Southern Vermont College President Karen Gross will step down in October, to take a government position in Washington, D.C. (Banner file)
Southern Vermont College President Karen Gross will step down in October, to take a government position in Washington, D.C. (Banner file)

BENNINGTON -- The president of Southern Vermont College announced on Monday that she will be stepping down on Oct. 1 in order to take a government position in Washington, D.C.

Karen Gross, who has served as president for the past eight years, spent 2012 in Washington, D.C., working as a senior policy advisor for the Department of Education. She told the Banner that when she returns to the nation's capitol this fall it is unclear in what position she will serve, and that she is being considered for and exploring multiple positions in multiple organizations.

"I will miss the SVC community as I return to Washington to serve our nation and improve educational opportunity for all students across the educational pipeline, continuing the work I did previously at the Department of Education," Gross said. "SVC will always be with me and our work together will inform all that I do in the future."

Although she is unsure of what her specific duties will be, Gross did say that, "I will be working on the issues I've worked on before." Among those issues are ensuring college accessibility for veterans and high-risk students.

The college's board of directors has already formed a search committee to begin the process of hiring a new president. That process will involve hiring an outside search firm to aid in the endeavor. A new president is expected to be named this fall.


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"On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire SVC community, we extend our heartfelt thanks to Karen for her passionate leadership," said chairwoman Deborah Wiley, "She leaves the College in excellent fiscal shape, with innovative programs in place, remarkable faculty and staff, and growing student success in terms of retention and graduation rates."

When Gross returned to SVC in January 2013, she was fulfilling a promise she had made to return to the institution. In addition, Gross said that she wanted to make sure the college was on, "exactly the right trajectory moving forward."

"The college is in the best shape it's been in since I got here," said Gross, "When opportunity knocked again, this seemed like the optimal time to make the change. I have seen the creation of a student-centered institution that is clear in its mission to find ways for students to not only access, but complete a four-year education. The entire institution is rowing together toward the same ends."

She added, "Southern Vermont College is proof positive that small in size does not equate to small in vision or accomplishments. I am proud of all that SVC has achieved over the past eight years. I am proud to have been the leader of a thriving institution that is so student-centered and deeply committed to student success."

Gross also said that the college had been fiscally stable, with a balanced budget, for each of the past seven years, during what she described as a time of national economic instability. During her tenure, she said, the college has hired staff, grown infrastructure, added sports, and grown the endowment and level of donations.

"Without fiscal stability, it's hard to make positive change," said Gross, "It had enabled us to be bold and creative in the ways we look at higher education."

Gross said that she has grown both as a person and as a leader during her time at SVC. "I'm deeply appreciative to the board, and the faculty, staff, and students, who have allowed me to learn about academic success," she said. "I hope I have lead well, but I have learned a lot about leading from my experiences here, and for that I'm deeply grateful."

Gross also said her position as president of the liberal arts college allowed her many opportunities to speak publicly about leadership, and especially women in leadership. "I also hope I've paid it forward to other prospective leaders in higher education," she said.

Gross said that one of the most important achievements the college made during her time as president was expanding its presence within the community. "SVC has become a better partner with the community," she said, "Success in higher education in the coming decades will require increased partnership. I think we have become vastly more connected. People recognize our name and see the value of having a college in the community. That vision hatched eight years ago has borne fruit."

Among the many things she'll miss about SVC is her interaction with students.

"I'm moved by the growth that I see in our students," said Gross, "Seeing them transformed while in college is deeply gratifying, and convinces me that the next generation will be in good hands."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB