Leahy Center and Rural Entrepreneur Programs Touted as One of Four Successful Models for the Nation


April 10, 2012

Two innovative programs at Lyndon State College will be highlighted at the Second National Summit on the Role of Education in Economic Development in Rural America on April 17, in Arlington, Virginia.  LSC’s Leahy Center for Rural Students and Center for Rural Entrepreneurship (CRE) will be presented at the day-long summit as “Successful Models of Partnerships.”


The Summit will bring together a broad base of influential leaders and policymakers in education and economic development including U.S. agency officials, state agency officials, state legislators, as well as representatives from national and state organizations, colleges and universities, and corporations. It aims to improve rural economic development by identifying successful models of partnership between education and economic leaders, identifying policy and legislative barriers at the federal, state and local levels and strategies to overcome them, and recommending federal, state, and local policies that improve opportunities for partnerships.


“This is a rare opportunity to share our work with federal and state officials, especially before they act on creating or reauthorizing policies. We are honored to be asked to present,” said Bob Whittaker, LSC’s Dean of Institutional Advancement.


Feature speakers include White House Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs Doug McKalip who will speak about the President’s vision in creating the White House Rural Council in June, 2011. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will speak about the federal recommendations generated at the first Rural Summit, rural initiatives and goals, and the reasons behind the creation of the new White House Rural Council.


Presenters from Lyndon will include Bob Whittaker, Dean of Academic and Student Affairs Donna Dalton, Director of the Leahy Center for Rural Students Heather Bouchey, and Director of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship Ann Nygard.


Lyndon State established the Patrick and Marcelle Leahy Center for Rural Students in 2009. The Center conducts research to better understand why rural students do or do not persist through and beyond high school, and implements programs to raise the aspirations and completion rates of rural students—particularly first-in-family, modest income students. Initial findings of the Leahy Center are unique and compelling and will be a focus of the April 17 presentation. One key finding is that an obstacle to raising aspirations of students and their parents is the perception that there are no jobs in the region that demand higher education. This discovery led to the founding of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in 2011.


The CRE was established to help keep and create jobs in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom through the college’s Incubator Without Walls (IWoW) and the NEK Manufacturing Training Program (NEKMTP). Since its inception in 2007, IWoW has served 70 businesses and involved 161 students in hands-on learning experiences that have helped keep or create 78 jobs. Initiated in 2011, the NEKMTP has delivered three customized trainings in response to the needs of the region’s manufacturers. These employers, who collectively employ 14 percent of the region’s workforce, have expressed that they have an ongoing challenge finding skilled workers.


Too often, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is defined by disproportionately high rates of unemployment and poverty, and low educational attainment. The Leahy Center and CRE are designed increase coordination between educators, employers, and economic development organizations. Together these partners create data-driven solutions to educate more students and help create more jobs. The programs are funded through a combination of federal and foundation grants, private gifts, corporate sponsorships, and in-kind support from LSC and project partners.

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