored, had won it in a poker game. We moved in time for the Spring 1981 semester, luxuriating in our own private offices, a large front lobby, secretarial space, and a couple of sort-of classrooms, thus slightly reducing our dependence on rented space in the community.

In the friendly confines of Hungerford Hall, Pixley and I were joined by the newly hired Special  Services Coordinator, Joan Kay, and secretary Suzy Campbell (her day job: she and her husband were also the official keepers of the Swanton swans, a present from Queen Elizabeth II). Special Services was a federally-funded program to meet the needs of under-served college populations and those with multiple obstacles to success in college—a definition that pretty much fit every CCV student. The program director, Roger Cranse, built some remarkable educational features into the two-semester sequence of coursework, based on liberal arts principles. However, for some students, the issues were more down-to-earth. Joan reported that, when she explained to one student that the goal of the program was to help remove the obstacles to getting a college education, the student asked whether it would pay for fixing the brakes on her car, since that was the main thing that was keeping her from getting to class.

As I’ve noted, in that era CIAs did everything—it could be a steep learning curve. What does that stuff on a DD214 mean for a degree-seeking student? What’s transferable from an out-of-state school you’ve never heard of? When should a student be encouraged to fill out financial aid forms? The answer to the last one was easy: 100% of CCV students were poor enough to qualify; in fact, 100% of the forms came back for verification because the computer in faraway Iowa couldn’t believe that anyone could live on so little income. Little did they know Vermont.

Then, of course, there were all the “other duties as assigned.” Setting up the curriculum each semester—what we offered was determined not only by what we thought students might need, but also by who was available to teach. On more than one occasion, Pixley and I went to one or more restaurants in town and went from table to table finding out who had a master’s degree and might like to teach something.  The upside was that there were a lot of people in Vermont who had advanced degrees, even teaching experience in higher education, but were hiding out in the boonies doing something else. Once we’d screened and hired some folks, there was also the matter of instructing them in the “CCV way” of doing things. At that point, it was almost better to have people who hadn’t taught in college before, since they were less likely to balk at having to write learning outcomes for the course or design assignments that actually spoke to those outcomes. Those who were “experienced” college teachers tended to come with their own syllabi and their own presuppositions about how to teach. For these we took on an “unlearning” task in some cases. Pay was low. At one point, when faced by a prospective teacher who appeared to be trying to make a living from this, I recall paraphrasing Groucho Marx to the effect that I wouldn’t want any instructor who wanted to teach for our wages. In fact, almost all CCV instructors did it because they enjoyed it—what an opportunity to work with a class of 10 or 12 highly-motivated adults, sharing with them something that you did in your “real life.”

The “as assigned” stuff went on and on. After we opened our very own St. Albans office, there was the matter of equipping it, with almost no budget. Donated tables and chairs, for a start. Then, a copier—in the old office we had shared one with the Extension Service. After much lobbying I was told that the central office in Montpelier was getting a new one and we could have the old one—if we figured out how to get it to St. Albans. Step one was to borrow a battered farm truck from the brother of another CIA and nurse it to Montpelier. Once there, I found the copier ensconced on the fourth floor of a building with no elevator. After finding enough able-bodied colleagues to tug and lift, the next problem was that the copier had protruding legs that were too wide to fit through the doorway of the office. Removing them would require a socket wrench—not standard issue in community college offices. I located a nearby repair shop where I did some fast talking to convince the proprietor to loan me one, leaving my driver’s license as security. Back up to the fourth floor, on my back, crawling inside the bottom cabinet of the copier to reach the bolts. At this point, then-president Myrna Miller (known for her vocabulary) came by and asked what the &*^%$$^ I was doing. “Other duties as assigned.” So, narrowed copier horsed down four flights of slippery stairs and into the pickup. Now back in St. Albans, how to get it from pickup to office—no stairs this time, but all my colleagues suddenly pleading gender disability. I believe I ended up pulling a few bucks out of my own wallet to entice a couple of young loiterers to help me with that final few yards of schlepping.

