CASTLETON — Castleton University is still growing in body and spirit, now with one of Green Mountain College’s hands at the wheel.
Former GMC Provost Tom Mauhs-Pugh will keep his house in Poultney and move his office several miles down the road to serve as Castleton University’s new provost, a position that didn’t exist before, Mauhs-Pugh said.
“Castleton was really expanding its programs, but also expanding the formats in which they were delivering them,” Mauhs-Pugh said in a Tuesday interview. “The position was created for the emerging increasing size and complexity of the university.”
In addition to creating Castleton’s School of Resort Management where GMC’s was, Castleton also took on Southern Vermont College’s collaboration with the Southern Vermont Medical Center to expand Castleton’s nursing program. Castleton also added an online master of business administration program and expanded its staff and faculty to take on new additions, some from Green Mountain, Mauhs-Pugh said.
So, after serving as dean of faculty for a decade and then five years as Green Mountain’s provost, Mauhs-Pugh realized he had put down roots and invested in Vermont and western Rutland County.
When Green Mountain College closed in June many faculty and staff moved out of state for other positions, and Mauhs-Pugh said he was nominated for college presidencies and provost positions outside of the state as well.
But throughout the closure process and in frequent talks with Castleton University trying to find potential teach-out positions and spots for students, Mauhs-Pugh said they drifted into considering a new provost position, one that would serve as chief academic officer and oversee all academic affairs.
So Mauhs-Pugh decided to stay.
“We’d been talking about it in late May, and in early June it emerged as a possibility,” Mauhs Pugh said. “As much as I loved being at Green Mountain, I’ve long had my heart in civic education and education that serves the public purpose.”
“I am thrilled to have Dr. Mauhs-Pugh join the Castleton family,” Castleton University President Dr. Karen Scolforo said in a release. “His academic credentials, leadership experience, analytical approach to institutional research and student retention, and commitment to innovation will help us to grow to the next level.”
In his new capacity, Mauhs-Pugh will also serve on the board for the Rutland Economic Development Corp. and be a liaison for the university while working to improve learning opportunities for students at the University.
“One of my major roles is understanding the challenges students face,” Mauhs-Pugh said. “A major one is retention of students. ... You have a pretty wide range of students arriving in terms of their financial capacity to afford education, and juggling work with school, you’re trying to get a clear picture of how higher education will help them. ... Not surprisingly, students run into difficulty staying in school.”
As Green Mountain College prepared to shut its doors forever, Mauhs-Pugh said he came to understand that data-driven education can help many institutions prepare for the future of higher education.
“You have to really look at where the population trends are, including far down the road,” Mauhs-Pugh said. “You have to understand where the economy is, to understand where there are particular strengths in the economy that provide post-graduate opportunities. It has to be economically relevant for students considering their options.”
Most people are driven toward education in pursuit of a profession that benefits them economically, and understanding which students have skills in different areas is crucial to building an educational program that serves them in school, prepares them for after, and makes them employable professionals.
In addition to the bigger campus, more facilities and bigger family, Mauhs-Pugh said transitioning into the Vermont State Colleges System brought with it a much larger network of connections and unionization, but the educational system was largely similar to private college systems like Green Mountain, Mauhs-Pugh said.
With the precious memories of his beloved former campus tucked away, Mauhs-Pugh said he was quite ready for another adventure.
“We’ve got a lot of brilliance and knowledge at Castleton,” Mauhs-Pugh said. “How do we bring that together? I’ve got my bumper sticker and my Castleton mug, and my Castleton hat. ... The facilities I see, the more faculty I meet, the more staff I meet, the more impressed I am with their skill, their professionalism and their commitment to not only what Castleton is but what Castleton can build.”