Strategic Options Task Force Updates
Trustees at Emerson and Marlboro Approve Intent to Pursue Strategic Alliance, Targeting Confirmation by July 1, 2020
BOSTON, MA and MARLBORO, VT—Emerson and Marlboro Colleges announced Marlboro’s intent, beginning in the Fall Term 2020, to move its academic programs to Emerson, at which time Marlboro undergraduates may elect to matriculate and Marlboro tenured and tenure-track faculty may choose to teach at Emerson.
Marlboro will gift to Emerson College its endowment currently valued at more than $30M and its real estate holdings appraised at more than $10M. Marlboro’s $40M gift to Emerson will endow Emerson’s Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies program where Marlboro students will be enrolled and Marlboro faculty will teach. The Institute will be renamed the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College.
The alliance will allow Marlboro to keep its legacy alive through the Marlboro Institute at Emerson College where Marlboro students will complete their degrees and Marlboro tenured and tenure-track faculty will continue to teach. Marlboro will close its campus at the end of the 2019-20 academic year.
Emerson College is internationally recognized as the nation’s premier institution of higher learning devoted to liberal arts, communication and the arts with campuses in Boston, Los Angeles, The Netherlands and degree granting programs in campuses located in Paris, Barcelona and Lugano, Switzerland (beginning Fall 2020).
Established in 1946 in Southern Vermont, Marlboro College is a remarkable, tight-knit community of scholars dedicated to independent learning and academic excellence. Marlboro undergraduates create their own course of study, much like Emerson students enrolled in the self-directed program housed in the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.
In Town Hall meetings held Wednesday morning at their respective institutions, Lee Pelton, President of Emerson College, and Kevin Quigley, President of Marlboro College, announced the alliance to their campus communities.
“This is an extraordinary alliance and a quintessential win for both of our commonwealths of learning,” said President Pelton. “One way to understand this transaction is to think of an individual making a $40M gift to endow an existing college program. For Emerson, the gift will permanently fund Emerson’s Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies program. For Marlboro, their legacy will live on, their students will benefit from enhanced educational programs, and their tenured and tenure-track faculty will continue to teach in an environment that supports intellectual creativity, innovation, and experiential learning.”
“This remarkable opportunity to develop an alliance with Emerson ensures that the essential elements of Marlboro will endure,” said President Quigley. “It preserves our identity through renaming Emerson’s Institute as the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, continues our pedagogy and commitment to progressive education by bringing our faculty to the Emerson campus, and provides extraordinary educational opportunities for our students with an alliance partner where there is a clear alignment of values, culture and purpose.”
In the weeks and months ahead, Emerson and Marlboro will each form working groups on the essential elements of the alliance. The groups will meet both separately and jointly to propose various aspects of the implementation of the alliance, including, but not limited to, academic affairs, student life, administration, human resources, fiduciary matters, and governance.
This work is to be completed in mid-spring, with the goal of confirming the alliance by July 1.
About Emerson College
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the historic Boston Common and in the heart of the city’s Theatre District, Emerson College educates individuals who will solve problems and change the world through engaged leadership in communication and the arts, a mission informed by liberal learning. The College has 3,780 undergraduates and 670 graduate students from across the United States and 50 countries. Supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a renowned faculty, students participate in more than 90 student organizations and performance groups. Emerson is known for its experiential learning programs in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, the Netherlands, London, China, and the Czech Republic as well as its new Global Portals in Paris, Barcelona and Lugano, Switzerland (beginning Fall 2020). The College has an active network of 39,000 alumni who hold leadership positions in communication and the arts. For more information, visit emerson.edu.
About Marlboro College
Marlboro College cultivates a close-knit, intentionally small learning community where independent thinkers can explore their deepest interests, collaborate with faculty as colleagues, and set the course for their own intellectual and professional pursuits. Located in southeastern Vermont, Marlboro undergraduate and graduate programs are based on a scenic campus in the town of Marlboro. Combined enrollment for undergraduate and graduate programs is less than 500 students. www.marlboro.edu
Tim Grader, firstname.lastname@example.org 413-210-6262.
Dear Marlboro Community,
We are writing to share important news about Marlboro’s search for a strategic partner. Since early 2019, the Board of Trustees has sought a partnership that would preserve Marlboro’s mission and our commitment to providing students with a rigorous education outside the boundaries of traditional majors and core requirements. Today we are announcing that Marlboro College has taken the first step to becoming the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies on the Emerson College campus in Boston. Given our severe financial challenges, coupled with difficult trends in higher education, the Marlboro trustees believe that an alliance with Emerson is the best opportunity to secure and sustain Marlboro’s legacy far into the future.
Emerson has a demonstrated commitment to interdisciplinary studies and progressive education, as evidenced by current programs housed in their Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies. The Institute will be renamed for Marlboro and will welcome existing Marlboro students and tenure-line and tenured Marlboro faculty who wish to continue their work at Emerson. Faculty will be tenure track or tenured as they are at Marlboro, which is a significant commitment by Emerson, and will ensure that Marlboro’s pedagogy and practices will shape Emerson’s programs and curriculum. Moreover, Marlboro College’s long-standing mission to develop critical thinkers, clear writers, and active citizens aligns with Emerson’s commitment to “core liberal arts values that seek to promote civic engagement, encourage ethical practices, foster respect for human diversity, and inspire students to create and communicate with clarity, integrity, and conviction.”
