Why Cohorts? An Interview with Kim Lier

Center for New Leadership - May 16, 2016 - 11:48am

by Kara Hamilton, Admissions Counselor at Marlboro College Graduate & Professional Studies

Here at Marlboro we are preparing to launch our fall cohort programs. The cohort model shows up throughout the Center for New Leadership and many Marlboro graduate programs– and it’s no accident. This week we wanted to dip into the thinking behind this model, so we spoke with our Teaching and Learning Specialist, Kim Lier.


Kim started working at Marlboro College in 2013 focusing on the Certificate in Nonprofit Management. Her combined background in adult-education and project management quickly became integral to the development of the program.


When Kim first started the content was great, but the participants were disconnected. “People used to say that all the important conversation happened in the parking lot afterwards.” The goal, she said, was to “bring those parking-lot-conversations into the the workshop space more intentionally and not just have them be accidental.”


As Kim took on more of a leadership role with the Certificate she began to spend more time with each cohort, both in the beginning to help everyone get to know each other and throughout to create a sense of continuity. It worked. People started to draw connections between the different speakers and they really bonded.


We asked Kim from her perspective as a learning specialist about the significance of those bonds. She told us that an important part of adult learning is having immediate applicability.


“If you’re able to ask a question about your life or your work that’s really real then you get an answer that you can immediately use. If you don’t feel safe asking those kinds of questions then you’re not going to get the same kind of answer that’s really specific to you. In the certificate especially [the participants] start to really know each other’s organizations, because they talk about them a lot, and the trust is really important there. If they don’t feel like the confidentially agreement [that nothing shared will go beyond the room] is in place then they’re not as likely to share information.”


Trust, she said, is really important in the other cohort programs as well, particularly for the Women’s Leadership Circles which place so much emphasis on personal leadership development. It’s not all about ice-breakers, and potlucks though, she told us.


Last week the CNL staff and consultants went on a retreat with the intention of forging stronger connections between the consultants. Prior to the retreat it had been suggested that doing the work was also a way to build community. As a result the group did several workshops together: Hillary Boone and Kate McGowan led a workshop on Results Based Accountability and Joe Heslin did one on sales and marketing pitches. “We learned different things about each other than we would have in typical community building exercises.” Kim said. “That’s the direction that this community is going: deepening [our] connections to each other by learning and working together.”


In the end these actions feed each other: we build connections to do better work, and we do the work to build better connections.

The End Approaches! Deadlines & Things to Know: Spring 2016

Library Blog - May 10, 2016 - 11:20am

As the blossoms appear and the heat drives us all to south pond, it can be easy to let all thoughts of books get washed away in the cool water and the nap-inducing sunshine.

So here is a reminder about some important upcoming dates at the Library, which are important for all library users (and especially important for graduating seniors).

Wednesday, May 11: Due date for most library items.

      • Everyone: All Interlibrary Loans must be returned by May 11.
      • Everyone: Please return all library DVDs before leaving for summer.
      • If you are returning in the fall, you can borrow/renew Marlboro College library books over the summer. See our full circulation policies.
      • Please, please, please do not leave library items in storage over the summer.
        • Not using them over the summer? Return them before you leave.
        • Using them over the summer, and coming back in the fall? Renew them and bring them with you on your summer travels!

Friday, May 13: The big clean-up. Please remove all personal items from the library by 8am on Friday morning. On Friday:

      • All library books left around the building will be picked up, checked in, and reshelved.
      • Personal items will be moved to the lost and found (Recycling Room, middle floor); anything left there on June 1 will be donated/discarded.


      • Graduating seniors: Official print & electronic Plan copies (and optional personal copies) are due to the Registrar by noon on Thursday, 5/12. Questions? See Print and digital Plan submission guidelines or ask the Registrar or Library staff.
      • Want your own personal plan copy? Read this! Town Meeting provides funding for each senior to receive one bound copy of their Plan for free. Additional copies can be purchased for $20 each (payable to Student Accounts). You must provide the extra printed out copies to be bound. Bring them to the Registrar when you drop off your official Plan copy, and provide the friendly person there with a mailing address to which your Plan can be sent in late summer/early fall. (More on personal Plan copies) And, hey: congratulations!

