University of Vermont

Office of the President

President's Report to Board of Trustees May 19 2006 President’s Report to Board of Trustees
May 19, 2006


Chairman Lisman, Vice-Chair Heath, trustees of the University, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends, well over four years have passed since I came with Rachel to attend our first UVM Board of Trustees meeting, as president-elect, in February of 2002. We came up together again in May of that year. (I have to add that she has come to hear every one of my reports to the Board—except our offsite in Manchester—and that without that kind of support throughout my career, the kind you will see this weekend, at the end of which she will have hosted five meals, culminating in a lunch for the honorary degree recipients on Sunday, I am sure I would not be addressing you today as the very lucky president of this wonderful University: thank you, Rachel, from the bottom of my heart!) How astonishing it seems that we are on the threshold of our fifth year at The University of the Green Mountains. Even more astonishing is the rapid ascent of this institution since that time. Here on the verge of UVM’s 202nd Commencement we have risen to a clear vantage point for looking back, for acknowledging some key transitions, and for looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.

There are abundant physical signs of the progress we have made, and since this Board has no time on its schedule for a campus tour, we are providing images of many of the significant campus projects in the PowerPoint on the screens to our left and right. All of the projects surveyed there are aligned with the Campus Master Plan that will come before you for approval at this meeting. And yet far more important than these physical signs of change are those that are programmatic and systemic. Among these I would especially note the creation of the Honors College, the expansion of service-learning programs, the Faculty Senate approval in principle of a Writing-in-the-Disciplines program for which we have now hired a director nationally renowned for her work in this field, the success of the Faculty Senate, beginning in the fall of 2002, as a representative body, the progress made in faculty salaries with raise pools accruing at well over 30% for the six years comprised in the first two full-time faculty contracts with United Academics (which run through June 2008), the strengthening of Staff Council as a shared governance body, the significant progress achieved on a number of fronts in our continuing efforts to create a community supportive of diversity, including record ALANA enrollment levels, the passage last year by this Board of policies protecting students, faculty, and staff from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, and the great milestone of Faculty Senate approval of a six-credit diversity requirement of undergraduate students, the strides made in our effort to surmount the considerable challenge of being recognized as The Environmental University, including measures such as last summer’s promulgation and implementation of the Green Building Policy—with our first green renovation of a historic structure nearing completion right out the windows at my back—and this spring’s campus-wide mandate of recycled paper for copying and printing, the approval in February of interdisciplinary master’s and doctoral programs in Neuroscience (a model for other transdisciplinary programs yet to come, thanks to exceptional foundational work by Fran Carr, David Dummitt, and the deans and faculty in Medicine and Arts and Sciences), the creation of a single School of Engineering within the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, the launching of an ambitious program that will in time bring all undergraduates into residential learning communities, with three of these communities to be in operation this fall and a fourth in active planning for fall 2007, the implementation of new management information systems (the ERP) with the launch of the human resource module of Project Catalyst this spring and the budget module coming on in July, the creation of winning athletic programs that have built school spirit on campus and enthusiasm and recognition for the University throughout Vermont and beyond while, if anything, strengthening UVM’s commitment to the academic success of student athletes, as witness the award to UVM this year of the America East academic cup, the creation of the Dan and Carole Burack President’s Distinguished Lecture Series and of the James Marsh ProfessorsatLarge Program, the continuing validation of the scientific, scholarly, and creative power of the faculty through research awards running well ahead of historic levels, with significant increases in funding for faculty in many colleges and schools (up 147% in the Rubenstein School, 70% in CALS, 68% in Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, and 44% in Arts & Sciences, among others), and our success to date in the Campaign for the University of Vermont, including last month’s pledge by Lenny Miller of a $5 million naming gift for the Center for Holocaust Studies. Wow!

