Rutland's College Of St. Joseph's Expanding With Adult Education And Medical Programs

Jul 17, 2015

Rutland’s College of St. Joseph enrolled 350 students last year. Officials at the small school have several new programs planned to broaden the college’s appeal, boost enrollment and fill important educational needs.

The plans include locally-focused tracks, such as continuing education for adults, as well as programs that are in high demand nationwide, such as a two-year Physician Assistant program.

This fall, you’ll probably see a lot more older students at the college, at least on Wednesday nights. Pro-C.E.E.D — which stands for  Professional Continuing Education, Enrichment and Development — is a new a new adult learning program at CSJ.  

Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Liz DiMarco Weinmann helped design the program.

“I had gotten my MBA much later in my career, after 25 years in marketing in New York and Washington,” said DiMarco Weinmann.

“And I said, 'I think there’s a whole market of adult learners here that we’re not cultivating.'”

So the college developed a new program to address that. "Rutland has an older population to begin with and many people can’t afford to retire, or don’t want to," she adds.

“We put on a workshop not long ago to talk about mid-life career changes, and there was a gentleman in the audience who said, ‘I’m ready to start a small business. I have an idea, but I don’t know anything about finance and I don’t know what it would take to make it work operationally.’

While the adult learning program will begin this fall, the college will offer two other new programs next year, including a new sonography program for ultra sound technicians.
Credit Nina Keck / VPR

"He’s my target," she said. "That's who we want to see in our pro-C.E.E.D. at CSJ program."

Likewise, she says, men or women who have taken 10 or 15 years off to raise a family.  

"They want to go back to work," she says, "but they may need to update their skills or get more training on social media in the workplace." She says the college’s new program will focus on those areas and offer classes on leadership development.

Each of the areas of expertise will include four courses per semester, taught consecutively on Wednesday evenings. The price? $1,500.

“So we want to be a welcoming, friendly place, non-threatening  to the adult learner who says, 'Yeah, I want to go back and refresh my skills,'” adds DiMarco Weinmann.

While the adult learning program will begin this fall, the college will offer two other new programs next year — programs offered nowhere else in Vermont.

"We want to be a welcoming friendly place, nonthreatening to the adult learner, who says 'Yeah, I want to go back and refresh my skills.'" - Liz DiMarco Weinmann, CSJ's Vice President, Strategic Initiatives

Just this week, the college received final approval for a new sonography program for ultra sound technicians.

School officials say if all goes well, their new physician assistant program will begin next summer in the nearby town of Proctor. 

“Take a step into history,” laughs program director Catherine Gemmiti as she walks into the marble entryway of what will soon become the hub for the college’s new physician assistant program.  “Isn’t this fabulous?”

Physician assistants (PAs), often referred to as midlevel health care providers, practice medicine under the supervision of doctors and surgeons. Many public health experts believe they'll be critical in providing basic medical care in rural communities with primary care shortages. They're currently in high demand nationwide,  and two-year training programs are in short supply. 

The college of St. Joseph's new PA program will be housed in what used to be the headquarters of The Vermont Marble Company. Built in 1923, the four-story white marble building sits on a hillside overlooking Otter Creek. OMYA, the company that last owned the building, gifted it to The College of St. Joseph’s and renovations will begin in earnest August first.

“Of course it’s going to take on the academic and clinical settings,” points out Gemmiti. “But we’re going to preserve as much of the history as possible. So these transom windows are going to stay; this beautiful wood is going to stay; and we’re going to keep as much of the marble as possible.”

Gemmiti says the facility will also be state-of-the-art, with modern classrooms and labs, a simulation center with high-tech mannequins, an anatomage table which will allow students to do three-dimensional virtual dissections, as well as a donor lab for work on real bodies. They’ll also have lounge areas, locker rooms, kitchens and even a space for yoga.

Clinical Coordinator Kelli Kruzel, left, Dr. Rebekah Thomas, Academic Coordinator Sarah Tatko and Catherine Gemmiti, chair of the College of St. Joseph's new Physician Assistant Program, look over plans for their new headquarters in Proctor.
Credit Nina Keck / VPR

“It’s pretty exciting,” adds Gemmiti smiling. “It’s going to be a fabulous program, I promise.”

Gemmiti says inspectors will arrive for a site visit in October and the college will find out in March if their new two-year graduate program is nationally accredited. 

She says they’ve already been contacted by many more students than they can accommodate. If all goes well, she says 26 students will begin training in the program next summer ramping up to 40 in two to three years.