General characteristics of liberal arts colleges
Liberal Education: An approach to college learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal
with complexity, diversity, and change. This approach emphasizes broad knowledge of the wider world
(e.g., science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth achievement in a specific field of interest. It helps
students develop a sense of social responsibility; strong intellectual and practical skills that span all major
fields of study, such as communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills; and the demonstrated
ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.
Liberal Arts College: A particular type of institution—often small, often residential—that facilitates close
interaction between faculty and students, and whose curriculum is grounded in the liberal arts disciplines.
(American Association of Colleges and Universities)
“Green Mountain College prepares students for fulfilling lives
by taking the goal of creating just and sustainable
societies as the unifying theme for its interdisciplinary
graduate and undergraduate liberal arts education. The
College fosters the ideals of environmental and personal
responsibility, civic engagement, entrepreneurial spirit, and
Achieving the sustainability mission
AASHE STARS Gold rating overall and #1in curriculum in the 2015 STARS index,
with 44% of undergraduate and 89% of graduate courses either including
sustainability or being sustainability focused.
Received the highest scores in the Princeton Review’s green schools categories
since the category was created. Rated #2 Greenest School in the country in
Consistently ranked in the top 15 of Sierra Magazine’s Cool Schools annual
In 2014, researchers from Oklahoma State University and Texas State
University interviewed our students and observed our classrooms “to
better understand the real impact of holistic sustainability education in
a higher education context, using the student’s voice.” Their findings
“indicate that in a holistic setting, the line between the informal and
formal curriculum are significantly blurred, and what is implicitly
communicated through university practices and values is what most
transforms the students’ explicit understanding of sustainability.”
Armstrong, C.M., Hustvedt, G., Hiller, K.Y.C., LeHew, M.L.A. , & Anderson, B.G. (In Press). When the informal is the formal and the implicit is the explicit: Holistic
sustainability education at Green Mountain College. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education.
Institutional integration: strategic planning
Sustainability 2020: “Through innovative education and
research, Green Mountain College will achieve authentic
sustainability by the end of this decade.” To achieve
authentic sustainability, we need to give more than we take,
to restore our “account balance” in three areas: natural,
social, and financial capital. This is neither a search for
mere survival nor a quest for perfection, but rather an
endeavor to thrive.
Learning at GMC
Whether online or residential, graduate or undergraduate, professional or liberal
arts, or environmentally focused, all programs:
Put theory into action; applied focus
Are backed by an interdisciplinary, sustainability infused core education that provides the
learning outcomes employers want and effective citizens need.
Offer education on a human scale, with a holistic view of students and community
Graduate Online Programs
Master of Business Administration
Sustainable MBA (2006)
Master of Science in Environmental Studies
Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems
Master of Science in Resilient and Sustainable Communities
Graduate Online Programs Focus on
● Bioregional theory
● Applied to individual learner’s context
● Theory + relevant application
● Complex understanding tied to high practicality
Graduate Online: Educational Methodology
Rooted in place: a bioregional approach. Our instructional
model deepens your connection to your own organizations,
bioregions and businesses. In each program you will apply
concepts learned in class to real-world challenges in the
community where you live. In the process, you’ll develop new
understanding about the bioregions or business environments
of your cohorts.
Rather than simply delivering relevant concepts
and case studies to students in each course, the
Green Mountain College model depends on
building a learning community that functions as an
open system, helping students attain a more
nuanced and sophisticated understanding of
Online Advanced Start Bachelors: OASB (Degree
● B.S. in Business Administration
● B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies
● Students enter with 60 +/- credits.
● All students take 2 Environmental Liberal Arts courses:
○ The Power of Sustainability
○ Paths to Sustainability
Killington School of Resort Management (2001)
● B.S. in Resort and Hospitality Management.
● 100% integrated with Killington Ski Resort as industry partner.
● The Lodge as living-learning laboratory.
● 2 winter co-ops at Killington: high quality, first-hand experience; mentored by
the best in the field. Students earn while they learn.
● 1 internship anywhere in the world; in any type of resort facility.