Marlboro students, who have been our priority throughout this process, will benefit from Emerson’s academic strengths in the liberal arts, arts and communications, in particular, as well as the numerous opportunities offered by the city of Boston. The Emerson campus offers a robust portfolio of student services and engagement opportunities in a creative and collaborative environment, as well as a strong and tangible commitment to equity and inclusion. Students will retain current tuition unless they transfer into another major or study on another campus outside of Boston. Students, including juniors, currently on Plan will be able to complete their work at Emerson with Marlboro faculty and in addition will have access to Emerson’s own faculty and extensive interdisciplinary course offerings. Students who would prefer to continue their studies elsewhere will receive Marlboro’s full support in their transfer process.
The decision to partner with Emerson and move to their campus was not easy for anyone, and it comes after years of seeking ways for Marlboro to remain independent on Potash Hill. The challenges facing small liberal arts colleges are acute and will only intensify in the coming years. Unfortunately, Marlboro’s ongoing budget deficits are only a preview of the difficulties ahead, as the number of students in the region declines precipitously over the next decade. It has been sobering to watch a number of our neighboring schools make excruciating decisions to close in the face of these insurmountable challenges, something that our accreditors have watched with alarm. The accreditors have shown concern with Marlboro’s own sustainability since 2015, and their oversight has increased dramatically as our neighbors have closed. The Board’s willingness to address all of these challenges now has meant that Marlboro, unlike our neighbors, has the resources to forge a partnership that ensures the continuation of our mission.
We recognize that our community will have a range of responses to this news and that change is hard for all of us. We hope everyone will come to share our genuine optimism for the real future that the Marlboro Institute at Emerson offers and continue to support our mission. We also recognize that this transition will be especially difficult for College staff, many of whom have served Marlboro for much of their working lives. Trustees will be collaborating with the administration to develop severance packages that demonstrate the College’s gratitude. With regard to sustaining Marlboro’s legacy and the memories of 73 years we have spent on Potash Hill, we have invested in developing Marlboro’s archives and will work with the newly relaunched Alumni Council to steward our continuing relationship to our past and place. Finally, we are committed to working with Emerson to discuss the future of the Marlboro campus, including the role of the Marlboro Music Festival, which we hope will continue to provide substantial benefits for the town of Marlboro and southern Vermont more broadly.
While this announcement is bittersweet, we do look forward to the many opportunities that the alliance with Emerson will provide for our students. We are grateful for Emerson’s commitment to our faculty and our pedagogy, as it will ensure continuity for Marlboro’s identity and the continuing engagement with students for generations to come. Although still in the early stages of our discussions with Emerson, we are highly optimistic that a final agreement will be reached. The next stage in the process will rely on working groups from both institutions to develop the details of the final agreement. We look forward to harnessing the ingenuity and creativity of Marlboro’s faculty, students, and staff as we make a thoughtful and intentional transition. Please check Marlboro’s website (www.marlboro.edu) often for future updates, milestones, and next steps.
Kevin F. F. Quigley
Richard H. Saudek
Chair of the Board of Trustees
The Strategic Options Task Force–comprised of the board chair, the president, four trustees, two faculty members, and one student–has been meeting regularly to review the options for Marlboro’s future, working closely with the Board of Trustees. While the merger with University of Bridgeport was not realized, there are several other attractive strategic partnerships that the task force is considering. These conversations with potential partners are governed by confidentiality restrictions that prevent the task force from providing any details to the Marlboro community. They will share information when the disclosure of that information does not jeopardize serious consideration of a possible partnership.
While the task force is hard at work, many individuals have been asking how they can help Marlboro College right here and now. The best way to help Marlboro at this moment is to donate to the Annual Fund, which supports student scholarships, programs, events, and other operating costs like keeping the lights on. Your gift is a concrete demonstration of your interest in Marlboro’s future, an encouragement to the task force to identity that best possible option, and ultimately a lift to the entire Marlboro community who would need to join in the effort to make the partnership succeed.
Be sure to watch this page for further announcements, which will be posted as soon as the Strategic Options Task Force is able to do so.
Marlboro College and the University of Bridgeport today have suspended negotiations on a potential merger due to concerns around the sustainability of a merged institution.
Both institutions worked diligently on a deal that would have seen Marlboro continue to provide its distinctive teaching tradition on its Vermont campus as the Marlboro College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Bridgeport, providing new geographic and programmatic options available to students on both campuses. The two schools suspended negotiations, citing insurmountable barriers to developing a compelling financial and academic model that supported both institutional missions.
As the smaller institution, Marlboro College was especially determined to protect the integrity of its rigorous, self-directed academic model and self-governed community. In addition, Marlboro needed assurances on UB’s enduring commitment to the Vermont campus and guarantees that the wishes of Marlboro’s generous donors, who established the College’s current sizeable endowment, would be maintained.
Although an agreement with the University of Bridgeport did not materialize, Marlboro College appreciates UB’s vision and willingness to engage in this challenging process. The Marlboro Board of Trustees will now pursue other options and continue to act in the best interest of students, faculty, and staff to seek a partnership that will preserve the College’s pedagogy and community while adhering to the College’s mission.