University of Vermont

Office of the President

Faculty_Staff Forums

President Daniel Mark Fogel's Remarks
at Faculty/Staff Open Forums, Spring 2004

Sponsored by the Faculty Senate, March 31 and April 1, 2004

Thank you, Michael [Faculty Senate President Michael Gurdon]. Provost Bramley and I are grateful to the Faculty Senate for arranging the two forums we’re holding this week on the vision for UVM. The forums provide opportunities for John Bramley and me to listen to your concerns, suggestions, questions, and critiques, and to respond. We’ll keep our responses brief, and the same goes for these opening remarks, so that your voices can take center stage.

Let me be clear on a key point from the outset: faculty and staff must be deeply engaged participants in shaping and implementing the future of the University. The faculty are the custodians of our academic values and plans: it is the faculty, with the indispensable support of talented and dedicated staff, who do the central work of the University in curriculum development, teaching, research, scholarship, creative activity, and outreach.

Up till now we have concentrated on some very limited elements of the vision for the University of Vermont, focusing (in large part because these were agenda items I had to press, for everyone’s benefit, with the Board of Trustees) on the facilities developments we need to succeed and on the enrollment management plan which is the only plausible engine to drive our pursuit of excellence over the course of the next ten years. But the most critical, most central, and most important dimensions of the vision remain to be shaped and defined—and your voices are essential to that process.
I mean the academic vision for the University. I mean a process of inquiry that the faculty must lead into core questions: How will we define and develop innovative liberal arts programs for the new century? What is the full range of implications for our work together—for our teaching, research and scholarship, outreach, and institutional practices—of our drive to be the environmental university? What will our niche areas be within the vast domain of the health, life, and biomedical sciences? How, with our strategic focus on environment and health, will we ensure the continuing vitality of the arts and humanities, and the social and physical sciences, at UVM, particularly when they do not intersect (as they sometimes do, but often do not) with our focal themes? We hope to engage such key questions, in open and full dialogue with our staff, students, and alumni, and above all with the faculty, over the coming months and years.

I’m going to take no more than ten minutes to comment on the vision and to give you a capsule of the analysis that supports it. Let’s begin by being clear about ends and means. The ends we’re working toward are all about academic quality as expressed in the vision statement in UVM’s Strategic Plan:

To be the nation's premier small public research university, preeminent in liberal education and the study of the environment and health, and dedicated to providing students with extraordinary opportunities for learning and personal development and to enhancing the cultural, social, and economic life of Vermont, the nation and the world.

Every word in that statement is important. It expresses our identity as a research institution, dedicated to the life of the mind and the advancement of knowledge; our aspiration to be the best of our type, the nation’s premier small public research university; our commitment to preeminence through focus, in pursuit of excellence, on liberal education, the environment, and health; our dedication to the intellectual and personal development of our students; and our determination to make a difference by contributing to the betterment of the world through all of our activities in teaching and learning, research and discovery, service and outreach,

Let’s never confuse the ends for which we are working with the means. There are multiple means: building financial strength for UVM so that we can take good care of our classrooms, laboratories, and other facilities and build new ones to create an environment in which all of us, faculty, students, and staff can succeed; so that we can provide scholarship support for students, building a diverse, talented student body with ample access for students from low and middle-income backgrounds; and so that we can be competitive in the support we offer to talented faculty and staff. Without financial strength and excellent facilities we can’t achieve our goals, but current operating dollars, a growing endowment, well-maintained buildings complemented by essential new facilities, and a carefully managed plan of enrollment growth are all means to ends—they are not the ends in themselves. Though we necessarily concentrate a great deal of energy and re-sources on creating, maintaining, and executing the means, it’s not about numbers of students, or bricks-and-mortar projects, or fund-raising milestones—it’s about value and values—academic values at the core—for which we all are working.

The simple fact is that the value and values we are seeking to affirm, maintain, and enhance require very significant investment: in renovating aging buildings, in creating new facilities, in adding millions of dollars every year to faculty and staff compensation, in keeping our technology up to date, in providing financial aid to students, and in enhancing the quality of the student experience at UVM. Making these investments will require millions of incremental dollars every year—in the models that we’ve been creating and testing out with specialist higher education consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers, we currently project that the annual revenues of UVM will never grow less than $14 million in each of the next nine years, and in some years the annual growth will be around $30 million. There will be multiple sources of this revenue growth, including increased annual giving and increasing spendable earnings on endowment; increased state appropriations (generally though, not much more than $1 million more per year); in-creased direct and indirect revenues from grants and contracts; and above all increased net tuition revenues. In fact, the latter source, steadily increasing net tuition revenue, driven primarily by carefully managed enrollment growth and only secondarily augmented by restrained annual increases in tuition, is indispensable as by far the largest single source of the unrestricted dollars essential to the health and vitality of the institution.

The good news is that, thanks to the quality built over decades by outstanding faculty and staff, we are confident we can be one of the very few colleges and universities nationwide to be pursuing robust and rapid advances, with growing budgets, improved support for faculty, staff, and students, and greatly enhanced facilities. While other institutions are hunkered down, trying to hold on to their current positions, or to retrench and contract in an orderly way, we will be in a vital growth mode guided by a clear vision of academic excellence. There is no bad news to go with this, but there are a number of challenges that must be met if we are to succeed fully.

To build on our wonderful student body by attracting larger, more talented, and more diverse cohorts of students, we must all recognize that putting our best energies into recruiting, teaching, mentoring, advising, and supporting our students with extraordinary levels of care and engagement is essential to the success of the University and is, to put it baldly, an imperative as much under the aegis of institutional self-interest as under that of the ethical obligations we have as persons devoted to the formation of rising generations.

To build on our immensely talented faculty and staff as we build the quality of our student body, the distinction of our research, scholarship, and creative activity, the quality of our campus environment, and the competitiveness of salaries, we must stretch fearlessly to recruit and develop colleagues who in the quality of their teaching and scholarship surpass us and the cohorts with whom we came of age.

To build to our strengths by creating and sustaining excellent, innovative pro-grams in undergraduate liberal education and in interdisciplinary undergraduate, graduate and professional programs with emphasis on environmental, health, and biological sciences and policy, we must be at once deliberative, collaborative, and daring in forging sustainable departures from the academic status quo.

The greatest challenge is one of will, commitment, and courage. To realize the potential advance that lies within our grasp, we must have the will to coalesce around a shared vision, the commitment to invest boldly, and the courage to go beyond investing just dollars, bringing to the undertaking generous provisions of time, energy, intelligence, and imagination. We are confident that we can succeed, but we know that we will not have a prayer of doing so without the wholehearted efforts of talented staff and distinguished faculty, and that, above all, is why your voices are essential to shaping the vision and to driving it forward, and why, in turn, we welcome occasions like the forum today.

Michael . . .

— Daniel Mark Fogel

Last modified April 18 2004 06:10 PM