Northern Vermont University plans to use a record $3.5 million donation to create sustainable, career-based programs that officials hope will support students and the Vermont economy.
It was the largest individual donation that the Vermont State Colleges System has ever received. Given by Mark Valade and his wife, Molly, the money will be used to expand NVU’s Working and Learning Community at NVU’s Lyndon and Johnson campuses. Valade is an alumnus of the former Lyndon State College and is the CEO of the apparel company Carhartt, Inc.
“We are grateful to the Valade Family for this transformative gift to help create the NVU Learning and Working Community, which will help drive entrepreneurship, innovation, and professional development, encouraging our students to stay in Vermont to pursue their dreams while also helping to meet our state’s workforce needs,” said Elaine Collins, president of NVU.
The money will be distributed over three years. The university plans to strengthen its partnership with local businesses and organizations throughout northern Vermont, so that students can gain hands-on work experience and opportunities for future employment.
The gift will also establish the High-Impact Endowment Fund–Lyndon and contribute to the High-Impact Endowment Fund–Johnson to create a resource in support of academic initiatives, including paid student internships. The school also plans to add more certification programs; associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees; and make credit-bearing work experiences available through the school and beyond.
“Students love their time in college, but sometimes they have a hard time with the year directly after college,” Collins said. “So we are looking to embed more of an opportunity for students to experience a career-based curriculum, and experience this throughout the four years so that the transition isn’t so rough coming out of their senior year.”
Providing a work-integrated curriculum will allow students to “earn as they learn,” which will help reduce the cost of high tuition. Students will also build a professional network through the Working and Learning Community, which in turn will encourage graduates to stay in the area and help alleviate Vermont’s workforce shortage.
The donation was much needed after a year of uncertainty for NVU. In April, Jeb Spaulding, the former chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges System, proposed a “restructuring” of the state colleges, which included the permanent closure of both the Lyndon and Johnson campuses. The proposal was ultimately rejected, and the Vermont State Colleges System received an additional $28.8 million in one-time emergency and Coronavirus Relief funding from the state, but the future of Vermont’s public institutions remains uncertain.
Still, Collins is optimistic. “We have a bright future with our Learning and Working Community.”