Publicity for CCV programs had what one visiting accreditor called “a home-made quality.” Indeed. This was before the days of desktop publishing or graphics software, so we often had to design our ads, have the newspaper typeset them, then reshuffle everything to get it the way we wanted it. Posters were usually, in fact, home-made, with clip art, press-apply type, lots of cutting and pasting. Things got a bit easier when the local newspaper, the Daily Messenger (known locally as the Daily Mess), which had been part of the infamous William Loeb/Manchester Guardian empire, was sold to a nice young couple who were actually interested in what we were doing. We wrote articles, fed material to free-lancers, enticed students to write letters-to-the-editor, manufactured events to become news. Radio stations in the area  got used to expecting that, a few weeks before the start of each term, we would be calling and cajoling to get some interview time, as well as peddling PSAs—though usually the best deal we could get was one free PSA for each paid ad (we always wondered whether this was normal FCC practice).

Enrollments did grow steadily in St. Albans—usually in ways we wanted. I do recall that, in the wake of the Iranian hostage crisis, we noticed an influx of young middle-eastern-looking men driving expensive cars with out-of-state license plates and desiring earnestly to enroll quickly as full-time students so they could keep their student visas. In most cases, after they had paid cash for their courses, we never saw them again.

The student-centered nature of the CCV enterprise defined both the best and worst aspects of our life as all-purpose academic administrators. I hadn’t been there very long before I learned that no staff meeting was complete without someone or other pounding on the table and shouting, “CCV is NOT a social service agency!” What this meant, of course, was that it most definitely was. There was even an emerging research basis for what we were experiencing, in the work of K. Patricia Cross and her colleagues on the experience of adult students in college. What she found was, simply, students go back to college within 18 months of experiencing one of life’s standard crises: having a child, or having the last one leave home; getting a job, or losing a job; being promoted, or missing a promotion; getting married, or getting divorced; being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition, or recovering your health; becoming addicted to something, or shaking an addiction. At CCV, we saw it all, and learned to accept that students frequently saw us, and their education, as the one thing that was going to save them from whatever was afflicting them in life. We found that when we asked students to write about what they wanted to get out of college, the most frequent answer was not to get a job or make money, but “to make better decisions in my life.” Whatever the proximate crisis was, it had taught the student that her previous decisions were lousy—now, how to make better ones? CCV was, for most of our students, the only available answer.

“Her decisions”—yes, a large majority of our students were female, years ahead of the same trend in the rest of American higher education. And they brought every vulnerability arising from gender inequality in our society—spousal abuse, vulnerability due to lack of marketable skills, situational obesity, substance abuse, miserably-low self-esteem, and all kinds of despair related to failed relationships, failed child-rearing, not to mention intractable economic issues. The amazing thing was the extent to which higher education did in fact address so many of these issues, though not always in predictable ways. It saved some relationships and terminated others. In general, children did better in school when their mothers and fathers were also studying. Some took off weight, while others decided that wasn’t the main problem. Some got off substances, some switched substances. But on balance, I generally concluded that the experience of going to college did far more than put facts in heads—it did help a surprising number of people change their lives in ways that might not have seemed tightly tied to English or math or history. And, in “Corn is Green” fashion, students sometimes did amazing things. Some transferred to prestigious colleges (two I can recall went to Smith). I bought a dozen copies of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” and began to give them to young women who seemed ready to do something extraordinary with the education that had begun at CCV—most, I think, read it and grasped it, but all said the title alone affirmed what they needed to seek in their lives.

I learned that Commencement at CCV was a peculiar institution in itself: students traveling from all over the state, accompanied by huge numbers of family members—since they were usually the first in their extended families to graduate from college, and CCV put no limits on the number of guests they could bring. And there was the custom of giving each graduate a single rose, which the graduate was, in turn, to present to the person who had been most responsible for the student managing to complete a degree. Not unexpectedly, the rose often went to a parent, spouse, best friend, but sometimes to a child who had helped take up the slack during the years of part-time study. And at times to a CIA; one year, I took home six. Many students were overcome by the emotion of graduating, but I remember in particular one big, strapping state police sergeant who nearly fainted out of shear nervousness at having to walk across a stage “in front of all those people,” as he put it afterwards.

