The Goddard Difference


Educational Philosophy

Our philosophy of education starts with the individual and holds that each person is truly unique, and is based on the ideas of John Dewey: that experience and education are intricately linked.

Students at Goddard work with faculty to direct their studies according to their personal and professional interests, goals, gifts, and desires. Students develop the capacity to understand their lives in an ever-changing social context, and thereby to take meaningful action in the world. They are encouraged to question received knowledge and the status quo and to create new understandings of the world and of human experience. As a collaborative interdependent learning community, we respect, include and appreciate differing perspectives.

The Low-Residency Model

Goddard’s low-residency semester format comprises an intensive 8-day residency on campus, and 16 weeks of independent work and self-reflection in close collaboration with a faculty advisor. The college pioneered this format nearly a half century ago particularly to meet the needs of adult students with professional, family, and other obligations seeking learning experiences with relevance in real-world circumstances.

Goddard College invented the low-residency model in 1963, and it has since been adopted by others.  Click on the video below to watch some of the first participants in Goddard’s low-residency program:

Goddard College’s low-residency model at a glance:

The Residency

Residencies are a time to explore, network, learn, share, and celebrate with peers, staff, and faculty. While students work with advisors to forge individualized study plans for the semester, they also have the opportunity to attend workshops, advising groups, keynote addresses, large celebrations and a host of other rich and interesting events where they also learn from other adult students. Together with their faculty advisors, students consider study ideas, program content, personal goals, and what they might do to achieve their goals. This model combines a strong sense of community with personalized learning, enhanced by open and extended written dialogue with a faculty mentor. The strength of the program rests on the excellence of our faculty and their commitment to students. Program residencies take place on our campus in Plainfield, Vermont. Additionally, residencies for our MFA in Creative Writing and our MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts programs are offered at our educational site in Port Townsend, Washington and our Education Program is offered at our educational site in Seattle, Washington.

After the Residency

After the residency, students undertake the studies detailed in their study plan and send their work to their advisor on a regular schedule during the semester.  The work (referred to as packets in most programs), typically contain process letters describing their learning and (depending on the program and study goals each semester) some of the following: a bibliography of resources, a study journal, annotations or a critical essay, a research paper, creative and critical writing, slides, photos, or samples of artwork, and an autobiographical account or audio/video presentation. A detailed response from the advisor is both supportive and challenging, engaging in the learning the student presents as offering resources and strategies for the next packet. Additionally, the advisor will also address the packet in the context of the student’s semester goals and the student’s progress toward fulfilling degree criteria. Over the semester, the exchanges between student and advisor create a dialogue that is exceptionally rich and nuanced, reflective and holistic. Out of this comes learning that is transformative and empowering. At the end of the semester, students and advisors write comprehensive evaluations of the student’s work.

Faculty Advisors

An advisor is a member of the faculty who helps the student plan their independent study and who supervises the study through the exchange (typically every three weeks with some program variation) of student work and faculty responses. At semester’s end, advisor and student write narrative evaluations and a determination is made by the advisor as to whether the semester was successful. During residencies, advisors meet individually and in small groups with students whose studies they supervise.


Each program has a director who is responsible for the academic integrity of the program. The director works with the program faculty to create a learning environment that embodies the program’s mission and encourages and supports students in their academic, professional, and personal development. The director also manages the academic functions of the program, responds to students’ concerns/issues, supervises the faculty, oversees the academic components of residencies, and advocates for the program within the College.

Final Products

All programs require an extensive final product as a culmination of the student’s entire degree work. The BA and BFA programs require a senior study; MA programs require a research thesis or creative or other project; the MFA in Creative Writing Program requires a book-length manuscript and additional examples of the student’s academic work; and the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program requires a detailed portfolio of artistic and intellectual work. See the Undergraduate and Graduate Student Handbooks and the Program Handbook Addenda for a more detailed description of their required final product(s).


Graduating Presentation

Culminating students present their final products to the Goddard community through a workshop or reading offered at their commencement residency. Such presentations contribute invaluable knowledge and inspiration to the Goddard community and serve to honor student work.

Graduation Ceremonies

Commencement embodies the essence and meaning of the Goddard educational experience. Just as student-centered education is developed around individual learning needs and directions, the ceremony focuses on each student as an individual and the community created in the process of the student’s studies. A faculty member, with whom a student has worked, describes the student’s development and achievements, as well as the nature and significance of their final project. Goddard graduations are unique and moving ceremonies, full of laughter and tears. As the highlight of the residency, they are a time of celebration, inspiration, and community renewal.