● Sustainability integrated throughout curriculum; students fulfill
Environmental Liberal Arts requirement, ⅓ of total credits.
Poultney Campus residential undergraduate
Liberal arts & sciences: Art, Biology, English & Writing,
History, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology/Anthropology
Professional: Adventure Education, Business,
Communication Studies, Education, Wilderness &
Environmentally/Sustainability focused: Animal
Conservation & Care, Environmental Studies, Natural
Resource Management, Renewable Energy & Ecological
Design, Sustainable Agriculture
Poultney main campus, contd
● Professional graduate study preparation:
pre-law, pre-med, pre-vet
● Self-directed study: progressive program,
self-designed major, interdisciplinary
● Minors/certificates: Asian Studies,
Biopsychology, Documentary Studies,
Geology, Music, Religious Studies,
Theater, Water Resources Management,
Women & Gender Studies, Sustainability
Theory into practice
● 10+ majors require internships.
● KSRM co-ops and applied curriculum.
● Online programs capstone projects: theses,
business plans, applied professional projects.
● Sustainable agriculture students operate an on-site organic farm that helps
feed the campus and supports a CSA.
● REED students design and build.
● Adventure Education sophomore block, professional certifications, and
● Education programs’ field courses and student teaching.
More theory into practice
● Biology undergraduate research lab and seminars.
● Psychology research seminar and clinical experience.
● History majors senior seminar: archival research and
professional quality article.
● Art majors senior show.
● Philosophy students doing applied ethics and logic.
● All majors involved in projects related to achieving
● ELA program’s culminating experience: A Delicate
● Natural Resource Management May field course.
The campus as a living laboratory and case study for all majors.
isn’t just about practicing skills or making theory clear by
seeing examples, it is about gaining agency in the world,
learning in a very real way how to make change and how to
work effectively with diverse people and systems.
Applied learning is transformative and pragmatic.
isn’t just about understanding ecosystems and human
impacts. It is also about taking the best of what we have
learned over the past 10,000 years about human health and
wellbeing, political and financial systems, technology and
natural resources and applying that learning to today’s and
tomorrow’s real world challenges.
It is about human flourishing, today and for generations to
The core of GMC’s transformative education
Liberal Arts with a purpose, aimed at
transforming whole individuals who will be part of
a just and sustainable future.
Environmental Liberal Arts: our interdisciplinary, sustainability
infused general education program.
What employers want, what effective citizens need...
1. The ability to work well in teams—especially with people different from yourself
2. An understanding of science and technology and how these subjects are used in real-world
3. The ability to write and speak well
4. The ability to think clearly about complex problems
5. The ability to analyze a problem to develop workable solutions
6. An understanding of global context in which work is now done
7. The ability to be creative and innovative in solving problems
8. The ability to apply knowledge and skills in new settings
9. The ability to understand numbers and statistics
10. A strong sense of ethics and integrity
Source: "How Should Colleges Prepare Students to Succeed in Today's Global Economy?" (Results of a
national poll by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, 2007).
How does GMC help students learn these valuable skills
In learning skills such as moral reasoning, critical thinking, interest in and ability to engage in intellectually
challenging work, well being, socially responsible leadership, and the ability to interact with diverse
people, the most important factors are:
Good teaching and high quality interactions with faculty mentors
faculty/staff interest in teaching and student development
out-of-class student/faculty interactions
Academic challenge and high expectations
hard work, challenging assignments and interactions
synthesis, judgment, integration, and reflection (“deep learning”)
meaningful interactions with people, beliefs, and ideas that differ from those which
students are accustomed to
Blaich and Wise, Overview of Findings from the First Year of the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education
ELA Learning Goals
Students will understand the structure and dynamics of representative social and natural systems and their
1. Students will demonstrate knowledge of social systems and their historical development.
2. Students will demonstrate knowledge of ecological systems and how they have been historically conceived.
3. Students will demonstrate the ability to integrate knowledge of social and ecological systems to predict, assess, and
analyze the effects of human activities.
Critical Thinking and Communication
Students will develop and apply strong problem-solving skills and communication skills.
1. Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate complex issues and ideas to diverse audiences in a variety of
2. Students will demonstrate the ability to evaluate reasoning and to create effective arguments that address these
3. Students will demonstrate information literacy through the ability to access, understand, apply, and evaluate sources
of information critically and to distinguish fact from opinion.
4. Students will apply these skills in service to their community.
ELA Learning Goals, cont.
Students will understand the factors contributing to our domestic and global ecological challenges and demonstrate the
ability to evaluate proposals for creating a more sustainable future.
1. Students will understand contemporary environmental issues such as climate change, resource depletion and
biodiversity loss as well as the complexity of proposed solutions.
2. Students will understand the history of land use and the changing relationship between humans and nature over time.
3. Students will be able to articulate a positive vision for a just and sustainable society.
Reflective Self Awareness and Responsibility
Students will demonstrate ethical responsibility, aesthetic sensitivity, and multicultural awareness.
1. Students will demonstrate reflective self-awareness of their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Students will demonstrate empathy for others and the ability to entertain multiple perspectives.
3. Students will demonstrate the ability to clearly identify the ethical dimensions of environmental issues.
4. Students will understand the roles that concepts such as race, gender, sexual identity, religion, socioeconomic status,
and ethnicity may play in identifying problems or responding to events.
5. Students will demonstrate an ability to respond to and reason about aesthetic considerations.
ELA Learning Goals, cont.
Liberal Arts Understanding
Students will demonstrate interdisciplinary integration of traditional liberal arts areas.
1. Students will demonstrate familiarity with the subject matter and methodologies of the arts,
humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, and social sciences.
2. Students will draw on the knowledge base or methodologies of two or more disciplines to analyze,
evaluate, or solve a complex problem.
3. Students will demonstrate the ability to use quantitative and qualitative methodologies to interpret
and analyze natural and social phenomena.
The structure of the ELA general education program
The core (required classes)
Images of Nature and Culture
Voices of Community
Dimensions of Nature
A Delicate Balance
The distribution (categories)
Others: Intro psych, Intro religion Us: Exploring Virtues; The Sacred Earth; Homesteaders
Others: Math Us: Games, Systems, and Sustainability; Data Analysis and
Modeling; Quantitative Environmental Analysis
Others: Intro bio, chem, geology Us: Natural Disasters; Local Flora; Climate Dynamics
Others: Intro soc, anthro Us: Simplicity and Sustainability; Utopias: Envisioning the
Good Society; Unraveling Food Systems; Animal Law and
Others: Art, music appreciation Us: The Nature of Design; Nature in Theater and Film;
Chinese Nature Poetry
Others: Intro history Us: World History and the Environment; American Views of the
Others: Intro philosophy, ethics Us: Environmental Ethics; Moral Beliefs
Christina Guarin, ‘18
“The ELA allows students to take new classes and expand their knowledge by
finding new ways to link what we think we already know to establishing new ways
to think and act in order to contribute to a just and sustainable society.
In this, the ELA goes beyond what a student has to know or classes she needs to
take to graduate and get a job. ELA classes hit different points of real life
experiences and understanding to benefit the students and our views about the
world on a larger, more effective scale.”
“A recurring theme across GMC's ELA core courses is deep self-reflection. Professors encourage us to
confront the questions of "Who am I?" "Who do I want to be?" and "Where am I going?" knowing that
while we might not yet have answers, we grow from trying to find them. No other college encourages
critical thinking and self-reflection like Green Mountain College does. This generates a student body that
goes forth into the world with a level of care, empathy, and conviction that is rare to find so uniformly
across a diverse body of people.
I have just been accepted at one of the top law schools in the country-- one of many GMC graduates to do
so in the past few years. Graduating from Green Mountain College means being a part of a legacy not
only of academic excellence, but also of breaking past a limited understanding of what is possible for
ourselves, and for our world.”
Shannon Saulsbury, ‘15
The Academic Path
Goals: academic skills (self-reflection), community skills (citizenship), plans
beyond GMC (career)
One of many projects made possible by the U.S. Dept. of Ed. Title III and Davis
Educational Foundation grants.
