But the relocation also is a plus for the Deerfield Valley. By moving the graduate center closer to the valley, those who go through the program will be exposed to the great things that are offered here, including skiing and other outdoor activities, a variety of restaurants, vacation possibilities, and more. That’s an opportunity that should not be missed. We know how much the valley offers and now, hopefully, Marlboro graduate students will know that much more about the valley as well.
Granted, much of the Marlboro College student body tends to gravitate toward Brattleboro. It only makes sense, especially with the graduate center one of the town’s anchor downtown properties. But with the relocation, more exposure for the valley could be one of the unexpected bonuses.
Sometimes the benefit of having institutions of higher learning nearby is lost on community leaders when assessing opportunities for economic development and marketing. That’s a shame, because there is a lot going on in colleges around the region.
We have two local colleges that pay a fair amount of attention to the valley: Marlboro and Southern Vermont College. They offer programming here from time to time, recognize they have a number of alumni in the area, and send students to local businesses and schools to work or intern.
There are other learning institutions which could discover more of the valley and what it can offer. Bennington College, the School for International Training, Landmark College, Williams College, and Massachusetts College for Liberal Arts are all less than an hour away.
It’s too bad that many in the valley don’t always recognize the opportunity so close at hand. The colleges are right there within arm’s reach, and it would be wise to tap into some of those opportunities even more than we currently do.
Local high schools send many students to these higher-learning institutions as part of expanded high school opportunities, through Dual Enrollment and other accelerated programs. But we haven’t really done a good job of bringing college students here as part of expanded opportunities for them. There are thousands of young men and women at the colleges cited above, much of them looking for the very things this valley has to offer: lakes and mountains, outdoor adventure, nightlife, and a good quality of life.
We’ve written quite a bit about the economy. The local economy still lags behind other parts of the state. We still can’t seem to get out of those seasonal ups and downs brought on by so much dependence on tourism and seasonal, outdoor-based activities. There are many unoccupied storefronts in the valley, especially in Wilmington village. That doesn’t include Wilmington’s former high school building. What can be done to put those properties to productive use? How about extension classes? Cooperative exchanges? It seems discussions with those colleges would be part of the economic development plans for local towns. Maybe those discussions are taking place, but we’re certainly not seeing much in the way of results.
Given the stagnant economic environment for much of Vermont, and its rural communities in particular, anything that can be done to bring more people to the valley should be seen as a positive development. That’s what we see with the Marlboro College consolidation. We hope others see that as well, and see the situation at Marlboro as a springboard to take advantage of more that other local colleges can offer.
Tapping into area colleges is something we can all learn a little bit from.