Areas of Study
Vermont history, agriculture, natural history, and land use; environmental and land use movements; and documentary studies.
Virginia Welty, who has worked for the Vermont Land Trust for a few years, wishes to produce a documentary account of a five-generation family farm that has recently been included in the Vermont Land Trust. Her reasons are both professional and sentimental. She knows the family and wants to honor the farm, while she also wants to enrich her knowledge in the field, while producing a product that could open new jobs opportunities. She plans to combine studies in Vermont history and agriculture, environmentalism and land conservation, and documentary studies. Her final project will be a publishable portrait of the farm, including photographic and audio elements.
The Study Plan: Admissions and First Residency
As part of her application, Virginia submits an initial study proposal, outlining her over-arching questions, personal and professional goals, the area and focus of her study, and any proposed projects she wishes to undertake. This will be the beginning of her overall study plan for the degree. At the time of admission, and after initial conversations with Virginia, the program director identifies a faculty-advisor with relevant expertise. With the guidance of her individually-tailored advising team, Virginia writes a two-part study plan at the residency.
In the first part, Virginia elaborates on her overall questions, her intended areas of study, and her personal and professional goals for the whole degree. The advising team then helps Virginia structure these goals into a practical plan for coursework, broken down into discrete three or six-credit units. Furthermore, the faculty-advisor will help identify appropriate areas of inquiry, learning resources, and research paths. In the second part of the study plan, Virginia and faculty-advisor design the first semester. Virginia will also attend library research sessions during the residency that support finding and gathering needed resources for the first semester study plan.
Degree Study Plan
The faculty-advisor teaches two courses:
3 credits — Research Methods: Oral History and Archival Research
This course introduces Virginia to the theory and methods of gathering oral history and to methods of pursuing archival research. As part of this course, Virginia receives training in Oral History at the Vermont Folk Life Center.
3 credits — History of Vermont Farming
This course focuses on Vermont agriculture, material culture, and social history for the period in question.
Professor #2 teaches:
3 credits — Geography and Land Use Patterns in New England
This course widens Virginia’s focus from Vermont to consider related issues throughout New England.
Professor #3 teaches:
3 credits — Natural History of Vermont
This graduate course covers geology, ecology, and the human impact on the land. In this case, Virginia will have worked with three faculty members, and her studies would also have been enriched by the expertise of a community resource. Virginia writes a self-evaluation of each of her learning activities. She treats them distinctly and then summarizes the whole semester.
The faculty write narrative evaluations of her progress. The advising team reviews the evaluations, confers, and then contacts Virginia to make further study plans. Approved course descriptions in keeping with the overall degree plan and learning goals are due by the end of the residency (which Virginia may or may not choose to attend).
The faculty-advisor teaches and oversees two courses:
3 credits — Capstone Project (Part I): Oral History and Archival Research
In this course, the first 3 credits of a 9-credit project, Virginia undertakes the research itself, using and developing skills gained in the Research Methods course.
3 credits — Land Trust Internship
Continuing to work at Vermont Land Trust, Virginia pays particular attention to certain elements of her job, supplementing her work with additional reading, and reports on her findings in ongoing journals and a final reflective paper.
Professor #4 teaches two courses:
3 credits — Dairy Farming in the Northeast
This course provides an overview of history, economics, and technology in the Northeast.
3 credits — Land Trusts and Environmentalism
This course examines the role played by land trust organizations in environmental organizing across the country. After this semester ends, the evaluation and advising process starts again. College faculty and Virginia’s internship advisor write narrative evaluations. Since this semester will be this Virginia’s final semester when she wraps up the capstone project, the penultimate residency is required. She will attend workshops designed for students entering the final semester. A reader for her capstone project will be identified at this time.
The faculty-advisor teaches:
6 credits — Capstone Project (Part II) A Portrait of a Vermont Farm
Virginia develops the final project, which combines written, photographic, and audio portions. Because of her professional goals, the project is presented on a website as well as in physical form. Twice during this semester, the reader reviews Virginia’s capstone project, there is a “first draft” conference with the faculty-advisor and reader, followed by a final “board” meeting/defense with the faculty-advisor and program director. Both the faculty-advisor and reader write final evaluations.
Professor # 5 teaches:
3 credits — Web Publishing
This course supports Virginia as she learns necessary technical background and skills. Virginia uses a local web designer as a mentor for parts of this project.
Professor #3 also teaches:
3 credits — The Future of Farming
This course studies local-vore, organic farming, and sustainability movements, along with emerging economic models for small farms. The evaluation process is followed once again. Virginia is given the option of presenting her final project to the entire community at the residency. Virginia is also invited to participate in the May graduation ceremonies. Overall, Virginia would have studied with 6 faculty members (5 faculty members and the faculty-advisor.) She will have participated in an internship, utilized community resources, created a capstone project that encompasses her passions and interests, and accomplished her personal and professional goals.
Making Your Own Individualized Plan
This sample is an illustration of how an Individualized Masters Degree plan can be structured. One of the great benefits of this program is that it can be designed around your unique life situation, and your particular interests and goals. This can be composed of a variety of different modes of learning, including on-campus classes, tutorials, guided independent studies, mini-courses, on-line courses or distance learning.