University of Vermont

Office of the President

President's Report to Board of Trustees February_2008 President’s Report
Board of Trustees, February 22, 2008

Chairman Lisman, Vice-Chair Cioffi, trustees, faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends, I want to begin by saying how grateful I am, personally and on behalf of the entire UVM community, to the three trustees who complete their terms of Board service at this meeting. Stirling Winder, it seems to me a very fine thing to serve as a university trustee while still a student, and to do so with such distinction, as you have done, is extraordinary. Without in any way diminishing your fine accomplishment, I should add that, in my experience, distinction among our student trustees has been the rule. Thank you, Stirling. Ray Pecor, a steadfast son of Vermont and an extraordinary business and community leader, has also been an exemplary trustee. Among his extraordinary contributions and quiet legacies is the success with which he pursued philanthropy to support the building of the Dudley H. Davis Student Center. Thank you, Ray. Carl Lisman, the leadership, wisdom, and subtle wit with which you have led the Board played an indispensable role in the attainment of the University’s many recent successes. I could not ask or hope for a better Chair or partner in the work of the last three years. I thank you personally as well as on behalf of the Board and this University for your sterling service.

With the departure of Trustees Lisman and Pecor, there will remain on the Board only four trustees who were in service when I first arrived at UVM—Trustees Frank Cioffi, Rob Cioffi, Martha Heath, and Bob Young. Of that foursome, only three served during the administrations of my predecessors. These trustees can testify as no others to the remarkable transformation of the University. Consider first the array of new programs and initiatives now in place or under way—the launch of an Honors College and the upcoming graduation of its first full cohort; a new Center for Clinical and Translational Science; formation of the School of Engineering; establishment of the University Transportation Center, of the Vermont Advanced Computing Center, and of UVMVentures; creation of a Life Sciences umbrella graduate program, the founding of problem-based learning communities, and implementation of the six-credit diversity requirement—among dozens of programmatic dimensions of the University’s advance. We have enlarged and renovated our facilities to serve UVM community members better and to attract and retain highly qualified students, faculty, and staff. When we look today at the Trinity and Colchester campuses, the Davis Center, the Carrigan Wing of Marsh Life Science, and the res halls at University Heights, we see evidence of our stewardship as well as of our investment in a successful future. Others believe in us too: this winter brought 21,000 strong applicants for undergraduate admission. More than 2,000 Vermonters were among those applicants—only the fourth time UVM has received over 2000 Vermont applications. The pool included 1,800 ALANA applicants, compared to 413 ALANA applications for fall 2000.

Due to the foresight and fiduciary rigor of this Board, we have developed and now use tools essential in supporting and assessing the status and advance of UVM. One prime example, of course, is the Strategic Financial Plan and its collateral Strategic Capital Plan, along with the ranking matrix for prioritizing projects. These tools give us the ability to look beyond the immediate and project to the mid-term and the long-term. Through this and other means, we know that the road will not always be smooth and clear—there are challenges our financial modeling allows us to anticipate and for which we can prepare. This forecasting ability is one of UVM’s many competitive advantages, and it strongly underpins the confidence I hope you share that together we will steer a course that carries us successfully beyond our challenges.

And, as many of you are aware, the challenges are neither new nor new to us. When I returned from leave early in the 2006-2007 academic year, I wrote to the Board that hard choices lay ahead and that we would need discipline and commitment to ensure that our decisions and priorities remained tightly aligned with our vision, mission, and strategic plan. That memo—entitled “The Road Ahead”—foreshadowed the cover memo I wrote for our review at this meeting of the Strategic Financial Plan. I urge the Board and the community to be mindful of the substantial investments in academic quality embedded in that plan. It reflects what I submit is exemplary mission alignment in the expansion of financial aid for students; completion of the commitment to add well over 100 new tenure-track and research faculty; strong, steady investment in competitive and equitable compensation for faculty and staff; and $179 million in capital expenditures focused on the maintenance of the existing physical plant that is so essential not only to our offering a quality educational experience and work environment but also to our remaining competitive in an intensely competitive environment.

Our colleague Dale Jaffe is doing an exceptional job in supporting the ongoing strategic planning effort led by Provost Hughes and the University Planning Council. Dale expressed astonishment to me recently at how strong and pervasive mission alignment is throughout UVM as we review and refine the strategic plan and as we prepare our self-study for the University’s reaccreditation next spring by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Proposed revisions to the Strategic Plan have been under consideration in the Planning Council and will be widely vetted with the campus community this spring. A revised plan, informed by this planning process and community dialogue, will be brought forward by the administration to the Faculty Senate and then to the Board of Trustees, I hope by May.

