New endowment fund will bolster maple research

Though located just blocks from UVM’s campus, Burlington’s Old North End is worlds away in many regards. A number of new partnerships between the university and the community promise to close that gap, improving the quality of life for residents by building stronger connections with the university.

Entering the second of three years of funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the UVM/Burlington Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) strives to further the Old North End’s physical, economic, social, and political development, while advancing UVM’s mission of service, education, and research. Richard Schramm, visiting professor in Community Development and Applied Economics, oversees the program.

University faculty and student power are already beginning to make an impact through COPC-inspired initiatives. Economics Professor Elaine McCrate and Sociology Professor Gil McCann use Burlington as a case study in a new course they team teach that explores affordable housing issues. McCrate notes that for new students living in the residence halls, walking the streets of the Old North End as they conduct surveys has provided a rapid education and a clear window on the lives of many city residents.

Professor Lynne Bond’s course in community psychology is another direct application of COPC taking shape in Burlington’s neighborhoods. Bond and her students are focused on enhancing leadership among the community’s residents. Instead of creating anew, Bond emphasizes, she and the students have worked with the many leadership programs already intact in the Old North End to explore opportunities for collaboration or ways to close evident gaps.

COPC work looks beyond Burlington on issues that stretch past the city’s borders. One example is the work of Justin Dextradeur, a graduate student in the School of Natural Resources, who has conducted a thorough examination of affordable housing in the region, putting a spotlight on the issue that Burlington is nearing its limit on affordable housing and that suburban areas must begin to address the shortage.

“Justin’s work provides some of the most valuable information we can have because this is data coming from the university, a neutral party that has no agenda other than strengthening Vermont and Vermont communities,” says Brian Pine of the City of Burlington’s Community & Economic Development Office.

While the faculty and student work shows promise for making the Old North End a better place, the ultimate goal of the COPC is to make the university a better place.

On a recent tour of COPC-related projects, UVM President Judith Ramaley said, “HUD’s primary purpose is to change universities with this grant, not so much to change communities. We need to find ways to build these programs and classes into our infrastructure to assure that the wonderful connections that are being built continue long beyond the grant funding.”

Phantom society honors, baffles campus

It’s a secret that has confounded UVM students for the past several years — mysterious announcements for the “1791 Society” scrawled in chalk on campus sidewalks or posted on bulletin boards in dorm hallways or class buildings. There is little more than rumor to go on for answers.

1791, it seems, would refer to the year of UVM’s founding. This society has no association with the university’s “1791 Society,” a designation that recognizes donors who have made gifts of more than $250,000 to UVM. But it does have similar intentions — to honor those individuals who have made significant contributions to the well-being of the university.

Gail Shampnois ’81, liaison between UVM and the city of Burlington, is among those recognized by 1791. She received an invitation to attend a reception at the Billings Center where she found other honored guests, an impressive spread of food, but no hosts. Thoughtfully, a camera had been left so guests could take pictures of one another. Some students believe that the university administration created the secret club as a way to boost school spirit. Others hold that the society is a student-run prank created by a fraternity.

David Nestor, vice president for student affairs, says that the administration has had nothing to do with the founding of the club. At the same time student Jonathan Badaracco, chair of Student Activities, says he is “90 percent sure that it is not student run.”

Pat Brown, Student Life director, tips the scale with his belief that students are behind the society. “It’s just their way to do good things for the people who do good things for the university,” Brown says.

The pat on the back — regardless of the hand doing the patting — is well appreciated by 1791 initiates. Mollie Monahan was honored for her work as a graduate assistant in the Learning Cooperative. A 1791 banner, candles, and notes were left outside her door. “One note, which looked like it was written by a child, told me what to do — hang the banner at the ceremony, light the candle, and read the letter aloud.”

The note also told Monahan to return the banner to John Dewey’s grave at midnight. She did, and though no one was there, the banner was gone the next morning. Spooky ... but nice.

“If you ask me,” says Monahan, “the 1791 Society is one of the coolest things on a college campus.”

—A version of this article by UVM student Laura Mattison ’04 originally appeared in the UVM Cynic.


Geoffrey Gamble, UVM provost since 1997, left the university in December to accept the presidency at Montana State University. “Obviously, I am delighted to have been selected,” Gamble said. “The Montana State University presidency combines elements that speak to me both personally and professionally. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me and my family that I could just not pass up.”

Dr. Richard Crofts, Montana’s Commissioner of Higher Education, said that Gamble’s work with legislatures and agricultural interests when he was a vice provost at Washington State University combine with his academic interest as a linguist focused on native American languages to make him uniquely qualified for the MSU job.

Wishing Gamble the best as both friend and colleague, UVM President Judith Ramaley said, “With Geoff’s talent, energy, and strong leadership skills we have been able to make important strides toward focusing the university on its mission, and have established a strong sense of strategic direction.”