And transcending any single one, or any set, of these marks of change, both the physical and the programmatic, is the rapid change in the standing of The University of Vermont in people’s minds. I mean, for instance, the change in the feeling among students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends that for all of the challenges that lie before us very positive change is under way, with increasing pride in the University and rising confidence in its ability to build sustainable quality and value. I mean the confidence in the University within the State of Vermont, expressed in a variety of ways, including increasing recognition of the importance of the University to the future well-being of the State and particularly its role in Vermont’s educational, social, and economic future. I think especially of the great vote of confidence in the University and in post-secondary education in general signified by a 4% budget increase in this spring’s General Assembly, compounded by an additional $1.67 million to UVM for scholarships for Vermont students, and by $1 million supplemental in funding for research important to Vermont’s future. The scholarship funding to UVM represents one-third of what we hope will be an initial and growing commitment to the young people of Vermont agreed to in the last hours of the legislative session by a visionary governor and an unusual productive and creative General Assembly. Together, these allocations represent an increase of 10.7% to UVM: we are deeply grateful to the members of the General Assembly and to the administration in Montpelier for this extraordinary outcome, unmatched in any previous year, and our hats are off especially to several members of this Board—to Governor Douglas and Martha Heath—and indeed to all of our legislative trustees—for the signal accomplishments of this year’s session. I mean the confidence in UVM that has clearly risen in Washington as well as in Montpelier. Thus, among the awards coming to UVM through sponsored programs are the two largest in the University’s history, the $16.5 million Vermont Genetics Network award from NIH—UVM’s largest ever competitive research award—to Judith Van Houghton and her colleagues at five other colleges in Vermont—a great example of UVM leadership on behalf of the entire State—and the $17 million award through the Department of Transportation, including $16 million for the National University Transportation Center, again with profound thanks to Senator Jeffords and to the persistence and acumen of Karen Meyer and her team in State and Federal Relations. And above all I mean the confidence in the University registered in the response of students to what is happening at UVM: the record retention levels of enrolled undergraduates (88% overall, 89% for ALANA students), the record enrollment of Ph.D. students, up 32% since fall 2002, the record number of undergraduate applications received this year (hats off to Lauck Parke and the whole enrollment management team), with a sharp increase in selectivity (16%) and ACE scores that assess academic qualifications for the cohort of students who have sent in their enrollment deposits for next fall. Is it any wonder that this year we were named a Newsweek/Kaplan “Hot School”?
Credit for all of this goes, of course, to the faculty, staff, students, trustees, alumni, and friends of The University of Vermont. We are immensely grateful to all of them for their ingenuity, creativity, generosity, and commitment to the University and to the values it represents. I want to take special note of an exemplary faculty colleague, Professor Jim Burgmeier, who is stepping down as the long-time chair of the Faculty Senate Curricular Affairs Committee: Jim’s leadership has been essential in organizing and in moving forward the work of the faculty on all of the major curricular and programmatic projects of the University, from Academic Program Review to the Honors College to the Neuroscience Program to the new diversity requirement, and many others, including the easing of barriers to undergraduate study across college and school lines. We owe him a great debt of gratitude, and I should add that without detracting from Jim’s individual contribution it stands at the same time for the centrality of the faculty to the advancement of the University’s academic mission.

There have been a number of notable leadership transitions in the past year—the move of Jill Tarule after thirteen years of deanship in CESS into the role of Associate Provost; Fayneese Miller’s move from Brown University to succeed Jill; Eleanor Miller’s move from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to assume the deanship of the College of Arts and Sciences; Barbara Johnson’s move from Dartmouth to succeed Anna MacDonald as Associate Vice President for Human Resources; and David Todd’s move from the University of San Diego to join UVM as Chief Information Officer. Everyone of these individuals is making impressive contributions to the advance of the University, and we are very grateful for their efforts, as we are to Mara Saule for having so ably held the fort in dual roles as Dean of Libraries and Chief Information Officer for several years leading up to David Todd’s arrival, and to Tom Gustafson for his service this year as Interim Vice President for DAR, on top of his regular duties as Vice President for Student and Campus Life.

