President’s Blog – Higher Education Matters:

Thoughts from Southern Vermont College President Karen Gross

Archive for January, 2012

Headed To Washington: Addressing the Challenges at the National Level

Friday, January 6th, 2012 by Karen Gross

Note:  As a recent Southern Vermont College press release announced, President Gross has accepted an invitation to join the US Department of Education as a Senior Policy Advisor, working in the Office of the Undersecretary, effective Jan. 17, 2012- January, 2013.  To meet the challenges of this position, she will be taking a 12-month leave of absence from the College. During that time, this blog will be unpublished.

At SVC, we are addressing one of the largest challenges facing our nation: how to get more and more Americans to and through college.  Other developed countries are surpassing the USA in the number of college graduates, and the workforce of the future and the stability of our economy require that we find ways to educate the next generation successfully.

Over the past five years, SVC has undertaken a series of innovative approaches designed to foster student success, creating promising practices that can be replicated and scaled at other colleges. These include our Anatomy & Physiology stretch course, our Pipelines into Partnership initiative, our Campus Community Dinner Series, our Roving Professor appointments, our first year project based learning effort which includes a DNA course, our Entrepreneurship program with iPad and Kindle learning, and our Student Philanthropy course.

These programs all evidence our commitment to and investment in student success.

Importantly, our efforts have not gone unnoticed.  We have presented at conferences, given speeches and written articles, sharing our efforts with a growing local, regional and national audience.  We still have work to do and much to learn but we are making meaningful strides.

The U.S. Department of Education learned of our efforts too, and we were the collegiate launch site for President Obama’s 2020 initiative, designed to encourage more college graduates by the year 2020.  Undersecretary Martha Kanter spoke to SVC incoming students in August 2010, and that same year, Secretary Arne Duncan congratulated the SVC community for its commitment to improving higher education.

These activities and this recognition led to a call from Washington this past summer when I was asked to join the US Department of Education. It was, as they say in the trade, an offer I could not refuse.

During my 12-month appointment, I will work with a remarkable and wide-ranging team of educators, government officials and policy makers to develop strategies that will enable more and more Americans to progress to and through college. Access to college, affordability of college, and retention in college are all issues I will be addressing.  These are the very topics that undergird the important work we do at SVC.

While I have many goals as I approach this opportunity in D.C., let me share two of them.  First, I hope to showcase the importance of education as a number one priority for our nation.  We need to dedicate our time, our resources and our talents to thinking innovatively about how to educate the next generation.  It is not too trite to say that our future depends on it, something we have recognized across the SVC campus.

Second, in addition to contributing to the national conversation about education, I fully expect to learn a great deal that I can bring back to campus in 2013.  Through meeting and engaging with other experts in higher education, I can see some of the best practices and research from across the nation and return to SVC with ways we can better serve our current and future students and enhance the educational experiences we provide.

Despite my move, SVC will be with me.  Technically, I am the person heading off to DC.  But, it is really SVC that is heading to Washington.  The vision and approaches engendered, nurtured and growing at SVC are the very reason I was selected to serve, and I look forward to sharing – and will proudly share — our SVC story in the nation’s Capital and to bringing back to SVC the experiences I garner while away.

The College will be in very good hands in my absence, under the leadership of Acting President Jim Beckwith and the Senior Team, all with the support of SVC Board of Trustees.  I have confidence in this Team; because of our work together and our shared vision for SVC, we can continue the College’s ongoing educational efforts without losing a beat.  I know our faculty and staff will continue their remarkable efforts to help our students succeed.  And, I know our students will work to continue their education and their service to the community.  I will be watching with pride.