Sterling College Announces Living & Learning Pods for the Fall Semester

Reopening with health and quality of education in mind


CRAFTSBURY COMMON, VT, June 16, 2020—Sterling College is embracing the attributes that make it unique—small enrollment, rural location, field programs, and professional studies opportunities—and welcoming students back to campus for the Fall Semester under a creative, multifaceted plan that values both the health and welfare of its students and the integrity and quality of the Sterling experience.

Sterling has always offered housing in small residences where students share responsibility and establish their own community norms and cultures. Starting with a summer intensive in mid-August, the College will house students in Living & Learning Pods, creating intentional communities of 7-18 students who are passionate about ecological thinking and action. The fall term will begin in late August. Students will eat, sleep, dine, learn, and work as self-contained units in their areas of study with small teams of dedicated faculty and staff, allowing a “deep dive” into their studies in a low-risk environment.

“The pandemic requires that we adapt, but never compromise on the rigorously experiential nature of our curriculum,” said President Matthew Derr.

With a long-history of running short and semester-long field-based courses around the world in sustainable agriculture, food systems, ecology, environmental humanities, and outdoor education, Sterling is also offering a five-week course in the Nulhegan Basin of Vermont for those students who would prefer to safely take their studies on the road. All campus and field-based programs will follow health and safety best practices as outlined by state and federal authorities and will fully comply with the campus restart policies as required by Vermont governor Phil Scott.

The intensive study of two or more courses for a short period of time –– block scheduling –– has been used by Sterling for decades. This year the College will offer two, five-week blocks per semester. Each block will include two or three interrelated courses specific to a particular Living & Learning Pod. Such scheduling provides opportunity for intensive study and mentorship in a focused curriculum, and will position the College to nimbly respond to the unknowable trajectory of the COVID-19 virus in the months to come. The plan also meets the needs of a wider universe of students—traditional undergraduate, gap year, professional, remote, and continuing education.

“By creating a flexible schedule of highly complementary course blocks and introducing more field trips, longer hands-on projects, and learning integration among the different pods we can reinforce learning and greatly enhance the student and faculty experience,” says Laura Spence, Dean of Academics.


Founded in 1958 in Craftsbury Common, Vermont, Sterling College advances ecological thinking and action through affordable experiential learning, preparing knowledgeable, skilled, and responsible leaders to face the ecological crises caused by unlimited growth and consumption that threatens the future of the planet. Sterling College is home to the School of the New American Farmstead and the Wendell Berry Farming Program, is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education and is one of only nine colleges and universities recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a “Work College.”

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