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What’s Next For Marlboro

Update on Marlboro College Campus

May 28, 2020

Dear Marlboro Community,

Thank you all for your perseverance and patience over this past year, a year unlike anything we wanted. As a community, we have been on a difficult and uncertain path since the College first announced the intention to find a strategic partner in the spring of 2019. We know that this journey has been hard for all of us, but today we are pleased to announce that we have reached two major milestones.

As expected, the Marlboro and Emerson College Boards both approved a provisional agreement to form the alliance we have worked so hard to develop over the last several months. This is a significant achievement, in spite of the loss of the unique experience provided by living and learning together as a small community on Potash Hill. We now enter a period of final due diligence that we expect will lead to closing on the final contract as planned by July 1st. Our faculty continue to prepare for this important transition, and we are very happy that many of our students will be following them to Boston. We want to especially acknowledge the work of the joint faculty working group whose work will help ensure that the essential elements of the Marlboro educational experience endure at the newly named Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College.

We have all been concerned about the future of our campus and have hoped that another educational institution would build on the foundations that Marlboro College has so carefully laid. Today, we are pleased to announce that the College has signed a contract for the sale of the campus to Democracy Builders, a non-profit organization that will launch an innovative new model of higher education that will dramatically improve outcomes, especially for low-income and first generation college students. Once state regulatory and accreditors’ approval is received, Democracy Builders’ Degrees of Freedom program will offer a hybrid degree that will bring cohorts of students to the campus for multiple residencies. Democracy Builders was chosen above all other proposals by a Campus Working Group (CWG) comprising faculty, staff, students and a representative from the town of Marlboro, and including several Marlboro alumni. Our Board unanimously followed their recommendation.

Democracy Builders founded Democracy Prep, a network of 20+ high-performing public schools throughout the U.S. committed to educating citizen-scholars who are well-prepared for success in college and citizenship. Degrees of Freedom and the Freedom College model they hope to bring to the Marlboro campus are born out of work with 10,000 K-12 students and, pending state approval, will create a wholly integrated path to a degree for students from hundreds of similar schools across the nation. The Degrees of Freedom model will also continue Marlboro’s self-governing tradition through bi-weekly town hall meetings similar to those already in place at Democracy Prep.

There were countless individuals who played a vital role in both forging the Emerson relationship and identifying Democracy Builders as the best future for our campus. In typical Marlboro fashion, this has been a community effort involving students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees, as well as members of our extended community. We have also been greatly supported by our colleagues at Emerson who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to continuing Marlboro’s mission, vision, and relevance on their campus, in spite of the enormous challenges to higher education during this COVID-19 pandemic.

We recognize that all of us would prefer that Marlboro College remain as is on our beautiful campus in the foothills of the Green Mountains. We are, however, very fortunate to have found a path that both continues our distinctive liberal arts mission at Emerson and offers an opportunity for something new to take root here on the Hill that will be respectful of our heritage and provide heretofore unavailable opportunities to a new generation of students.

We eagerly look forward to seeing how these two exciting new futures unfold.

With continuing gratitude and best wishes,


Kevin F. F. Quigley and the Marlboro College Board of Trustees

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(a mostly random selection of Marlboro microdestinations)