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Vermont by Degrees: NVU making a difference

Perspective, Rutland Herald
by John W. Mills, NVU Interim President 

Imagine, as a college student, the opportunity to work with an early-stage technology company helping to improve electric system reliability under extreme weather. Imagine the opportunity to work in a 1,500-acre tract of woods building trails, controlling invasive species and doing GIS/GPS mapping. Now imagine getting paid for these opportunities while earning credit towards your degree. This isn’t a fantasy or opportunities available at faraway universities. These are just a couple of the opportunities for undergraduate students right here at Northern Vermont University under the new Learning and Working Community program.

NVU values hands-on learning. We know people learn better when they can experience a subject rather than just hearing or reading about it. We also know the real world and the world of a classroom are very different. The Learning and Working Community program connects NVU students to local businesses, bridging the gap between the workplace and the classroom. This hands-on approach enables students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real live experience in their chosen field of study.

Launched this past June, the program awarded financial support to 27 NVU students during summer 2021. Students worked in youth education, in substance abuse prevention and at Yellowstone National Park. They developed an outdoor company e-commerce store, helped manage a university athletics department, served as audio engineers for live concerts, forecasted weather, and more. Another number of awards have just been made for fall.

In the months ahead, the program will be further expanded to have environmental and science students further the operation and mission of the Northwoods Stewardship Center and Music and Business Industry students will work with Catamount Arts in a variety of venues.

Providing today’s students with the hands-on, brains-on learning they will need to succeed in the modern workplace, goes beyond the Learning and Working program at NVU. In the months to come, a much-desired, expanded, nursing program will be brought to NVU’s Lyndon campus. It was recently announced that, due to a grant awarded to the Vermont State Colleges System, a Clinical Nursing Education Center will be developed at NVU, complete with nursing instruction classrooms and simulation lab spaces. The center will allow students to practice, research, learn and succeed in their nursing studies. The project is a true example of public-private collaboration — the facility will be in Lyndon; Vermont Technical College will administer the nursing program and NVRH will donate hospital beds and other equipment to the skills and simulation lab spaces.

The Learning and Working Communities program and the expanded nursing program truly represent the future of what secondary education offers students and communities today. These innovative programs provide students with the experiential learning they need to succeed in the workplace, with the funds necessary to help make attending higher education affordable and they provide the local community with a skilled and ready workforce.

The innovation, experiential learning, affordability and public and private partnerships that are the hallmarks of these two programs are also the cornerstone of the Vermont State Colleges System’s transformation. As the Vermont State Colleges System undergoes its transformation with the creation of Vermont State University, it will offer, expand and invest in these programs and more. Just as our educational offerings have evolved to better meet the needs of students, so, too, must our institutions meet the needs of our businesses and communities. Today, NVU is providing our students, our businesses and our regional economy with opportunities for everyone to thrive. In the years to come as NVU merges into the newly formed Vermont State University, we are confident these opportunities will only be expanded and improved.

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.