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School For International Training To Eliminate Brattleboro Program And Cut Staff

Flags in the School for International Training dining hall, pictured here in February 2017.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
VPR File
Flags in the School for International Training dining hall, pictured here in February 2017. The school has announced it will eliminate its Brattleboro program.

TheSchool for International Training will be slashing staff at its campus in Brattleboro.

SIT opened in 1964 and was one of the first schools to stress international learning with a focus on overseas travel and study.

But with more competition, as well as a steady drop in the number of people applying to the program, the school announced it will be shutting down the Brattleboro program, and offering studies at 30 other sites around the world.

"We are changing the way that we're going to be offering our graduate degree program," says board of trustees member Jenny Backus. "Like all grad schools there's been diminishing enrollment numbers over the years. And this will have an unfortunate short term impact on some jobs in our Brattleboro campus."

A spokeswoman for SIT says up to 26 people will be laid off over the next nine months.

The students who are on campus will finish their studies, she says, but no additional students will be admitted to the Vermont campus.

In a press release SIT president Sophie Howlett said the school will be reducing its physical size and staff in Brattleboro.

“This was a very difficult decision," Howlett said. "But SIT is and always has been student-centered. Our focus must be on the students and how we can best position them for success in a challenging and rapidly changing world. Our new model does that. Innovation is a hallmark of SIT, and expanding our global footprint will allow us to continue innovating for years to come.”

The school says along with expanding its international programs,  SIT expects to move over to more online learning, and part-time instruction with the staff remaining in Brattleboro.

Backus is the granddaughter of the school's founder Jack Wallace and she says the school expects to retain the sprawling campus even though students will no longer be living there.

She says the school is talking with legislators and economic development officials from Windham County about bringing other partners onto the property.

"The board is committed to the campus. It's a very important part of our DNA as an organization," Backus says. "We want to maintain and keep the graduate school open. And we think this is a way to utilize our global campuses, keep the school open and based in Vermont, while giving our students a chance to go out in to the world and receive a graduate education that no one else is offering right now."

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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