August 14, 2011 -- Lyndon State College Interim President Steve Gold joins Darren Perron and Susie Steimle to discuss the state of Lyndon and the other state colleges.
Good morning, everyone, i'm darren perron.
And i'm susie. Lyndon state college's interim president steve gold is with us.
And a cancer survivor says thank you in a special way. A woman retraces a famous composer's visit to vermont. Tour a cemetery with your cell phone. Lilies as far as you can see. And a world record attempt in barton.
First our news maker steve gold is the current interim president at lyndon state college but you might know him for his involvement in vermont state government. He spent 35 years serving the state and served as commissioner of then-department of employment and training during the last four years of governor howard dean's administration. So, steve, now you're picking up a new hat.
I am indeed.
Thanks so much for joining us.
It's my pleasure, i'm glad to be here.
You're about one month into this new position?
Yes, that's exactly right, one month.
How have things been going so far?
It's been wonderful, very exciting and i must say pretty exhausting. I've been learning a tremendous amount about lyndon state college and meeting staff and administration and faculty there. The students aren't there yet and that's one of the big reasons that i decided to come out of retirement and do this because i was very excited about having a chance to spend a year with college students. And they'll be here soon enough. And i'm looking forward to spending a lot of them with them.
How did lyndon state college come to you with this opportunity?
I returned from a college graduation of a cousin of mine's son, and there was a phone message from the chancellor saying he really needed to talk to me. I thought perhaps it was a recommendation so i called him up and said hi, tim, this is about a reference, right? And he said no i'm thinking about you for the interim president of lyndon state college. I think there was dead silence on my end of the phone for three or four seconds but we proceeded to talk about it and it was an offer i couldn't refuse.
When you first heard this offer what did you think? Did you have a lot of experience or know much about being the president of a state college before this?
I haven't been a president of a state college but three of my close friends are presidents of three of the other four state colleges at castleton, david welk, barbara murphy at johnson and joyce moody at ccv are all old and dear friends of mine so that was also positive for me in thinking about doing this.
What have you done to get to know the campus better and plan to do when the students do show up?
Well, i have so far taken two extensive tours of the campus, one with a wonderful person, darcy myles, who's my executive assistant. And one with a member of the admissions department. I've been meeting with key leaders both in the faculty and in the administration and in the staff during the time i've been there. I've gone to one president -- one council of presidents that the chancellor -- made up of all the presidents meeting. So i'm in the swing of learning how it's operated and importantly spending time with key faculty leaders. They're the heart and soul of the college.
Getting to know lyndon state a little bit in the past month you've been working as the interim president what stands out to you about the programs that lyndon state offers that are unique for vermont students?
Well, for all the students at lyndon state, and we're 65% vermonters and 35% from other states, i think the wonderful thing about lyndon state is it offers a tremendously comprehensive opportunity for education, for undergraduate education. It has liberal arts programs, wonderful liberal arts programs with terrific faculty and on the other side world class professional studies programs. At lyndon those two aren't separated, they work together. Over the summer the faculty has been working to even deeper the relationship and the interrelationship between liberal arts and professional studies education. So i think that's a unique and really positive element that lyndon state has to offer.
In vermont we're always talking about keeping young employees in the state. How did lyndon state prepare them to stay here?
One of the things that we focus on is reaching out to the northeast kingdom area in which lindh state is -- lyndon state is located. Currently 16% of adults in the northeast kingdom are graduates of four-year institutions. And we would -- and that's significantly lower than the state average. Vermont has a higher average than the national average. We're very excite committed to working with schools. We started the leahy center for students focusing on how do we increase the participation in undergraduate education culminating in a bachelor's degree for people from the northeast kingdom. There are very exciting things in the northeast kingdom. The president of jay peak is expanding and succeeded in bringing a south south korean tech firm. I recently talked with him about how lyndon state could help him with his operation at jay peak and this new biotech firm that people believe will help attract other biotech firms to that area to develop our own talent in the northeast kingdom to take the good-paying and sophisticated jobs that will be developing in those places and others.
Coming from 35 years of experience in state government did you have an agenda going in as to what's best for students based on your past experience?
Well, there's no question that when i was commissioner of the department of employment and training, when i was the director of the then-welfare department's welfare to work program before that, and really worked with welfare parents to help them identify for themselves how they were going to get the education, training and other skills they needed to become self-sufficient. And then again as the commissioner of the department of corrections, in all of those positions i really came to understand the importance of higher education and in particular for first-time modest income students. Lyndon is about 55% first in family ever to go to college and from modest income backgrounds. The importance of programs that really prepare them with specific skill sets to move into career track jobs when they graduate. Last year's class we had a 91% job placement rating in the graduating class, that's pretty good. And i think it speaks volumes about the effective job that lyndon is doing preparing its students to succeed.
