What is Goddard College?

Brendan McGuigan
Brendan McGuigan
Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

Goddard College is a private college in Plainfield, Vermont, just outside of the state capital of Montpelier. The predecessor to the current school, the Green Mountain Central Institute, was established in 1863, and later it became the Goddard Seminary in 1870. The modern college was founded on the principles of progressive education put forward by John Dewey and his disciples, pushing experiential education and direct participation from students, faculty, and staff alike.

In 1963, Goddard College started an Adult Degree Program, meant to help adults who were mid-career finish a degree. It was designed with a low-residency requirement, so that students could go back to their families and work, and continue to study and work with teachers from a distance. The program was wildly successful, and with the advent of new communication technologies became even more in-depth. In 2002 the school phased out its traditional on-campus program in favor of exclusively offering a low-residency program.

Throughout its history, Goddard College has held progressive ideals, and during the 1960s and 1970s it was a hotbed for anti-war activism and radicals. Although less radical now that there is no permanent student body residing on campus, students continue to create work that pushes political and social discourse, and the faculty encourages outside-of-the-box thinking in pursuing an educational path.

The core of the modern Goddard College program is the low-residency program. In this program, students visit Goddard College for a ten day residency once each semester. At that residency they attend workshops with other students and faculty, and work with a faculty advisor to build a study plan for the semester. The study plan outlines what their area of study will be, what texts they will reference, and sets out milestones for them to meet in the form of packets throughout the semester.

The students then leave Goddard College, and remain in contact with their faculty advisor via email, post, phone, and an online system. Depending on the advisor they may also work with a student cohort made up of other students from Goddard College working with the same advisor. The advisor gives direction and feedback, and helps direct the student’s plan to make sure they get everything they want out of their semester. At the same time, the program is designed to be very self-directed, and so students are expected to find many of their own resources, and to push and challenge themselves to achieve.

In addition to two undergraduate programs, one for a Bachelor of Arts degree and one for a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, Goddard College also offers a general Masters program, a Masters of Education program, and a Masters of Fine Arts program. Each of the different programs meet during different residency periods, allowing them to come together as a singular community. At the end of a course of study, students create a senior project, which they then share with the greater community in a culmination of their time at Goddard College and an expression of the creative energy that drives the school.

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Discussion Comments


I'm the president of Goddard and I thank Brendan for his great write up. We *are* unique, and this post captures somewhat why that is. But it's hard to understand Goddard until you experience it. My only quibble is with the statement that we are "less radical now" than we were in the Sixties and Seventies. It depends on what we mean by "radical," I suppose, but even back when Pitkin founded the College in 1938 he identified it as a "radical college." In the sense of the etymology of the word of "getting to the roots," we are still radical and will always be, I hope! -- Mark Schulman, President

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