Welcome to Sterling!
You now have the opportunity to embark on one of the most thrilling, challenging and important adventures of your life.
The entire campus community—the faculty, the staff, and the students—looks forward to welcoming you on campus to join our community of environmental stewards.
We’ve put together this ‘field guide’ to help orient you, inspire you, prepare you, and answer any questions you may have before you get here or to help you make your decision to come. You’ll find all kinds of information here as well as links to provide more depth and links to connect you to people who can answer your questions.
We can’t wait to see you here on campus.
First Things First
OK, so you’re accepted to Sterling College! Now what?
- Let us know that you plan to attend by filling out the Candidate Reply Form
- Send us your enrollment deposit to reserve your place at Sterling.
- Plan your trip to campus!
How to use this field guide
- Read through the complete guide and have fun exploring Sterling College!
- In the top left corner of your screen you’ll see a menu icon indicated by 3 horizontal lines. Click that icon to quickly navigate to any chapter of the guide.
- Some pages will have a ^ button that will reveal more info when you click it
- Use the checklist on the last page to ensure that you have completed and returned all required forms.
- Can’t find what you’re looking for? Have some questions? Just want to talk? We’re happy to help!
Required Forms Checklist
We’re so excited that you’re planning on attending Sterling College! In order to make your transition to Craftsbury smooth and joyful, please take a few moments to ensure that you have filled out all of these forms:
- Candidate Reply Form
- Housing Preference
- Dietary Preference
- * Physical Examination & Vaccination Report
- * Personal Health History
- New Student Enrollment
* Please print these forms and mail them to:
If you have questions, please feel free to let us know what you need!
We can’t wait to welcome you to Sterling!
When you arrive on campus, you will receive your very own axe – a simple, sturdy axe from Snow & Nealley, a New England company that has made quality hand tools since 1864.
Soon, you will receive a packet in the mail that includes an 8 inch file, which you will use to sharpen your axe. Please keep it in a safe place, and bring it with you when you arrive in Craftsbury Common.
One of the first things you will learn to do at Sterling College is to make a handle for your file, using wood harvested by students in the Sterling woodlot. By doing so, you will be making a personal and tangible connection – the first of many – between your mind, your hands, and the land that supports this remarkable community.
Craftsbury Common is located in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom which is a stunningly beautiful rural place. We have all the fresh dairy, meat, and vegetables we can eat. We have wonderful people, music, libraries and culture to enjoy – not to mention epic recreational activities – but there are some things we don’t have in our immediate vicinity. Do not fret! Everything you need can be obtained in a hop, skip or a jump.
Refresh your browser to see a handy map of Sterling & our surroundings
The Town of Craftsbury website has lots of helpful information and listings for local businesses. Here are some of our favorites spots in and around town:
Health & Wellness:
Art & Entertainment:
There’s quite a lot that we left off this list so, if you don’t see what you’re looking for, just ask!
Sterling’s campus is made up of a few distinct areas: Upper Campus, Lower Campus, the Farm, and the Woodlot. You’ll find your way around in no time and discover some special spots to study, reflect, and enjoy life.
This campus map was drawn by Sterling College alumnus Jay Merrill ’02. It shows where all the residence halls are located, along with the main campus buildings, the farm and garden, and the town Common.
We are the only college in the nation in which the whole community of students and faculty sits together each week in a circle for a community meeting.
Community Meeting happens every Wednesday after lunch in Dunbar. Everyone pushes their chairs into a circle, and we discuss issues and awarenesses, make announcements, and share appreciations.
Each week a different student volunteers to facilitate Community Meeting.
Curious to learn more about Community Meeting? Check out these posts about it on the Sterling Blog!
The Restorative Community
(from Community: The Structure of Belonging, by Peter Block. Used by Permission. Download the pdf here).
we create together?” Shifting the context from retribution to restoration will occur through language that moves in the following directions: from problems to possibility; from fear and fault to gifts, generosity, and abundance; from law and oversight to social fabric and chosen accountability; from corporation and systems to associational life; and from leaders to citizens.
In contrast to the isolating effects of retribution, a restorative experience, relationship, or community produces new energy rather than holding us in place. Restoration is associated with the quality of aliveness and wholeness that Christopher Alexander talks about. This quality is not only in the artifacts, buildings, and spaces that he refers to, but also in the gatherings and conversations we choose to create. The energy crisis we face is not so much about fossil fuels as it is about the calcifi ed experience that is too often created by the way we hold conversations, both publicly and when we come together in more private settings.
