This past weekend, the program held its first residency weekend in Marlboro.
From Friday to Sunday, graduate students and faculty members’ schedules were packed with classes, community meetings, and a “Ceremony of New Beginnings.” In hope of promoting integration of the two communities, many of the weekend’s events were open to the undergraduate community as well.
As the graduate program moved onto “the hill,” they brought with them a number of new opportunities for undergraduate students. One of the most talked-about benefits was the accelerated master’s track program, which allows undergraduate students to take graduate-level courses.
Freshman Drew Daniels was particularly enthusiastic about the move. He said he attended every open residency event that he could.
Daniels is thinking of using the accelerated master’s track program to get an MBA. On Saturday morning, he went to an open course on systems management for mission-driven organizations. “Everything kind of just confirmed my excitement and got me more excited,” Daniels said.
Sophomore Avellana Ross was also interested in the accelerated master’s track. She thinks she might like to study teaching for social justice through the program.
When asked how she felt about the graduate program moving to the Marlboro campus, Ross said, “I feel very good about it, because, had they not been here, I don’t think I would have been able to do the program.”
Conversely, Ross said that she had heard some graduate students lamenting the relative difficulty of commuting to the Marlboro campus compared to the Brattleboro center.
Pat Daniel, a member of the graduate program’s management faculty, said that in addition to the convenient location of the former Graduate Center, its proximity to downtown Brattleboro businesses was helpful for graduate students studying business and management.
However, being based at the Marlboro campus comes with benefits as well. “It’s also just beautiful here. It’s just such a wonderful setting for a college campus,” Daniel said.
Members of both communities had the opportunity to survey the beauty of the Marlboro campus as they paraded a giant dragon puppet and planted a tree outside the library as part of the Ceremony of New Beginnings held on Saturday evening.
The ceremony also included a gift exchange between the graduate and undergraduate students. Alumni Director Kathy Waters and senior Solomon Botwick-Ries presented each graduate student with a small bottle of real maple syrup.
Caleb Clark, chair of teaching with technology at the Graduate Center, and junior Helen Pinch presented the undergraduate students with personalized mugs – a thoughtful gift at a school where communal dining hall mugs are constantly being misplaced.
Clark described the mugs as “a housewarming gift, because we’re coming to your house.”
In spite of the warm welcome, some undergraduates expressed reservations about sharing their home.
An article written by junior Hannah McGowan in the student publication The Citizen described how the zine’s informal staff had to relocate twice because spaces that are normally empty were being used for Graduate Center activities. On a small campus that prides itself on openness, reduced access to certain spaces could be resented by some students. The article also mentioned “the worry about the apparent cultural gap between the undergraduate and graduate programs.”
“Many students feel that the graduate program is ideologically very different from the undergraduate,” according to McGowan.
Much of the apparent difference lies in the courses and majors offered by each program. The undergraduate program focuses on the liberal arts, and many students choose to study what is important to them without necessarily considering its practical uses beyond an academic setting.
The graduate program, on the other hand, is vocational. It offers majors in fields related to management and education. Matt Ollis, professor of mathematics in the undergraduate program, hopes that making the graduate program more visible and accessible to undergraduate students will help them to develop practical applications for their studies.
Like McGowan, Daniel also noted that there was a division between the two communities, but she saw the Graduate Center’s move as a way of bridging that gap. Ideologically, she believes there are many similarities between Marlboro College’s graduate and undergraduate communities, such as their progressivism, their willingness to challenge conventions, and their focus on creative problem-solving.
According to Daniel, the graduate and undergraduate students are “different ages, but the themes are similar.”
For younger students such as freshman Eric Wefald, the “cultural gap” between the two programs was not as apparent. After spending time over brunch with some graduate students, Wefald said that he believed the move would strengthen both communities.
Because of the Graduate Center relocation, “We’re able to come together in one space and realize that we’re really one school,” Wefald said.
It will be some time before the broader effects of the Graduate Center’s move to the Marlboro campus can be seen. At the Ceremony of New Beginnings, just before the young tree was placed in the ground, a man with connections to both communities spoke about his hopes for the future of the two programs.
Geordie Morse, a 2013 alumnus of the undergraduate program and a current employee of the Graduate Center, said that he hopes one day the tree will grow so old that nobody will remember why it was planted, and the college will have to hold a Town Meeting to find out.