Northern Vermont University’s very creation re-imagines the role a public university can play in 21st-century Vermont. Our two-campus model, with campuses at Johnson and Lyndon, is unique to Vermont, and the way we are executing it is unique to higher education across our nation. We continue to garner national attention for our groundbreaking initiative.

The unification of Johnson and Lyndon state colleges has had significant budget savings and is helping us maximize the impact of our resources. One of the most important benefits of NVU’s creation is the work we are doing to expand and improve our offerings to students and to Vermont.

We are excited about the creation of four academic schools across our campuses, creating interdisciplinary groupings that foster new connections across disciplines and catalyze new academic opportunities for our students. The four schools are Arts and Communications, Business and Leadership, Cultural and Human Studies, and Physical and Life Sciences.

The combination of the schools and our new general education core sets NVU apart by addressing the challenges of the 21st century. NVU students will graduate with the courses, experiences and soft skills that employers demand — creative and critical thinking, communication, problem solving, teamwork and research. As part of this core education, students think through solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges, including climate change, social justice and sustainability. As a result, our students will graduate with the foundation they need to succeed in the global economy as active, engaged citizens.

New degrees for a changing world

NVU has launched degrees in data science and digital communications, offering relevant programs that meet workforce demands. Our cutting-edge, interdisciplinary climate-change science degree leads the industry with a study of climate change through multiple lenses. Students graduate with the in-depth science and communications skills they need to effect change.

Meeting the student where they are

With NVU Online, students can pursue a degree no matter where they live or what their schedule is. Today’s online students can choose from sixteen degree and certificate programs. New offerings include criminal justice with a restorative justice concentration, a sport management concentration, general studies, and NVU’s first fully online masters — in leadership studies. Three online certificates offer professionals credit-bearing certificates as an avenue for improving their career trajectory: small business management, sustainability and accounting proficiency.

Innovating for a Vermont workforce

NVU’s Center for Professional Studies offers boot-camp-style skills training to meet the complex needs of adult learners. Through online, on-campus, and hybrid delivery, these non-credit-bearing courses help motivated individuals keep pace with technology and build new skills. Classes like data analytics, project management and Microsoft skills provide workforce readiness that is in high demand by employers across all industries. CPS also offers professional credentialing by national providers in avalanche rescue and wilderness outdoor first aid. Employers like the bite-sized learning in specific skills areas and customization that NVU offers. Kingdom East Supervisory Union, Brattleboro Regional Development Corporation, Mobile Medical Corporation, Revision Military, and Mount Snow, Burke Mountain and Smugglers’ Notch resorts are among the institutions NVU has recently helped with their workforce training needs.

Additionally, NVU runs a testing center on the Lyndon campus, the only public testing center in Vermont for highly sought-after Adobe, Microsoft and Intuit QuickBooks certification testing, as well as Praxis testing required for educators and aspiring NVU education majors seeking licensure. Federal job applicants also benefit from certification exams for positions with border patrol and TSA.

Do North Coworking opened its doors on Nov. 1, 2018, and is now home to anchor tenant Whiteout Solutions, a next-generation, forestry technology startup developing GIS and remote sensing technology. The coworking space averages 28 full-time members a month and is a drop-in location for remote workers. This Northeast Kingdom asset provides sought-after meeting space for rent with state-of-the-art video conferencing technology, monthly Rural Tech and Innovation Meetups, and a full schedule of business-building interactions.

Retention innovation

Student retention is a complex problem most public higher-education institutions face. NVU’s $1.8 million Title III grant is supporting innovative approaches toward retention piloted on the Johnson campus. This grant is helping NVU continue to create integrated academic support for students and expands our strong First-Year Experience with support for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

We here at NVU do not take lightly the challenges facing higher education. Our grit, spirit and tireless focus ensures that NVU and our students will thrive into the next century. We continue to innovate to meet the needs of our students and community and to foster lifelong learning.

NVU helps keep our young people in Vermont, draws new people to our state — thousands of whom have stayed to become active citizens in our communities, and meets the demands of our workforce.

NVU’s excellent academic programs focus on community needs and professional interests. Our programming actively encourages shared engagement, empowering curious, capable citizens who find personal success and contribute to community prosperity.

Northern Vermont University with its two campuses at Johnson and Lyndon is integral to the northern tier. NVU is grounded in our commitment to driving and supporting the economic, educational, environmental and cultural vitality of northern Vermont.

Elaine C. Collins is president of Northern Vermont University.

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Vermont By Degrees is a series of weekly columns written by representatives of colleges and universities from around the state about the challenges facing higher education at this time.

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