For environmental scientists, Vermont’s woods, mountains, lakes and streams are a goldmine of research opportunities. And for students wanting to get into the field, there’s no better path than moving seamlessly from CCV into the University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Studies.
“The curriculum at CCV does well for getting you up here,” said Adam Heckle, a UVM student now in his second year at the Rubenstein School. ”And CCV has really good instructors, and a lot of them know what’s going on at UVM and they talk about it in class. Like Heather Fitzgerald, I had two classes with her at CCV and I just took one here with her and she actually wrote me a recommendation for an internship.”
As a two-year school, Community College of Vermont relies on CCV transfer agreements with other colleges; getting graduates into programs at four-year schools with fully-transferable college credits for which they paid a fraction of the cost is what we do. The agreements essentially work as a road map, ensuring that if students take classes x, y, and z, complete the degree requirements at CCV with a certain cumulative GPA, they’re guaranteed a spot in a connected four-year school’s program.
For Heckle, who has hopes of working in the field of land stewardship, CCV was a perfect fit and the UVM transfer agreement meant easy access into a program focused on his interest in the environment. A native of New York, Heckle dropped out of high school to travel around the country. During those travels he hiked over 700 miles of the Appalachian Trail, urban camped, and generally just explored what life had to offer. After landing in Burlington in 2008 and spending a few years kicking about, he realized school was probably his best option for getting out of a rut.
“I really just felt like I had worked so many crappy jobs at that time and I really didn’t want to keep doing that for the rest of my life,” he said while looking over the indoor gardens in the lobby of the Rubenstein school.
Miles up Interstate 89 in Milton, CCV student Lisa Liotta is on the same figurative path that Heckle took—she’s studying environmental science at CCV in preparation for transferring to UVM—except she doesn’t feel stuck in her job. She is, in fact, in what some would call a dream job; Liotta is a park ranger serving at Niquette Bay State Park. On this particular day Liotta is hanging her hand-painted images of some of the park’s plants and animals for visitors to see while hiking.
Three years ago Liotta was living outside of Seattle working as a purchasing analyst. She’d been in the business world for a while and wasn’t in love with it, so when her business failed, she decided to move east to Vermont, start anew, and make a go of working in nature. As luck would have it she wound up helping out in Niquette Bay State Park and landing the park ranger position.
“Even in high school, science classes were what I loved—really, my favorite classes of all time were the science classes,” Liotta said. “But twenty-some-odd years ago I worked in a small-business and the owners told me that ‘science is fine, but if you get a business degree you will always get a job.’ And that’s true, but I didn’t love it. Now I’m going to do what I love.”
Liotta is just through her first semester at CCV in the environmental science program and expects to take advantage of the articulation agreement to land her in the Rubenstein school in the fall of 2016 or spring of 2017. She said that during a recent visit she and her fellow CCV students took to UVM she was convinced that the Rubenstein school was where she was heading.
“It was fantastic. They gave us a really great overview of the degree programs and it really just looked like somewhere I want to be,” Liotta said. “The program looked like it was very well supported and the projects that the students get to work on. It looked like you could pursue whatever you wanted to pursue in that field and it looks like you have the resources available to do that.”
Liotta says that while the perfect job may not yet exist for her, when she finishes her degree she hopes to merge writing, art, and her science training into a career. Although policy and conservation aren’t out of the question, she said. Nonetheless, for now CCV is fulfilling the role of stepping stone, she said. Which is exactly how the program is structured, says Jarod Waite, a CCV coordinator who oversees environmental science, biology and geology at the College’s Winooski academic center.
“The transfer agreement is pretty airtight in terms of full graduation from CCV and matriculation into UVM,” Waite said. “It’s really pretty straight forward; basically if you graduate from CCV with an A.S. in environmental science—and that’s for both the natural resources and the sustainable building technologies tracks–with a 2.7 GPA or higher, you are guaranteed acceptance into the Rubenstein school.”
Waite said that most of CCV’s credits are a direct transfer to UVM, but there are a few specific courses where there’s some grey area. Nonetheless, he said, it’s common for CCV students to enter UVM and complete their bachelor degree in four or five semesters. Essentially, most of the core requirements and general education courses can be completed at CCV, while the more specialized, upper-level courses are taken at UVM.
Approximately six to ten students are expected to make the jump from CCV to Rubenstein in the upcoming year, Waite said, but he wants to get more students on the path moving forward. While he’s mostly worked with Winooski students at this time, he’s hoping to connect interested students across the state with the Rubenstein School via the CCV agreement.
“I see the passion the students have for the sciences and that just fuels my fire,” he said, noting the benefits students get from learning in the small communities that are CCV and the Rubenstein School. Heckle echoed the value of the small environment and the benefits of getting two years out of the way at CCV then utilizing the transfer agreement.
“At CCV if you take biology there’s maybe like fifteen students in the class,” Heckle said. “If you take that here at UVM, it’s like 200.”
That individual attention is a hallmark of the CCV experience, which has paid off for Liotta.
“I read about the transfer agreement on the CCV website, and on UVM’s site, but Jarod has been really great in helping me to see which classes can fill both a CCV requirement and a UVM requirement, and with scheduling in terms of what pairs well together and what to take when,” Liotta said.
Heckle said his experience, while not difficult had some hiccups along the way. At the time he made the switch, the transfer agreement was still new and some of the details were still being hammered out. Those hiccups weren’t prohibitive, he said, and could have been mitigated had he done a bit more legwork. His advice for any CCV student heading to Rubenstein: talk to everyone.
“Take your time with it.” he said. “Talk to your advisors, both at CCV and at UVM. Talk to financial aid counselors. I didn’t do that my first semester, and it probably would have been a little easier if I had.”
Despite those minor hurdles, Heckle, a first-generation college student, said the program he’s in thanks to the agreement with CCV is perfect. He’s studying in the field he wants to work in and for the summer he’s interning as a land steward for UVM’s natural areas around the state—Centennial Woods, Colchester Pond, the top of Mansfield–that’s where you’re likely to find Heckle this summer.
According to Waite, that’s just another benefit of the transfer agreement: the opportunities that exist at the two schools are numerous. Along with internships and research opportunities, Waite said the number of degrees available in fields within the environmental sciences and natural resources leaves a lot of room for students to study whatever it is they love. Between CCV’s two tracks — natural resources and sustainable building technologies–and the six degrees offered through the Rubenstein school, the specialized training opportunities and diverse job prospects upon degree completion are staggering.
When asked if there was any last thing they felt has made an impact on following their path into the field of environmental science via CCV and the Rubenstein school, both Heckle and Liotta had very similar answers.
“With the price per credit at CCV,” Heckle said. “you want to be taking as many classes there as you can.”
“I don’t have a lot of money, and I don’t make a lot of money,” Liotta said while sitting in her ranger cabin at the edge of a forest, “so the value is really, really important.”