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Dive Brief:

  • The Vermont State Colleges system said Wednesday it tapped Elizabeth Mauch, the president of Bethany College, an Evangelical institution in Kansas, to be its next chancellor.
  • Mauch is slated to take over the system on Jan. 1. She will lead the Community College of Vermont and the system’s newly merged four-year institution, Vermont State University, created through a union of Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College.
  • That merger has been particularly fraught. Though consolidating intended to clean up the three institutions’ finances, Vermont State is still pursuing program and faculty cuts. It, and the system, have also seen rapid leadership turnover. 

Dive Insight:

The Vermont system lost its chief executive twice in roughly three and a half years.

Jeb Spaulding, who had been chancellor since 2015, resigned in April 2020, after attracting scathing criticism for his suggestion the system close three campuses amid pandemic-induced financial chaos. 

His successor, Sophie Zdatny, took over as interim chancellor shortly after Spaulding’s exit. System trustees then named Zdatny to the role on a permanent basis, which she held for the last three years before announcing her departure in September. 

Zdatny gained recognition for bringing in a new influx of state funding and, most notably, overseeing the Vermont State merger the system board greenlit in 2021. 

The marriage of the three universities was already unpopular among students and staff, but the backlash grew more brutal when the new Vermont State attempted to transition its library to a primarily digital format. 

Vermont State officials walked back much of that plan amid the fervor. The objections led to the resignation of the plan’s architect, inaugural Vermont State President Parwinder Grewal, in April. Vermont State has still not found Grewal’s permanent replacement.

Mauch, meanwhile, comes from a religious institution of around 750 students. By comparison, Vermont State alone enrolled more than 5,200 students this fall.

She worked her way up the administrative ladder at Bethany, serving first as its dean and vice president of academic affairs, before being named interim president in 2019. She got the job permanently the following year.

Bethany leaders credit Mauch with raising $32 million for ventures like an enrollment campaign and capital improvements.

Lynn Dickinson, chair of the Vermont system’s trustee board, said in a statement that Mauch will join it at a critical time, as its institutions try to find financially stable ground. 

Vermont State, for one, is looking to drop 11 degrees for fall 2024 and lay off one faculty member. Other Vermont State professors have taken buy-outs.

Mauch “has impressive experience in bringing strategic and visionary approaches to leadership that will be essential in steering the Vermont State Colleges forward into the next chapter of transformation,” Dickinson said. “The Board is confident in Dr. Mauch’s ability to implement ongoing progress and secure continued support of system-wide transformation.”