The small University way

Mike Davis / Castleton Spartan
Castleton University makes adjustments to surrounding community as Castleton State College becomes Castleton University.

For more than 250 years, Castleton State College has evolved from Vermont’s first college to a Vermont state of mind. The name – and it’s abbreviation CSC – is scored in hearts, chants, cheers and memories, making this summer's’ reveal an even greater milestone.

On July 23, a shock wave of news sent Spartans, past and present, into a frenzy of excitement as “Castleton University” was welcomed into our vocabulary.

Katye Munger, director of digital media at CU, offered some unbelievable statistics about the online traffic patterns on the day of the announcement.

There were over 40,000 interactions via Facebook; 2,000 likes, comments and shares combined via Facebook; 475 Castleton University link clicks via Twitter; 65,000 mention reaches (@CastletonEdu) via Twitter, and a 600 percent increase in new visitors on the day of the announcement

According to Munger, the interactivity and social media engagement continues to be high since that day, as does the conversation around campus, and beyond.

Mikaela Delia, who graduated last May, reflected on what she thought was most important in this conversation,

            “I think one thing’s for sure – if it continues to have that CSC feel, it’ll maintain the uniqueness that it has always had regardless of its name,” she said.

Losing the often-mentioned “Castleton way” is something that many people fear as the school transitions to larger classes, a more vast campus and acquire a university reputation.

But Stephine Woods, a Castleton student from 2007 to 2010, reflected on a common denominator between Castleton faculty and students: a fear that the new name might change it all.

“When I went there, everyone knew everyone … When I went to the University of Buffalo, I felt lost and not connected to my teachers,” she said.

Stephanie Wilson, assistant professor of communication and 1995 CSC graduate, also spoke about the importance in maintaining the character of Castleton.

            “We (now) have the faculty, courses and innovation to step it up,” she said. “Back then we didn’t know how to define it; we knew there were special people here, we knew the professors worked extra hard … but it wasn’t defined. We didn’t have a Dave Wolk to say that 'this is the ‘Castleton Way’ and to make sure everyone understands it, and everyone follows along.”

Wolk, when confronted with Wilson’s claim, responded humbly.

            “It never would’ve happened without the extended family that is Castleton, and how far we’ve come,” he said.

According to Wolk, the change to Castleton University has been organic.

            “All the stars were in alignment,” he continued.

He explained the modernization is meant to reflect who we are,

            “Students might have a broader, more evolved and mature concept of who they are and aspire to be. It is almost as if the evolution of Castleton to the next phase mirrors the evolution of students … thinking differently about themselves and their futures, opening lots of doors that might otherwise not be there,” he said.

Wolk also assured that Castleton will maintain its community values with a familiar code of conduct: Small University, Big Hearts.

To continue the University’s growth, some anticipated changes in upcoming years include a second art gallery in the expansion of Castleton Downtown in Rutland, growing possibility of student housing and campus centers also in downtown Rutland, regular and reliable transportation from Castleton campus to Rutland (town and city), the Spartan indoor sports dome, and exponential growth between the Castleton Fine Arts Center and Paramount Theaters.

The intention: Castleton University will utilize neighboring communities to create a learning laboratory, Wolk said.

With this change, students at other Vermont colleges said there might be opportunities for them too.

            “I think it could leave room for improvements for other Vermont state schools, and give them a chance to be worked with more closely,” said Morgan Vaudrien, a Lyndon State College junior.

Castleton’s modernization gives Green Mountain College students hope regarding their treasured hospitality/resort management program at the Killington campus. Jason Rubin, a sophomore in the program, shared his dream of Castleton taking over the Killington campus.

“It would give the program a new way of getting out into the public eye. (With Green Mountain) there’s a pretty small window to give the opportunity for transfers,” he said.

Continuing, he added that the program itself would benefit Castleton University, by offering something unique and exciting.

For many, the change to university status is exhilarating and offers promising opportunities for Spartans’ past, present and future. For some, however, the modernization will not be reflected upon their diplomas.

Beth Parent, 1998 Castleton graduate, said she might be content with her Castleton State College diploma.

“I think this name change is a great way for the institution to continue to grow and succeed in an ever-changing global economy, but I haven’t decided if I will request a new diploma. I am very proud to say that I graduated from Castleton State College and recall fond memories every time I look at it,” she said.

That said, nearly 2,000 people have already requested their Castleton University diplomas, according to Jeff Weld, director of marketing and communication. He said the requests span from 1950’s alumni to 2015 graduates.

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