The Measures of Success
When it comes to getting the most for your money in higher education, Goddard College ranks third in the Northeast just under Harvard and Yale and above MIT, according to a new report released from Washington Monthly recently.
The same study looked at Masters Degree programs, ranking the colleges “based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: “social mobility, research, and promoting public service”. The WM study is in stark contrast to the US News & World Report annual report that bases its study on “wealth, exclusivity, and prestige”
According to this study, Goddard College ranked first in Masters Degree programs.
“We are honored to be recognized for something that is incredibly important to us at Goddard- students finding a community where they can grow, discover their voice, and achieve the goals that are most important to them.” says Goddard President Bernard Bull:
“While other school rankings are based upon things like the wealth of the school, we are committed to being a place that measures ourselves by how much students thrive during their time with us, and by the imaginative and responsible action that they take in the world.”
The faculty advisors at Goddard are the force driving Goddard’s success, as they are the keepers of its bold mission. Social and environmental justice continues to be a critical commitment running throughout all Goddard programs and initiatives.
Another distinguishing feature is Goddard’s acceptance of lifelong learners of any age. Standardized test scores are not required to apply, and alums may return decades later to reinvigorate their learning practice.
“Since our educational model isn’t built on traditional practices like testing, letter grades, and students sitting in desks and rows in a classroom; we often find that this is a community where creative and intelligent students come after feeling let down by traditional education systems and practices.” says Bernard Bull.
The atmosphere is different, as Bernard Bull makes clear.
“For some, this is the first learning community where they truly believe that their voices and choices matter, where the learning genuinely starts with a simple but profound question: What do you want and need to learn? And we do it in a supportive community where each student gets to work closely with one or more advisors who coach and guide them throughout the learning journey.”
Turning on a Dime
For over 75 years, the Goddard model has not relied on letter grades, but ranking high on the WM study is surely a good indicator of the success and innovation of Goddard’s model.
Though small and thrifty, Goddard has demonstrated it can also be nimble, adaptable, and innovative.
With Covid-19 impacting higher education in unprecedented ways, Goddard may have also ranked in a “best positioned to transition to virtual learning” category. While no study like this has taken place, Goddard’s usual low-residency format required no new technology, and did not need to emulate a lecture hall. Not a single curriculum or schedule needed to be immediately uploaded. Without missing a beat, Goddard’s students and faculty advisors continued to meet up individually with their advisors and in group study via Zoom to discuss their self-designed curriculum.
Another example of “innovation on the cheap” is the Village for Learning initiative- a vision long held by Tim Pitkin, one of Goddard’s inspirational founders.
Dormitory buildings on Goddard’s Greatwoods campus were laying idle. Like-minded organizations were invited to occupy as renters. Goddard already hosts WGDR community radio (in the Pratt library) and Earthwalk Vermont, an environmental education organization that hosts summer camps, after school programs and other nature mentoring programs and privative skills workshops.
The most recent addition to the Village for Learning is the Vermont Center for Integrated Herbalism. The partnership with VCIH allows Goddard students to transfer workshops and certifications from VCIH to their Goddard course work.
It is a partnership innovation that demonstrates the ideology of like-minded institutions sharing goals while expanding community wealth.
Achievement isn’t measured in points or letter grades at Goddard. There will never be a valedictorian.
Students at Goddard are given the opportunity to create their own learning plan, based on the life they are living and the work they wish to do. Embedded in their own communities, Goddard students are encouraged to take their active study into real time, while bridging personal history with cultural and community history. Finding the root of your passion for inquiry is what makes Goddard’s education radical.
The Goddard student works intimately with a faculty advisor, to ensure they are in constant dialogue with their own goals and vision.
What Goddard is able to accomplish in spite of its smallness is commendable. Entire departments meet often together to share insights, skills, information, strategy and resources, an unheard of thing in most higher education.
“When people look at the top five in the list, they see schools like Harvard, Princeton, and MIT. Then there is Goddard College. We certainly share a commitment to academic excellence with these other colleges. What is different is that our entire academic model was designed to remove barriers, honor the voices and choices of learners, and to allow for a truly personalized learning plan for every single student.”
And that is why Goddard College is in a ranking all by itself.