University of Vermont

Office of the President

President's Report to Board of Trustees September 7_2007 President’s Report to Board of Trustees
September 7, 2007

Chairman Lisman, Vice-Chair Cioffi, trustees of the University, emeritus trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends, here, on the threshold of what promises to be a truly remarkable academic year, we have much for which to be thankful. The vital pulse of an energized campus community can be felt throughout this marvelous new facility, the Dudley H. Davis Center, which is already fulfilling the promise we envisioned together years ago—the same pulse experienced by those of us who joined 4,000 other community members in the thrilling Convocation with which we launched the new academic year. This fall, our Honors College greets a diverse entering class, with some 20% of its new members students of color and, in the spring, at the end of its first four years, the Honors College will graduate its first full class. A fourth new residential learning community opened this fall, and we will inaugurate problem-based learning communities at UVM in the spring. Undergraduate and graduate enrollments are at all-time highs, as is doctoral enrollment—and the class of 2011 that just joined the UVM family is the largest in our history and has the highest SAT scores ever recorded by an entering class.

Our rising success and high potential have also attracted extraordinarily talented faculty and staff. Among them is Dr. Frederick Morin, joining us as the Dean of a College of Medicine ranked 7th in the nation this spring in primary care by U. S. News & World Report—welcome Dean Morin! Chris Lucier joins us as Vice President for Enrollment Management in an institution where remarkable gains in the size and quality of applicant pools have put us into two recent front-page stories in the New York Times —welcome Vice President Lucier! And Marcus Diamond, who joins us as Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, will be leading a team that has just taken us handsomely over the top by some $28 million above the goal in our Campaign for the University of Vermont—welcome Vice President Diamond!

There are, as you all know, countless individuals to whom thanks should be offered among our faculty, staff, and students, alumni and friends, community and state leaders, service personnel, student affairs professionals, the deans, department chairs, generous donors—all of whom have worked to build exceptional value at UVM. This value has garnered UVM recognition in the national media and has set the high expectations of UVM that we must continue to meet.

Today, I want especially to recognize and thank this Board, both current members and the emeriti trustees. Your action has led UVM to adopt a collective vision for academic excellence centered in liberal education, health, and the environment, and premised on core values of service, diversity, and social justice. Your decisions have enabled UVM to develop the programs and policies that are milestones on the path of the University’s advance, from the founding of the Honors College to the Sudan divestiture, from our Green Building program to the six-credit diversity requirement and new interdisciplinary graduate programs. With your direction, UVM has developed sound financial planning tools, including the Strategic Financial Plan and its adjunct, the Strategic Capital Plan, designed to guide us all in our work as prudent fiduciaries of the University and as stewards of its excellence. Under your direction, and with your participation, we have also created a new system for prioritizing and phasing capital projects, previewed for Educational Policy and Institutional Resources in July, and today to be introduced to the full Board.

I have every confidence that we can sustain our progress, even in the face of the challenges that lie before us. Some of those challenges are general to higher education—such as the coming national and even sharper regional decline in the college-age population. Other challenges are specific to UVM at this time in its development, including current institutional debt parameters that we must re-visit in view of the objectives of our invest-and-grow strategy.

I want to outline a process in which I would ask the Board to engage with us over the next three months. The steps are designed to provide a clear picture to the Board of the University’s financial status and the implications of both maintaining and adjusting the debt policy in view of salient risk factors. First, immediately after my report, if you will allow, Mr. Chair, we would like to reverse agenda items 6 and 5, moving directly to the presentation of the Strategic Capital Plan ranking process developed in response to the Board’s request for a methodology for ranking and phasing of capital projects. We believe we have developed a methodology that is sound and of significant value to the Board, the administration, and the University community.

Deliberation on the debt policy will be centered at this meeting in the Budget, Finance, and Investment Committee. That deliberative process will continue through the Executive Committee meeting on October 15 as well as through Committee and Board planning for the Board meeting scheduled at the end of November. If this work is then complete from the standpoint of the Board, it should culminate in a debt policy decision in November.

As you know, we have proposed deferring until the November meeting one agenda item originally listed for today: BFI and Board final approval of the Colchester Research Facility renovation. We have done so after extensive consultation with Board leadership, including the chairs of the two mega-committees, and we are confident that deferring final approval will not delay completion of this important project, because planning and permitting are actively in progress. The deferral does, however, allow the Board to deliberate on debt policy issues without effectively exhausting current debt policy limits through its approval of the Colchester project at this meeting.

Later today we will be taking to BFI as essential elements of the debt policy review certain critical elements. These include appropriate benchmarking as well as stress-testing of our financial model. Of course, we will also be responsive to additional requests for information and analysis that BFI or the Executive Committee may convey over the next weeks in order to assist the Board with its deliberations and decision-making.

And so, Mr. Chairman, unless there are immediate questions, here ends the president’s report. Before taking any questions, I do want to thank a number of individuals and groups for their work in supporting the somewhat challenging logistics of the Board’s inaugural meeting in the Dudley H. Davis Center: Allen Josey, Dirk Roderick, and the staff of the Davis Center itself, of course; personnel from Enterprise Technology Services; our Sodexho Dining partners; Leslie Logan; Gary Derr; and above all the steadfast, indefatigable, and indispensable Corinne Thompson, to whom we all owe a round of applause. Thank you, Corinne, and thank you, Mr. Chair.

Last modified September 19 2007 12:24 PM