Several small, private Vermont colleges made national headlines earlier this year when students graduated from each of them for the final time. However, one of those schools is now envisioning a new future.
The College of St. Joseph in Rutland has lost its accreditation, which means it no longer has the ability to award associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees. Even so, it has not closed and has no intention of closing.
The marketing slogan visible on campus signs — ‘Small Wonder: Big Ideas’ — hints at the school’s future. It’s starting to work with Vermont Innovation Commons, a Burlington company that calls itself a launching pad for entrepreneurs and innovators.
“We want to capitalize on what CSJ is known for, and that is our educational public purpose,” college president Dr. Jennifer Scott said. “When we connected with Vermont Innovation Commons and realized that we have a very shared vision and shared goals for the state of Vermont, it made sense for us to come together.”
They’re performing a feasibility study. Between now and the end of September, they’re trying to determine what programs would be the most helpful to develop entrepreneurs and what it would take to bring those programs to CSJ. Dozens of people, many of them CSJ alumni, visited the campus Wednesday evening for an open house about the study.
“One thing that’s very important is Rutland, like several other communities in Vermont, is in an opportunity zone, which allows us to attract national investment for Vermont startups,” Dennis Moynihan of Vermont Innovation Commons said.
The college plans to survive by offering services tailored to a 21st-century economy that may be lacking in not only the Rutland area, but the entire state of Vermont.
“It’s an educational mission, workforce development, but it’s also acceleration programs for startups,” Moynihan said. “It’s incubation. It’s to create co-working space, offices for small companies.”
The college is also planning to host training and certificate programs that you can use to develop further expertise within a field in which you’re already working.
“When we look at the prospects and the potential of a project like this, we and our supporters think this could be an economic driver for the city of Rutland and the state of Vermont for years to come,” Dr. Scott said.
Green Mountain College in Poultney and Southern Vermont College in Bennington also held commencement in May for the final time. Those two schools have closed entirely.
If you have ideas about what the College of St. Joseph can do to make these programs work, you can email the school about your ideas by clicking here.