University of Vermont

Luis Vivanco

Professor of anthropology, Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award winner

Luis Vivanco

In the dimly lit landing, near Vivanco’s office in the Anthropology Department, stands a strange bicycle. It looks like a cross between a mountain bike, a tandem, a rickshaw, and a kitchen appliance. The latter because of the long extending aluminum rack on the rear of the bike where a geared plastic housing connects to the rear wheel. In the housing sits a blender, filled with bananas and strawberries. Vivanco pours apple juice into the blender and asks one of the students to hold the lid closed. Then he gets on the bike and starts pedaling.

The rear wheel, raised slightly off the ground by an outsized kickstand, starts spinning, the blender starts whirring, the fruit liquefies into a pink mash, and, soon, Vivanco is handing out cups of bike-blended smoothie to his — still somewhat astonished — students on their first day of their Global and Regional Studies course, “Bicycles, Globalization and Sustainability.”

Students on Luis Vivanco:

  • Mickey Hardt ’11. “Students sit and wait for multiple hours,” to speak with him, he recalled, drawn by Vivanco’s patient, incisive guidance.
  • Carey Dunfey ’10, remembers coming to Vivanco “utterly confused about my topic and the path,” and leaving, hours later, “with a pound or so of his books in my bag,” she noted. “He made me want to write.”
  • Laura Hale ’07 recalled a “devastating C,” on her first paper in her first-year first-semester Integrated Social Sciences Class. Four years later, she won an award for the outstanding senior in Vivanco’s department.
  • Megan Johnson ’09, for his “infectious inquisitive nature” and “unwavering support” of students in the classroom — and beyond.

Vivanco is a recent recipient of the George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award, UVM's highest teaching honor. Dozens of Vivanco’s former students and colleagues wrote letters of nomination.

Many recalled class meals and desserts at his home, his leadership on study-abroad semesters in Oaxaca, Mexico; his support of student activist efforts including a recent campaign to ban bottled water on campus; and his role as advisor to BUG, a new student bike group that launched a successful bike-sharing program.

Back to the bike ...

Vivanco talks to his students as they gather in a half circle around him and his bike. "We’re trying, through our example, to show that there are other ways to think about getting around, other ways to enjoy a smoothie that don’t require a plug in the wall, other ways to think about what a bike is,” Vivanco says.

And this is the point: Vivanco wants his students to think beyond the bike itself to the patterns and forces behind it. “Bikes challenge the dominance of the automobile and the industries that uphold it.”

Luis Vivanco and his students finish their smoothies and head back into the classroom to get the discussion started, and to get going on a deep stack of reading. He wants them to know more than they do now when they head out in a few days for a class field trip — on their bikes.