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Former President Daniel Mark Fogel

Signatures of Excellence: UVM in the 21st Century

Executive Summary and Contexts
Signatures of Excellence: UVM in the 21st Century

 

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Executive Summary

We are pleased to present a quick overview of the essay that follows, “Signatures of Excellence: UVM in the 21st Century.” We begin with a brief preamble headed by a Vision Statement restating UVM’s aspiration to be the nation’s premier small public research university and by a revised Mission Statement focused on the creation of knowledge and the development of accountable leaders.

In the first major section of the piece, “The University’s Strategic Position, Core Principles, and Academic Imperatives,” we suggest that distinctive signatures of excellence are available to UVM if we leverage our small size and distinguished intellectual and ethical heritage to infuse through every college, school, and program a core commitment to service to society. How? Primarily by coupling the continued building of strength in the disciplines with transdisciplinary research collaborations easier to create here, with our intimate, human scale, than at larger universities and by enhancing academic rigor and quality in undergraduate, graduate, and professional education, especially through a focus on the practical application of knowledge and on experiential learning (the Vermont traditions of James Marsh, Justin Morrill, and John Dewey). We present four core principles: 1) the social process of education, 2) the unity of knowledge, 3) the imperative to apply research to make a positive difference in the world, and 4) the indispensability of academic freedom and the autonomy of the individual scholar. We also frame a set of academic imperatives, beginning with diversity and global engagement as essentials of academic excellence, moving through support and reward systems for faculty, staff, and students designed to promote interdisciplinary learning and applied research, and concluding with commitment to an academic culture in which faculty members mentor students who are expected to take personal responsibility for their own learning and conduct.

In the last section of the essay, “A Vision for the Future of the University of Vermont,” we use a tour of parts of the campus as a narrative device for painting a picture of what UVM might become in ten years if the Vision is pursued with firm adherence to these principles and imperatives. The tour provides: opportunities for a survey of new doctoral and master’s programs and a highly interdisciplinary research agenda; for discussion of a clear set of expectations about the competencies all UVM undergraduates should have achieved, regardless of major; and for an account of transdisciplinary, problem-based learning communities as a signature of UVM’s academic values and distinction. In closing, we re-emphasize UVM’s commitments to service in and for Vermont and to the economic development and social well-being of our state.

Contexts

Much like the Vision Statement issued by President Fogel early in 2003, this essay is meant to be a stimulus to dialogue and aspiration. In its development, it has benefited greatly from discussions with and suggestions from many members of the UVM family, including faculty, students, staff, deans and other senior administrators, and trustees. The concepts and proposals the essay presents will without question benefit from continuing discussion by all stakeholders. Implementation of any of the elements in the essay, from changes to the institutional vision and mission statements to creation of new curricula and degree requirements, will require extensive process, including work by institutional strategic planning bodies in the case of the former (vision/mission) and by the Faculty Senate in the case of the latter (curricula/academic requirements) before we bring any proposals that emerge from these processes to the Board of Trustees for approval. As a thought-piece intended to launch campus-wide dialogue, this essay does not have the status of Board-approved policies and positions (for example, the University’s anti-discrimination policies and the Board’s position on the inextricable linkage between diversity and academic excellence) nor of the Board-endorsed University Strategic Plan and the modeling tool that supports it, the Strategic Financial Plan. In the coming year, the University will engage in extensive work to promote deep and widespread understanding of how these plans and processes, along with unit plans (college/school/department), budget processes, and assessment processes such as academic program review and institutional and special accreditation, must all be tightly aligned with each other as we pursue a shared vision for UVM with a commitment to making it real.


Signatures of Excellence: UVM in the 21st Century

By Daniel Mark Fogel, President, John M. Hughes, Provost,
and Andrew John Bramley, Professor (and immediate past Provost)

VISION: To be the nation's premier small public research university, pre-eminent in our comprehensive commitment to liberal education, environment, and health

MISSION: To create, evaluate, share, and apply knowledge and to prepare students to be accountable leaders who will bring to their work dedication to the global community, an authentic grasp of complexity, effective problem-solving and communication skills, and a lifelong commitment to learning and ethical conduct

Three and a half years ago, our community was energized by a vision for The University of Vermont, a roadmap for the University’s advance into the first rank of America’s institutions of higher education. It is now time to lay out the next chapter for UVM—a revisioning of the ways in which we conduct research and scholarship, teach and learn, and provide service to society. As we continue to broaden and deepen the vision for UVM, we believe that our individual and collective efforts will greatly enhance the value of the University for students, faculty, staff, the State of Vermont, and the world—and that all who actively take part will enjoy the exhilaration and satisfaction of blazing a trail for other institutions of higher education.