Restorative community is created when we allow ourselves to use the language of healing and relatedness and belonging without embarrassment. It recognizes that taking responsibility for one’s own part in creating the present situation is the critical act of courage and engagement, which is the axis around which the future rotates. The essence of restorative community building is not economic prosperity or the political discourse or the capacity of leadership; it is citizens’ willingness to own up to their contribu-
tion, to be humble, to choose accountability, and to have faith in their own capacity to make authentic promises to create the alternative future.
This means that the essential aspect of the restoration of community is a context in which each citizen chooses to be accountable rather than entitled. Accountability is the willingness to care for the whole, and it flows out of the kind of conversations we have about the new story we want to take our identity from. It means we have conversations of what we can do to create the future. Entitlement is a conversation about what others can or need to do to create the future for us.
Restoration begins when we think of community as a possibility, a declaration of the future that we choose to live into. This idea of a communal possibility is distinct from what we commonly call an individual possibility. Community is something more than a collection of individual longings, desires, or possibilities. The communal possibility has its own landscape, and its own dynamics, requirements, and points of leverage. In the individualistic world we live in, we can congregate a large collection of self-actualized people and still not hold the idea or experience of community.
The communal possibility rotates on the question “What can we create together?” This emerges from the social space we create when we are together. It is shaped by the nature of the culture within which we operate but is not controlled by it. This question of what we can create together is at the intersection of possibility and accountability. Possibility without accountability results in a wishful thinking. Accountability without possibility creates despair, for even if we know we are creating the world we exist in, we cannot imagine its being any different from the past that got us here.
The Fabric of Community
Example: The Clermont Counseling Center Tricia Burke is the director of the Clermont Counseling Center. She completely understands the destructive power of labeling and categorizing human beings. Rare for one in a leadership position in a labeling industry. One of her programs is for women in abusive relationships who are survivors of domestic violence. She calls this program Women of Worth. What’s in a name . . . everything. The counseling center also runs a mental health facility, and this is the story I want to pay attention to. It contains most of the elements of freedom, choice, transforming language, and small group belonging discussed in this book. In the mental health program are clients who are labeled as paranoid schizophrenic, bipolar, and delusional, and have a history of state hospital stays. For the center to bill Medicaid for their services, the services must be “medically necessary.” This means they are required to certify each client’s illness and medicalize all of the center’s services in order to be reimbursed. In the eyes of Tricia and her staff, many of the most effective healing efforts come from actions that are not really medical interventions. What are often most healing are the ways that people in programs like the center’s discover to have fun, embraced and surrounded by the support of others like themselves. The sense of belonging that accrues is as healing as traditional treatment. This sort of thing is not a legitimate program activity in the eyes of Medicaid. To keep Medicaid funding, the center is required to name and place a disease on the head of each person.
Despite this, Tricia and her staff decided to change the conversation at Clermont in dramatic ways. They gave up the Medicaid funding for their “partial hospital day treatment” program and put the clients in charge of the day program. Staff were reassigned to other programs. In doing this, Tricia changed the message to clients from one focusing on their liabilities to one focusing on their possibilities. The organizing questions to “members”––no longer patients—were “What do you like to do?” and “How do you want to fill your day?” While the traditional hospital experiences were maintained, these questions were the organizing principles that guided the healing process. The strategy then was to treat members as if they had the capacity to design and structure a good portion of their own time. Phoenix Place, the new name chosen by the clients for this effort, became a controlled self-governing program. There was only one paid staff member––Kim Hensley, the director of the program––and many of the governance and program decisions were placed in the hands of members. In the first year, the members came up with ingenious answers to the question “What can we create together?” For example:
- They formed and chose an executive committee for themselves.
- They organized a wellness activity.
- They volunteered their services to an animal shelter.
- They wanted to travel, so they decided to open a snack shop to earn money.
- When Phoenix Place received a grant to do medication education for other mentally ill folk in fi ve counties, the members did this education.
- When Ohio state legislators were invited to visit the facility, the members wanted time with them to make the point that people who have mental illness are not their illness, they are much more than their illness.
- They were no longer afraid to talk about their lives; they came out of the closet.
- The group started training police on the nature of mental illness–-what it is like to hear voices, for example. They taught the police how to approach people having an incident and what language to use.
- They started a journaling process, which they called WildSpirits, to give voice to what it feels like to be in the dark hole of despair and find your way out, and to express their healing by writing about hope, gratitude, love . . .
At the end of the first year of Phoenix Place, its members felt pride in what they had created; they had jobs to do and had regained some of the roles they had lost in the larger society. Most of all, they had begun to once again have hopes and dreams about their future.
