By Lisa Ventriss
Interview with Joyce Judy, President of Community College of Vermont
September 17, 2014
My interest in interviewing President Joyce Judy was largely due to the continuing pressures that the employer community feels regarding the availability and capacity of the current labor market. It is still hard to find the right people for the right slots. And as the second largest college in Vermont, CCV plays an important role and does an excellent job of helping a variety of students (primarily Vermonters) to earn some form of post-secondary education that can be a launch pad for their economic and social wellbeing.
The drive to CCV’s Montpelier administrative offices was on a beautiful late summer morning when the sunshine was warm, but the cool temperature hinted at the changing of the seasons. The campus itself is tucked back from the road and nestled against a hillside where from Judy’s office, which itself seems to be an extension of the wooded environment outside her window, I had the unexpected delight of watching a doe traverse the slope not 30 feet from where we chatted. “Oh, yes,” said Judy casually. “They always come through here.”
Ventriss: Let’s start with an easy set of questions about your path to the corner office. Where are you from? How long have you been in higher education, and how did you get here?
Judy: Well, I am originally from New Hampshire where I grew up on our family’s farm. I received my bachelor’s degree from UNH and master’s from Antioch New England Graduate School. I have worked in higher education in one form or another for many years but I began my career at CCV in 1983 as a coordinator of academic services in our Springfield academic center. I later served as dean of students, then in 2001 I was named provost. In 2009 I was appointed interim president, and then president in 2010. Throughout my time here at CCV we have focused on strengthening student success and access and on building relationships throughout Vermont with businesses, organizations, government agencies, and schools. That commitment to our students and to ensuring that the education we provide is practical and responsive to Vermont’s needs is really what has made CCV such an important part of the educational landscape here in Vermont.
Ventriss: Vermont has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to colleges and universities; with 23 public and private institutions, we have more per capita than any other state in the nation. So, tell me, how does CCV differentiate itself from its competition?
Judy: For starters, we are the college in people’s backyard, and that really does set us apart from the other colleges. When Governor Deane Davis created CCV in 1970, the challenge was how do you make college accessible to the entire population across a very rural state? The solution was to make college local. To start, CCV opened with a single center here in Montpelier. Now, 44 years later, we have twelve academic centers in every area of the state, and that really does put us within 25 miles of just about every Vermont household. And over that time CCV has also focused on creating additional ways to make college more local and accessible to Vermonters. Take for example our online programs, which we began in 1996, before any other college in the state. Today, CCV offers the largest undergraduate online course catalog in Vermont. We have also reached out directly to high schools and the other colleges around Vermont to create some of the most efficient routes for Vermonters to earn a college degree. And finally, I’d also like to point out that we are the only open enrollment college in Vermont; our doors are open to anyone who would like to attend college.
Ventriss: What does a “typical” CCV student look like? Is there, indeed, a typical student or is the student body that diverse?
Judy: In my 30 years here I can honestly say each graduating class has been very different from the last. CCV really does have a diverse student body, so there is not a typical CCV student. We serve more veterans and military-connected students than any other undergraduate college in Vermont, we serve a high number of new Americans, and our classes can range in age from 16 to over 60. But that is part of what makes a CCV education so strong. Our students benefit from having a diversity of opinions and backgrounds in every class. It is amazing to witness the learning that happens when high school students, grandparents, single parents, veterans, working adults, and you name it, sit in the same classroom and discuss course material.
Ventriss: What have been some of the most profound changes that you’ve observed during your tenure?
Judy: I would have to say there are two things that really stick out, the first being our growth. We began with 50 students attending 10 classes. Today we serve approximately 10,000 students a year and offer about 1,000 courses. That growth is really just a result of the second thing that has struck me about this school. Since its beginnings, and still today, CCV has been constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of Vermonters. As I mentioned earlier, when Gov. Davis started CCV, the college’s path was laid out based on his vision of educating all Vermonters. In the 1980s, CCV took on the role of almost a social service agency. At that time we served primarily women because that was the population coming to us wanting to earn degrees. In the 1990s, we realized that Vermonters needed better opportunities to complete four year degrees, and so we devoted our energies towards solidifying articulation agreements with other colleges. In the 2000s, we have recognized a number of needs and are actively working on addressing them. We knew the state would have an influx of veterans who would need systems in place to support their college work, so we built the most comprehensive veterans services program in Vermont. We recognized that employers would need help training workers, so we’ve been strengthen our relationships with businesses and shaping curriculum to meet the current and future workforce needs of Vermont.
Ventriss: What messages do you have for Vermont?
Judy: I don’t have so much a message as I do a request, and that would be for Vermonters to let us know what it is they need from CCV. Employers, help us to understand the programming that is going to help you grow in the upcoming years, and encourage your employees and applicants to invest in their futures through training and education. I’d ask high school teachers and administrators and guidance counselors to let us know how CCV can help their students better understand the options available to them for earning a college degree. And I invite everyone to visit a CCV academic center or our website to see all that we offer.
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