What follows is neither a blueprint nor a set of specific promises. Rather, it is a vision of what can be, offered to stimulate aspiration and discussion among all of UVM’s stakeholders and to inspire us as we work together to create at The University of Vermont signatures of excellence deeply embedded in distinctive traditions of our State and of the University that bears its name. We invite well-reasoned challenges to the ideas presented here in the hope that those who present them will respond enthusiastically to the challenge of coming up with better, more workable ways to achieve like ends.

Informed by intensive dialogue among the institution’s trustees, vice presidents, deans and directors, and faculty, staff, and students leaders, this essay is dedicated by its co-signers to all of those others who are in a very real sense our joint authors.

I. The University’s Strategic Position, Core Principles, and Academic Imperatives

The University has embraced a vision of academic excellence predicated on investment in faculty and staff, in student scholarships, in programmatic initiatives like the Honors College, in attractive residence halls that promote community, in new academic and research facilities, in a student union and enhanced student programming, in intercollegiate athletics, in maintenance and beautification of the campus, and in instructional technology. Significant progress has been made on every facet of the vision, yet the gains we have made are only a beginning: we must take the vision to a deeper, more profoundly transformative level that affects the intellectual foundations of the University. UVM cannot match the budgetary resources of many of the private institutions with which we compete, nor those of some of our peers among flagship public research universities, but we believe that by dint of being creative, focused, and resourceful we can nevertheless put UVM in the vanguard through the realization of a vision like the one outlined in this essay. And we are confident that our doing so will offer exceptional intellectual rewards for all members of the community and incalculable strategic benefits for our students, faculty, and staff and the people of Vermont.

The nation’s smallest Land Grant institution with a medical college, UVM has a human scale and distinguished intellectual heritage we aim to turn to advantage. That heritage goes back to our fifth president, James Marsh, who, in addition to inventing the modern system of academic majors and elective courses, had a passionate commitment to the practical application of knowledge. The legacy includes Vermont Senator Justin Morrill, author of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 that established higher education in the United States as a public good, democratically embracing the education of the working classes and extending the mission of higher education from the liberal arts to the practical application of knowledge for the benefit of society. Our intellectual heritage encompasses the philosophy of UVM’s most renowned graduate, John Dewey, a champion of American pragmatism, progressive reform, and experiential and lifelong learning. These assets, our human scale and our intellectual heritage, are foundations on which we propose to create value and quality that will embody and extend the distinctive contributions to American thought and education of our University and our State.

Our project is rooted in these enduring principles:

  • People are central to the Vision: Education is a social process that should continuously engage a diverse community of faculty, students, and staff in the creation of new knowledge and in teaching and learning from each other
  • An understanding of the unity of knowledge must be actively promoted: The appropriate and necessary division of inquiry into many disciplines must be balanced by the integration of knowledge and by supplementing the insights available from any given discipline with the perspectives available only through the conceptual frameworks of other disciplines
  • The highest good is attained through the practical application of rigorously tested knowledge and research findings locally and globally: Though rewarding and often joyous in and of themselves, the value of the processes by which we create, master, and transmit new knowledge is vastly multiplied by practical outcomes that protect the planet, mitigate human suffering, and increase the well-being and happiness of the human family
  • Pursuit of that good requires an uncompromising commitment to freedom of inquiry: To make a positive difference in the world on the basis of rigorously tested knowledge, we must preserve and promote academic freedom, the open exchange of ideas, and the autonomy of the individual scholar.

