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Burlington College Inaugurates its Fifth President
Christine Plunkett presents vision and master plan for lakeside campus
On Saturday, April 27, 2013, on the North Lawn of the new Burlington College campus in the North End of Burlington, President Christine Plunkett was inaugurated as the fifth president. Plunkett was appointed President June 1, 2012. Delegates from colleges and universities around the state were in attendance to welcome her, as were college and community members.
Peter Langrock of Langrock, Sperry & Wool was the Master of Ceremonies. Speakers included Susan Stitely of the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges, alumna Lauri Brown ’97, faculty member Sandy Baird, Dean of the College Stephen St. Onge, and student trustee Katlyn Aviles ’14. Faculty member Anna Blackmer read a letter of greeting from Burlington College founder Steward LaCasce, who was unable to attend the event. The investiture of office was conducted by Board of Trustees Vice-Chair and alumnus Brendan Donaghey ’10.
Vermont Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca spoke of the need for increased flexible pathways for students to move into higher education, including dual enrollment and early college. Department of Labor economist Mathew Barewicz shared the need for educating Vermonters beyond high school to meet the current and future workforce needs of the state. The common theme was the need for flexible pathways in education for young people to successfully transition to post-secondary education, which would lead to gainful and sustainable employment.
President Plunkett passionately spoke of the College’s renewed commitment to its 40-year history focused on independent thinking, self-awareness and community engagement. She spoke of the unique niche the college fills in Vermont’s higher education landscape.
“Our student-centered learning environment is at the heart of all we do. Regardless of how our students come to know themselves or choose to engage in the community, their voices are distinct and they are heard. This is a campus where students develop a deep sense of belonging and purpose. Our graduates are guided by social consciousness. Through their Burlington College education they have developed qualities which lie at the core of all human endeavors in life, work and community: initiative, empathy, imagination, resourcefulness, and creativity.”
Plunkett reminded the audience of the College’s original roots as the Vermont Institute for Community Involvement, and she emphasized the college’s expanding role in serving the citizens of Burlington. She describes the College as “located in the heart of one of Burlington’s oldest and most diverse neighborhoods, and a stone’s throw from Burlington High School, where more than 40 languages are spoken, we remain deeply committed to our local community…we do not set boundaries between our college and our neighborhoods, between our college and our high schools, between our college and our local businesses. We are a college without walls. We are a college for the community, open, welcoming and inclusive.”
During her first year in office, Plunkett has overseen the development of a five-year strategic plan and a campus master plan. Due to its highly individualized learning environment, the College has seen growing interest in dual enrollment opportunities through partnerships with area high schools, and success with English Language Learning courses for new American students. The College has been expanding the involvement of its Institute for Civic Engagement within the community, and has recently announced the establishment of an Institute for Contemplative Studies. Its individualized Masters Degree program has seen unprecedented growth since its establishment only two years ago.
During an open house following the ceremony, diagrams of the proposed campus master plan were unveiled. The College has been working with TruexCullins, an award-winning design firm, to plan for its growing student body and careful stewardship of the 35 acre campus. Included in the plan are residence halls, a lakeside pavilion for public use, and an urban sustainability village. Plunkett says these plans will be shared with the wider community during the coming weeks and months.