University of Vermont

Board of Trustees

Board of Trustees, Chair's Report

David A. Daigle
UVM Board of Trustees Chair’s Report
October 26, 2018

Good morning.  I want to extend a warm welcome to everyone to our October Board meeting.  Thank you all for attending, and a very special thank you, once again, to all of our faculty, staff, and students who strive to make UVM such a special place.

I was able to spend a few days in Stowe this week, and caught that magical sight of snow falling against the red and yellow leaves covering the mountain.  The changing of seasons in Vermont always produces these spectacular moments, for which we should all be grateful.

It turns out that presidential terms also have seasons, and we are approaching a change.  In August, President Sullivan announced his plan to step down from the presidency at the conclusion of this academic year.  To some this may have been a sudden surprise, but rest assured that Tom provided our Board with ample notice, and his decision was largely consistent with expectations he set with our Board when he assumed the presidency nearly seven years ago.  We want to thank Tom for his leadership and professionalism, and we look forward to working with him to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership.

We have assembled a Search Committee to conduct the search for a new president.  With representation from all major University constituencies, we are confident that the Committee will provide a strong pool of candidates for consideration by our Board.  We have every expectation that we will review a broad, diverse, and deep pool of candidates.  I want to thank the members of the search committee for their service and counsel as we seek to identify UVM’s 27th president.

We have three new senior institutional leaders on campus that I would like to acknowledge.  Tom will provide a more formal introduction in a few moments, but on behalf of our Board, let me extend a welcome and thank you to Linda Schadler, Rick Page, and Simeon Ananou as they join our UVM community.

We will hear from Simeon today, the first installment in what I hope will become an ongoing dialog between our Board and the administration regarding technology issues.  Technology is no longer a utility used to carry out the strategic work of the University, it has itself become a strategic pillar in higher education.  We see technology’s impact on the academic core, but its promise extends to enrollment, advising, student services, central administration, and beyond.  It is no accident that two of our newest trustees, Jodi and Otto, both have technology expertise.

I recently asked Simeon to address our Board on the topic of information security.  Instead, Simeon suggested that he first present his vision for how we might use technology to transform how we achieve our mission at UVM.  That Simeon views the core purpose of technology as mission driven is inspiring, and this perspective needs to be woven into the strategic planning conversations we will have next year.  The critical issue of information security will be addressed at our next Board meeting.

I recently met Ryan Craig, the author of a new book titled “A New U – Faster + Cheaper Alternatives to College”.  Craig describes a fundamental erosion in the confidence that parents, students, and employers have in the value of higher education, and surveys the myriad alternatives sprouting up to capitalize on that dissatisfaction.  Alternatives are most common in the domain of technology, but this is precisely where students find some of the best employment prospects.

One quote sums up the book’s thesis:  “There’s no question that a college degree will remain the default choice for the foreseeable future.  But it’s clear that the conditions under which the default should and will be rejected are multiplying”.  Craig frames the rejection conditions on the twin axes of affordability and selectivity, which, fair or not, is a proxy for quality.  For colleges with weaker selectivity and affordability metrics, the odds of students rejecting are increasing.

These themes - affordability, selectivity, quality, value – are essential elements of sustainability for UVM and every other higher education institution.  They form the antidote to disruptive change that will only intensify.  We have made progress at UVM, but meaningful advances will require collective, collaborative, and sustained engagement of the entire leadership of this institution.  This is the lens through which we will evaluate candidates in our presidential search.

As we strive to improve our value proposition for students, incremental resources will be essential.  I want to take a moment to recognize the entire team at the UVM Foundation for the historic milestone of achieving the $500 million capital campaign target.  This is only the third capital campaign in UVM’s history, and we have surpassed the combined total of the two previous campaigns.  The creation of the Foundation was not without controversy, but today there is no doubt that it has been a defining positive moment in the history of UVM.

I also want to notify our community that we have completed the annual presidential review process.  I want to thank our Annual Review Subcommittee members for their work on this important objective.  Findings from these reviews, as well those from our strategic planning discussions at our retreat, will inform the presidential search process.

Finally, I want to quickly preview perhaps our most important agenda item for this meeting.  UVM has been evaluating concepts to expand and enhance our athletic, health and wellness facilities for literally decades.  For various strategic reasons, this Board and prior Boards have considered this project a priority, but have been unable to find an appropriate path forward.  Today, we will propose a path that is credible, affordable, and appropriate for the current student body.  My message to our Board and to all of you is simple: it is time.

This concludes my chair’s report, and I would now like to ask President Sullivan to share his report.

Last modified October 29 2018 02:47 PM