CU earns ‘College of Distinction’ for third year running

For the third year running, Castleton University has earned the title “College of Distinction,” and additional recognitions highlighting the Business, Education and Nursing programs, as well as the Office of Career Services. The award, which acknowledges “exemplary commitment in engaging students, great teaching, vibrant communities and successful outcomes,” is calculated independent from universities and relies upon survey feedback.

The award no doubt spotlights the committed faculty who individualize and adapt university studies to emphasize the unique experience and needs of students.

“Other people are giving feedback about the institutional outcomes,” explained Director of Experiential Learning and Workplace Readiness, Jessica Duncan. “It’s not reported by Castleton University, so that’s also why it’s even more prestigious.”

The Office of Career Services represents one of the four additional honors and emphasizes the commitment and focus of the Castleton Career Services team towards student goals and aspirations. To quantify the success of the office, the website Zippia calculated that 94.66% of Castleton alumni are employed in fields related to their major. This statistic places Castleton as the leading institution in Vermont and third in the country for job placement.

“Students who go here are almost handed jobs for having this school on their resume,” according to Zippia.

Entwining the education received at Castleton with future vocational aspirations touches on the key purpose of the Career Services team, as noted by Duncan. 

“If we are a liberal arts institution and people are aligning their careers with their education, that’s exactly what we hope for,” Duncan said.

Deconstructing why the Castleton Office of Career Services has accomplished such achievements relates to the CU’s Pathway to Graduation program. The five-year project is maintained by a $2.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Strengthening Institutions Program. The platform supports staff investments towards career services and targets student success and retention as a means to elevate the student experience.

“In career development too, our goal is that 100% of students will have experiential learning,” Duncan said, adding that, “students who have pre-professional opportunities before they graduate have more success and are happy in the workplace.” 

The Career Services team is unfalteringly dedicated to the success of students. As Duncan explains, “it’s our dream: happy, thriving, empowered lives.” The award emphasizes the ideological purpose of a liberal arts education and demonstrates that Castleton is meeting its ambitions consistently.

According to Chair of the Education Department Leigh-Ann Brown, the award to her department is “an accomplishment that recognizes the commitment, dedication and intellectual endeavors of our caring faculty and staff.”

The recognition highlights the Education Department’s focus on creating knowledgeable and efficient students who provide empathetic support and novel teaching methods, according to the university website. No doubt, this umbrella of positive qualities is fundamentally tied to the wealth of experiences students gain under the Castleton Education Program.

Brown noted that, “students are in the field from their first classes in freshman year to their senior year of a practicum and student teaching,” emphasizing the extensive experiential learning the students undertake prior to acclimating to the professional world.

The Education Department has received this award for three consecutive years, no doubt influenced by the change in program that occurred after 2016. The department introduced additional courses throughout the program to increase “our footprint on the field,” Brown said, and in 2019 introduced the Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education programs. These changes expanded the field and provided students with a solid grounding in the arena of education as they enter the working world.

“I am also happy for what this means for our students. They make this program,” Brown said.

Castleton’s famed nursing program recognized within the College of Distinction Award is underscored by extensive and fundamental clinical experience that assures students are prepared for the intimidating reality of professional nursing.

Nursing students undertake 600 hours of clinical experience over the course of receiving their bachelor’s degree. These hours are obtained at top medical centers across New England, including Rutland Regional Medical Center, The University of Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care.

“Last week I worked with an early intervention program in Bennington. We got to work with kids that have disabilities and make sure they are progressing just the same as kids without disabilities,” said senior nursing major Justin Purdy, who recently completed some of his clinic experience.

Undoubtedly, the nursing program’s emphasis on experiential learning plays a pivotal role in the success of students and reinforces the public’s confidence in our nurses. As stated by the award, the nursing program allows students to “take action even in high-pressure situations” and stresses the compassion and lingering curiosity that remains with students throughout their career.

Castleton’s acceptance of this award for the third consecutive year characterizes the institution’s commitment to student success and life-long education and places Castleton as a prominent university. 

“I did hear students say that they purposely came here because Castleton was awarded the college distinction,” Duncan said. 

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