If You Do Not Know Where You Are Going You Cannot Get There From Here, Part IV

In response to a previous post on this subject, one of the readers suggested we needed more than a two year community college in the community.  She thought the community should push for a four year university to attract and keep creative talent local. Many of our best and brightest go off to university and never return.  We need those bright, talented young people in our own community to spur creativity and economic growth.

The question, then becomes what kind of four year college would we want in the community to spur much needed economic growth and education our children.  I recently read an article in the Atlantic by John Tierney. What Would an Ideal College Look Like? A Lot Like This that might be a good model to follow.

Tierney writes about Champlain, a small college in Burlington Vermont:

If you could design your ideal college from scratch, what would it look like? Mine would look something like the following. Students would acquire training that makes them immediately employable. They’d take courses in the liberal arts that would sharpen their skills in writing, analysis, and reasoning. And they’d graduate with some real-life knowledge, such as how to interview for a job. There’d be no tenure for faculty, but instructors would be made to feel they’re valued members of the enterprise. And administrators would constantly ask themselves “how can we prepare students for what the world needs of them?”

While you’re busy designing your version of the ideal, I can take a nap or go fishing, because somebody has already built mine: Champlain College. It is doing everything I’ve described and, in the process, is gaining the attention of the higher-ed world. The words I’ve heard used to describe Champlain include innovative, nimble, adaptable. A professor from nearby St. Michael’s College told me, with unabashed admiration, “Champlain is always asking itself What works?”

You can read the full article is HERE. When you do, check out the ideas in this paragraph.

The third element of a Champlain education, and the part for which the college is probably best known, is its career-oriented training. At Champlain, “professional education” doesn’t just mean traditional majors like marketing or accounting, but an array of innovative concentrations such as computer and digital forensics, computer networking and cybersecurity, computer-game art design and animation, digital and streaming media.

We have a video technology cluster in the community that could benefit from graduates with these innovative skill sets. Cybersecurity is becoming a major concern with hacker from around the world stealing our business secrets and every business and enterprise needs to have some experts on the staff or in  a consulting role.  However, we also need graduate who are thinking about tomorrows products and services we have yet to imagine.

I recommend that our community leaders take a hard look at the success of Champlain College should the community decide to push for a four year institution in the County. We need a more hands on education systems that helps student get internships and early job offers.

Do you think we need and four year college in the community and would Champlain College be a good model to follow?

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About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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2 Responses to If You Do Not Know Where You Are Going You Cannot Get There From Here, Part IV

  1. stevefrisch says:

    I think a private four year college is a grand idea, and one that could be achievable if people really set their minds to it. There are a couple of four year private colleges in the Sierra Nevada; Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, Deep Springs College in Inyo County, which is a truly unique albeit tiny college focusing on learning in nature and leadership development. Columbia College outside Sonora has been occasionally rumored to want to go to a four year college curriculum but has never made a serious run.

    There is not doubt in my mind looking at data around how four year colleges drive innovation in a local economy, and how many small four year colleges actually draw from a broad national market by specializing in specific skills, such a college would be a real boon for western Nevada County.

    The problem is the same problem we face in any other economic development strategy, where does the money come from? Even the planning process is going to take a decent chunk of cash (and I would be really interested in seeing the market analysis) and real sweat and blood. I think we are back to leadership Russ; whose brainchild and dream is this going to be?

    If I remember correctly from reading too much 19th century American history, the small college movement in the US was real phenomenon of the 19th century while the economy was transitioning from an agriculture to manufacturing and technology, with dozens of small colleges seeded by visionary founders, usually with links to the community where the colleges were sited. Thus they were founded by either individuals or institutions who prioritized education, and could afford to, intent on using colleges as a means of pushing social and economic mobility. Many more small town colleges were land grant colleges; that is they benefited from the federal policy of granting land to build colleges and other lands to states to sell or manage to support those colleges. The whole land grant college movement was intentionally designed to create mobility in rural areas. Many more small town colleges had origins in religious training, primarily training ministers.

    That is not to say that something similar could not happen today.

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    • stevefrisch says:

      I regret that was a little garbled due to not using a text editor and being done before real coffee.

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