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What’s Next For Marlboro

A message from the Marlboro College Board of Trustees

Dear Marlboro Community:

We are writing to announce that the Board of Trustees of Marlboro and Emerson Colleges have signed a final agreement to create the new Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College. This brings closure to a multi-year process through which Marlboro leadership has systematically sought to keep Marlboro alive despite formidable demographic and financial challenges facing small colleges in Vermont and elsewhere in the United States. Marlboro chose to take a path that offered the best opportunities for the continuation of our liberal arts mission; this alliance with Emerson provides a sustainable future for the ideas born from our hill in Vermont.

Simultaneously, we would like to acknowledge the loss of Marlboro on Potash Hill. For nearly 75 years it furnished students, faculty, and staff with the unique experience of living and learning together as a small community, both within our shared governance model and surrounded by the astounding beauty of southern Vermont. We want to express our deepest respect and appreciation to our extended alumni community, as well as to members of the town of Marlboro; all of whom consistently challenged us to remember what is most important about a Marlboro education throughout this process. We know this is an especially sad moment for our community, but we sincerely hope you will find comfort knowing that Marlboro’s academic mission will continue on in Boston under the deliberate and thoughtful guidance of our faculty.

We are especially grateful for the hard work that so many have put into this process. The Marlboro faculty demonstrated the importance of shared leadership and designed an innovative way for Marlboro to continue its liberal arts mission as part of a larger institution. We are extraordinarily impressed by the collaboration between our faculty and their new Emerson colleagues; the curriculum they have drafted has strong roots in the work our students have always done on Potash Hill. Emerson’s respect and admiration for Marlboro’s academic model and self-directed student experience are manifest in their desire to retain these qualities in the curriculum of the Marlboro Institute. We are fortunate to have found such a dedicated partner in Emerson College.

We are immensely grateful to the students who have brought such passion and creativity to this process, from their work with faculty on the curriculum, to their work through Selectboard and Town Meeting. We know that these transition months have been difficult and that prioritizing their studies while also making decisions for their next steps took an incredible amount of fortitude. We also want to acknowledge the hard work of the Marlboro College staff who have never wavered in their support of students, faculty, and the broader community. They have always been essential to Marlboro, but ever more so during this time of transition.

We have completed the sale of the Marlboro campus to Democracy Builders, an education incubator best known for founding the network of Democracy Prep charter schools. The agreement was formalized months ago after the Campus Working Group (made up of trustees, faculty, students, alumni, and community members) reviewed all proposals for the sale of the campus. Democracy Builders’ Degrees of Freedom intends to offer a hybrid college program that will bring low-income and first generation students to the Marlboro campus. After the agreement was signed, a number of concerns about Democracy Prep and its educational and leadership practices were brought to the Board. To learn more about the Board’s response to those concerns, please see the What’s Next for Marlboro link on the Marlboro College website. The Board expects that the Degrees of Freedom leadership will work to address the concerns expressed by critics of Democracy Prep and that the greater Marlboro community will come together to support the creation of a new institution on Potash Hill.

The work of the past few years has been intensely challenging and all of us on the Board are extraordinarily grateful for the support of the wider Marlboro community and for the generosity of our steadfast donors. We mourn the loss of our Marlboro on Potash Hill, but we also believe in Marlboro’s ideals and have faith they will endure at Emerson. Please know that you were always in our thoughts throughout this journey. We hope your love for Marlboro will continue as we begin anew.


The Marlboro Board of Trustees

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(a mostly random selection of Marlboro microdestinations)