University of Vermont

Carolyn Goodwin Kueffner, Student Services Specialist, Chronologs Her Life’s Journey from Alabama to RSENR

Staff profile

Carolyn Goodwin Kueffner in St. Louis, Missouri while biking the length of the MIssissippi River
Carolyn Goodwin Kueffner in St. Louis, Missouri while biking the length of the Mississippi River

I was born in Montgomery, Alabama on Maxwell Air Force Base when my Dad was first stationed there in the mid-1950s. Three weeks after I was born, my folks, 11-year-old brother, and I piled into our Ford station wagon and moved to Anchorage, Alaska for a three-year stint at Elmendorf Air Force Base. I don't really remember specifics about life in Alaska, but I'm certain that my “thermostat” got stuck in the “cold” position while there since subsequent years spent back in hot weather were physically miserable!

After another eight years of military service, my Dad retired to take a position as professor of business administration at Auburn University in Alabama. It was expected that I'd go to Auburn University after high school, but it quickly became apparent that I wasn't ready. I dropped out and THEN went and told the father professor! I really never "fit" in Alabama, so at age 19, I closed my eyes and stuck a pin in a map to see where I would make my next home!

The pin landed on Knoxville, Tennessee, so I moved there and called it home until the summer of 1978 when I first drove over the state line of Vermont for a music/dance festival at Marlboro College. It literally felt as if I'd been struck by lightning that day with a love of the Vermont landscape and culture, and I vowed to return as soon as I could. I took the next year to travel the U.S. alone in my Toyota Corolla and then once again packed up everything and moved to Burlington. After working for UVM at the now-defunct Instructional Development Center in Nolin House, I returned to school at UVM as a 25-year-old freshman and happily completed a BS in Human Nutrition and Foods in 1983.

After graduation, I settled into life in an old schoolhouse in Duxbury, Vermont with my first husband, video producer Paul Gittelsohn, where I held a variety of small jobs and gave birth to my son Elliot and daughter Claire (UVM '11). During this time, I started in a one-day-per-week receptionist position at The Vermont Chapter of the Nature Conservancy in Montpelier. By the time I left there 15 years later, I was serving in the position of Director of Annual Giving, a fund-raising position made easy by my love of the natural world in my beloved state.

When my wonderful second husband, John, unexpectedly lost his job of 28 years, we found an office support position open here at RSENR. I decided that my love of the environment would make the position a good potential fit. Within a few months of accepting that, I replaced former staff member Casey Hayes in a position which has eventually morphed into my current position as student services specialist for the Graduate Program.

I adore working one-on-one with our students, faculty, and administrative and student services teams on "All Things Grad." My work includes coordinating graduate admissions, funding, and events. I am especially grateful to former Dean Mary Watzin for creating the new administrative structure of the School. I've loved stream-lining old systems and modernizing processes during my seven years here and was honored to serve on two University-wide committees that first examined how graduate students are paid and then helped develop new processes and tools for both students and administrators to navigate that system. Working with Research Assistant Professor Kimberly Wallin in her capacity as Graduate Program coordinator is extraordinarily satisfying and fun! There's never a dull moment here at the Rubenstein School, and I'm honored and thrilled to get to work here.

Over the years I've become more and more obsessed with cycling and last year took a seven-week leave to traverse the entire length of the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Lake Itasca with 30 women from around the world. I'm in the process of organizing a trip for a selected group of those same women (starting the week AFTER the Graduate Research Symposium next October 2013) to bike the 444 mile length of the Natchez Trace Parkway from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee (http://www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm).

Between that 2000+ mile trip and bike commuting regularly from our home in Waterbury Center to Burlington, I put more than 4100 miles on my bike this past year! Aside from my RSENR job, cycling, yoga, gardening, weaving, and cooking, my family is the focus of my life. Step-son Jeremy works in hotel management in San Francisco. My first-born, Elliott, works in circus arts, also in San Francisco, where he performs for several different companies doing contortion, aerial work, modeling, and clowning.  My daughter, Claire, used her fabulous education here at UVM in CDAE's Community and International Development program to plug into a volunteer position in Cuernavaca, Mexico where she's doing community garden, farmer's market, and vermicomposting projects with local communities.

John and I recently purchased a sweet downtown condo in Burlington, where we split our time between gazing out at beautiful Lake Champlain and enjoying the Green Mountains from our 14 acres in the country in Waterbury Center.