Eventually they outgrew the small house for Phoenix Place, so they set about raising money for a bigger one by working the concession stands at the Reds and Bengals games––and years later their dream came true. When it did, they wrote a grant to make a video to tell their story.
The Fabric of Community
Of course the story of Phoenix Place, and others like it, is not all about success and victory. Along the way, Tricia says, it took patience and encouragement to help Phoenix members shift their thinking to believing that they could run their own program. In the beginning, they were angry and felt they were being abandoned. They even picketed the center. Helping them break free of their dependency was difficult. Here is a part I especially like: One exercise was for individuals to complete a questionnaire about their strengths as part of a program on positive psychology. The members noted that this was the fi rst time in their lives they had ever taken a test and gotten good news from the results.
The transition from patient to citizen is always diffi cult. For all of us, not just labeled people. And the trajectory is not always smooth. When the original director of Phoenix Place left, it caused anxiety and worry. The member-led executive committee began to act superior, controlling, and judgmental, and some of the spirit of community waned. In other words, they started to function like most traditional executive committees.
The group rediscovered their balance when a new director was selected, and the members mostly became friends once again. But their temporary fall from grace shows that we can never forget how fragile is our ability to hold our freedom and stay whole in hard times.
Lessons from Restorative Justice
Phoenix Place gives us a powerful model of what a restorative community looks like. When I say “restorative,” I am not talking about returning to a prior time, fi xing up an old building, or seeking to recapture a culture that we think once existed. Restoration is about healing our woundedness––in community terms, healing our fragmentation and incivility. It is only out of this healing that something new can emerge.
I have been attracted for some time by the way restorative is used in the criminal justice system, which I learned from Barry Stuart and others who have created the restorative justice movement. They have given a powerful structure to restoration, and they have done it in a most unlikely place. The intent of restoration in the criminal justice system is to provide a more healing path for both the offender and victim of a crime. This becomes an option for the victim to choose and for the offender to agree to. It also gives a voice to the community, for the community is also wounded by a crime.
There are several steps to restoration: The offender admits to the crime, the offender and the victim and their families talk of the cost and damage the crime has caused to all their lives, the offender apologizes for the offense, the offender promises not to do it again, and the offender agrees to some form of restitution for the damage caused.
Finally, the victim and their family decide whether to forgive the offender and accept the restitution. If they decide to forgive, then the representatives of the community have a voice in deciding whether to allow the offender to go free and rejoin the community. If the victim and their family decide not to forgive, then the offender goes through the regular criminal justice process. On a global scale, restorative justice is similar to the practices of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.
These steps contain many of the elements of community building. It is not so much the methodology that concerns us here, but rather the context and spirit that these movements offer us. They show that an alternative to retribution is possible and has worked in the world. This spirit of restoration promises a different future for our communities.
Community as Conversation
The idea of community restoration becomes concrete when we grasp the importance of language. When we understand that, we can see how our language, or conversation, is the action step that makes creating an alternative future possible. Suppose we begin to think of our communities as nothing more or less than a conversation.
Every community has its buildings, leaders, schools, landscape, but for the moment let us say that these are not what make a community unique or define its identity. Instead it is useful to declare that the aspect of a community that gives it a new possibility is simply the conversation it chooses to have with itself. Jane Jacobs, world expert on neighborhoods, understands this. When she was asked why she thought Portland, Oregon, has been so successful in creating a habitable community, she said the only thing unique about Portland is that “Portlanders love Portland.” In our terms here, it was the conversation Portlanders had with each other about their town that made the difference.
Thus if we speak of change or transformation in our city or town––in my case, Cincinnati––we are referring to the conversation that is occurring in that town. We do this not because it is the whole picture, but because it is the part of the picture that is most amenable to change. This means the alternative future we speak of takes form when we realize that the only powerful place from which to take our identity may be the conversation that we are. We begin the process of restoration when we understand that our well-being is defi ned simply by the nature and structure and power of our conversation.
The future of a community then becomes a choice between a retributive conversation (a problem to be solved) and a restorative conversation (a possibility to be lived into). Restoration is a possibility brought into being by choosing that kind of conversation. And with that conversation it becomes real and tangible, for once we have declared a possibility, and done so with a sense of belonging and in the presence of others, that possibility has been brought into the room, and thus into the institution, into the community.
The key phrase here is “in the presence of others.” A possibility, when declared publicly, heard and witnessed by others with whom we have a common interest, at a moment when something is at stake, is a critical element of communal transformation. This public conversation creates a larger relatedness and transcends a simply individual transformation. Conversations of possibility gone public are not all that restores, but without them, personal and private conversations of possibility have no political currency and therefore no communal power.