Adhering always to these principles, we propose that we should:

  • Continue to strengthen and reinforce diversity and global engagement as essential elements of academic excellence;
  • Maintain a disciplined strategic focus on liberal education, health, and the environment;
  • Continue to build strength in the disciplines while removing barriers to—and developing rewards for—collaboration, integration, and partnership across disciplinary lines;
  • Create interdisciplinary graduate and research programs that transcend boundaries of academic departments, schools, and colleges;
  • Develop mechanisms to assess and recognize faculty for interdisciplinary work;
  • Assess faculty scholarship for impact, not just for having been disseminated;
  • Integrate public service in the Land Grant tradition fully into the faculty, staff, and student reward systems;
  • Engage students as active participants in their own educations, with primary responsibility for their own learning;
  • Ensure that the foundations of a contemporary liberal education—critical thinking, high-level skills in speaking and writing, civic engagement, ethical conduct, and commitment to lifelong learning—are infused into the academic experiences of all UVM students;
  • Ensure that personal responsibility for health and wellness, environmental stewardship, and sustainability are infused throughout the academic and co-curricular experiences of all UVM students;
  • Promote a vision of faculty pedagogy that moves away from the “sage on a stage” model and toward a model emphasizing active learning, making use, for example, of interactive assignments, extensive assigned reading, podcasts, and web-based course content to free faculty to function as mentors and coaches in tutorial settings;
  • Develop in students the knowledge and skills to be accountable leaders through emphases on problem-based and experiential learning and an undergraduate degree requirement for a service-learning, undergraduate research, and/or international education experience;
  • Require that midway through their undergraduate careers students be engaged in a comprehensive assessment of core competencies before being advanced to candidacy for bachelor’s degrees;
  • Expect of students not only academic excellence but also a high standard of behavior through adherence to a rigorous code of honor and conduct.

With commitment to these principles and imperatives, we believe that the strength that The University of Vermont has developed in recent years will be sustained and augmented, propelling UVM ever higher within the first rank of the nation’s universities.


II. A Vision for the Future of The University of Vermont

Welcome to Burlington in the fall of the 2015-2016 academic year, where The University of Vermont has become a beacon for American higher education through curricular and structural innovation engaging faculty, staff, students, and the larger community in the advancement and practical application of knowledge to solve pressing real-world problems. The distinctive approaches to twenty-first century higher education developed at UVM have made the University a magnet for talented students, faculty, and staff. Perhaps those approaches can best be conveyed by our taking a tour that will carry us from classrooms and laboratories to residence halls and out into the community.

Our tour takes us first to the east and then to the north of Bailey/Howe, moving through the physical centers of many of UVM’s most important interdisciplinary research and graduate programs—the greened and expanded Aiken Building (home of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources), the Plant Science Education Center, the utterly transformed Hills Building (now housing, in a handsome addition as well as in renovated space, the Department of Psychology), the Given Building, where a four-story office complex infill of the old courtyard has created through domino effects much of the space elsewhere required for UVM’s enormously successful, highly interdisciplinary, and heavily funded initiatives in translational research (with the balance of new space required for biomedical research provided in a new laboratory building on the Colchester Research Campus), and a radically renovated and expanded Cook Physical Science Building, which, in a first major step to bring greater architectural density to the CBW Green, has been expanded not simply to accommodate program growth for Chemistry and Physics but also to provide new state-of-the-art space for the School of Engineering, facilitating synergies between the physical and engineering sciences. Chemistry, Physics, and the various engineering disciplines are now colocated, an enormous advantage for faculty collaborating through interdisciplinary undergraduate, graduate, and research programs focused on complex systems integration with emphasis on problems and applications in the biomedical and environmental fields. The Psychology relocation, too, has brought the neuroscientists in that department into close proximity with their colleagues in the College of Medicine, helping thereby to take the already successful interdisciplinary graduate program in Neuroscience to a new level.

That program represents just one of a growing number of seamless collaborations among faculty, students, and staff across college/school lines—and, generally speaking, UVM has leveraged its relatively small size compared to other research universities in order to promote inter-disciplinary collaborations in teaching, research, and service programs that have become signatures of excellence for UVM, especially in the strategic commitments to liberal education, health, and environment, which draw on distinctive strengths of every one of the University’s colleges and schools. Graduate and medical students, like the faculty with whom they are working and also like UVM’s undergraduates (as we will see shortly), increasingly participate in rich, inter-disciplinary learning communities.

