- By Thomas James Weaver
As I enter my second year as president, I am pleased to report that the University of Vermont continues to thrive. Our Commencement festivities on May 19th demonstrated the academic excellence and vibrancy of our institution. The Class of 2013 boasted several Fulbright finalists and Truman and Goldwater Scholars and included many exemplary students who completed capstone projects, wrote senior theses, studied abroad, and participated in service learning and community service. One of the world’s most renowned musicians, Wynton Marsalis, who received an honorary degree during the ceremony, concluded his heartfelt remarks with an exhilarating rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
This past year, we have made significant progress toward our four strategic action goals. Our first strategic goal is to promote affordability and financial access to our students, which we accomplished by means of a historically low tuition increase. Several weeks ago, the Board of Trustees approved a 2.9 percent increase in tuition, the lowest since 1977. In addition, we will use all of this year’s $1.2 million increase in state appropriations to create grants and financial aid for in-state students, fully offsetting the rise in their tuition. This measure will further decrease the cost of tuition for Vermonters and encourage more of the top students in the state to choose UVM.
Our second strategic goal is to promote a culture of advancing academic excellence and cultivating talent. This goal was furthered by the hiring of seventy-five new faculty members representing the best and the brightest scholars from across the country. Many have been drawn to our campus because of our interdisciplinary priorities. To cite one example, James Bagrow, a computational social scientist and previously a visiting researcher at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard University, left his position at Northwestern University to come to UVM to join our Complex Systems initiative. We are fortunate to have garnered so many talented new faculty members.
Our third strategic goal is to identify necessary investments to ensure a bright future. As part of the new general education core requirements, we have approved a new writing and informational literacy requirement. Beginning in the fall of 2014, all first-year, first-time students will be required to take a three-credit foundational writing and informational literacy course that will provide our students with the necessary writing and research skills to enhance their progress in their courses across the curriculum. We have also implemented some new career counseling services to further ensure the success of our graduates. They include the creation of the Career Services Office on the lower level of the Davis Center, the expansion of industry-specific internships, and the addition of advisors to help students develop their career plans, build skills, and connect their academic interests to professional networks.
Finally, our fourth strategic goal is to instill an institutional commitment to efficiency and effectiveness that optimizes the use of facilities, technology, assets, and shared services. To this end, we have begun a substantial reorganization of our central administrative offices including the appointment of a new provost, a new dean of the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, an interim dean of the Graduate College, and an interim Vice President for Research. We plan to increase our academic offerings and to move to a three-semester curriculum in order to make year-round use of our facilities. We will expand our web-based education to supplement the curriculum. Further, we plan to offer more professional and terminal masters degrees. For example, we now offer a Master’s Degree in Food Systems, a cutting edge field in which UVM is a national leader, and a dual Master’s in Environmental Law and Science in Natural Resources, offered jointly by UVM’s Rubenstein School and Vermont Law School. These new graduate degrees will enhance our research capabilities in interdisciplinary fields that we have identified as key strengths and advantages of the University.
I am inspired by the high aspirations of the UVM community and pleased by the excellent progress we have made in such a brief time. I extend my thanks to everyone in the UVM family who made this a spectacular first year for Leslie and me.