To summarize the story line to this point, our conversations and gatherings have the power to shift the context from retributive community to restorative community. This occurs through questions and dialogue that move us in the following directions:
- From conversations about problems to ones of possibility
- From conversations about fear and fault to ones of gifts, generosity, and abundance
- From a bet on law and oversight to a preference for building the social fabric and choosing accountability
- From seeing the corporation and systems as central to seeing associational life as central
- From a focus on leaders to a focus on citizens
What these have in common is the movement from centrism and individualism to pluralism and interdependent communalism. This shift has important consequences for our communities. It offers to return politics to public service and restore our trust in leadership. It moves us from having faith in professionals and those in positions of authority to having faith in our neighbors. It takes us into a context of hospitality, wherein we welcome strangers rather than believing we need to protect ourselves from them.
It changes our mindset from valuing what is effi cient to valuing the importance of belonging. It helps us to leave behind our penchant for seeing our disconnectedness as an inevitable consequence of modern life and moves us toward accountability and citizenship.
You have a voice.
You have a voice.
You will have the opportunity to help shape and sustain every part of Sterling College through active participation in shared governance.
Students engage in restorative community, help to create policy, assist in hiring faculty and staff, propose and review new courses, evaluate work program positions, and even choose the coffee we serve in the dining hall. We have three councils that meet weekly:
- Community Council
- Work Council
- Academic Council
Sterling isn’t just a college you attend. You will own your experience here, and leave your mark on this place. Still curious about what shared governance means for you?
What do we mean by EQUITY?
Policies & Guidelines
Before you arrive, please take some time to read through these important policies and guidelines. Links to the relevant pages from our Community Guidebook are below. If you’re interested to print out the complete Community Guidebook, you can click this link.
This information should give you the insight that you need to understand more about Sterling but our Dean of Community, Favor Ellis, is your go-to with any questions or concerns.
Helpful Links & Resources
Engaging fully in the Sterling community is an important part of your education here. Here are some resources to keep you connected to what’s happening at Sterling.
- Community Meeting
- Community Newsletter
- Bulletin Board in Dunbar Hall
- Working Hands. Working Minds – The Sterling Blog
Scroll over the calendar to see planned campus activities!
Tips from our IT department
- Our technology department supports Apple Macintosh computers and all PCs running Microsoft Windows, so you have quite a few choices. We recommend avoiding PCs running Linux or Chrome OS as they are not fully supported at this time. We would also strongly encourage you to purchase reliable antivirus software, such as Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus (2015) or Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2015) if you choose to buy a PC–avoid free antivirus products when possible.
- In terms of software, we primarily use the Google Apps suite (Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, and Drive) which is free to you with your Sterling email account. We would also recommend purchasing a copy of Microsoft Office as it is also widely used and may be required for some of your classes. We do have several computer labs on campus that have Office installed, but you might find it more convenient to have your own copy.
- One final tip: remember that as a student, you are entitled to the academic discount offered my most manufacturers, whether purchasing a computer or software. Most will only require an email address ending in .edu (such as your Sterling email account) for verification.
- Questions? Michael is happy to help!
Your Sterling Email Address
- Your email address = your first initial and last name in lower-case letters @sterlingcollege.edu (ex.bmarley@sterlingcollege.
- Your temporary password will be provided via email directly to you by the Technology Department.
Click here to access and print the complete list!
Why do we work?
Among the most powerful examples of experiential learning is living in community. Together we care for our campus and provide for the College’s needs with the understanding that by working collectively we sustain our community and provide a compelling and meaningful learning experience.
Sterling College is one of 7 Federally-recognized Work Colleges in the United States, the only one based in the Northeast and and the only one fully dedicated to the mission of environmental stewardship. Revolutionary and ahead of their time, Work Colleges have been educating hard-working students while providing a means to empower those students to pay their tuition for over 100 years. The approach of a Work College helps develop critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, decision-making, leadership, professionalism and a quest for lifelong learning.
Our Work Program offers a wide variety of positions in Administration, Campus Care & Stewardship, Craftsbury Community, Farm & Garden, Kitchen-to-Student Services and Instruction. Our Work Advisors and Community Advisors are student leaders who report directly to Deans, Directors and Managers responsible for that particular Work Crew.
Plan Your Trip
Arrival Day for the Fall ’15 Semester: Sunday, August 30th.
Arrival Time: Between 12-4pm
Airport shuttles can be reserved here.
Now, on to the fun part…
Vermont is a pretty special place and if you haven’t been here before, you’re about to find out why. A dynamic combination of old fashioned values and progressive thinking results in down-to-earth people who are working hard and making the world a better place.