In your opinion do you think vermont state colleges have done a satisfactory job reaching out to modest income families?
I think it's a hallmark and it's a very intentional and something that vermont state colleges as far as i know them so far, take very seriously and consider very important. Ccv certainly has over 6,000 students most -- many of whom have never been enrolled in higher education prior to their going there. And lyndon features that, i know that's important at johnson. I think all the state colleges see that as a critical mission to reach out to families and young people who have not maybe thought about -- certainly it isn't a script in their family, if you will, to go to college. We're succeeding and want to do even better.
On a lighter note the centennial celebration is coming up this september. What does lyndon state have in store for the celebration?
A number of things going forward. One event that's actually quite traditional, it was begun by a man named vail who was the first president of at&t. He actually created at&t if i understand the history correctly. And the place where lyndon sits was his estate. And he began something called the clam bake, which he would invite the whole town to come. And we continue that tradition. That's coming up just a week from this sunday. And -- but this year we're going to be talking a lot about the centennial. It -- it's part of everything we're doing this year. When i make my address at convocation i'm going to note it's the hundredth class we will have come into the college. There's lots of things going on over the course of the year. Our december graduation will also, those graduates will be the hundredth graduating class as well so it's pretty exciting for everybody there.
And there's also a second century program planning for the future and the next hundred years. Tell me a little bit about that program.
It's essentially a fund raising campaign and it's -- we set an ambitious goal of $10 million. We're over three quarters of the way to that goal now and we hope to bring it to a close by the end of this calendar year so we have work ahead of us but we're excited about it. And i think it's important to understand that in vermont, and this is something that people who are familiar with public higher education in vermont understand, we're something like 49th in the country in terms of public funds going to our public higher education institutions. At lyndon about 16% of our budget comes from state tax dollars. So we're very tuition-dependent. And just the drop of a relatively small number of students can be quite a challenge for us to manage. So fund-raising is becoming increasingly important and i'm very pleased to say we've been pretty successful so far.
And as a tuition-dependent school, administration, it is important to have those programs that bring kids in. And i know that this is the second year of ncaa sports.
That's right. I'm particularly excited about that. I'm an unrepentant athlete myself. I think athletics are terrifically important. At a school like lyndon we're not a big 10 school so our students, our athletes, are student-athletes. What the literature says is that in a situation like lyndon's, athletes actually do better in school, in classes, do better academically than many others who aren't involved. I think athletics offer a tremendous platform for reaching out to alumni, creating a positive environment on campus, for attracting other smart, young people to the school who have that. We did very well last year in our first year in the ncaa. Our men's cross country team won its third consecutive conference championship, the women's cross country team came in second, the women's tennis team came in second. So we have competitive sports at lyndon and i think people enjoy them tremendously. We have a tremendous number of athletic and recreation and kind of extreme sports opportunities at lyndon. We just a few years ago built a 12-station indoor climbing wall. We have an outdoor high and low ropes course, kingdom trails, one of the recognized best trail systems for mountain biking, hiking, snow shoeing, cross country skiing practically next door, and burke mountain is also right there. We have wonderful opportunities for all kinds of recreational activities. I think there's something like 30 different clubs that are involved in recreation, some sports that i didn't even know what they were when i got there and had to ask someone, what is that? It was something i hadn't heard of. We have broom ball, wally ball and all things in between.
You're expected to be an interim president for one year?
It's a one-year appointment.
And they're on a nationwide search?
They're about to launch the search and it will be a broad search involving members of lyndon state community, it will probably involve someone representing the big -- the larger community in the area as well as other members of the vermont state college's board and other colleges.
So since taking this position, how has your opinion changed on how a leader of a school can impact their future?
Well, i think that the important thing is to really focus on looking forward. And to focus on the fact that we are a community together and our primary reason for existence, even though it seems obvious, we're there for the students. What i found so far in talking to the members of the lyndon community, staff, administration and faculty, is everybody is really very, very aware of that and very committed to that. There of course in any large organization like that there are various opinions about how to get there but the goal i think is the same for everyone. And lyndon has a wonderful mission statement which says that we are committed to helping every student achieve both personal and professional success through our programs. And to me, that's a wonderful statement. And something that i find that i can certainly commit myself to for this year.
All right, steve gold, interim president of lyndon state college, thank you for joining us today.
It's been my pleasure, thank you.