Beyond UVM: Living in Vermont

by Becky Hayes
With 57 percent of Vermont students attending college out of their home state, it’s no surprise state officials are working hard to change Vermont’s image.
But why are so many young people leaving the state and not returning?
The unemployment rate in Vermont is under 5 percent, well below the national average of over 7 percent. Yet, the total number of 20- to 34-year-olds in Vermont has shrunk to just 18 percent of the total population.
In other words, the overall population in the state has increased, but there are 25,000 fewer 20- to 34-year-olds living in Vermont than in 1990, according to data from the US Census Bureau.
Since speculation can offer no real answers, two successful UVM grads offered to share why they chose to stay in Vermont and what attracts them to live here.
 
Name: Bryan Picard
Job title: Environmental Coordinator at Stowe Mountain Resort
Graduated UVM in 2005
Originally from: Manville, Rhode Island
Q: Why did you choose to go to UVM?
A: I chose to go to UVM for a variety of reasons. I was accepted as an engineering student and loved the campus after visiting a friend who was a year older. I really liked the size of Burlington and the proximity to the lake. I was an avid snowboarder (now telemark skier), so I was obviously drawn to Stowe for the mountain and the snowfall. My parents also influenced my decision making process by trying to limit my college choice to the East Coast. I am honestly a New Englander and didn’t really want to leave the East anyway.
Q: What made you stay in Vermont after college?
A: After spending four years in Vermont I was already becoming attached to the Green Mountain State. After my freshman year I changed majors and transferred to the School Of Natural Resources and focused on Private Recreation Management. This major required an internship during my junior year which I completed in Lift Operations at Stowe Mountain Resort. I then got the taste of a free season pass and became a snowboard instructor the following year. I now had my ‘foot in the door’ at the resort and decided to stick around for a summer on the trail crew. That summer led to a winter of making snow and patrolling. After seeing the resort during all four beautiful seasons and gaining experience in the ski industry, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere.   
Q: What do you love about Vermont?
A: I ‘love’ Vermont for many reasons; whether they seem cliché or not is up to you. I cherish the four distinct seasons (or is it six including mud and stick season?). The thought of the hot dry summers out West is not appealing at all to me. I enjoy the amount of rainfall we receive and the associated lush and green conditions we have here at times. Even though the young, distinct, sharp, rugged look of the Tetons is something to be seen, I appreciate the soft rolling old mountains of Vermont. The fresh water coming off these hills offer great swimming holes and beautiful waterfalls. I really enjoy the hometown feel that Vermont offers. Between passing tractors on winding dirt roads, antique sales in someone’s old barn, to the quaint country stores that pepper the landscape it all feels really ‘real’ to me. Some of this country’s cities and destinations feel so derived and forced; the authenticity is wrung out of these locations.    
Q: What do you do on a typical work day?
A: The best part about my job is that no day is typical/routine. Some days I am sitting in my cubicle typing reports, sending emails, and pushing paperwork; other days I am out on a four-wheeler unplugging culverts or spreading seed and mulch. Some days I am in a collared shirt meeting with state or federal inspectors while other days I am in full rain gear scrambling down stream banks to collect water samples. One of the service techniques the company focuses on is ‘Flipping the Switch,’ which means showing up to work ready to serve with a positive attitude. This service standard is easy to achieve during my commute to work when I catch multiple glimpses of Mount Mansfield looming over the valley knowing that is where I work and play.
Q: What would you suggest to high school students as they prepare for college in terms of finding a career?
A: My parents were always very adamant that I carry a part time job throughout middle and high school. This not only gave me a little bit of spending money it also gave me chance to realize what I enjoyed and/or hated about different jobs. Any type of school aged job is important for you to get accustomed to having a boss, dealing with responsibilities and earning something for yourself. Not many people have it ‘figured out’ by senior year of high school.  It is important to pick a college with a wide variety of majors knowing that there is a good chance you will change your focus at some point. Networking and asking questions throughout the process is very important. Trying different activities and exposing yourself to as much as possible will help you during the decision making process.
Q: What is something interesting about yourself?
A: I love cats and have three of them. The only other sport I really follow is Mixed Martial Arts, and have trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on and off over the years.
 