In its pursuit of excellence, the University has cultivated the high level of academic rigor required to stimulate and challenge its highly capable, talented, and diverse student body. (As applications rose from 13,000 for fall 2005 to nearly 18,000 for fall 2006 and then to over 20,000 a year from 2010 forward, the University became one of the most sought-after public institutions in the nation, with an admit rate for non-resident students hovering between 35% and 45%, but never allowed to fall below 55% for Vermonters). While UVM’s winning athletic programs have continued to build school spirit and a strong sense of affiliation in Vermont and beyond, they are recognized nationally above all for the sustained and exemplary academic success of highly qualified student-athletes: UVM remains just what every other Division I athletic program aspires to be. Although the faculty has continued to eschew the general education and core curriculum requirements still prevalent at many institutions of higher education, the Faculty Senate has endorsed a set of competencies and skills as baccalaureate completion requirements and as signatures of the character and quality of undergraduate education at UVM. The competencies comprise high-level writing and speaking skills, scientific and mathematical proficiency, and environmental and health literacy, attainments that distinguish UVM graduates from graduates of other universities

To ensure that these aims are met, the Faculty Senate has required each college and school to certify that every student recommended by the faculty for the award of a degree has responded effectively to an assessment conducted at the end of the fourth-semester of full-time undergraduate study to gauge rhetorical, scientific, mathematical, environmental, and health literacy. Designed by the faculty of each college and school, the assessment takes a variety of forms, including oral interviews; transcript review, and portfolio analysis; in this, as in the whole ethos of real-world problem-solving that has come to typify UVM, faculty members have drawn on many examples of best practice already in use in the University’s professional schools. The results of the assessment are used to inform discussions between students and their advisers: together they plan the final two years of undergraduate study, identifying and committing to measures—ranging from supplemental readings and tutorials to specified course enrollments (more the former than the latter in those professional curricula that have little or no latitude for elective courses in the last two years)—to strengthen each student’s foundations in any of the areas in which he or she would benefit from additional development.

The assessment process expresses the commitment of the University faculty to three strategic signatures of excellence at UVM: the University’s strength in environment, in health and wellness, and in liberal education, furthering the University’s traditional value of developing well-rounded students. These focused and paramount institutional commitments have served the University well in establishing its strong and growing international reputation as a leader within higher education and in the larger worlds of environmental science, engineering, and policy and in health and medicine. This success has not kept UVM from developing signatures of excellence in fields not related to these priorities. There are areas of distinction in the social sciences, the physical sciences, and the arts and humanities. Some of these, indeed, participate in the environmental and health priorities in areas as diverse as regulatory policy, gerontology, earth systems science (a new doctoral program), ecological economics, and ecological design (the signature of distinction in UVM’s thriving bachelors’ and master’s programs in landscape architecture, which were launched in 2009 and 2012 respectively). Other areas of distinction, although many of them deepen and enrich the broad commitment to liberal education, are not directly related to environment and health. These range from UVM’s renowned programs in Holocaust Studies and historic preservation to endowed undergraduate programs with major hands-on components in finance (the Wall Street Seminar), real estate, and family business. There are new doctoral programs that bring together faculty and students across a broad range of disciplines (including, most intensively, the social sciences and humanities) in critical race studies, in gender and sexuality studies, and in public policy. There are also thriving new master’s programs that, incidentally, have helped UVM to develop a diversified enrollment management portfolio (as have the much richer and more numerous international enrollments in both undergraduate and graduate programs). One of these new master’s programs is in Museum Studies (covering science museums as well as art museums and linking the Departments of Art and Art History, Anthropology [archaeology], Geology [the Perkins Geology Museum], the School of Business, and the Fleming Museum in affiliation with the Shelburne Museum and Burlington’s ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center). Another is a master’s in Liberal Studies targeted to Vermont’s growing population of retired professionals.

A rich vision for the arts has evolved at UVM over the course of the past decade. An undergraduate major and minor in dance have been established. In Theatre an M.F.A. in acting has been added, and both undergraduate and graduate students have roles with equity actors in the revived Champlain Shakespeare Festival; both the summer repertory and regular departmental programs have enjoyed the new performing arts venue created with the completion several years after the rest of the new Dudley H. Davis Center of a theater, which includes both a black box theater seating 175 and a main theater seating 600 (the latter is used heavily not only by the Department of Theatre but also by other academic programs, notably Music and Dance, and it is a major venue as well for lectures with major draws, for campus film series, and for student activities). The University has extended and deepened its commitment to a broad array of arts offerings by establishing one of its studio art programs, in stone sculpture—where better than Vermont, with its rich traditions of granite and marble work?—as the top program nationally. The Fleming Museum has been renovated and expanded, both on its original site and at the site in Billings of a greatly expanded archaeology collection (located in part of what was once Cook Commons Dining area, the rest of which is devoted to stacks for Library Special Collections; Special Collections occupy most of the rest of Billings Library, which also houses the Leonard and Carolyn Miller Center for Holocaust Studies and the Center for Vermont Studies).