CCV was not a very old institution in those days, less than ten years from its founding when I began working there. And in those few years it had undergone more sea-changes than most colleges do in a hundred years. Instructor pay was laughably low in the early ‘80s, but in the first days it was nonexistent: a collection envelope was passed around to the students and they put in whatever they thought the class was worth to them. I wonder how the W2s were handled? Also, the curriculum and the degree program were entirely competency-based. There were no credits and no grades and a student’s degree portfolio might well include “things” as well as “words”—jars of jam demonstrating cooking competency was an oft-cited example. When the college switched to credits and courses in the more usual sense, sometime in the late ‘70s, all the “old plan” students were supposedly given a deadline to complete their degrees, but still, from time to time, someone would arrive from Burke Hollow or Victory Bog and bring a degree portfolio, literally, in a steamer trunk. Some accommodation was always made for them—they were, after all, the original ancestors of the place.

But in the early ‘80s there still was no such thing as a college catalog, and courses were all pretty much made up out of whole cloth: an introductory composition course in St. Albans didn’t necessarily bear much resemblance to one in Barre or St. Johnsbury. All higher education is sort of a cottage industry, of course, but the variance at CCV was particularly dizzying, since there wasn’t even the usual leaven of a full-time faculty to snarl at each other until they agreed on some kind of pattern for courses. So around 1982 or 1983, sometime after Ken Kalb arrived as president, we spent an ungodly number of months assembling the first more-or-less uniform curriculum, to be ensconced in an honest-to-gosh printed catalog. We read existing syllabi until we were cross-eyed, begged-borrowed-stole catalogs from other schools (sometimes by getting our students to write letters requesting copies, as though they wanted to apply for admission!), argued in endless meetings, sometimes after spreading out dozens of variants of “the same” course on the floor to attempt comparison and collation. There were a few screaming matches with disgruntled instructors who threatened never to teach for us again if we so much as hinted what should be in their courses. In the end, having a catalog and some uniformity to courses probably demystified things a bit for students, perhaps even for the ever-scrambling CIAs.

Up in St. Albans, I was fairly far from the center of power (such as it was) of the Vermont State Colleges system, but we all had some vague sense that we had important support from Richard Bjork, the chancellor of the system. There were numerous Bjork stories floating about, even though most of us had never met him. He was known as a hard-driving, AAAAAAA type personality. At one point, he had been a Coast Guard officer, choosing that service because it was the only one where a young officer could command his own ship. In honor of that time, some of the central office staff gave him a gift of a tie decorated with nautical signal flags. He accepted it graciously, but during the first staff meeting where he wore it, he looked down and deciphered what the flags said: TGIF.  He would have preferred more working days in the week, not fewer, and he tore off the tie and threw it away in disgust.

As mentioned earlier, when I began working for CCV there was some kind of unwritten agreement that no classes would be held in Chittenden County, aka Burlington. Putting my composition class in Milton, just inside the northern edge of the county, was sort of an I-dare-you move, not to be repeated. However, around 1983 there began to be noises that the chancellor had said to go ahead and give it a try. The issue was not with University of Vermont (although an interesting contretemps would arise later), but with a number of the private institutions in Burlington, all of which depended on adult degree programs to make the budget. But, in the event, I was assigned to go ahead and work something out.

Initially, I found quarters in the Chase Mill on the northern edge of Burlington, thanks to the fact that another state-sponsored program was being phased out and there was unexpired time on the lease. The office suite was small, and occupancy was tense because the previous inmates were unhappy about being moved out and terminated.  At first, I took to interviewing potential instructors at my home, which made some of them nervous. And I had no staff, so I hired a secretary and then went looking for a CIA. At the time, there were a good number of in-house jokes about the fact that nearly all of us on staff were from the Midwest or from New York, and that, therefore, our affirmative action plan was that we needed to hire a certain number of genuine Vermonters. Mica DeAngelis, whom I hired for the Burlington operation, became known as our token Vermonter.

Getting on with potential instructors and prospective students wasn’t all that difficult, and bore some resemblance to activities at other sites. Getting on with the other local institutions was another matter entirely. The local deans had a sort of informal council, to which they felt obliged to invite me; I got used to being pumped constantly about our “intentions” in Burlington.  What did they THINK we were going to do there? The staff at Burlington College was particularly worried, apparently, since they were completely dependent on the adult market. At the deans’ meetings there were often fireworks, but it was often hard to tell who was the intended target, since everyone was being Vermont-nice about it. Sister Janice Ryan, then president of Trinity College, was known for her meeting style: arrive late, let off a bombshell, then storm out. At one deans’ meeting, she swept in half an hour late, stopped whatever we were talking about, made a sweep of her hand around the room so that everyone knew they were included, declared “Whatever you do, don’t screw the students!” and left. I took it as a good omen. At another meeting, there was a veiled discussion about academic quality, which I chose to misunderstand, since CCV was, after all, accredited by the same group that accredited all the rest of the bunch. But suddenly, the dean of one of the four-year colleges began waving a brochure from one of the other two year colleges in the face of its hapless representative, wanting to know how, as a two-year college, they dared to grant graduate credit in education for a seminar they were hosting. I took that, too, as a good omen.

