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Champlain College Looks to the Future: Named to List of Most Innovative Schools

09/01/2021 05:00PM ● By Phyl Newbeck

For the sixth year in a row, Champlain College has been named to the U.S. News & World Report list of Most Innovative Schools. According to Champlain College Interim President Dave Finney, this is due to the college’s cutting-edge programs in high-growth fields. Dave says that, over the last six years, 93 percent of Champlain’s graduates were either employed or continuing their education within half a year of graduation. “Our innovative approach enables students to enter the workforce at the forefront of their professions,” he says.  

Founded in 1878, Champlain boasts a student/faculty ratio of 12:1 with an average class size of 16 students. “Champlain offers a comprehensive educational experience that thoroughly prepares students for the world of the future,” Dave says. “We continually update and revise our curricula and programs to reflect the latest advances in the fields we teach.” In the last two years, the college has added 11 new bachelor’s degrees, two new master’s programs, and ten new minors. Those offerings include app development, applied sustainability, and game business and publishing. 

Ahead of the Curve 

Leslie Averill, Champlain’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, says Champlain has frequently been ahead of the curve. She notes that they were one of the first colleges in the country to develop fully online degree programs, as well as one of the earliest to establish cybersecurity and digital forensics degrees. Champlain was also one of the first institutions to embrace game technology and to offer a bachelor’s degree in a game field. “This was years before the gaming industry surpassed film and television’s global box office revenues,” Leslie says, adding that by the end of 2021, there will be 2.9 billion players worldwide. Champlain offers six different degrees in the game field, ranging from art and sound design to production management. 

Programs for the Future 

Innovation is not the only thing the college has been cited for. SC Excellence Awards named Champlain as the college with the best cybersecurity higher education program, and the Princeton Review listed them as one of the top 20 game design programs in the country. The United States Department of Homeland SecurityNational Security AgencyNational Institute of Justice, and Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center have all recognized Champlain for its cybersecurity and digital forensics programs.  

Leslie lauded Champlain’s Upside-Down Curriculum as one of the keys to the college’s success. Students are encouraged to begin taking major-specific courses as soon as they arrive on campus to make them better candidates for career-relevant internships early in their academic tenure. Champlain has also created ten separate Centers of Experience. These are experiential learning hubs where students are hired to work in teams on projects for paying clients. These hubs include the Emergent Media Center, the Center for Service & Sustainability, and the Leahy Center for Digital Forensics & Cybersecurity, which has provided expertise to organizations as diverse as the Department of Defense and local nonprofits. 

Champlain’s physical campus hosts students from 18 countries and 40 states, and its online program reaches 23 countries and every state in the union. Although most students come from the northeast, a significant percentage are from California, Colorado, Florida, Texas, and the Washington, DC, area. Game development programs continue to be the most sought-after majors. Other popular majors include cybersecurity, digital forensics, computer science, business, healthcare, and psychology.  

Training 21st-Century Citizens 

Champlain’s Core curriculum includes some offerings that may be unique to the college. First-year students take one class called Navigating Higher Education as a Global Citizen and another called Navigating your Information Landscape. The four-year InSight program provides students with life skills in areas ranging from financial literacy and career positioning to wellness. “When our students go out into the world,” Dave says, “they know how to invest their money, negotiate a raise, collaborate with others, build a network of mentors, and lead fulfilling lives.” 

Last year, when colleges across the country moved to online learning, Champlain College Data Science and Machine Learning professor Dr. Narine Hall started coding a new online platform called InSpace, which allows faculty and students to communicate with each other just as they do in physical classrooms and labs. Dave says Champlain was the first college to adopt the new technology for its on-campus programs and other schools, including MIT and UC Berkeley, quickly followed.  

Promoting Whole Community Health and Safety 

This year, Champlain launched their Center for Community & Social Justice, the mission of which is to develop models of community engagement, social safety networks, and policing that support whole community health and safety. Dave says the Center will serve as a think tank and incubator for longer-term societal solutions and promote equal justice for all. In addition to focusing on societal well-being, the college also stresses individual well-being and resiliency. A new collaboration with the Massachusetts General Hospital Child Resiliency Program and Harvard Medical School intends to enhance mental and physical well-being on campus. The collaboration includes resiliency workshops and training for students, faculty, and staff. 

The college is continuing its search for a new president, but they are pleased to announce the hiring of Monique M. Taylor, PhD as their new provost and chief academic officer. She previously worked at the Abu Dhabi campus of New York Institute of Technology and will help expand Champlain’s semester abroad program, which includes campuses in Dublin and Montreal. Other recent hires include Susan Waryck as the school’s first dean of students, Dr. Kimberly Quinn as Champlain’s well-being and success coach, Dr. Robin Gronlund, vice president of enrollment strategy & marketing, and Lisa Ventriss, interim dean of the Robert P. Stiller School of Business.  

A variety of stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, trustees, and community members, are currently working on a 2030 strategic plan to help guide Champlain College into the future. Dave describes the plan as one that “establishes Champlain’s collective vision and mission and outlines concrete goals and metrics for achieving them over the next ten years.” The college wants to ensure that it will be in the position to educate Vermonters and others for years to come. 

“Champlain’s goals,” Dave says, “include relentlessly pursuing and providing a world-class education; fostering a welcoming, supportive, and just community; cultivating engaged and thriving students; prioritizing career success; and maintaining the college’s financial health.” 


Champlain College
163 Willard Street 
Burlington, VT  
(802) 860-2700 


Photos courtesy of Champlain College 

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