Sunday, May 15 (Commencement): Building closes at 5:30 pm.

      • Graduating seniors: please return all library items by Sunday, 5/15! Not sure what you have checked out? You can log in and view your account.
      • A return bin will be placed outside the entrance near the Service Desk when we close; please leave items there if the library building is not open.

Summer hours (9:00am – 4:00pm) begin on Monday, May 16.

Questions? Let us know.

Have a fantastic summer! Congratulations to all our wonderful graduates!

MARTIAL PRACTICE 3: The Space Between Us and Other Martial Side Effects

Center for New Leadership - May 2, 2016 - 3:34pm

Core Consultant at the Center for New Leadership at Marlboro College and Faculty at Marlboro College Graduate and Professional Studies. Photo credit Kelly Fletcher.


is what lies beneath our feet. It is the place where we already stand; a state of recognition, the place or the circumstances to which we belong whether we wish to or not. It is what holds and supports us, but also what we do not want to be true; it is what challenges us, physically or psychologically, irrespective of our hoped for needs. It is the living, underlying foundation that tells us what we are, where we are, what season we are in and what, no matter what we wish in the abstract, is about to happen in our body; in the world or in the conversation between the two.

To come to ground is to find a home in circumstances and in the very physical body we inhabit in the midst of those circumstances and above all to face the truth, no matter how difficult that truth may be; to come to ground is to begin the courageous conversation, to step into difficulty and by taking that first step, begin the movement through all difficulties, to find the support and foundation that has been beneath our feet all along: a place to step onto, a place on which to stand and a place from which to step.



The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.”

© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press 2015


I would not have picked my swords back up for my own practice if I had not been for Lori. My dear friend and colleague asked me to teach her sword. I had sustained an injury a number of years ago which prevented me from engaging in my regular practice, so I had let it go in favor of focusing on teaching and performing stage combat here and there for our local theater groups. Lori and I had been sharing a great deal about our work and personal journeys, so the topic came up unexpectedly, but organically. When we started, I had the idea that we would be working within a sort of hybrid version of my stage combat pedagogy and technique.


For those already lost, stage combat is the theatrical performance of choreographed violence. It is first and foremost about storytelling. The only reason there is ever a fight in a show is that mere words alone won’t suffice to tell the story properly. The telling of such stories, even with a safe technique, is still laden with risk. You are still swinging fists, legs, and swords with each other! Another key difference between stage combat and actual combat is the intention. The intention is to co-create a story with your fight partner, not to defeat your enemy. The words we give it and the intention of the actions matter a great deal.


I was naively and ambitiously thinking that Lori and I would jump into creating a sword story together, with full sword choreography within four to five months. Looking back, this oversimplified vision of our work makes me smile compassionately at my innocence. Our learning journey has been far deeper and much more nuanced. We have delved into how we show up in our leadership and in our bodies, exploring what it means to be in a relationship which calls us to be strong together as we practice. We are just now almost ready to co-create a “sword story” that is based in the divine feminine, told through our duo sword practice. (More on that in a later post.)


We started with our feet.  You always start with your feet in martial arts of any sort. Your connection to the ground is essential and fundamental for engaging in any sort of movement. Typically, you want to lead your movement with your heart. Leading from your heart-center allows your whole body to move in concert with itself rather than in any sort of awkward, unbalanced way. If you lead with your head, you end up leaning too far forward and can’t move swiftly in all directions. Your head is also a really easy target if you stick it out too far beyond the rest of your body. If you lead with your lower body, you won’t have enough forward momentum to carry the whole of you together. Alignment is key. The torso needs to be aligned so you don’t cause undue stress on your legs and feet or back. And that is where we began looking at our own movement over ground in other areas of our lives. Do we lead with our heads too much and when? How do we know? When and why might our full selves not be in alignment with our hearts as we move through our days?