It was soon clear that we needed to find larger quarters, preferably where we could also have some classroom space of our own—one byproduct of the interinstitutional rivalry in town was that the rental prices for school classrooms had been driven up, beyond our means. We eventually settled on space to be sublet from Vermont Student Assistance Corporation in yet another gentrified 19th century mill, this one just across the river in Winooski. The space was “raw,” needed to be built out, but at least it would be built out to meet our needs, practically palatial compared with the usual CCV real estate in those days. We did, at times, have some strange bedfellows in the old mill. Directly above us was an aerobic dance studio, where large herds of energetic but overweight clients set up a regular ruckus of bumping and thumping, often enough to drown out classes completely. We eventually came to some kind of agreement about quiet hours. One day, however, the thumping dislodged several pounds of liquid mercury, left over from some 19th century industrial process, from between the floor boards over our heads, followed, of course, by workers in hazmat suits vacuuming miles of floor cracks. One good spinoff for our students was that many were introduced, for the first time, to the pleasures of middle class life—coffee from Green Mountain, ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s, and other treats and baubles from the shops in the upscale mall downstairs in the mill.

The University of Vermont ignored us, for the most part. However, there was one interesting point of conflict. CCV always had to get “creative” about library resources, since we had none. In some towns, we bought books to add to the local public library. In Burlington, it seemed natural (to me, anyway) to send students to the UVM library, since UVM, after all, was publically funded. When our students tried to used the library, however, they were told that, sorry, you can’t, because UVM is only 29% funded by the state and is essentially a private institution with a land-grant ag school grafted onto it. But the hapless UVM library staff hadn’t reckoned on CCV students, whose bureaucracy-navigating skills had in many cases been honed through years of battles with the social service system. I very soon got a call from the UVM library director informing me that “your students have been coming over here and demanding to check out books—and they are NOT very nice people!” However, it eventually worked out that students who lived in Chittenden County could in fact get library privileges, thanks to a local state legislator who had already made a stink to get such privileges for her own children.

In due time, we expanded from Burlington down the west side of Vermont, establishing an office in Middlebury. I hired Betty Matkowski as the local CIA and, as usual, we went about trying to find appropriate office space. At one point, the realtor with whom we were working showed us an abandoned (cheap) motel. As Ken Kalb, the male realtor, and I trudged into the motel with Betty in tow, she looked around, visualized the scene and remarked that if anyone happened to be looking, there went the rest of her reputation. In the event, the motel didn’t make the cut and we ended up with office space on the second floor of a downtown office block.

Our reception from the local college in Middlebury was a bit different than what we had experienced in Burlington. At an early stage I sent a note to Stephen Rockefeller, the dean of Middlebury College, laying out for him what we were planning to do in town and asking to meet with him. Sometime later, I got a nice call from an assistant letting me know that he was too busy to meet, but was delighted that we were starting an office in Middlebury. As we began to get students coming in to register, I found out why he was so delighted. Like most private colleges, Middlebury had a tuition benefit for children of employees, but had always restricted it to children of faculty, given the rather steep price tag of a Middlebury education. This had led to a good deal of grumbling among the non-academic staff, so, when CCV came to town, Middlebury immediately gave all their non-academic staff a tuition benefit for themselves and their children—at CCV.

