A conversation with Dr. Shannon Brooks, CEO of George Wythe College
by Scott Boyle
(Editor’s note: Scott Boyle recently had a conversation with Dr. Shannon Brooks, who is leading the effort to build a campus of George Wythe College in Monticello. The following is a transcript.)
Scott Boyle: What has been the reaction from the people – students, faculty, other employees, parents at George Wythe – to the moving-to-Monticello announcement?
Dr. Brooks: We have, of course, been building George Wythe College in Cedar City almost from its inception, so it was natural for most people to assume that the college would continue to grow in Cedar.
What is important to understand is that we are building on a multiple campus model. As we are beginning to build this campus in Monticello, we are expanding in Cedar as well as exploring options for a campus in Alberta, Canada.
Most people I have talked to are very excited about a campus in Monticello, especially the students, who have communicated very strongly that they see Monticello as the perfect location to focus on their studies without interruption and distractions.
For those who are skeptical, I have found the solution to be as simple as a visit to Monticello and the campus site. All agree that the small town hospitality and the unbelievable natural surroundings will help us fulfill the mission of George Wythe College better than anywhere else that we know of.
Boyle: How many employees does George Wythe College have at this time?
Brooks: Our faculty of 23 is utilized in three different programs namely; On-campus studies, Distance Studies and Extension Studies. The administration employs eight full time and four part time employees.
Boyle: How many of those employees do you think will relocate to Monticello?
Brooks: Rather than viewing this as a move to Monticello, it should be seen as an expansion into another location ideal for a George Wythe College Campus. Although Monticello has great potential to be the central campus in the future, right now George Wythe College in Cedar City is logically the central location and will remain so for some time into the future.
Having said that, it follows that a number of faculty will relocate to Monticello. The administration will likely send over a few key people but for the most part the balance will be supported by folks already living in San Juan County.
Boyle: I see at least two new signs on the property near Monticello. What has been happening since the announcement?
Brooks: We have broken the development of the Monticello campus into a number of phases. Phase One, which consists of accessing the interior of the property with roads and other infrastructure, beginning the preliminaries site studies and making the property accessible to the public, is now in motion. We have pushed in about three miles of road and have made other improvements to existing features.
Phase Two is the actual site prep and beginning the first funding segment of the overall $400 million project. This funding will obviously not happen overnight which is why construction is scheduled to be carried out over a significant period of time.
Boyle: I wonder about the availability of housing for those who come to Monticello. Is that a problem at this point?
Brooks: I have done a little research here in Monticello and discovered that there are a number of people who are willing to rent rooms to students until On-campus student housing could be arranged.
Boyle: How exactly does one go about moving an entire College 350 miles?
Brooks: Slowly. We will likely offer classes in Monticello by fall 2009 for a small group of students and build that student body over a period of several years until it is large enough to fill the new campus.
Boyle: What will be happening the rest of this year?
Brooks: Mostly behind the scenes site studies, architectural work and the like. We are excited about holding our annual faculty and staff retreat right here in Monticello in August.
Boyle: When do you start building?
Brooks: It is mostly a function of funding, but I anticipate campus construction to begin no later that Spring of 2010.
Boyle: When the fall of 2012 comes around, how much of the campus do you plan to have ready for the fall classes?
Brooks: We are following a modified model Thomas Jefferson’s “Academical Village” which means a series of independent colleges boasting no more than 50,000 square feet each to host no more that 150 students each. The University will eventually consist of 10 to 12 colleges. We will have at least one college completed by fall 2012.
Boyle: What stumbling blocks have you encountered so far?
Brooks: Everything has pretty much gone according to plan. The potential concern is funding. We are a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization which means that all donations are tax-deductible. We are open to donations from anyone who sees a George Wythe College campus in Monticello as a good thing. However, the lack of full project funding only has the potential of slowing us down, it will not stop the building of this campus.
Boyle: What is a brief timeline of your activities between now and 2012?
Brooks: I hope to begin a series of informative seminars and lectures this fall in Monticello. A number of these events will offer credit towards a degree at George Wythe College. We will simply continue preparations that we can until the funding is available to begin construction.
Boyle: Is the dirt road on the east side of the property going to be the main entrance to the college?
Brooks: Yes. This will be George Wythe University Blvd.
Boyle: What are your personal thoughts about relocating to Monticello?
Brooks: My wife Julia and I love this area and are really looking forward to moving here. My whole family loves the outdoors and we are really very excited.
Boyle: How have you been received in town to this point?
Brooks: Monticello has opened her arms and received us very warmly.