University of Vermont

Van Houten Named First Recipient of President's Distinguished University Citizenship and Service Award

Van Houten
Since her arrival in 1980 as an assistant professor in the Department of Zoology, Judith Van Houten has established herself as a world-class researcher and scholar in the field of chemosensory transduction and a leader among the faculty at UVM.

Judith Van Houten, George H. Perkins Professor of Biology, has been named the inaugural recipient of the President’s Distinguished University Citizenship and Service Award for her consistent and outstanding record of service over time to the university community.

Since her arrival in 1980, Van Houten has provided countless hours of service to the university, State of Vermont and the nation in her role as a University Distinguished Professor, state director of the Vermont Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and director of the Vermont Genetics Network INBRE program. Her efforts have had a significant impact on UVM’s research mission through the building of cyber infrastructure, establishment of core facilities, hiring of faculty across five colleges, mentoring of students and colleagues, and the support of entrepreneurial ventures by UVM faculty.

“This award was created to acknowledge exceptional service by faculty members who are true university citizens and for their significant contributions to institutional building at the university,” said UVM President Tom Sullivan, who announced the creation of the award in January of 2014. “I can’t think of a more worthy candidate than Professor Van Houten, whose unparalleled service to this institution has enhanced its national reputation, helped countless numbers of people affected by her research, and enriched the lives of the dozens of students she’s mentored over the years.”

Faculty letters of support emphasized Van Houten’s record of service in administration and mentoring. As chair of the Biology Department she worked to increase the size of the graduate program, expanded funding, improved retention and developed new and innovative course offerings. She also served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and on numerous committees, including as chair of the Biology Department’s Committee on Graduate Affairs; Senate ad hoc Committee on Planning; College of Arts and Sciences Strategic Planning subcommittee on Faculty Success; the UVM Presidential Search Committee; and President’s Advisory Committee.

Van Houten’s unparalleled fundraising ability has resulted in $78 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, which have dramatically increased research infrastructure at UVM and the size and diversity of the STEM workforce in Vermont. In 2005, she was awarded $16.5 million from the NCRR/NIH for the Vermont Genetics Network (VGN), including additional funding for the project of more than $30 million, making her the principal investigator of the largest grant ever awarded to a single PI in UVM history.

“I am very honored to receive this award for service and citizenship,” said Van Houten. “Whether at the department, college, university, state or national level, my service has always been to the benefit of UVM and the State of Vermont. Service is never accomplished alone of course. Therefore, I would like to acknowledge all of the talented people I work with who make my service for UVM and my profession possible. I am eternally grateful to all of them. We continue to work together on a number of projects and hope to bring UVM's prominence at NSF and other federal agencies to a new level. Our work with UVM’s very talented faculty is moving us toward this goal of increased research and STEM education success.”         

Under Van Houten’s leadership, EPSCor and VGN were responsible for bringing high-bandwidth connectivity to UVM, resulting in the creation of Northeast Cyberinfrastructure Consortium (NECC), which brought together five states and the first R&E network in Vermont. The network provided needed capacity and the means for UVM’s research to flourish. It drew the attention of Office of Technology and Science Policy and lawmakers on Capitol Hill who asked Van Houten to testify about NECC.

“Dr. Van Houten has had a transformational impact on UVM’s research enterprise and the institution’s growth as a high research activity university,” wrote nominator Kelvin Chu, associate professor of physics, who called Van Houton’s NECC creation "truly catalytic." “Her leadership and sustained commitment to UVM, at the department, college and university level, has helped the institution’s ability to support scholarship of the faculty, as well as training and education for its students.”

Van Houten was recommended to Sullivan by a nomination committee comprising faculty members appointed by deans and the Faculty Senate. She will be honored at a special dinner recognizing the accomplishments of faculty on Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. in the Davis Center’s Grand Maple Ballroom. She will also receive $2,500 and have her name displayed on a plaque in the Waterman Building.