Regardless of location, the early ‘80s were the time of greatly expanded computerization in higher education, and CCV was no exception. Registration operations were conducted on a central machine in Waterbury, a Digital Equipment Corporation VAX, running software that worked some of the time. Connecting to the VAX was always iffy, since “real” modems and data terminals were beyond our means. Instead, office secretaries used a device called a Silent 700, which had a keyboard and an acoustic modem, a pair of rubber muffs into which one stuffed a telephone handset, and hoped for the best. There was no display, just a thermal printer that supposedly showed what had been entered as the confirmed data came back from the remote computer. But everything was so slow that even a mediocre typist would typically be several pages ahead of the system—with intervening errors along the way. When, around 1982, we began getting Zenith X100 PCs in the offices, it became a little easier to manage the data flow, but the VAX was still the subject of a good deal of cursing and some sardonic jokes about the need for a VAX-ectomy.

May Munger

My journey back through CCV history, my, where do I start?  First, I have to confess that the journey started with Vermont State Colleges starting in April, 1985 at Castleton State College.  In August, 1997, I applied at CCV for the position of financial aid counselor and was hired for the position.  At that time, Barbara Murphy was president at CCV and today she is the president of JSC.  Bette Matkowski was my Regional Director, who today is retired after being president of Lamar Community College, Colorado, then Johnson and Wales University, Denver.  Shortly after starting, Tim Donovan became my new Regional Director, who today is the Chancellor of VSC.  What does this all mean?  Working at CCV opened the doors for many who were eager to ask, “I wonder” questions.  If you had an idea, the motto was run with it until you were tackled!

At the time I was hired, I was “assigned” a mentor who I found interesting.  At CSC, I had a mentor but one of my choosing.  My assigned mentor was John Sweeney, who not only showed me the ropes of financial aid, but to this day is one of my greatest friends.  He was there to not only teach me financial aid regulations, but to be my sounding board as I moved my career forward.


In 2003, I was appointed to the High School Committee which would later become my passion.  The appointment was the beginning of my involvement with the class, “Introduction to College Studies”.  This class was offered free to high school students to learn the skills needed to become successful in college.  Students completing the course at that time could apply for a scholarship to take a free class at CCV.  The scholarship was given out to only several students due to funding.  Today, this class continues to be offered, but now all students completing the course can not only take a free class at CCV, but they can take the college class at any of the VSC colleges.  Years of developing partnerships has enabled this class to be a great success for CCV.

I remember the day that I was asked to teach ICS (I kept asking “I wonder what it would be like to actually teach this class!), was a defining moment for me.  I could work all day at CCV, but at the end of the day when I walked into the classroom was like I had a new life.  I did not start my college career until I was 35 due to the fact I had no one to help me through the process.  At 18, for many of us girls, the choice was either go to college to become a teacher, nurse, or get married.  While I was accepted into nursing, I was so scared of going to college, leaving home and figuring out what I needed, I declined and got married.  The day I started teaching, I made a promise that every student I taught, I would make sure they knew the resources available to them to help with these difficult decisions.  Even in retirement I get calls from friends who have friends who have someone needing help with a college issue.

My second passion at CCV was working with TRIO.  I remember almost begging for a chance to be a TRIO advisor and I think I even promised I would stay 5 years in that position!  Working with TRIO students was extremely rewarding as I watched them work through difficult situations to finally walking across the stage to receive their diplomas.

I think one of the most defining moments at CCV was when the college was about to begin major changes in how we did everything.  We were growing and needed to make changes.  At that time, every site received a copy of “Who Moved My Cheese” and we were asked to read it.  Change is hard and those who resisted were unhappy, and for some, this met leaving CCV.   For those of us who dared asked “I wonder……..” were excited and met the new challenges.  New adventures came to us and still today, I keep this card that was given to each of us just to remind me that no matter what stage in life I am at, I need to keep reading this little card:

 The Handwriting on the Wall

Change Happens

They Keep Moving the Cheese

 Anticipate Change

Get Ready for the Cheese to Move

 Monitor Change

Smell the Cheese Often

 So You Know When It is Getting Old

Adapt to Change Quickly

The Quicker You Let Go of Old Cheese,

The Sooner You Can Enjoy the New Cheese


Move with the Cheese

 Enjoy Change!

Savor the Adventure

And the Taste of New Cheese!

Be Ready to Quickly

Change Again and Again

The Keep Moving the Cheese

From Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson

CCV gives those who want to expand their careers and interest every possible support needed.  I remember once being told that as a supervisor/leader, you judge your success by the success of the people you lead.