Simultaneous to this learning experience, Lori and I began co-creating our course we were teaching together, The Art of Facilitative Leadership, at Marlboro College Graduate & Professional Studies. We deeply engaged in that process having already begun establishing our shared practices of open inquiry, mutual compassionate accountability, and exploration of our strengths. The work we did together on and in the class was some of the most fulfilling I have ever experienced. We held nothing back from each other, offering ideas and feedback in a powerful harmonic dance infused with love. I felt and continue to feel challenged and called into a higher form of myself to meet Lori and go further, be clearer, be of service to and with her. The similarities to the flow of our emerging sword form were likely not accidental. My ongoing work with Lori continues to develop the strength of these collaborative “dance” muscles, through challenging growth and sometimes painful stumbles into more graceful form with each other.

My old sword injury was the result of bad form. I had been teaching for over 10 years, and not once did I receive or ask for feedback on my form from one of my students. I had a teacher, but we focused on my overall technique, not the ergonomics of my form. In making our observations in our current practice, what has become clear very quickly for Lori and I is that having someone witness and experience us in our body movements is essential to gaining insight into them. These are not questions that could come up on their own. Without someone facing us in direct relationship, how can we have a mirror to observe as well as respond to our actions and movements? We are holding space for each other to practice together to learn how to respond to sword movements. We are also holding space for and with each other, inviting our best from each other, our strength, our groundedness, our focus, and commitment to learning and playing. This has become our sword story, which will be a work in progress for years to come.

PODCAST: Thinking in Systems with Rachel Ruppel

Center for New Leadership - April 5, 2016 - 3:19pm

In this quick podcast Rachel explains how systems thinking showed up in surprising ways in her capstone – and in her coursework at Marlboro.

Marlboro Staff at the Women in Higher Ed Conference

Center for New Leadership - April 5, 2016 - 3:14pm

Five members of the Marlboro College Graduate and Professional Studies staff were selected to present at the VT Women in Higher Education conference, a 2-day event in Killington.

The conference attracts staff and faculty from all Vermont colleges, and includes a mix of skill-building, leadership development and networking. In this instance, Marlboro took center stage – with our staff representing more than 25% of the presenters.

UMass Amherst Research Trip: Sunday, 4/3

Library Blog - March 29, 2016 - 9:13am
Yes, that’s the library.

This Sunday, April 3rd, the Library is sponsoring a trip to the UMass Amherst Libraries. Space is limited! Sign up on the sheet at the Library Research Bar.

The van will leave the Dining Hall at 11:30am and return by 5:30pm.

While at UMass, you can search their hundreds of databases and download or scan articles from their extensive journal holdings (e-journal list; library catalog). If you are a Massachusetts resident, you can get a library card and borrow books; if not, you can jot down any book titles that look useful and request them via Marlboro’s Interlibrary Loan service.

Beth and Amber are happy to meet with you this week to help you make the most of your 3 hours (roughly) at UMass. Stop by or email us to set up an appointment!

Is Employee Ownership a Right or a Privilege? A conversation with ESOP expert Jerry Gorde

Center for New Leadership - March 15, 2016 - 8:18am

Claire Wheeler and Lori Hanau recently published, “Is Employee Ownership a Right or a Privilege?” in Conscious Company Magazine.

The magazine issue focuses on Social Justice in Social Enterprise.  Lori and Claire’s article dovetails beautifully with discussion topics which arose during the Social Enterprise Workshop Day at Marlboro Graduate and Professional Studies, including exploring the origins of the current S-Corporation Model rooted in Plantations and Slavery and what is needed to completely shift the paradigm of business if employee ownership is truly a right rather than a privilege.

It is a wonderful example of how faculty and alumni continue the good work and ideas that spark at the Gradschool.

Read the article

Spring Break @ the Library

Library Blog - March 9, 2016 - 12:45pm

Spring is finally here! Well. Kinda. Though the temperatures are encouraging, at the very least, Spring Break is upon us.

During Spring Break, the Library will be open, so come see us! Our hours will be:

Friday, March 11: 8:30am – 4:00pm

Saturday, March 12 & Sunday, March 13: Closed

Monday, March 14 – Friday, March 18: 9:00am – 4:00pm

Saturday, March 19 & Sunday, March 20: Closed

Monday, March 21 – Friday, March 25: 9:00am – 4:00pm

Saturday, March 26: Closed

The Library will resume regular Service Desk hours on Sunday, March 27th, at 12:30pm.

