From an early age, James Nye was inspired to pursue a college education. The Addison County native watched his mom persevere for 16 years to earn her associate degree while working full-time and raising two kids by herself. But James’s journey got off to a rocky start. He attended UVM briefly, but it didn’t work out, so instead he found a job at IBM. “After about a year I went, ‘I don’t want to do this. I need to go back to school.’”

This time, he chose CCV, where his approach to education changed dramatically. “When I first started [college], I was kind of like ‘I don’t want to stand out, I just kind of want to sink back in the back of the classroom, be another number, skirt by…’ I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” At CCV he took advantage of the opportunity to explore a variety of subjects. “I had the change in mentality of ‘you know what, I’m gonna take an active role in my education. I’m gonna raise my hand in class…I’m gonna participate.’ And I found that I got so much more out of my college education as soon as I took an active role in it.” Ultimately, “that’s where I found direction,” he says of his time at CCV.

After graduating from CCV in 2003 with a degree in network administration, he continued his education at Marlboro College, completing both a bachelor’s degree in IT management and a dual master’s in IT and teaching. Today, he is a network/switch engineer at FirstLight, the telecommunications company formerly known as Sovernet, where he’s worked for the past 17 years. “I think every single course I’ve taken I apply to my professional career,” he says. “There’s just so much that I learned at CCV that was eye-opening and very useful.”

As a high school student, James had been encouraged to pursue teaching, but couldn’t imagine himself doing it (a history teacher told him, “ ‘you’re gonna make a great teacher one day.’ I thought, ‘I don’t want anything to do with people like me, I’m a cut-up in class.’”) But after finishing his own education, he grew curious about what it might be like to teach at a place where he’d gone to school himself. And so these days, in addition to his full-time job and family life—he and his wife are expecting their second child this summer—he’s also a CCV faculty member, a role that he has held for more than a decade.

“There’s a rewarding aspect to [teaching],” he says. “I still have students I taught over ten years ago that still keep in contact with me and say ‘I got here because of the information you gave me’…There have been times when I need to step back [from teaching] and then I get students give me that feedback and it’s like no, I need to keep doing this because I want to make sure I make a difference, and help students get to that point.” He’s been teaching at least one class almost every semester, often two or three. He also serves as a member of CCV’s technology curriculum committee and as an evaluator for the Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) class, which helps students earn college credit for knowledge they’ve gained in the workplace or other non-classroom setting. “Being able to do something like that and provide that to students I think is invaluable,” he says of APL.

One of the most important lessons James is paying forward comes from his own experience. “Once I became invested in my education, a lot of my instructors became invested in my education,” he says of his time as a CCV student. “It was a different experience, one that I did not expect and that I am very grateful for.”

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