Opportunities for outdoor adventure in Vermont are boundless! Skiing, hiking, paddling, biking, climbing, camping and more can be found in every nook and cranny of the state. Here are a few more reasons to be thrilled that you’re on your way into the Green Mountains!
Sterling College is located in a part of Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom. The Kingdom is the most rugged, rural, and beautiful part of the Green Mountain State. We can’t wait to welcome you here!
Need some travel advice? Curious about area attractions?
Meet the Deans
Dean of Academics
Phone: 802-586-7711 x110
Dickson is drawn to alternative education settings, in which students can direct their own learning and benefit from a range of pedagogical approaches. She has taught in diverse settings—from Goddard College and The Putney School, to an outdoor education center, to a service-learning faculty consulting program, to student travel programs in Ghana, Nepal, Israel, New Zealand, and Kazakhstan.
Dean of Community
Phone: 802-586-7711 x127
Connection, authenticity and trust matter; passion, empathy and vision matter. “I am a counselor, a doula, an Auntie, a writer, an explorer of liminal spaces,” Ellis says. “I am interested in moments of choice and transition, and am particularly invested in the use of story as a tool for transformation and connection. I have great faith in the resilience, potential and vision of young people, and believe it is my privilege and responsibility to support the depth of exploration, community and opportunity that is nurtured at Sterling. I am so grateful to tend to the soul of this place as we embody our vision of empathy, generosity, social justice, accountability, abundance and intergenerational connection.”
Health & Wellness
Wellness at Sterling
The Wellness Team ensures a safe, welcoming, and vibrant community by providing services that assist students in identifying, clarifying, and achieving their personal, wellness, and educational goals.
In addition to direct assistance to students, the Wellness Team develops programs that improve the quality of life and learning in our community. Wellness programming promotes and sustains diversity of culture, history, and lifestyle, fosters respect for the campus environment and ecological systems, and facilitates a productive and transformative exchange of ideas.
The Wellness Team offers support to students around issues of stress, transition, general mental health, and crisis response. Acute mental health issues are referred to a licensed psychologist or emergency services, if necessary.
The College Nurse is available during scheduled hours to consult on matters of general, physical, or mental health and to assist with insurance claim forms for accidents.
If a doctor’s examination is required, the Wellness Center staff will assist with appointments and transportation.
Excellent facilities are available in Hardwick, 10 miles from campus, and at Copley Hospital in Morrisville, 20 miles away.
Students with chronic or long-term illness are encouraged to maintain the care of their home practitioner or to establish themselves with a doctor in the community.
The Wellness Team
Sterling is famous for its food.
Seriously! It is. Don’t believe us? Check this out!
Some schools collaborate with farms, but Sterling College actually IS a farm. Much of the food we eat, we grow ourselves. This includes organic vegetables, edible flowers, herbs, chicken, eggs, beef, dairy products, goat and lamb. We can accommodate a very broad range of diets, so you can rest assured that you will be well fed.
The food here isn’t just good. It’s epic. Executive Chef, Simeon Bittman, and his crew take great pride in ensuring that the food we are served is nutritious, local, beautiful and diverse. Actually, eating at Sterling is so incredible that we dedicated an Instagram feed to sharing the experience and publish recipes regularly on the Sterling blog.
The food here will ensure that you are fueled to excel in your academics, your work and your adventures.
Check out the Eat section of the Sterling Blog for more news & recipes from the Kitchen
Safety & Security
One of the benefits of living in such a rural place is that you come to know – and need – your neighbors. This small and caring community is one of Sterling’s greatest resources.
Sterling has no security officers. Since there are no local off-campus law enforcement services, there is no direct monitoring of off-campus criminal activity.
Members of the Sterling community work hard to take care of themselves and each other. Students monitor their residences and shared spaces for cleanliness, safety, appropriate behavior, and uninvited visitors.
Weekly Community Meetings, Community Council, and House Meetings are three forums for discussing security problems and encouraging students to be responsible for the health and safety of their community.
A Sense of Place
It’s a brave act to head out to a new place and, though we want to help make the transition smooth and fun for you, we know that there is a lot more orienting necessary to help you feel at home and ready to dig in. Upon arrival, your first 2 weeks will be spent in something called A Sense of Place.
Thank you so much for applying to Sterling College in Vermont!
Thank you for taking the time to acquaint yourself with this virtual orientation and get to know us better!
Thank you for filling out your Candidate Reply Form and sending your deposit.
Let us know if you have questions and we hope to see you this Fall!