Dan Smith: President of Vermont Technical College

At the age of 39, Dan Smith has already run for mayor of Burlington as an independent, skied competitively in Colorado, worked at law offices in Montpelier and Burlington, and been board chair of Mobius, the Mentoring Movement. On top of that, today he is the president of Vermont Technical College.

After finishing school in Virginia in 2002, Smith returned to his home state with degrees in both law and history, and a defining career objective: to be useful to his community.

Born and raised in Middlesex, Vermont, Smith is an eighth-generation Vermonter with deep political roots-- his father was a one-time congressman, and his grandfather was a Vermont state senator.

When Smith isn’t at the office, he can often be found outdoors, hiking, backcountry skiing, or biking in the Vermont countryside.

Q: What made you decide to return to Vermont after college?

A: I returned to Vermont after finishing law school at the University of Virginia in 2002. I had lived in Virginia, Colorado and California by that time and I knew that Vermont always carried a much deeper sense of community for me. My roots were here, going back eight generations, and it was a place I wanted to be.

Q: You graduated with both a law and history degree. What were your career goals after graduating?

A: The only defining objective of my career has been the hope that I am useful to my community.

Q: How have they changed?

A: They haven’t.

Q: What are the biggest challenges/crises you have faced in your career?

A: Running for mayor of Burlington as an independent, in 2009 was a challenge, but I am proud of the race we ran and believe that we had a healthy impact on the trajectory of the city and its view of the downtown.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: Vermont. Hiking the Long Trail, riding my bike along Monkton Ridge, or skiing on Mt Mansfield. 

In terms of career, I’ve never thought more than a couple years out, and I’ve been fortunate to have a diverse set of opportunities that allowed me to try and be useful to the community.

Q: What do you like most about your current job?

A: I am surrounded by people who are completely committed to the success of our students and the transformative nature of the education that occurs at Vermont Tech. Here, you learn how to do things that will have an impact on the biggest challenges the state and region face. Things like renewable energy, agriculture and food systems, sustainable design and construction management, entrepreneurship, engineering technology and computer information systems-- each of them are part of the Vermont Tech education.

Q: What is the most valuable thing you learned during your career?

A: Be honest. Work hard. Be useful to those around you.

Q: What advice would you give to young people wishing to enter the workforce?

A: Trying to be good at the things which are hard to do is never a wasted exercise. Math, science, communicating well, thinking critically and being willing to take a risk. The state needs more people who have those skills.

 

Bullet Questions:

Favorite Vermont escape?

The chin of Mt. Mansfield, or the back porch at camp.

Favorite band?

Josh Panda and the Hot Damned

Favorite app?

Strava

Favorite Web site?

www.vtc.edu

Favorite part of job?

The students.

Most inspiring mentor?

This is probably the hardest question you have asked. I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my life that smart people have given me good advice and mentoring. Craig Thorn, a high school teacher. Ken Squier, for whom I worked at WDEV when I was 18. Duane Wells, a Montpelier building contractor and close friend. Jim Morse, the Judge for whom I clerked.

Favorite downtime activity?

Backcountry skiing. All seasons being equal, my favorite thing to do is to get out with one or two friends and hike to an unknown spot where we can find untracked snow with nothing but the sound of the wind and the woods.