Several transitions deserve special mention. First, Willi Coleman is leaving her position as Vice Provost for Multicultural Affairs—and we will of course look to see her position filled with a strong Chief Diversity Officer. Willi’s accomplishments have been extraordinary: among them, UVM’s rich engagement with the NYU Faculty Resource Network, the strengthening of the Henderson Fellow’s Program, and the crowning achievement, passage of the new diversity requirement that will come before the Academic and Student Programs Committee of the Board this afternoon. Thank you, Willi, for your stellar service—please join me in a round of applause for Professor Willi Coleman.

This spring John Evans announced that he is stepping down from the deanship of the College of Medicine. His service to the College and to the University over the course of many years has been in many respects unparalleled, and he leaves the College greatly strengthened through his work as its dean, with memorable accomplishments ranging from the acquisition of the Colchester research campus and the completion of the Education Center to a very successful accreditation process, the launching of the innovative, challenging, and stimulating Vermont Integrated Curriculum for medical students, and the completion of a new affiliation agreement between the University and Fletcher Allen Health Care that greatly reinforced the academic side of the health science center that is so important to both institutions. In addition, John has played a leadership role in the building of UVM’s capacity for entrepreneurship and technology transfer, and we look to him to continue to do so through his board membership with the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies and through continuing application of his intense energy and ingenuity. Thank you, John, for your exceptional service to your College and your University—please join me in a round of applause for Dean John Newton Evans.
I leave for the last of these departures from office the one about which I could say the most, all of it in heartfelt gratitude for John Bramley’s achievements as my closest colleague in the exhilarating project of advancing UVM in partnership with all of you over the course of the last four years. John’s five-and-a-half years as UVM’s chief academic and chief operating officer, first as Ed Colodny’s interim provost and then as our Provost and Senior Vice President, have been years in which this institution has prospered more richly and more rapidly than at any time in its history. Every step forward has had challenges. There have been joys and there have been heartbreaks. There have been crises, like the Redstone Apartments tragedy. There have been great opportunities like the chance to acquire the Trinity Campus. There have been major initiatives and opportunities—the Honors College, the creation of the Strategic Financial Plan, the enrollment management initiatives that are the engine of that plan, the negotiation of the first faculty contracts, the major construction program under way, the big research initiatives like the Transportation Center. At every step of the way, John Bramley has been in the thick of the action. He has been indispensable, there is not a single one of the good things that have happened during John Bramley’s tenure that he has not touched and shaped, more often than not in fundamental and decisive ways, and he has done these deeds—heroic deeds, in my eyes—not simply because of his intelligence and unflagging energy but above all because he combines these necessary qualities with others without which they would surely not have always sufficed: courage, grit, integrity, empathy, compassion, and a resilient and seemingly irrepressible and ready wit and humor. John, we truly love you for who you are as well as for all that you have done for UVM—our gratitude to you and to your wonderful partner Janet cannot be overstated—and I ask that everyone join me in a rousing round of applause in recognition of Andrew John Bramley!

The echoes of departure will fade (but not yet John, you still have 43 days, which we will cherish), and the fanfare of arrival mounts. We are joined today by two new colleagues who will play leading roles in the next phase of the unfolding vision for UVM. William Neidt comes to us as Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations from the University of Colorado Foundation. Bill was an enthusiastic consensus first choice for his new appointment. At UVM, we will look to him to build on an unbroken record of success that has taken him from the University of Kansas to the University of California-Davis, to Colorado, and now, rising to a crescendo, to UVM, where he will lead Development and Alumni Relations through the completion of our current campaign and the planning and execution of the next. He will be a key member of our leadership team. Bill is married to Kyle Neidt, who is here today with him. Bill and Kyle, we are delighted that you are joining us at UVM—and all of us, I know, extend a warm welcome to you and your family. By way of introduction to the community, please stand so that we can recognize you.
Nothing over the course of the last year has preoccupied me and colleagues throughout the UVM family, including this Board, more than the identification and recruitment of a worthy successor to John Bramley in the pivotal role of Provost and Senior Vice President. Today I am pleased to introduce to you the individual who came out of a search process led with great skill by Madeleine Kunin and Betty Rambur as far and away the first choice for this appointment—just approved earlier this morning by the Board of Trustees—John M. Hughes, Professor of Geology, who comes to us from Miami University (Ohio), bringing, as an added bonus, his wife Susan Hughes as a very welcome tenured addition to the Accounting faculty in the School of Business Administration. John, a very distinguished geologist, is an x-ray crystallographer who currently serves as Treasurer of the Mineralogical Society of America. He is a seasoned academic administrator whose work at Miami of Ohio and whose insight, clarity of vision, and profoundly humane disposition have commended him to all of us as the right person at the right time for UVM. John will assume office on July 1, but he is with us today, with Susan, and I ask that they stand to be recognized with a warm Vermont welcome.

