SVC President Gross to Take Leave for 12 Months with Department of Education

January 6, 2012

Southern Vermont College’s Board of Trustees has announced that SVC’s President Karen Gross has been named as a Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), serving in the Office of the Undersecretary of Education for one year, starting January 17. To enable President Gross to carry out her new duties and serve the DOE, the Board of Trustees has granted her a one-year leave of absence from the College, during which time the College’s Chief Operating Officer, James Beckwith, will serve as Acting President. 

Under the terms of her appointment, President Gross will focus on issues in higher education including increasing student access to college, improved alignment between high school and college, educational affordability, programmatic quality and college completion rates, all topics she has championed at SVC since her arrival in 2006. 

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin commented on the appointment, “I am very pleased that the President of Southern Vermont College has been selected to serve our nation in the Department of Education. Education is one of the most pressing issues of our time at the local, state and national level. I am sure President Gross will reflect well on Vermont and make a great contribution to education in the United States.”

Deborah Wiley, chair of the SVC Board, stated: “President Gross’ appointment to this prestigious position at the DOE is not only a tribute to one person’s deep commitment to student success, but a tribute to the entire SVC community which has effectively implemented initiatives and programs that enable a growing number of students to graduate from college and pursue careers that are needed in the workforce. We are proud that our College president will serve the nation in this important role.”

In speaking about Jim Beckwith’s leadership in President Gross’ absence, Wiley said, “Karen and Jim have known each other for decades and worked closely at SVC for the past four and a half years, sharing a vision for and approach to the College’s noteworthy institutional progress and fiscal stability. Together with an excellent Senior Team, Beckwith will continue SVC’s growth trajectory and commitment to quality, affordable, career-launching education for the College’s 550 students.”

In commenting on her appointment, President Gross stated: “At SVC, we have been working on the very issues that are engaging the Department of Education and our nation. I look forward to sharing what we are doing here at SVC with a larger audience as we reflect on how to improve affordable college access and completion for many worthy Americans.”

Before becoming Southern Vermont College’s eighth president in 2006, Karen Gross was a tenured law professor for more than two decades at New York Law School where she specialized in consumer finance and over-indebtedness. She has served on a variety of governmental committees and task forces and has testified before a wide range of governmental bodies including the Vermont House of Representatives, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. President Gross has also been a consultant for non-governmental organizations. 

President Gross’ board service has included the New England Board of Higher Education, Campus Compact (a national service-learning organization) and The Sage Colleges. She recently completed three years of service on the NCAA Division III Presidents’ Advisory Council and as President of the New England Collegiate Conference.

A prolific author and speaker on such topics as vulnerable student success, financial empowerment education, and asset building in low income communities, Gross is a Phi Beta Kappa cum laude graduate of Smith College and a cum laude graduate of Temple University School of Law, having spent her final year of law school at the University of Chicago.