Passing through the bustling Davis Center, we emerge on the academic quadrangle defined by the Marsh Life Science building to the east, Terrill Hall and the Dudley H. Davis Center to the south, the new theater on the west (with its enclosed bridge into the second story of the Bailey/Howe Library), and the library on the north. Terrill Hall is home to the Department of Animal Sciences, one of the most competitive UVM programs. Terrill has been renovated since the construction of the Plant Science Building allowed the unification of the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences in Marsh Life Sciences. As we pass by we stop and talk to a group of students who are boarding a van to head down to the Spear Street Agricultural Research Center to participate in the CREAM program, a nationally recognized experiential learning model in which students run the dairy farm and help develop and evaluate new types of agricultural and environmental technology through the Ag Innovation Project in collaboration with faculty, the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, and UVM spin-off businesses bringing new technologies to market. Most of the students hope to move on to veterinary school, but several want to return to family farms with new ideas and approaches.

Since Special Collections moved to Billings, Bailey/Howe has undergone many significant changes: renovations, reconfiguration of space (freed up by the move of materials from Bailey/Howe to Billings and also to the Remote Storage Annex, which gained storage space when many materials archived there moved to Billings), and technological enrichment. Like the rest of the campus, Bailey/Howe is now a wireless networked environment throughout the building. But the number of wired work-stations has nevertheless tripled in response to student and faculty demand, with computers in attractively designed group study areas dominating second and third floor spaces that used to be library stacks. The library has become the true Learning Commons first contemplated by campus planners some twenty years ago. At the same time, collections of both books and serials to keep up with UVM’s expanding teaching and research programs have for the last few years grown ahead of the still very challenging rate of inflation for library materials, thanks to $20 million in endowments for library materials, the first fulfilled of the top priorities in UVM’s third Comprehensive Campaign, which was launched in 2009. Generally speaking, sustained confidence and enthusiasm about the University among members of the UVM family—faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and friends as well as foundations and corporate donors—has enlarged philanthropy inclinations to a level approaching that of UVM’s private peers, and, with engaged and energetic alumni in the lead, the University is moving swiftly toward what promises to be a triumphant completion of the campaign next June.

Let’s cross now over the broad green land bridge that was recently completed to connect the central campus with the residential district south of Main Street. Did we refer earlier to residence halls? That nomenclature, for UVM’s undergraduates, has gone by the boards. All UVM undergraduates are now affiliated with residential learning communities that bear passing resemblance to what on other campuses have been called residential colleges. At UVM, the residential learning communities are not so much places to study and sleep as they are sites of interdisciplinary learning and problem-solving. Here, in undergraduate residences that include faculty offices, seminar rooms, and apartments for faculty and graduate students, UVM undergraduates are deeply engaged in the distinctive ethos of our campus.

Let’s visit one of the most mature living/learning communities. The communities started in 2006 and 2007 (the Honors College Residential College; Global Village; GreenHouse, the Environmental Residential Learning Community; and the Health and Wellness Residential Learning Community) have developed rich programs both within each community and across communities. Here’s the door to the Commons areas of the Global Village, located in the complex long known as L&L, the site of multiple residential communities that were themselves pioneering when they opened more than forty years ago. There are 370 undergraduates in Global Village (200 mostly first- and second-year residents and 170 non-residents, juniors and seniors who remain affiliated with Global Village even though they no longer live here). There are ten faculty fellows and a dozen graduate students actively involved with this residential learning community.

The corridor we enter in Global Village leads to the living room of the complex, but before we get there we pass several faculty offices and two seminar rooms. In the larger seminar room, a class is in progress, allowing us an opportunity to observe. There are seventeen people in the room, and when we chat with the professor during a break we learn that twelve are under-graduates, two are graduate students, and three are faculty members. When the seminar resumes, we listen to a lively discussion about cultural and religious issues that must be considered in the redesign of an AIDS prevention program in West Africa. We learn that eight of the undergraduates are members of Global Village, and four others are members of the Health and Wellness Residential Community. All of these undergraduates are concurrently enrolled in three different courses, in anthropology, in French language, and in health policy and infectious disease. The three courses together constitute a problem-based learning community focused on the battle against infectious disease in Francophone Africa, including AIDS, Ebola Virus, malaria, and Avian Flu. There are 60 students concurrently enrolled in the three courses, and the seminar we are observing is one of four that meets weekly to integrate the materials covered in the anthropology, French, and public health courses. The discussion derives its peculiar intensity from the recurrent references to what is happening on the ground in Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, and Niger, where one of the graduate students and one of the faculty members have spent the previous summer. There is excited anticipation because grant proposals have been funded that will allow at least twenty of the undergraduates enrolled in the learning community to spend the next semester in Africa with UVM faculty and graduate students, extending their research and testing what they have formulated as effective public health strategies in cooperation with local authorities and international agencies (and we are told that representatives from such external agencies have been regular visitors to and participants in the learning community).

