University of Vermont

Professor Robert E. Manning Named First Steven Rubenstein Professor

Robert Manning
Robert Manning, Steven Rubenstein Professor for Environment and Natural Resources. (Photo: Sally McCay)

Professor Robert E. Manning has been named the first Steven Rubenstein Professor for Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.

The three-year appointment in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources will enable Professor Manning to devote a significant amount of his time over the next three years to several projects that will advance the school’s interdisciplinary programs and extend his academic research, writing and teaching.

Central to that work will be an innovative and integrative book on the U.S. national parks, which have been his focus of inquiry throughout his academic life. The time is right for this book, he says, because 2016 will mark the centennial of the National Park Service, and a good deal of public attention will be focused on the national parks.

“I’m deeply honored to be selected the first Steven Rubenstein Professor for Environment and Natural Resources at UVM, and I thank the Rubenstein family most sincerely for this opportunity to advance the work of the school,” Manning said. “I plan to use this time to prepare an innovative book on the national parks, a book that will emphasize national parks and the environment more broadly,” he says. The book will be organized around a series of themes that explore the diverse character of the national parks and ultimately bind them together into a coherent national park system, much like the broader environment comprises multiple and interrelated components linked in a holistic way. Manning says he hopes the book will appeal to students, scholars, and the general public.

Another significant part of his professorship, Manning says, will be to conduct a program of research on student engagement that will include a tailored application of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), a national program of higher education assessment developed at Indiana University. This, he says, will develop important insights about Rubenstein School students that will help facilitate useful and effective curricular transformation and provide a means of engaging students in the curriculum planning process.

Third, Manning has proposed a series of seminars and workshops with Rubenstein School and other UVM faculty to help guide development and preparation of his proposed book. “I hope the seminars and workshops will provide productive and rewarding opportunities for faculty to participate in focused discussions on the interdisciplinary character of natural resources and environmental issues, particularly as they are manifested in the U.S. national parks, the world’s premier system of parks and protected areas,” Manning says.

Jon Erickson, interim dean of the Rubenstein School, said Manning’s appointment is a milestone in the history of the Rubenstein School. “Professor Manning embodies everything we are seeking from the Rubenstein Professor, Erickson said, “curricular transformation through deeper engagement of the student body and integrative research in the form of a holistic, multidisciplinary study of the U.S. national park system, work for which he is already nationally known. We couldn’t be more pleased for him and the students and faculty who will benefit from his work these next few years and beyond.”

Professor Manning is the winner of numerous UVM and national honors and awards. He is one of only a handful of UVM faculty who have won the university’s highest awards for both teaching and research — the George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award and the University Scholar Award. Recent national awards for teaching, research and service include the National Literary Award and Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Research (National Recreation and Park Association), Social Science Achievement Award (George Wright Society) and CESU National Award (Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units).

The Steven Rubenstein Professorship for Environment and Natural Resources was established as part of a $15 million gift commitment to the Rubenstein School in 2003, the largest individual gift commitment in university history. The gift included funding for doctoral student fellowships, undergraduate scholarships, the Rubenstein professorship, a dean’s fund to advance strategic initiatives in environment and natural resources, and the Greening of Aiken project, which concluded in winter of 2012 with national acclaim as one of the country’s most ecologically sustainable college building designs.