During the Break, we’ll be doing some cleaning in the Library building; if you are leaving personal items in the Library, please make sure all library books are checked out and other items are placed in designated areas in the stacks.

If you’re not going to be on campus, library staff will still be available to help during break — just email library@marlboro.edu or give us a call at 802-258-9221. And, of course, our electronic resources remain available to you 24/7 via our website.

Safe travels to those venturing off the Hill, and we admit to a small amount of envy of anyone heading to warmer climes!

Board Leadership Institute Launches

Center for New Leadership - March 9, 2016 - 10:40am
The Board Leadership Institute is off to a strong start. There are 9 outstanding Fellows in the Get on Board program this year, representing  many different backgrounds, goals and perspectives, as well as a strong cohort of local boards working through the entire program. David Grant and Annie Peyton led opening sessions for the fellows and board participants. Up next, Annie returns to facilitate a session on Board Recruitment and Development. There is still time to register for courses a la carte. For a complete list and registration information visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2016-board-leadership-institute-tickets-20063255738 Questions can be directed to Kim Lier at klier@gradschool.marlboro.edu

Podcast: Nonprofit Boards, What You Oughta Know

Center for New Leadership - February 29, 2016 - 11:52am



David Grant kicks off our Board Leadership Institute and Certificate in Nonprofit Management. In this podcast, Hillary Boone interviews David about formative assessment, reframing the way with think about nonprofits, and the power of thinking about organizational lifecycles.

More about David:

  • Work: Principal, Grant Associates
  • Education: A.B. in English, Princeton University; M.A. in American Studies, University of Michigan.

David Grant is the former president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation in Morristown, New Jersey. Earlier in his career, he and his wife Nancy co-founded and co-directed The Mountain School in Vershire Vermont, a semester-long interdisciplinary environmental studies program for high school juniors. A life-long teacher and performer, David has taken his one-man show as Mark Twain around the world.

David is the author of The Social Profit Handbook: The Essential Guide to Setting Goals, Assessing Outcomes, and Achieving Success for Mission-Driven Organizations (2015), published by Chelsea Green.


Martial Practice 2. Back to the Basics

Center for New Leadership - February 24, 2016 - 11:26am

by Hillary Boone, Organizational Development Specialist at the Center for New Leadership, RBA Consultant,  and Faculty at Marlboro College Graduate and Professional Studies. 

Martial practice is not something that I came to naturally. I am a terrible dancer and lanky, nonviolent person. Learning choreographed routines and striking objects are not what I consider my strengths. However, I desperately needed a weekly routine to integrate physicality and spiritual practice into my life. I have always been an avid hiker, finding the presence and physicality I needed outside. But I just can’t get out and climb a mountain every week. I tried meditation and couldn’t stay committed. I tried running and consistently over-did it in the beginning, ending up with hurt ankles and a slow, lounge-y recovery. I dabbled in yoga and battled a constant internal dialogue – aware of pressure to look a certain way, questioning why I wasn’t improving faster, laying in savasana wondering what I would eat when class was finally over. I did some online research, and before I knew it I was signed up for weekly classes in Kempo-Jujitsu.

Kempo is based on elements of Karate, Kung Fu, and Jiu-Jitsu. There is a degree of meditation and mindfulness throughout the practice, both in entering the space and throughout class as we move through sequences of positions. I found myself most excited about the belt ranking system and the incentive to keep coming back to earn new, better belt colors. It seemed like the right fit. I was ready to commit to this thing for a year.

The first classes were a system shock. I was so new to this. And so remarkably bad at this. In that space, I noticed some things about my mindset that were at odds with the rest of my life. As a complete beginner I found myself especially observant of those around me. I watched with great care and full attention as my instructor demonstrated techniques and explained concepts. I mimicked their motions, slowly integrating the correct posture and techniques into my own muscle memory. Interestingly, not long after practicing this hyper-attention, I found myself more aware of my surroundings outside of class like, “hey, did you ever notice we have a library in our town?! And it’s right by our house!” At work I found it easier to keep the big picture in mind and prevent getting pulled into small, unimportant tasks.

I also practiced with great intention, learning, thinking, repeating, and evaluating my performance. This intense repetition ingrained the basic movements deep into my body and started to change the way I hold myself throughout the day. The shift in my posture made the learning of new techniques easier. I was also considerably less sore after a day spent working at the laptop, and my physical therapist mother stopped publicly correcting my posture.

