Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Over the past weekend, a bit over 2000 students arrived on campus along with a major hurricane. If you have been following in the national press, you would be forgiven for thinking the entire state of Vermont was now underwater. In reality, the state suffered severe flooding with extensive damage to property and public infrastructure in many locations, especially in the southern part of the state or along the east side of the mountains. Three to eleven inches of rain in a single day will do that. The nearby Winooski River crested several feet higher than previous records, surpassing last spring’s flooding or the legendary November floods of 1927. In contrast, Saint Michael’s College remained high and dry, and classes opened right on schedule.

A special welcome was given to the new Class of 2015, all 587 first year students. They came from 25 states and nine countries. Vermonters constitute 17% of the class, but 83% come from away. About 27% come from pretty far away, at least from outside of New England. Since many first year students arrive with no declared major, and many more typically change their majors after they have been here a while, it is hard to say how many students will be joining the Political Science Department. We can say that the top three majors are business, biology and psychology, but political science has always held its own among the more popular programs.

Combining all classes, first year through senior, the Political Science Department boasts 97 majors and 15 minors, but these numbers frequently change. Treat them as approximations. Of course many more students will take political science courses to satisfy liberal studies requirements, or just as electives. Seven political science students are studying abroad this semester, as is one member of the Political Science Department—Professor Siplon is in Jordan on a Fulbright Grant.

So the semester is off to a good start, with only some bumps in the road. Or in whatever roads are still open. Implementing a new curriculum is always a challenge (see the very first post on this blog) but all will be well enough, if only we could all remember the new course schedule.

As for the state of Vermont, there is a lot of rebuilding to do—roads, bridges and buildings need to be replaced. In time all that is gone or damaged will be replaced and great floods of Hurricane Irene will pass into local legend.

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