By Stephen Seitz
RUTLAND—Castleton College is in the second quarter of its 10-year plan to expand both its student body and its course offerings.
Former Stafford Tech director Lyle Jepson recently joined Castleton as the dean of entrepreneurial programs. He outlined what that means and some of the college’s plans on the PEG-TV program “Insight,” hosted by Rutland Herald news editor Alan Keays and Mountain Times editor and co-publisher Polly Lynn.
Jepson said that with the economy improving, the city is the place to be.
“It’s a 10-year plan for growth and expansion for the future generation of what the college is going to be,” he said. “Part of that is being more actively involved in the Rutland region community. There are lots of reasons for doing that, primarily that there are lots of cool things going on right now, particularly in Rutland City. The economy is springing back, and as part of that, we’d like to see more students involved in downtown and in downtown businesses.”
That, he said, means more internship programs.
“It would be wonderful to have more paid and unpaid internships at local businesses,” he said, “both supporting the businesses, but also supporting the goals of the students. It’s not entirely philanthropic. If we realize we have something more to market to our students, it allows for another marketing tool for students to come to the college.”
Jepson said that Castleton wants to increase its student body from the current 2,000 students to 2,500, but that there isn’t much more room to build on the actual campus.
“So the discussion is what we can do in the Rutland downtown, programing-wise,” he said. “We either need to become more aggressive about getting more Vermonters, or we need to look to a different market. There are a couple of ways to do that. We’re rolling out more master’s degree programs, so we’re adding another year for students, potentially, to come and learn more. We’re also looking at the international market. We’ve hired a couple of folks to work on that. They’re traveling . . . particularly to China, Korea, and Europe. You may see a different look on campus in the future.”
“How does a physical presence downtown help you to achieve those goals?” Lynn asked.
“It’s driving traffic, and it’s creating relationships,” Jepson replied. “It’s amazing how people just come in. It’s beginning to cause people to ask questions, have curiosity and ask us what are we doing, and that’s helping us focus.”
Keays wanted to know if Castleton intends to expand downtown in light of the city’s recent decision to cancel the lease agreement for the downtown parking pit at Center and Wales Streets. The Herald owns the property and has been leasing it for the past 40 years to the city.
Jepson said there are no expansion plans there, so far as he is aware.
“There was discussion about the pit, and I didn’t know much about what was going on with the pit,” he said. “I wanted to go find out. It’s important to us that the pit be maintained. We’d love to have it look good.”
Keays asked Jepson precisely what he does as dean of entrepreneurial programs. Jepson said the job is developing as he goes. He’s held the position for about nine months.
“We’re finding our way,” he said. “I would like to think that, five years from now, we’d have a process that will support aspiring entrepreneurs so that when you hit the ready button, they will have someone who can hold their hand through a process that will get them from their great idea to a business that is flourishing.”
Part of doing that, he said, is to work with existing economic development agencies and organizations.
“Insight” runs on PEG Channel 21 Mondays at 6 p.m., Wednesdays at 10 a.m., Thursday at 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 9 p.m. Viewers can also see the complete program anytime at the “Video on Demand” page and search for “Insight with Lyle Jepson” on www.pegtv.com.