A. John Bramley Remarks
Firstly, let me add my words of welcome to this convocation, this gathering together of the community to mark the beginning of the 205th academic year of the University of Vermont. For some of you this is your first academic year while others (hopefully mainly the staff and faculty) have experienced many years at the Institution. I am confident that this will be another memorable year for the University at a time when our star is ascending.
This University is undergoing exciting change as the vision, developed three years ago by President Fogel, increasingly becomes a reality. The landscape is changing. Some of the change is obvious as new buildings emerge and provide new facilities that will support the transformation of the University. The new parking garage is open and the first phase of 400 beds of the new residential complex at University Heights will open in January, as will the new addition to the Marsh Life Sciences building. A program of major renovations to classrooms and instructional spaces is underway. The long awaited construction of the Dudley Davis Center has begun and will provide a gathering point for not only our students but for the community as a whole. We will suffer some inconvenience, noise and irritation around this physical transformation. We apologize for that and will do our best to minimize the inconvenience but we will not be able to eliminate it. So we ask for your help, advice and, on occasion, your tolerance and good will.
Perhaps less obvious than the physical transformation, but no less profound, are the changes and investments around people. Our student body is now the largest and academically strongest ever. The University has more employees than ever before. The faculty grows to match our student growth. Of the 81 faculty growth positions in the strategic plan, over 50 have already been committed to unit growth initiatives. Similarly, we are expanding in critical staff areas and support as we adapt to higher student enrollments and revised financial and personnel systems. We have purchased and rented new facilities to accommodate growth and will do more as we move ahead. We are focusing efforts to meet our student and academic needs through the co-location of facilities, by the application of technology to new processes of course registration, advising systems and scheduling. We are cross-training staff to better serve student needs which do not always neatly fit into our organizational groupings.
We will hear exhortations today about becoming engaged in the life of the University and making a difference. Our two students, Sarah and Clare, are shining examples. They have taken advantage of what UVM has to offer to enrich their experiences and similarly they have enriched the community by their participation. I urge our new students to follow their examples and make the most of this opportunity. Remember education is a privilege. Only 1% of the world’s population will gain a college degree. For most citizens the opportunity you have is beyond their wildest dreams. Do not squander the opportunity. You have an obligation to the other 99% of the world’s population to use your educational privilege fully and wisely.
Studying hard doesn’t mean there’s no time for play - indeed that is part of the active landscape. This is an institution with a history and location that makes that combination both possible and desirable. But play safely and sensibly. Respect yourselves, each other and set high standards. Poor decisions can lead to a lifetime of regret.
To our faculty and academic leadership thank you for the efforts in bringing an extraordinary education together. To our staff you also are essential and central to our student’s success and you are making tremendous contributions to our progress. While it is often the physical beauty of Vermont, Burlington, and the campus that first attracts people to the University of Vermont, it is the personal, life-changing experiences and personal connections that keep them here.
Remember you have the opportunity to influence student’s lives and that is also an awesome responsibility. Clare Ankuda’s story is an example. Her interest in Asian culture and language was piqued by a faculty member of the Asian Studies Outreach program, Peter Seybolt. That contact, back in Springfield High School, began the journey to UVM and the experience she shared with you. All along that journey there have been many individuals who listened, mentored, encouraged and guided her. That has been true of all of us. To our students I exhort you to grasp opportunities and engage your teachers and advisers. You will be rewarded many times over.
It is now my honor and privilege to introduce today a faculty colleague who exemplifies everything I have mentioned about grasping opportunities, public service and making a difference. The Honorable Madeleine Kunin will deliver our convocation address. Professor Kunin immigrated to the United States as a young girl under difficult circumstances. She took advantage of the wonderful educational opportunities available to her and used those opportunities to contribute to the well-being of our society. She is a three-term Governor of Vermont, served as Deputy Secretary of Education in the Clinton Administration and former United States Ambassador to Switzerland..
While Governor she encouraged many young women to enter state government and public service and served as a mentor and role model to them. She made major contributions benefitting Vermonters. As US ambassador she facilitated the return of Swiss bank account funds to holocaust survivors. She has received numerous awards for her work in education, the environment and human services. Since 2003, Governor Kunin has held the position of Distinguished Visiting professor in the Department of Political Science.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Honorable Governor Kunin.