After the class we wander down to the lounge area of Global Village. At one end of the room an informal gathering is chatting in Mandarin. Already we can imagine, by analogy with our African group, the kinds of international experiences for which they are preparing. Our eyes are drawn to a flat screen on the wall over which scroll titles, times, and locations for a series of talks scheduled over the course of the next few evenings in various residential locations (Global Village, to be sure, but also Food&Fiber House, Engineering Solutions, The Vermont House, Early Childhood, Eco-Village, CyberZone and the like). We ask a student who is looking at the same screen how there can possibly be such a proliferation of lectures—and learn from her that as part of the residential living/learning community program at UVM every student prepares an annual public presentation for delivery in the residential commons areas and seminar rooms. In effect this has become a public speaking program in parallel with the Writing in the Disciplines program in which all UVM undergraduates now participate. She tells us that she is preparing her own talk, for next semester, on a topic of great interest to her, pre-emptive archaeological work at sites ranging from Alexandria, Egypt, to prehistoric communities around Puget Sound that will in the next decade be submerged by the predicted rise in sea levels.

Before we leave Global Village, let’s chat with some of the other students here about the learning communities in which they have participated. We quickly learn that students must complete two such experiences in the course of their undergraduate educations at UVM, though many enroll in more than two of these problem-based sets of linked courses. As we hear topic after topic, we realize that the learning communities are dazzling in their variety and challenging in the integration they require across multiple disciplines. For example, we hear about a problem-based learning community focused on agricultural waste, storm water, and land-use policy, entailing concurrent registration in courses in watershed management, land-use policy, and agricultural biochemistry, with extensive field work in Vermont. We learn of another problem-based learning community on theatre, social development, and aspiration (courses in Theatre, Education, and Social Work); this learning community entails mounting a full-scale Shakespeare production with a class of ninth-graders in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, a project designed to provide a transformational experience in the socialization and post-secondary aspirations of students in a school that historically has had high drop-out rates and low rates of college attendance by its graduates.

We wonder how the teaching of the entire faculty has been redirected into this very stimulating but no doubt challenging pedagogy, but we are quickly reassured by one of the graduate students accompanying us on our tour that since the learning community program entails no more than one-eighth of the credit hours in a typical student’s degree program, only twelve to fifteen percent of the faculty are actively engaged in the program in any given semester. Faculty members are as free as they have ever been to teach after their own bent. Those who are effective as “sages on a stage” continue in that mode. Those who intensively employ the Socratic method teaching courses within their own disciplines continue to do so. But the roster of faculty proposing courses for inclusion in the problem-based learning community program—which virtually always entails linked courses in two or three different disciplines—is growing simply because there has been exceptional word-of-mouth among faculty about the exciting intellectual rewards of participation.

We end today’s tour by coming around via the beautiful heart of the campus, the University Green, to the Waterman Building. Recognizing the importance of physical proximity in creating not only opportunities for collaboration but also superior student services and administrative efficiency, the University began a realignment of campus space use, beginning in 2006 with the moves of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office to its new home on College Street and of the College of Education and Social Services to the Trinity campus (now the home, also, of the Geology Department, of expanded campus childcare services, and of the thriving UVM Innovation Center, the umbrella designation for the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, the Vermont Advanced Computing Center, and the National University Transportation Center, all co-located in Farrell Hall). Academic departments were moved from their isolating small buildings around the University Green and co-located in Waterman. Simultaneously, administrative functions, including the senior administration, were moved out into the smaller houses. Waterman Building became the heart of the undergraduate experience at UVM, the center where academic and student support services—including Career Services, the Writing Center, the ACCESS program (for differently abled students), and supplemental instruction (peer instruction by undergraduates)—were co-located with other integrated services established in 2004 when the registrar, student accounting, and financial aid collaborated in the creation of the Integrated Student Services Center. Also located in Waterman is the John Dewey Center for Experiential and Global Learning, the umbrella for efficient, facilitative administration of the University’s programs in service-learning, undergraduate research, and international education, as well as those internship programs that are not centered in the individual colleges and schools. The reallocation of Waterman space has also played an important part in the achievement, through the clustering of cognate Arts & Sciences departments, of more efficient and facilitative services, following the lead established by the clustering created with the creation of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences in 2002 and of the School of Engineering in 2005. Here proximity and administrative efficiency have not only helped the University to reduce overhead costs, making the most of the dramatic improvements in data access and service that resulted from the investments in new management information systems of a decade ago, but also, more importantly, have greatly enhanced the environment for programmatic collaboration and intellectual transactions across department lines..