Myrna Ring Miller

myrnaMCCV President 1979 – 1982

Thank you for this opportunity to reminisce on my wonderful years at CCV. When I came to Vermont in 1975 to design and set up the Assessment of Prior Learning Program, the first thing I realized was that the mountains, rivers and weather often separated the students from one  end of the State to the other. Peter Smith wisely had made CCV a locally based institution and I followed his model with the APL program and the External Degree Program.

When I became the President of CCV in 1979 I quickly realized there were some short-comings in the state-wide model. One of the first we had to overcome was a way to assure that students from Brattleboro to St. Albans were getting the equivalent learning in the same classes. For example, English 101 was essentially the same regardless of location. I knew that the New England Association, our accrediting body, would insist on this. The staff was not thrilled to say the least! They wanted to keep things responsive to the local students’ needs. So we had to do some serious soul searching about students’ needs in Vermont. I pushed very hard to convince the staff that we had to have courses with traditional credit hours and grades so our graduates could move on to receive advanced degrees. I knew that Vermont had many people cut off from attending on-campus degree granting institutions due to family obligations and a variety of other circumstances and that CCV could really fill an important need.  Classes that were consistent and for credits while delivered close to home was what I saw as the real need. I wasn’t sure the staff entirely agreed with this more traditional approach, but at that time our funding was hanging on by a thread so they went along with my ideas. The important thing for all of us was keeping people in the local centers to hold each student’s hand and walk them through the registration and degree requirements. For many older students even the idea of attending “college” is very frightening. In this way we kept the local, student-centered support system in place while we bit off the task of making CCV’s teaching and learning more traditional. The new direction was not easy. Teachers and staff had to do a big turn around for which they deserve great kudos. Many are still there and others have retired but all should be praised for their commitment to the College through those tough times. Some thought I was the devil who was going to destroy the College and others thought I was its savior. The truth is that I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to a wonderful institution.

I am very grateful for the support I received from the Board of Trustees for my changes and for their continued support of CCV. It made my heart sing when I attended the opening of the Winooski Center. I knew that CCV was a dream come true and here to stay.

Karen McGovern

Class of 1989
Outreach Counselor, VSAC

My relationship with the Community College of Vermont (CCV) has been a valuable and meaningful one.  As a student, I credit CCV and its many wonderful instructors, staff and students with teaching me how to learn.  As an instructor myself, I credit CCV and its amazing instructors, staff, and students with teaching me how to teach!!

I began my experience with CCV in 1986 when I enrolled as a part-time student trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  I had attempted college before but I didn’t like the large classroom sizes and the lack of personal attention I had encountered in other schools.  CCV was a welcoming, safe and encouraging environment that engaged a wandering young adult looking to find her way.  The class that made the most impact on me early on was then called Dimensions of Learning, taught by the ever-so-incredible Joan Kaye.  It really was a time of awakening for me. Also, thanks to Joan and CCV I was able to start my career with an internship in Senator Patrick Leahy’s Burlington office.  After proudly receiving my AS degree in 1989 from CCV, I was ready for more.

Equipped with genuine encouragement, some newfound confidence, and a foundation in liberal studies and human services I embarked on a long journey.  It took another 8+ years to get my BA degree from Trinity College of Vermont while working full-time for VSAC and raising a family.  I don’t fit into the charts or categories that attempt to measure postsecondary completion rates within 4 years or even 6 years.  I was, however, fortunate to find colleges that offered adult-friendly programs of study where I found the flexibility to learn in a way that worked best for me.

With the support of my family and my employer, I returned to learning again to pursue an MA degree in the hopes that I might counsel adults at VSAC and possibly teach one day.  You can imagine my delight when I was offered a teaching position at the CCV academic center in St. Albans.  I have had the great pleasure and honor of teaching Dimensions of Work since 2010.  How great it has been to find myself back in Dimensions class, after all these years.

Jeannine Marble

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


I did have someone from the staff to assist me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alison Kirk

Two Eras of CCV—Alison Kirk former Academic Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Turner

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Random Reflections]:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was an excessive need for meetings in those days.

Breast feeding picnic; bring your own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rick Hurley

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

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

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

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

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

Rick Hurley, President, Mary Washington University

Formally Office of the Chancellor, Vermont State Colleges

Linda Gribnau

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Cranse

Dimensions of Learning at CCV – the Early Days

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


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

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

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

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

“Not sure yet,” I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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