Elaine Collins, the president of Northern Vermont University, is stepping down from her post in mid-August, the Vermont State Colleges said Monday.
The next day, the state colleges system announced that John W. Mills, a former college president at Paul Smith’s College in New York, was named interim president, effective in August.
In a statement, Collins said, “With NVU’s future bright, the time is right for me to pursue new challenges. Building Northern Vermont University — with the dedicated faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members — is one of the proudest accomplishments of my career.”
Vermont State Colleges trustee Chair Lynn Dickinson said he accepted Collins’s resignation “with great sadness.” The board is scheduled to have a special meeting Tuesday to consider an interim appointment to take over when Collins departs.
“Her tenure at the Vermont State Colleges System is noted for her work to achieve national recognition for Northern Vermont University’s campuses and programs, for her leadership during the unification of Lyndon State College and Johnson State College into Northern Vermont University, and for her strategic, visionary approach to leading,” Dickinson said in a statement.
Collins’s tenure in the state college system has coincided with some of the most tumultuous years for the northern campuses.
She first came to the Vermont State Colleges System in 2015 to take a job as the president of Johnson State College, and then oversaw the merger of Johnson and Lyndon into the newly christened Northern Vermont University. Last spring, then-Chancellor Jeb Spaulding proposed closing the two-campus college as the system reeled from the pandemic’s financial blow.
Spaulding’s plan was ultimately shelved and he resigned, but the state colleges are now embarking on a new overhaul that will see Northern Vermont University, Castleton University and Vermont Technical College all consolidated into one entity. The plan would maintain the present campuses, but system leaders anticipate a unified school, with a single administrative leadership team, will come online July 1, 2023.
Dan Daley, an associate professor of mathematics at NVU-Lyndon and the Lyndon faculty assembly chair, said he wasn’t entirely surprised that Collins had decided to seek new opportunities elsewhere.
“I think we kind of expected that there’d be a lot of transition in the system. We’re used to it. We can handle it. We’re very resilient,” he said.
Greg Petrics, an associate professor of mathematics at NVU-Johnson and the chapter chair of the faculty federation for the campus, called Collins an incredible leader whose institutional knowledge would be acutely missed as the school underwent yet another transformation. He also credited her for bringing significant federal grant dollars into the school to help support teaching and learning.
Collins “brought so much to the job, and enabled us to do our best work. It’s sad to see her go,” he said.
Collins was a finalist for a job in Lansing, Mich., in 2020, although the role ultimately went to another candidate. She came to Vermont from Michigan, where she was dean and chief operating officer of the College of Education at Grand Valley State University in Allendale.
In addition to 10 years at the upstate New York school, Mills served two years as president at Mount Aloysius College in Pennsylvania. He also served as provost at both institutions.
“We look forward to helping him build on the solid groundwork laid by President Collins to enhance and strengthen Northern Vermont University as an economic anchor in the Northeast Kingdom and in Lamoille County,” said chancellor Sophie Zdatny. “With his strong background in economic development, community engagement, and his recognition of the imperative link higher education plays to advancing the economic wellbeing of individuals, we are confident he will be at home in his new role at NVU.”