As we conclude our tour (leaving the Redstone Campus, the Colchester Research Campus, and the renovated and expanded facilities of the Athletic Campus for another day), it must be said—and we hope it is abundantly clear already—that fiscal and physical resources are not ends in themselves but rather serve as tools for pursuing knowledge and developing human potential. The primary agents of this undertaking continue to be the people of the University. Successive classes of bright, capable students committed to active participation in the process of their own educations have been a sine qua non, and the same goes for UVM’s talented and dedicated staff. Key to our success has been the central role of UVM’s diverse and distinguished faculty in driving this transformation of The University of Vermont, shaping, defining, and realizing the vision through the critical faculty role in shared governance. The relationships between faculty and students have changed for the better, moving—through undergraduate research experiences, service-learning programs, and problem-based learning communities—from static classroom models for achieving learning outcomes to dynamic mentoring relationships. Increasing numbers of faculty participate in the same movement by combining extensive readings of traditional, electronic, and hypertexts with tutorial sessions in preference to classroom instruction. The rising resource base of the University, built through the success of UVM’s invest-and-grow strategy and of the third capital campaign, has provided faculty with a wide variety of enhanced resources for undertaking this challenging and rewarding engagement with students. Without diminishing their commitment to scholarship and creative activity, faculty members have also been active in redefining guidelines for appointment and reappointment, promotion, and tenure to give new weight to mentoring and advising, to the promotion of applied research and entrepreneurial activity, and to service.

The emphasis at UVM on a transformative undergraduate educational experience and on transdisciplinary graduate programs has not detracted from the University’s commitment to service, both to the State of Vermont and to the world beyond the Green Mountain State. Both Continuing Education and UVM Extension have intensified their outreach programs, and Extension in particular has become an important agency facilitating the work of on-campus faculty, staff, and students engaged in problem-based learning communities throughout Vermont. The UVM Centers for Public Policy, in affiliation with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (which now leases space on the campus from UVM), comprise numerous credit and non-credit programs, including executive education and degree programs in public administration, in health policy, in public policy, and in school finance and leadership as well as the Snelling Center for Government. The University’s focused effort to promote economic development in Vermont by establishing the State’s global leadership in environmental and sustainable technologies, businesses, and services has begun to pick up a very powerful momentum. Scores of firms within this broad sector are being created in Vermont or are being attracted to move here every year.

The prospect lies bright before The University of Vermont in 2015. A series of bold investments that began in earnest in 2002 has borne fruit in varied and often dazzling manifestations of quality and value. The University of Vermont has shown itself to be incapable of resting content with being simply another good university with reasonable fiscal strength. One hundred and fifty years after Vermont Senator Justin Morrill authored the Land Grant Act, his University has leveraged the Land Grant fundamentals of access, public relevance, and the dissemination and application of research-based knowledge to create the signatures of excellence of a compelling 21st century vision. Relying on the deep current of Vermont traditions established by James Marsh, Justin Morrill, and John Dewey, and by generations of subsequent UVMers, down to Nobel Prize recipients Jody Williams (Arts and Sciences 1972) and John McGill (Medicine 1978) in recent times, the University has come to exemplify the total construction of higher education as a public—as opposed to a private—good. Through programs like the problem-based learning communities, the University has gained very quickly a stellar reputation for programmatic richness focused on inspiring and preparing students to become accountable leaders dedicated to the global community with strong problem-solving, analytic, and communication skills and a life-long 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.”


Last modified September 24 2013 09:01 AM

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