Mara Saule, Dean of Libraries, told me yesterday that last Friday Bailey-Howe Library had more than 7,000 visitors. This gives you a sense of what UVM students are up to at this time of year: they are studying—or perhaps hunting for their friends who are studying in Bailey-Howe. In any event, if the number of CAS students who stopped into the library is proportional to their numbers in the student body, then more than half of those students were from the College. Around the same time I ran into Professor Saule, I had occasion to walk by the Flu Clinic that UVM has set up in the basement of Ira Allen Chapel. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lot of activity there, too. We know that our students are also engaged in the myriad extra-curricular activities available at UVM and that they spend a fair amount of time just “hanging out,” but the point I am trying to make is that I have a real sense that UVM, its faculty and students, are accommodating well to the uptick in flu and that the campus climate is one that is more than anything else characterized by serious scholarly engagement.
The evidence of a culture of student scholarship that comes across my desk or through my computer everyday overwhelmingly supports this conclusion. For example, I recently took a break during an especially busy day to have a cup of tea and skim the latest issue of The UVM History Review (V 19, May 2009).* This student publication, sponsored by the Department of History and UVM’s Phi Alpha Theta Chapter, Alpha Alpha Psi, and supervised by Associate Professor Sean Field, is an amazing compendium of original student research and book reviews. I would dare to say that the quality of some of the articles is as high as in some mid-tier professional journals in the field.
In this electronic communication our focus is far afield of history. However, my keen sense that the student culture supports dedicated engagement in academic work at every corner of the university remains. As you may know, we have been working our way through a focus on each of the physical sciences within the College of Arts and Sciences with each issue of the CAS E-News. Having begun with the Departments of Biology and Chemistry, we turn our attention in this issue to the Department of Physics. The increase in student quality that has accompanied the Fogel plan to “invest and grow” has had a dramatic, but perhaps predictable, impact on enrollment in the sciences at UVM, which means that many more of our students are studying physics (and perhaps less predictably clamoring for more seats in studio art and music courses). At the same time, the Department of Physics has gained recognition for the quality of its graduate programs, and the research productivity of the faculty in physics and materials science is impressive. The relatively new Chair of the Department, Professor Dennis Clougherty, has prepared an informative overview of the Department for this issue. I hope it communicates the sense of dedication to serious scholarship that I observed above permeates the campus, but also a bit of the joy that students and faculty experience in their work. The treatment of a recent day-long event to honor a distinguished former member of the Department, Dr. Wesley Nyborg, might also give you a clue about why student interest in physical science goes hand-in-hand with student interest in the arts: engaged minds range widely. Thus that celebration of scientific achievement was topped off by a wonderful performance of works by Chopin, which Dr. Nyborg’s students and colleagues knew he would enjoy. I do hope you enjoy this brief overview of UVM’s Department of Physics.
*For subscription or purchase information, please contact Kathy B. Carolin (Kathy.firstname.lastname@example.org)