University of Vermont

Office of the President

Acting President's Report to Board of Trustees September 8 2006 Acting President A. John Bramley's
Report to Board of Trustees
September 8, 2006

Thank you Carl for your very kind remarks this morning.

I am honored to have the opportunity to make a few comments in a circumstance that I never anticipated. I thank the Board for their faith in me and I thank my colleagues for all their help and support. Not surprisingly I find myself reflecting not just on the last couple of months but collectively on my years at UVM. I have said before that this is a remarkable place, sometimes challenging and difficult, but with a community able to rise to those challenges and be resilient. Even in the last couple of months there are many unsung heroes. The faculty, staff and students who responded to the tragic events in Essex and supported and counseled members of our community affected by them. The team work that brought a great class right on target here to the University. The many who worked to get all our residence halls and facilities ready for opening, especially University Heights, Wing/Davis/Wilks and Harris/Millis Dining hall. The numerous members of the community who were out there in yellow t-shirts making this the best move in ever. The staff across the institution working long hours to make the complex Peoplesoft transition as smooth as possible.

UVM is enjoying a period of unparalleled ascendancy and success. While there are many reasons for this a primary driver has been a paradigm shift in our thinking about the institution and our potential. There is a growing understanding that only if the institution thrives can we individually thrive. I believe the willingness to work for and celebrate our collective success and progress is key to our continued progress.

Let me clarify what I am talking about by illustrating how we thought and spoke about UVM “Then,” and how I believe we are increasingly thinking, talking and acting “Now.” Make no mistake, we have more to do, and shedding our old skin for one better able to weather, and thrive in, our new environment will at times be uncomfortable. But we are on the right path. I hear changes in our language over that last 5 years that reflect a cultural shift. Consider some of the contrasts between “then and “now”

Then Now
Defensiveness Pride
Cost Value
Good enough Expect excellence
Live with scarce resources Create new Resources
Be all things to all people Focus on what we do well
What is best for me What is best for us
Process Leadership
Do the safe thing Do the right thing
Spectate Take ownership

Remember the road trips with the family, hearing the kids ask, “Are we there yet?” Well, the answer is no, we are not there yet, but we are well on our way.

As I look towards the new academic year I see three areas that I believe should engage the attention of our community and this Board.

Firstly, we should seek to be academically distinctive as well as distinguished. Last year the university academic leadership engaged in some rich discussions about an academic vision seeking to combine the best of our heritage, the opportunities of a small research university and exciting contemporary ideas about learning communities. Building upon that work must be a major focus for the upcoming year. The University of Vermont and Vermont itself has shaped U.S. higher education in the past and it can do so again.

Secondly we must create a facilities, space and deferred maintenance plan that recognizes the challenges of very limited, though appreciated, state capital support, moderates tuition increases, maintains competitive compensation while incurring fiscally responsible amounts of debt. We need to recognize that there are things that we must do and things that we cannot do. The risk is in trying to do everything for everyone because we will lose our opportunity to be both distinguished and distinctive. The plan will need to integrate revenue generation and expenditure controls, with innovative and entrepreneurial partnerships. It will not be easy but the work is underway and will be a major focus for discussion at the November board meeting.

Finally while our drive towards academic excellence has created great support inside and outside the state it has also created anxiety. We need to effectively communicate to Vermonters our role as the flagship university and its critical importance for the future success of the state, its people and its economy. Our quest for excellence does not leave Vermont behind but rather strengthens its future. This University cannot serve Vermonters by relying on the resources available in the state. We have to compete successfully on the national stage and only in so doing provide access and affordability for Vermont students and to help drive Vermont’s economic growth and job creation. We are truly Vermont’s University and our success can mean nothing but good things for Vermont.

The University faces many challenges. We will work tirelessly but we may not be able to overcome them all. As I step down from my administrative responsibilities here (again) I urge us to focus on the continuing road to success, always asking the question: How will this decision make UVM a better, stronger, more viable place?

Again thank you for your confidence in me and I wish all of you, and our University, every future success.

Last modified September 13 2006 08:00 PM