In this state of beginner’s mind I felt real openness and willingness to being wrong. I had to be. I was wrong constantly, hearing reminders to “look up!” “drop your shoulders!” “make a real fist!” “breathe!!!” I had no hangups or shame about being corrected, which made it easy to take feedback, readjust and improve. Without defensiveness or reaction to correction, the hour of practice was just fun, like being shot of out a cannon and trying as many new things as possible. Being wrong was not a reflection on my intelligence or worth in the class, but rather an invitation to grow in my practice.

As a contrast to the willingness to be wrong, I felt more joy about getting something right. Instead of feeling relief that I hadn’t been called out for a mistake, or fear that I would be expected to be an expert for the rest of class, I was able to enjoy my small successes in the moment they occurred. I also felt real joy in learning how to hit and kick a bag, or how to hold a knife in a knife fight. So much for “nonviolent.” That joy in learning contributed to a mindfulness and a presence during class that I don’t feel often in my life. I became more aware of when fear of being wrong arises at work, and how that affects my behavior and performance. Noticing the benefits of letting go of that helped me begin to loosen my grip on my ego in the workplace.

Now, just four months into Kempo, I am healthier and stronger than I have been in years. The chiropractor reports that my hips are remarkably more flexible and I don’t need to schedule a follow-up appointment. I feel safer walking alone at night. I have earned my yellow belt, and I feel pride in the work and knowledge that it represents. On the other hand, I am already less mindful in my practice. As my comfort increases I am inclined to distraction. I move through the motions blindly, failing to focus mindfully on the task at hand.
This challenge to remain in the beginner’s mind in my Kempo practice directly relates to worklife. As we gain mastery in our jobs, how we can continue to remember the power of the beginner’s mind and revisit that? Is it possible to push aside the temptation to simply go through the motions? Can we practice mindfulness intentionally instead of capitulating to boredom and burnout? How do we avoid positioning ourselves into the role of “expert,” trapping ourselves in a reality where we fear being wrong or not having the answers? For my part I have been working to get myself into the right headspace on the car ride to Kempo, as well as at my desk before I begin my work day. I am at my best at both when I dig back in, return to the basics, and reconnect with the joy of learning and being present all over again, as if for the first time.

CNL Offers B Corps Consultation

Center for New Leadership - February 22, 2016 - 4:10pm
CNL offers the following services to companies interested in becoming B Corporations or improving their scores.
  • B Corp 101 on-demand webinar – $20
  • Free 1-hour consultation call
  • Company readiness evaluation
  • Full certification consultation and support
  • Score improvement consultation and support

To get started, please contact Hillary Boone at hboone@gradschool.marlboro.edu

Results-Based Accountability Workshop in St Johnsbury

Center for New Leadership - February 10, 2016 - 10:26am

Wednesday, March 23, 2016,
8:30 am to 4:00 pm
Springfield College, Emerson Falls Road, St. Johnsbury
Summer Room (first floor classroom)

Presented by faculty from Benchmarks for a Better Vermont, Center for New Leadership at Marlboro College Graduate and Professional Studies

By the compleon of the program parcipants will be able to:

  • Distinguish between population level accountability and program level accountability.
  • Define results, indicators, and performance measures.
  • Relate a story of a me when working backwards, using turn the curve thinking, contributed to solving a problem.
  • Sort performance measures into three categories.
  • Experience and facilitate three RBA tools.

Cost: $95.00

(includes all materials, light breakfast, and lunch)

Online registration will be available beginning February 15, 2016 at www.nevahec.org
or you can call (802) 748-2506
Space is limited- please register early to reserve your spot. Registration deadline is Friday, March 18, 2016

Questions? Contact Laura Remick: (802) 748-2506 / lremick@nevahec.org

Sponsored by the Northeastern Vermont Area Health Education Center (AHEC) in collaboration with Benchmarks for a Better Vermont, Center for New Leadership at Marlboro College Graduate
and Professional Studies

Northeastern Vermont AHEC, 347 Emerson Falls Road, Suite 3, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819