University of Vermont

Office of the President

President's Report to Board of Trustees President’s Report
Board of Trustees, February, 2010

Chairman Boyce, trustees, faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends, good morning. I begin this report with renewed optimism that we are making great progress in our quest to be, and be known as, a premier small research university. That so many of the vital signs of our University appear to be strong should not, however, diminish our focus on continuing to build academic quality and distinction. Nor should we allow ourselves to become overconfident in our predictions or to overlook or undervalue indicators that do not confirm favorable assumptions and projections. For example, applications for undergraduate admission are running about even with last year’s record and registrations for admitted student visits are up, but, with the volatile economy, we are less certain that we can maintain—let alone build—the value equation for students whose families are under financial stress while the cost of education continues to rise. As another example, our results in grants and contracts and in fund-raising have been hearteningly robust in the first half of the fiscal year, with grants for research, education, and service (bolstered by federal stimulus dollars) running ahead of last year’s record pace and with cash receipts of gifts to UVM coming in at levels that make it possible FY 2010 will be an extraordinary year in total voluntary support despite the recession. Yet we have staked the future of our research enterprise on an initiative to build spires of excellence through a transdisciplinary initiative the outcome of which will only be determined over the course of time. Similarly, our development programs will build the long-term fiscal strength required to support academic distinction and the quality of the student experience at UVM only if we greatly improve our fund-raising capacity and, even more importantly, collaboratively create an inspiring vision of what this institution can become with the benefit of continuing and enhanced philanthropic support—a  vision capable of moving our alumni and friends to levels of giving that will rival those of our most successful peer institutions.

We can only meet these major challenges through the collective investment of the energy, creativity, and devotion of members of every sector of the University family—students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, this Board. I am personally mindful of the debts owed to so many for bringing us to the point where UVM has been recognized for notable success in so many ways— such as being listed by U. S. News & World Report this year as one of the top ten up-and-coming national universities in America. My appreciation of our faculty—for the work they do every day in classrooms and laboratories, in hospitals and schools, in social service agencies, on farms, and in communities throughout Vermont and the world—has been raised to even higher levels by their work, both individually and collectively through the Faculty Senate, in developing the General Education and Transdisciplinary Research initiatives that we all hope will receive formal Board endorsement in May. Our outstanding professional staff and our bright, committed students were deeply engaged with the faculty and administration in the collective work of institutional reflection and self-assessment that produced a superb Self-Study as the basis for the continuing accreditation we received two weeks ago from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; the NEASC report is highly affirmative of the progress we have made in the last decade and of the major academic initiatives currently under way. Our alumni, parents and friends, supported by dedicated alumni and parent leadership, are also key partners in the University’s advance. I am grateful as well to our deans and vice presidents for their effective leadership and to Interim Provost Knodell for being such a wise and capable partner in guiding UVM. And, of course, this Board has been indispensable to the success we have had to date. The NEASC report rightly recognizes that the labor of building the University over time is the work of many hands, commending UVM for (and I quote), “achieving an appropriate level of administrative stability, supported by deliberate actions of the governing board, that have allowed the institution to develop a sustained agenda in support of its mission and aspirations. In recent years the University leadership, faculty, and staff have succeeded in facing significant challenges . . . with a focused mission, the ability to plan and execute, and the capacity to attract strong students and retain good faculty” (close quote).

In acknowledging this Board, I want especially to express heartfelt thanks to three trustees who are leaving the Board after this meeting, Jim Betts, Jason DePatie, and John Snow, all of whom have made outstanding contributions during their years of service. I join Chairman Boyce in welcoming two new colleagues who will join the Board on March 1, David Daigle and Dale Rocheleau. Mr. Boyce, I also wish to express for us all profound gratitude for the wisdom, fortitude, and selfless devotion you have exemplified throughout your service to date, including your chairing of the Board.

At this meeting, in addition to reports on General Education and the Transdisciplinary Research Initiative, we will have the opportunity to discuss our pilot dashboard indicators; consider the annual review of the Strategic Financial Plan; be updated on the status of the budget for the current year and for FY 2011; review and approve capital projects; and receive important reports on diversity, the research enterprise, and the University’s net assets. The net assets discussion deals in part with year-end carry-over funds reappropriated to the academic units for one-time uses such as start-up packages for new faculty. Although reappropriation may seem at first blush a merely technical budgetary matter, Jane Knodell, Domenico Grasso, and I are intent on seeing our major academic projects—including General Education and the Transdisciplinary Research Initiative—come together in an integrated academic strategic plan that will require close partnership between the deans and the Provost on faculty hiring and, in order to ensure strategic alignment, advance approval by the Provost of the deans’ detailed plans for spending reappropriated funds. I will complete my report shortly, and once I have done so, I would like to ask, Ian, if you would call on Jane Knodell to address briefly the critical matter of tying resource allocation to the academic strategic plan.

Before concluding, however, I wish to inform the Board that we have begun an intensive process of assessing with deans and vice presidents the long-term aspirations and initiatives that we will begin to weave this spring into the first rough-draft case statement for the next comprehensive campaign. Campaign planning will undoubtedly intensify in close consultation with the Board even as we continue discussion of the possible establishment of a foundation to support philanthropy for the benefit of the University. Ian, I will be glad to respond to questions trustees may have on the matters I have addressed or any other matters of strategic importance to the University. Thank you.

Last modified February 05 2010 08:52 AM