University of Vermont

Office of the President

President's Report to Board of Trustees May 20 2005

President’s Report
Board of Trustees, May 20, 2005

Chairman Lisman, Vice-Chair Heath, trustees of the University, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends, by any measure it has been an extraordinary year for the University of Vermont. I believe we will look back on 2004-2005 as a watershed for UVM, a period in which the University decisively ramped up successful execution and implementation of the vision we have forged together over the course of the last three years. I want to call your attention to some of the highlights of the year, but first I want to offer heartfelt thanks to a few of the many individuals without whom the progress we have made would not have been possible, beginning with the Board itself, which, as I remarked in February, has been working as a highly effective high-performance work team.

I cannot fully express my admiration for, and debt of gratitude to, our extraordinary senior leadership team, to John Bramley above all and to a wonderful group of vice presidents—Fran Bazluke, Fran Carr, Ian deGroot, Michael Gower, Tom Gustafson, Karen Meyer, and Lauck Parke—as well as to Gary Derr, who serves both me and John as chief of staff. Our deans, too, have provided extraordinary leadership this year. I could go on at considerable length about each one of them, but this morning I want to single out just one. If our search for her successor is successful, this will be the last Board of Trustees meeting in her current role for Dean Jill Mattuck Tarule, who, with thirteen years in the deanship of the College of Education and Social Services, is our longest serving dean. Dean Tarule has led by example in so many realms, through her own distinguished and influential scholarship, her commitment to children and families through education and social services, and her passion for the University’s engagement as an agency of progress and social justice. I would like to ask her to stand and be recognized.

These notes of appreciation would be woefully incomplete were I not to acknowledge three groups who are indispensable to the well-being and success of the University of Vermont. First, we are blessed to have one rising generation after another of gifted and engaging students who come to the University bent on the great adventure of self-formation and who consistently challenge us to provide them with experiences that will prepare them for leadership aimed at the betterment of the human community. Their high aspirations, engagement, and talent find expression in myriad ways. For example, students have been the most effective advocates for a new student union, and their advocacy culminated this spring in the groundbreaking for the Dudley H. Davis Center. Similarly, students working closely with faculty and staff allies have led the educational campaign that we trust will culminate in Board action tomorrow to add gender identity and expression to the classes protected in the University’s equal opportunity policies. And it is above all our students’ active commitment to service to others that has led the Princeton Review to feature UVM in a book to be published next month: Colleges with a Conscience: 81 Great Schools with Outstanding Community Involvement.

Second, we are also blessed to have unusually talented and dedicated staff throughout the University of Vermont. Their creativity, their sacrifice, and their tireless efforts underlie and have been indispensable in many of the milestones the attainment of which we celebrate today. Let me offer just a few examples. Without our wonderful staff, we would not stand where we stand today, well into the most sweeping and strategic program of building in modern times and perhaps in the history of the institution. Without the extraordinary effort of staff members in the Office of Admissions, throughout the Division of Student and Campus Life, and in every college and school in the University, we would not be enjoying unprecedented success in building student enrollment. And without unstinting and innovative staff effort, we would not have developed a strategic financial plan that is blazing the trail for higher education nationwide.

Third, we are blessed to have at the University of Vermont a faculty distinguished by an astonishing range of interests, passions, talents, and even genius, and characterized by unusual loyalty to the institution and devotion to the students who are the very raison d’être of our enterprise. The year began with the election of one of our very distinguished newly retired colleagues, Bernd Heinrich, to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and it is closing now with the election to the Academy of another eminent emeritus, Raoul Hilberg. I was very moved this spring to see my colleague in English, Huck Gutman, with whom I had the privilege of teaching last fall, welcomed into the elite circle of Kidder Award Winners, UVM’s highest accolade for extraordinary teachers in the great Vermont tradition. Faculty leaders like Lynne Bond, Tom Hudspeth, and Chris Koliba have spear-headed the University’s vital, intensifying commitment to service-learning. Faculty leaders like Alan Wertheimer and Don Loeb have poured the creative energy of lifetimes of teaching and scholarship into curricular innovations like the interdisciplinary first-year Honors College seminar on “Making Ethical Choices: Personal, Public, and Professional.” Faculty leaders like Michael Gurdon and Jim Bergmeier have led their colleagues in Faculty Senate processes essential to the programmatic advances we are making on many fronts, from the Integrated Environmental Program to the launch of UVM’s effort to create a transformational Writing-in-the-Disciplines program. And faculty leaders like Robert Costanza, Stephanie Kaza, Bruce Parker, Donna Rizzo, and Mary Watzin in environmental science and policy and like Mark Bouton, Mary Cushman, Charles Irvine, Kenneth Mann, Paula Tracy, and David Warshaw in biomedical sciences and health have put UVM in the national and international vanguard of these priority areas. The faculty are the heart, soul, and indeed the very lifeblood of the University.

In addition to faculty, staff, and students, the advance of the University of Vermont has been supported by countless alumni and friends in the community. I am not speaking simply or even principally of the wonderful generosity that has been bestowed on UVM through the Campaign for the University of Vermont. Locally, we have benefited greatly from the counsel, partnership, and leadership of Mayor Peter Clavelle and his colleagues in Burlington; from close collaboration with City Council President Jim Condos and his colleagues in South Burlington; and from increasingly close and mutually beneficial relationships with the towns of Winooski and Colchester. We are also deeply indebted to members of the General Assembly of Vermont and to Governor Douglas and his administration for their support of the University and of post-secondary education in Vermont. On the federal level, we have enjoyed extraordinary support through the leadership of Senators Leahy and Jeffords and of Congressmen Sanders. Today, moreover, UVM is the beneficiary of abundant good will from the citizens of this great state, who have increasingly embraced UVM as Vermont’s University. We are deeply appreciative of the value with which their support invests the University of Vermont.

