Strategic Options Task Force Updates
Marlboro plans merger with Emerson College
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