The road that lies ahead of us is rich with opportunities and challenges. There are the core challenges of continuing to build strong academic programs, based on strength and quality within the disciplines that will in turn allow us to provide rich and rewarding transdisciplinary experiences in learning and discovery for faculty and staff as well as for undergraduate and graduate students. There is the challenge of fully realizing the promise of the good start we have made in the development of a residential college program. There is the challenge of continuing to make good on our promise—with increasingly high levels of return on investment—to be a powerful contributor to the long-term educational, social, and economic well-being of Vermont. There is the challenge of addressing our facilities needs, including our need for the addition of significant space for instruction and research in the next decade, and the challenge of addressing the backlog of our inheritance of deferred maintenance. There is the challenge of optimizing the assets of the University through cost-containment focused especially on expenditures ancillary to our core mission in teaching, research, and service, through increased success in attracting philanthropic support, grants and contracts, and public funding, and through astute management of the University’s portfolio of investments and debt.

And there is the challenge of realizing the promise of a priceless legacy, the legacy of James Marsh, Justin Morrill, and John Dewey, which is the theme of a draft document John Bramley, John Hughes, and I have been developing, an academic and philosophical vision for the University of Vermont that is designed to stimulate dialogue, above all among the faculty of the University, to help us surmount perhaps the greatest challenge of all. For we believe that to sustain the rising quality and value of the University of Vermont we must not only stay the course with our invest-and-grow strategy but also develop the innovative programmatic richness that will truly set UVM apart. We believe we cannot afford to rest content simply with being another good University with adequate fiscal strength. To pursue our vision of being the nation’s premier small public research University, we are proposing that the University of Vermont blaze a trail for higher education by drawing on the Marsh-Morrill-Dewey tradition native to this campus to create new forms of learning and discovery. We propose that UVM do so through the commitment of our greatest resource, our people, to the application of research-based knowledge to the solution of real-world problems by students, faculty, and staff working together in diverse interdisciplinary teams. By embracing and surmounting this challenge, we believe that UVM can secure its value for Vermont and the world by inspiring and preparing students to become accountable leaders who dedicate to the global community their strong problem-solving, analytic, and communication skills and an ongoing commitment to learning and ethical conduct, demonstrating through and through the power of John Dewey’s dictum: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” Some intensive dialogue with student, faculty, and staff leaders, with the vice presidents, and with the deans and directors lies between us and completion of our draft “thought piece.” As soon as we have completed that process, we will share the product with this Board. I have been informally referring to it as Vision Two or Son of Vision, but it is really simply another chapter in the unfolding of the vision we have embraced together, sharpening and deepening it and, we hope, securing its success.

Finally, I want to close with a warm greeting to our new trustees, John Hilton, Susan Hudson-Wilson (who is unable to be with us today), and student trustee Stirling Winder. You are joining the Board at an unusually exciting and pivotal juncture in the history of the University, and I know we are all grateful that you will be engaged with us in the stimulating, challenging, and rewarding work that lies ahead. Mr. Chairman if there is time for questions, I will be glad to take any that members of the Board may have. Thank you.

Last modified May 22 2006 04:09 PM