University of Vermont

Dean's Message March 2013

Envisioning Environment

Interim Dean Jon D. Erickson
Interim Dean Jon D. Erickson

As maple taps run dry, snow turns to mud, and daffodils point to the warmer weeks ahead, March in Vermont reminds us that the only thing constant is change. Perhaps more than most springs, change is in the air at the Rubenstein School, and our community is ready for the opportunities and challenges ahead.

The completion of the study on Envisioning Environment at UVM is ushering in a wave of change across campus. A multi-disciplinary faculty work group recently finished an inventory of our University's environmental activities and comparison to our peers. Their conclusions point to an incredible breadth of research, teaching, and outreach on the environment at UVM, but also a lack of coordination and focus in key areas of strength. As our School has worked this semester to better coordinate and focus our own curriculum, research enterprise, and community engagement (outlined in the December newsletter), we are ready to collaborate with our colleagues around campus to do the same. Change is upon us.

With the work group's study complete, the School's role in leading change is more important than ever. Last week President Sullivan announced plans to begin an international search for the next Dean of the Rubenstein School, an opportunity to tell the world who we are and where we want to go. A search committee will be charged this spring, and we plan to have candidates on campus early in the fall semester. Change is on the horizon.

Change can also be frightening, but I have been reminded over and over again during my few months as Interim Dean that our community has the vision and courage to change the world for the better. I've met with alumni in Boston, New York, and Washington who are leading change in industry, government, and non-profits towards a more sustainable future. I marched with our students on President's Day weekend with 50,000 strong to press for political change in DC during the 11th hour of our climate crisis (see Through the Night for Climate). I've talked with foundations, state and federal agencies, business leaders, and environmental advocates who want to partner with our faculty, staff, and students to tackle complex problems and design bold solutions. Change is opportunity.

In the faces of these alumni, students, and community partners are glimmers of hope that we can pull this off. We must develop the curriculums that will prepare our students for careers that don't exist yet. We must double-down on our commitment to interdisciplinary research, to explore those undiscovered borderlands between the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. We must weave together our teaching and scholarship with our mission to serve our state, nation, and planet. Change is inevitable.

From all of us at the Rubenstein School, thank you for spending some time clicking through our latest e-newsletter and supporting our community. We hope your spring will be as eventful as ours!

Jon D. Erickson
Interim Dean