Finally, if I may take a point of personal privilege, I want to recognize the unstinting efforts on behalf of the University of Vermont of my indispensable life partner, Ra-chel Kahn-Fogel. Whatever I have contributed to the success the University is currently enjoying would not have been possible without her unwavering support and love, her un-flagging energy, and her astute and penetrating judgment.

I hope I have made it abundantly clear in these acknowledgments that the items I am about to list as milestones of this watershed year for UVM are not personal but, rather, collective achievements that belong to all of us, trustees and alumni, staff and students, faculty and friends, and the people of our State. What a remarkable year! Consider the following admittedly only partial list of landmark achievements:

  • Successful rallying of the entire campus community to create a pervasive enrollment management culture focused on the recruitment and retention of students, culminating in the largest applicant pool in UVM history, with enrollment deposits running more than 400 students ahead of where they stood last year, and with measurable increases at the same time in key quality indicators and in diversity
  • Successful opening last fall (with a well documented national impact) of the new University of Vermont Honors College
  • Ongoing curricular innovations that add value and enhance quality, including: Faculty Senate approval of a writing-in-the-disciplines initiative, with the search now under way for a senior professor to direct the program; development and approval of ten new interdisciplinary honors seminars for second-year Honors College students; implementation of the new Integrated Environmental Science program; and Faculty Senate approval of a system for certification of service-learning course sections that allows for their identification as such in course registration materials
  • Ongoing graduate program expansion and innovation under way, including record doctoral enrollment and interdisciplinary program initiatives in areas such as neurosciences, materials sciences, and computer science, all of which are supported by an expanding, federally supported effort to build high-performance research computing capacity in the form of the Vermont Advanced Computing Center, which just received an additional grant of $750,000 from NASA
  • Successful implementation of Hyperion Strategic Finance as the vehicle for monitoring, for reporting on, and, as necessary and appropriate, for modifying the Strategic Financial Plan—a project just featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education as on the cutting edge of higher education financial strategic planning
  • Development with the Board of a sophisticated debt management policy and the securing of strong financial ratings from both Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s
  • Successful ongoing advancement of the University’s Comprehensive Campaign, which now stands at a little over $190 million, 76% of the $250 million goal (with some large additional gifts just in the offing)
  • Ongoing progress in our building and renovation program, including the move-in of Geology and the Perkins Museum to Delahanty Hall, of the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies to Farrell Hall, and of advance units of the College of Education and Social Services to Mann Hall (all on the Trinity Campus); the completion of the Gutterson Parking Garage and of phase one of the Living & Learning Center renovation; completion and opening of the new Admissions Visitors Center; ongoing construction of the University Heights Residence Halls and the Marsh Life Science Addition; groundbreaking for the Dudley H. Davis Center; and hiring of the construction manager for the Wing-Davis-Wilkes renovation
  • Completion of a first draft of the Information Technology Master Plan and near-completion of a Campus Facilities Master Plan slated for distribution to the Board well in advance of a hoped-for Board approval in August
  • A fully revamped employee classification system largely implemented and on track to be completed by the end of the current fiscal year
  • Implementation of more efficient, cost-effective, and facilitative business practices, administrative processes, campus services, and facilities operations and maintenance
  • Success in advancing the University’s agenda and positioning with respect both to State and Federal governments, including a likely appropriations increase of around 3% in the current Vermont General Assembly, and a 20% increase in direct federal appropriations to the University, to a record $8.9 million
  • Extraordinary success in intercollegiate athletics, both competitively and in terms of the quality, visibility, and strategic management of our program
  • Attainment of a markedly higher national profile for UVM in numerous national media stories

We must also acknowledge that not everything that happened this year was positive. On January 30th, the tragic death of one young man and the injury of several other individuals occurred at Redstone Apartments due to an accidental carbon monoxide leak. Response to the tragedy was swift and effective, and all involved distinguished themselves. While no one will ever forget what happened, good sometimes emerges from tragedy. This is certainly true in the case of the legislation signed by Governor Douglas requiring the presence of carbon monoxide detection equipment in buildings where people sleep. This important legislation will serve as a shield to protect current and future generations from similar tragedies.

In October, we had an ugly incident on campus after the Red Sox-Yankees series, where several hundred students occupied the Redstone Green. Some engaged in destructive behavior that damaged property. While we were able to identify and sanction a small number of those involved in some minor misbehavior, those responsible for the major damage were not identified due largely to our unsuccessful attempts to procure videotape footage of the incident from the television media. We would have taken strong action against those involved had we had sufficient evidence. Fortunately, owing to some proactive planning, the conclusion of the World Series occurred without any problems whatso-ever on campus.

All and all, when we look back on the 2004-2005 academic year, we will, I’m convinced, see a broad canvas vivid with many bold and clear signs that the carefully managed invest-and-grow strategy embraced by this University and this Board has paid high dividends in rapidly turning our vision of intellectual vitality and academic excellence into a new reality. As president, I ask that you join me in pledging that we will not repeat the errors of complacency into which UVM fell at a similar moment in the late 1980s. Together, we must continue to build on our recent successes and on our current momentum with a high sense of urgency and vigilance and with a deep, shared commitment to continuing on the course we have set of focused investment in quality. I will be happy to take any questions, Mr. Chairman, if we have time.

Last modified May 24 2005 07:05 PM