Q. How is Goddard different from other schools?
Goddard is not a traditional undergraduate residential college. Since 2002 we have been exclusively for adult students. Twice a year, every student comes to Vermont or Washington State for 8 days. Then everyone, including the faculty goes home. Some students like to go off and work alone. We have no grades, we have no tests, we have no courses. Each student becomes the center of his or her curriculum. Also, every student has a commitment to social justice. Learning for learning’s sake, while that may be satisfying, is insufficient.
Q. How do students communicate with professors?
By email, by FedEx, US Postal Service, telephone. We don’t prescribe how that is done. We also don’t prescribe if the students feel it necessary to communicate with other students. If they feel like they need to be in contact with their peers they can set up chat rooms. We have been integrating much more technology into some students’ programs.
Q. What do most students study at Goddard?
The bulk of our undergraduate majors are in the individualized Bachelor of Arts. Students are responsible for describing their degree themselves. There is supervision and advising, and the student must have the distribution requirements that are part of a general education. The arts are very popular. Also social sciences, sociology; although it may not be called sociology when the student has completed their studies. There are those who come in for the psychology or education programs. We’re primarily a graduate institution. We do not award doctorates, though we’re actually thinking about that. About two thirds of our students are graduate students. We have MA programs and MFA programs.
Q. How do students get hands-on lab experience?
They might decide to take that course at a community college or find a laboratory and ask to be an intern for six weeks. Again, we help them to find the resources they need. The same is true with the library system. We’ve been very aggressive in building our electronic resources.
Q. It seems like Goddard students have to be really self-motivated?
I would say it’s true, but I would quickly add that people have more motivation and resources than they sometimes know. The Goddard experience can be very overwhelming, even for the most resourceful and motivated students. The question you’re asked in your first semester is literally, ‘what do you want to learn and how do you want to learn it?’ That question, even for students who have been very successful in traditional educational settings for their whole lives kind of throws them off. Goddard is not for everyone but it is for more people than you would think.
Q. What is your vision of the future of Goddard College?
A. We’re putting together what is called a ‘Green MA.’ Which is going to be in areas in sustainable communities and socially responsible business. That will be a new MA program we hope to start in the fall. We’re experimenting with a home school initiative. Our goal is to expand the size of Goddard. I would like to see it double its current size. We would like to be able to reassert ourselves as an innovator in higher education.
Q. How did you come to a career in higher education?
A. I’m more or less an accidental president. I dabbled in journalism and filmmaking. I went into higher education to have access to the media center and the equipment. I got engaged with teaching and setting up media studies, journalism and communications departments at different colleges. Because I was an effective academic administrator, I was asked more and more to be one. In retrospective it looks like a career path but I can’t say it precisely was. It was part of my commitment to both education and media and discipline within it. I’ve learned by doing.
Q. Was there a turning point in your life?
A. I’ve taken a great number of risks in my life, even as I got older when you’re supposed to become more conservative. I gave up a tenured faculty position at CUNY, which you’re not supposed to do. When you’re comfortable, that’s the moment when you need to examine whether or not that’s the life you want to live.#