I haven’t been on the road with NECHE since we visited the African Leadership University, so I welcomed the chance to make the drive north to visit St. Michael’s College (affectionately known as St. Mike’s) located just outside Burlington, Vermont. For a late February day, it was relatively balmy (41 degrees), but with almost no snow on the ground, it felt like spring was just around the corner — though admittedly, that can be a very long corner.
St. Michael’s was founded early in the 20th century, and like so many of the schools we accredit, it has a unique and fascinating history.
Here are a few gems from the website:
- St. Michael’s College is the only Edmundite college in the world, founded in 1904 by the Society of Saint Edmund, an order of priests that came to Vermont from France more than 100 years ago.
- The Edmundite ministry is based on service, hospitality and education. The passion for social justice means the priests don’t just talk about improving the world, they follow through on that.
- Part of the Edmundite legacy is the vital role they played in the civil rights movement in the South.
- St. Michael’s students embody that same spirit of service, with nearly 70 percent volunteering through the office of MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts).
- The Peace and Justice program of study brings critical current issues into the classroom, while the Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice connects the campus community to outside initiatives and resources.
I spent a good bit of time with President Lorraine Sterritt, who will be stepping down this summer. Lorraine and I share some history from our time together at the University of Pennsylvania, and she has been a terrific leader for the institution through some challenging times. The pandemic hit the college quite hard, as the entire state of Vermont was virtually locked down for months. Prospective students weren’t able to visit and feel the special community vibe, or experience the inspiring mission that characterizes St. Mike’s.
Growing enrollment during and post-pandemic has thus been affected. This is certainly not unique to St. Mike’s but remains a critical goal of the strategic plan.
But …there is a lot to like about St. Mike’s. For one thing, its six-year graduation rate of 79% is well above the national average of 66%, and graduates have big plans: 46% plan to earn a Master’s; 23% plan to earn a Ph.D; and 48% do attend a graduate or professional school within five years of graduation. A full one-third of student study abroad, while those that stay on campus are immersed in the sustainability focus that permeates everything from solar panels to recycling to composting and care of the Natural Areas. Most importantly, 98.7% of graduates would recommend the college to high school students, describing their alma mater as, “An unbelievably positive environment — the perfect place to live, learn and grow for four years.”
St. Mike’s academic offerings are broad and comprehensive, with over forty majors and minors and three graduate degree programs. As the Gamma Chapter of Vermont, St. Michael’s College is one of only three Vermont schools to boast a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. And like most proud liberal arts colleges, it offers small classes, excellent professors, and personal attention to the educational journeys of its students.
I witnessed the unique spirit of St. Mike’s myself, right across the street from campus in the town’s Fire and Rescue station. Fifty student volunteers help serve and protect the community each year, contributing their time and talent to keeping the neighborhood safe. It’s a concrete expression of St. Mike’s motto: “Do well and do good.”
St. Michael’s beautiful campus is unfurled over 200 acres, with another 200 acres of campus nearby– just minutes from the bustling (and very hip) city of Burlington.
It’s a special place that deserves a bright future.