The Core ELA Curriculum
Images of Nature and Culture
○ First semester, intro to ELA, writing/communication/reading, first-year skills,
Voices of Community
○ Second semester, writing, research, community skills, intro to project
management, Make a Difference/Make a Living
Dimensions of Nature
○ Sophomore year, history and philosophy of science, systems thinking,
methods of problem-solving, historical context
A Delicate Balance
○ Junior/senior year, project management, reflection on skills, social and
ecological systems, transition to post-GMC, Make a Difference/Make a
Images of Nature and Culture (ELA 1000)
Bioregional, cultural, and academic goals
• Writing and communication
• Understanding “place” (ecologically, socially, politically; depending on the section’s topic)
• field experiences
• College skills and challenge
• Team building and leadership
• Looking ahead
A Delicate Balance – the ELA capstone course that focuses
on the transition to post graduation life
Students synthesize what they have learned at Green Mountain.
Students develop a powerful story about their skills, knowledge, and character
traits and how these enable them to achieve their post-college goals.
Students develop/manage a service project that meets a genuine need and
expresses their relation to the mission of the College.
Major Assignment 1: The Reflective Essay
• What challenges and opportunities have shaped who I am today?
• What do I want to do post-college?
• What are my strengths and what weaknesses do I need to address to
get where I want to go?
• Where do my passions for service to community lie? (Where do I want
to make a difference?) How do those passions shape my future
Students learn how to turn their answers into an elevator speech
that they can use when networking and job hunting.
Major Assignment 2- The Project
•Students read a short project management text.
•Students write a detailed project proposal with measureable goals,
deliverables, budget, and @meline.
•Students acquire approvals for the project, manage the project process,
write a research paper on the topic, present the results at a poster
session in Withey, and write a reﬂec@on on what they have achieved and
learned through the process. They also produce a resume descrip@on of
Sample Projects - all linked to the strategic plan
•An Outdoor Classroom
•Campaign to Ban the Sale of Bottled Water on Campus
•Killington Shuttle Project
•Pottery for Hunger Project
•Ceramic Tile Mission Project
•The Future Generations Voice – An earth day project for 4th grade students
•Accessible Garden and Curriculum Design
•Local on the Menu: Expanding The Coffee House’s Menu to Include Local Food
•Raw Milk Dairy Day in Vermont
•Social Media Unplug Challenge and Workshop
•Reducing Waste in the RHM Lodge
•Analyzing the Alumni Impact survey
What are the student reactions?
“I am confident that I can apply my experiential education
knowledge to any path I choose, but though this class I am
realizing that I may not have been looking in the right
places…. Finding an organization with a mission that
resonates with me, then looking for an appealing job within
that organization significantly expands my search for jobs and
“ … I sometimes struggle to recognize my own
strengths. This is definitely evident in my thinking
that I am not a leader. Reflecting on my skills,
values, and goals not only put me in a leadership
position but prepared me to flourish in a
leadership position.” (MS)
“Though I have always had a passion for helping
others, this passion is even stronger now that I
have realized the amount of privilege and
advantage I have. Since I have realized this, I
have applied to the Peace Corps for a mission
that aims to help people learn English and learn
about sustainability.” (CB)
“If I end up becoming a public servant, I will likely face
situations in which I will have to decide which
principle will maximize the public interest, which may
or may not be embraced by the most powerful or by
minorities. These new perspectives and reflections
have allowed me to think further about the profession
that I want to have and how I envision advancing the
public interest in …” (AC)
Surveying our graduates
% of those employed who report that their occupation is:
% of those employed who report that they were:
% of those employed who report that they were:
Class of 2014
One Year Out
Class of 2011
Three Years Out
Class of 2004
Ten Years Out
SOMEWHAT or CLEARLY RELATED
to their GMC degree 85% 71% 82%
WELL OR VERY WELL PREPARED
by GMC for their current occupation 83% 78% 100%
POORLY OR NOT AT ALL PREPARED
by GMC for their current occupation 17% 22% 0%
SATISFIED OR VERY SATISFIED
with their current position 96% 94% 96%
with their current position 4% 6% 4%