Name: Jeremy Oclatis
Job title: Brand Account Manager at Fuse Marketing 
Graduated from UVM in 2008
Originally from: Rhinebeck, New York
Q: Why did you choose to go to UVM?
A: I chose UVM originally because of the outdoor recreational management program. Initially I was just very interested in getting into the ski community beyond just being in Vermont and the mountains. The outdoor rec program was one of the few programs I could find in the northeast that gave me an opportunity to pursue a career in that field. It was a really great experience and I think through my work in that, I came to the conclusion that the ski industry really wasn't for me. It was just a little bit too isolating and I couldn't see myself working with just one entity so much. 
Q: What made you stay in Vermont after college?
A: Toward the end of my UVM career, actually a week before graduation, I started an internship here at Fuse. I worked part time for a year and a half and then transitioned to full time. I’ve had a chance to work in the brand strategy department and then started working as a paid employee in the events department, which extended for a little over three years before I came back to the brand strategy side of things. It was a nice transition back and allowed me to get experience with a lot of different brands and types of work. 
The events department allowed me to travel the country shortly after graduating, managing events for various brands all over the country. So that was a really cool experience, being able to see everything else that was out there. For most of it, I was going to cool places like skate parks and ski resorts and really getting to see other parts of the country that I was interested in. 
I think one thing that really came through all those experiences was I was always excited to come back to Vermont. I found things were still lacking that Vermont could provide and really nowhere else could. I think it came down to the ‘less is more’ philosophy, like seeing billboards in places, but not Vermont.
Q: What do you love about Vermont?
A: Really just the little things. Bike paths being a regular part of city living and I think the closeness to so many awesome natural resources like parks, ski resorts, mountain bike trails and that kind of stuff has always paid a really important part in my life. I definitely think the quality of living has a lot to do with why I stayed in Vermont as well. That extends beyond just the air quality being better here, but in Burlington, the sense of community is really positive. 
On a micro and macro level, being that I love Fuse and the community of people I work with here, it’s very supportive. Beyond that, I think the Burlington community as a whole is a great place to be a part of. Going to things like Brew Fest, Fourth of July fireworks, concerts on the water, all those things make me feel at home and proud to be in Burlington and a Vermonter.
Q: Did your studies at UVM help you become successful at Fuse?
A: A lot of the things that motivated me and made me gravitate toward the outdoor recreation and management program are some things that helped me be successful at Fuse. I think the program itself being rooted in the natural resources school; I definitely haven't needed to know the basal area or any sort of details on flora and fauna in my career at Fuse, so there is definitely some lack of crossover there. 
Yet, overall I think that the recreation program gave me a diverse enough selection of classes and experiences that I was able to apply a lot of that to my work here. I think any career that students will find right out of college, there will always be a degree of learning on the fly. Sometimes that’s more than you might of expected. 
Q: What would you suggest to high school students as they prepare for college in terms of finding a career?
A: The first step was just taking my aspirations and things that really motivated me and putting them toward a career path was probably the first step that helped me in identifying that I want to work at ski resort and I’m going to figure out how to make that happen. I think finding something that motivated me and made me passionate about the work I was doing and matching that up with the kind of work I wanted to do was the key to success. 
I think a lot of times, kids take one of the two approaches. They find something they’re good at, but aren't necessarily doing it in an environment or setting that they enjoy; or they find something that they are really passionate about and they will take any job in and around that thing, but it’s not necessarily the thing they want to be doing. I think finding that balance of what you're good at and what you want to do professionally and taking your personal interests and motivations and finding where they meet for me has been the key to success. I found a career path that’s been satisfying and makes me want to get up and come to work in the morning. When it comes down to it, that’s the most important part.
Q: What is something interesting about yourself?
A: I love hiking Camel’s Hump with my dog.