I now want to provide a quick series of information items and updates for the Board, beginning with items related to UVM’s growing leadership role as the environmental university. John Hughes and I have appointed a Task Force to tie together the discussions that have been ongoing for the past two years—including the work of the Leading by Design Task Force and our consultancy late last spring with the Rocky Mountain Institute—by developing a proposal for a University-wide interdisciplinary agency for research, teaching, and applied problem-solving on the environmental challenges we must meet successfully to ensure the health of our planet. We expect that the Task Force will develop a proposal—in all probability for an environmental matrix center—to bring to the Faculty Senate this spring and, presumably, to the Board of Trustees should the Center receive Senate approval. We expect the new Center to be a key piece in capacity building as we work with our partners in higher education statewide, in state government, and in the private sector through the Vermont Climate Collaborative to address climate change and the development of Vermont’s green economy. I want to commend the exceptional students, led by Samir Doshi and Valerie Esposito, who organized UVM’s effort as part of the Focus the Nation national teach-in on climate change last month: with over 1900 organizations participating, including more than 1,300 colleges and universities, UVM’s week-long programs were widely recognized as among the national leaders, featured—with a UVM photo of Samir and Valerie at the top of the page—in the Christian Science Monitor story on Focus the Nation. UVM was awarded carbon offsets for the week’s activities in recognition of ours being one of the handful of top programs in the nation. We were extremely pleased, moreover, to announce at the Focus the Nation keynote lecture that Gioia Thompson, who has long served as UVM’s environmental coordinator, has accepted an appointment as the director of a new UVM Office of Sustainability. With that office, which will be focused on the sustainability of institutional culture and operations, we are also appointing a President’s Commission on Sustainability, charged with making strategic recommendations in this domain, beginning with the creation of the plan to guide UVM toward climate neutrality as rapidly as feasible. At the same time, we have renamed the UVM Environmental Council, which, under its new moniker as the Environmental Forum, will continue its important work in promoting policies, practices, and operational programs that represent best practice. Yesterday, the University received a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, donated by Central Vermont Public Service; it will be the centerpiece of two research projects with significant implications for Vermont energy and transportation policy, for climate-change mitigation in Vermont, and for saving Vermonters money. The day before, we announced that the Davis Center is the first Gold Leed Certified student union in the nation, and what you will see on the screen throughout the remainder of my remarks is the website that monitors the building’s environmental systems and resource consumption, mirroring the touch-screen monitor downstairs by the entrance to the Main Street tunnel.

I want to commend the web design team and University Communications for the far more attractive, far more navigable, far more flexible, and far more strategic institutional web site redesign that was launched a week ago, on February 12, to thank Karen Meyer and her colleagues in Federal, State, and Community Relations along with the deans and faculty who turned our federal appropriations requests in this tough budget year in Washington into a remarkable success, thanks above all to Senator Patrick Leahy, bringing more than $11 million in direct federal appropriations to Vermont for facilities, research, and programs at UVM, and to thank Fran Carr and all of the staff who support the research enterprise and above all to applaud the faculty, research scientists, staff, and students whose scientific competitiveness, scholarly prowess, creative vitality, and commitment to education and service have in the first half of the 2008 fiscal year put grant and contract awards to date far ahead of last year’s at this time and even well ahead of the pace set in our all-time record year in 2004.

On a sober note, our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire community at Northern Illinois University and especially to the families and friends of the victims. We know, sadly, that no set of measures and systems compatible with the public and open nature of institutions of higher education can prevent tragedies like the ones we have seen over the past year at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, and elsewhere. But we at UVM are constantly working to improve support systems for students at risk that we believe are among the best in the nation; we have well-rehearsed emergency response procedures in place; and we have instituted a state-of-the-art emergency notification system, CatAlert, that delivers email, voicemail, and cell phone text messages to all registered phone numbers and email addresses in an emergency situation. Many thanks are due to Mike Gower, Al Turgeon, Gary Margolis, and David Todd, along with many of their colleagues who have worked to put this important resource in place.

On a personal note, I was deeply touched by the commendation the Board issued to me at the end of the Five-Year Presidential Review. I earnestly hope to make constructive use of what I learned through that process to serve this wonderful community better during my next five years. Behind every achievement for which a University president may be given credit, however, stand legions of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends whose efforts coalesce to serve and advance this institution. I am deeply grateful to this superb Board of Trustees and to a partner who is indispensable in my life and work, Rachel Kahn-Fogel. Thank you all.

In closing, I again, thank Stirling Winder, Ray Pecor, and Carl Lisman for their service. I offer a warm welcome to the trustees who will soon join the Board -- Sam Bain, Jason DePatie, and William Ruprecht -- and my own as well as our collective gratitude to Rob Cioffi, who has agreed to accept and begin another term as trustee. One and all, thank you.

Last modified February 24 2008 06:18 PM