President Plumb’s first month: creating a vision for St. Michael’s

By Hannah Bennett | Staff Writer |

Richard Plumb, the 18th president of St.Michael’s College, has officially been in office for a month. “The welcome has been so, so warm… people seem to be happy I’m here and it felt very comfortable,” Plumb said. The former president of Saint Mary’s College in California started Jan. 1, after a national search process. This process took multiple months and many different interactions between staff, faculty, the board of trustees and students. Plumb moved to Vermont towards the end of December and his wife plans to join him this summer.

      After he was offered and accepted the position, President Plumb set up calls with members of the community to understand the current state of the college. He also attributes the preparation of search committee to how smooth the transition has been for him. Integrating into the community is one of the things Plumb is hoping to achieve. He said it is important for him at this point to talk with students, staff and faculty to understand their vision for the college.  

     When Plumb looks towards the future he has many milestones. “I am looking at 6 months, one year,  and six years. What is the college in 2030? Sounds like a long ways away, [but it is] only 6 years away. That is going to go very quickly,” Plumb said. He said he wants to talk with students, staff, faculty, and the board of trustees to create a shared vision for the college. 

     His three main targets are enrollment, institutional advancement, and marketing. He wants both the incoming first-year student numbers to increase as well as the 79.1 percent retention rate to increase. In the past, the College had a retention rate over 90 percent, though the past few years it has been dropping. At Saint Mary’s College, Plumb increased first-year enrollment by 23 percent, and is hoping to do the same here. The the class of 2026 marked the lowest first-year enrollment numbers in recent history consisteing of 294 students. 

     Plumb is also focusing on institutional advancement, in fundraising, meetings with donors and advancing St. Michael’s to the future. In a previous interview with the Defender, Plumb said he raised $40 million for Saint Mary’s College. 

     And lastly, marketing needs to be done for our “‘hidden gem’ that shouldn’t be so hidden,’” Plumb said in a previous interview with Vermont’s WPTZ. In addition Plumb said he wants input from students on how to tell the story of the College. “I would like to hear from students on what drew them to Saint Michael’s. I want to hear those stories and be able to repeat them when I’m speaking outside the college.” 

     In the future, Plumb hopes for the Student Government Organization and his cabinet to meet and see what they can collaborate on in regards to the wellbeing of the students, and being able to tell the stories of the college today. This is something Plumb said he has done at his previous institutions and worked well.

      Plumb can usually be spotted at the gym, and has been known to introduce himself to students. Alexandra Baez-Rentas, ’27, was one of those students who has had that interaction with the president. “He came up to my friends and I and said hello… and said he was the president,” Baez-Rentas said. 

     In the future Plumb is planning on having students join him for dinner. 

     Until Mrs. Plumb joins him, he said he will be spending time in Alliot in hopes of meeting students. President Plumb’s wife, Mary, will be coming to visit in February. The two plan to invite students to join them at 6 p.m. on Feb. 16 in Alliot. He said they want students to join them, pull up a chair and get to know them personally. 

     With every new president comes changes. At this point, it is not clear how visible these changes will be. Plumb said the past two institutions he worked at were public and things such as their salaries were in the newspaper. He vows to the faculty to be as transparent as possible about anything and everything that he can. 

     Nick Wracker, ’26, a member of the Men’s Ice Hockey team and Secretary of Finance in Student Government, hopes that the college will return to its former glory with student involvement. “I hope to see St. Michael’s returned to its pre-covid state, where students did more and were more engaged,” Wracker said. “Saint Mikes can be whatever you want it to be.” 

     Dawn Ellinwood the vice president of student affairs/dean of students shares a vision of improving St. Michael’s College and is hoping to see “…an increased sense of vibrancy here,” among other things.  

     After the pandemic, Ellinwood said many students became less involved in extracurriculars and less engaged in campus life. She wants to see the creation of a vision in the next 6 months, something similarly aligned to that of the President. Six years from now Ellinwood is hoping to see bigger changes as well. “Strong and consistent enrollment, being able to adapt to the needs of students, and making sure we are where we need to be within the needs of society,” Ellinwood said. The college is looking at enrollment trends in majors and minors and looking for a demand in the future of different careers in labor statistics. Ellinwood and Plumb stated the college may create new majors and minors based on this as well as the demand for the programs, but any changes may take time to develop. 

      In the time of college costs being so inflated, finances have become a determining factor for incoming first-year students. Ellinwood said that making finances less of a factor is important.   

     “We want Saint Mikes to be more than just affordable…We want students to have life altering experiences here…College is about making those meaningful connections that last lifetimes,” Ellinwood said.