Mike Smith: Vermont State University continues legacy of opportunity for Vermonters

by Mike Smith As I was leaving the Johnson campus last week, just a few days into my role as Interim President of Vermont State University, I passed a prospective student visiting with their parents. We chatted and they said that they were from Hardwick and remembered me as the Hardwick town manager some forty years ago. They told me they were glad to have the opportunity for their daughter to attend Vermont State University this fall and wished me well in my new role.

There are few things more “Vermont” than the small-town connections we make, and the way our paths can cross over and over, no matter how long or short of a time that we have lived here.

The gravity of this role struck me in that moment—and the tremendous opportunity we have to support students on their journey to build a strong future for themselves and their communities.

You see, the hope is that this young woman will spend the next several years at Vermont State University preparing to contribute to her community, to our economy and to our state’s future. The talented faculty and staff will help inspire her and direct her passion so that she is successful.

Leadership, along with the Chancellor, Board of Trustees, Legislature and Governor will continue to chart a path forward that ensures her education is affordable and relevant and that our system is sustainable so that we are here to educate her kids and grandkids one day.

This is a special time of year in higher education. As we prepare to celebrate our students at our commencements this May, we are also welcoming prospective students for what will be the inaugural first-year class of Vermont State University. In the coming weeks, we’ll honor the academic and individual achievements of the class of 2023, and watch as they set off to fill critical occupations in the fields of health care, journalism, manufacturing, education and more.

Small towns are counting on these gifted Vermonters to open new businesses, join existing ones, run for town offices, coach youth sports teams and teach music lessons—to carry on the work that makes Vermont a truly special place to make a life.

This one prospective student and all the hope she represents for her, and our collective future, is precisely why I am so honored to be in this role at this time. It is also precisely why it’s so important that Vermont State University starts strong.

All students deserve a great education and training right here at home, especially those in our rural communities, those who choose education later in life, and those for whom post-secondary education may have felt out of reach for much of their lives.

To ensure each subsequent class at Vermont State University has the opportunity to reach their academic goals and attain a degree or certificate in a field they are passionate about, we have some very hard work to do. I am excited for this work because I know exactly what is at stake for these students and what is possible when we achieve success.

My message to all Vermonters at this critical moment is Vermont State University is the right place for thousands of Vermont students to get their post-secondary education and we are eager and excited to welcome them this fall.

Michael K. Smith, Vermont State University Interim President