Scholarships target Vermont’s top students

With the November announcement of a new full-tuition, four-year scholarship for Vermont’s brightest students, UVM has added a significant new tool in the effort to convince the state’s top students to pursue their college education close to home.

“The Green and Gold merit scholarship program puts us squarely on track to meet one of the key goals of our strategic plan: to recruit and retain an excellent student body,” said President Judith Ramaley in announcing the new scholarship. “The program will also serve Vermonters, another of our key goals, by helping create a peer group of excellence for Vermont students who want to attend their state university.”

The Green and Gold Scholarship program will make full-tuition, four-year scholarships available to the top-rated students in each of Vermont’s approximately eighty accredited high schools. At the end of the academic year, high school principals will be asked to nominate the top-rated junior in the class, based on academic achievement. Criteria used to determine the selection will include a locally determined mix of grade point average, rigor of the student’s coursework, and standardized test scores. Since the first scholarships will be awarded to students entering UVM next fall, high schools will nominate members of this year’s senior class.

David Wolk G’77, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Education and a member of the university’s board of trustees, said the program will enable UVM to compete more effectively, particularly with other state universities in the region, for high-achieving students.

The Green and Gold merit scholarship program is being financed by a bequest made to the university by the late Genevieve Patrick, widow of Robert Patrick, UVM Class of 1925. The Patrick Student Aid Fund, $4.3 million, is the largest part of the overall $9 million Patrick bequest, the largest philanthropic gift from an individual in UVM history.

Jennifer McDonough, vice president for development and alumni relations at the university, said that scholarship funding will continue to grow in importance as a goal for private support. “The university has a strong track record of individuals making gifts for both merit and need-based scholarships,” she said. “This area will be a focal point for our philanthropy efforts throughout the years ahead.”

Sun is the star of new UVM energy effort

Since 1807, UVM’s official seal has depicted a benevolent sun rising over the Green Mountains and the campus. Now, with the recent installation of forty-eight solar panels on the roof of Royall Tyler Theatre, it’s time for the sun to get to work helping power the university it’s been smiling down upon all these years.

The new solar array, the largest of its kind in Vermont, will generate five kilowatts of electricity, roughly equivalent to two household’s energy use. True, that isn’t a major chunk of UVM’s overall energy usage, but the panels will reduce the university’s purchase of electricity by about $700 per year and prevent more than 400,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere over their thirty-year lifespan.

The educational benefits of the solar panels are at least as significant as the conservation ones, university officials say. “The project has the potential to be used in a variety of academic disciplines at UVM, from engineering to environmental science to business,” UVM President Judith Ramaley notes.

The array will be electronically connected to a ground-level display that will show current energy being generated and a summary of the monthly output along with facts about solar energy.

“It’s a high traffic spot near the library, and the display is dynamic, so we hope to make a significant impact on our community and on visitors,” says Gioia Thompson ’87 G’00, coordinator of UVM’s Environmental Council, which spearheaded UVM’s involvement with the project, along with Richard Wolbach ’85, energy management engineer in the university’s physical plant department. Other key players in the project include the Burlington Electric Department and Solar Works, Inc., a Vermont renewable energy company which designed and installed the UVM system.

UVM’s solar array is the latest and largest of a number of projects that are a part of the Solar on Schools program, a collaborative effort by Solar Works and a consortium of utilities and renewable energy groups. Leigh Seddon, president of Solar Works and an adjunct faculty member at UVM, says that the goal of Solar on Schools is to create ways to incorporate solar technology into a wide range of curricula.

Looking back

Vermonter Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley broke scientific ground in the late 1800s with his thousands of photographs of individual snowflakes. A turning point in the Jericho farmer’s life came when, snowflake prints in hand, he rode the train into Burlington to meet UVM’s George Henry Perkins, revered professor of geology. Perkins was fascinated by the images, bought several to use in his classes, and helped Bentley in publishing his first scientific article, “A Study of Snow Crystals” in Appleton’s Popular Scientific Monthly.

Source: Snowflake Bentley: Man of Science, Man of God by Gloria May Stoddard. Thanks also to UVM Special Collections for use of the Bentley snowflake.

A med school for all

While only one in sixty applicants gets admitted to UVM’s College of Medicine, one medical school on campus offers admission to all comers. Better yet, it’s free. It’s called “Community Medical School” and it takes place on seven consecutive Tuesday evenings each semester at UVM’s Given Medical Building. Jointly sponsored by the College of Medicine and Fletcher Allen Health Care, the lecture series won’t qualify you to practice, but it will provide a healthy dose of medical science in a clear and easy-to-understand manner.

Now in its third year, the program has grown substantially and includes a loyal following of non-scientists from the community, drawing upwards of one thousand people each semester. The presenters are UVM faculty whose standard audience is either medical students or colleagues at major scientific conferences around the world.

Community Medical School’s greatest appeal rests in faculty members’ ability to communicate clearly with a lay audience regarding cutting-edge research on topics of vital interest. Participants have delighted in the opportunity to dig into science with some of the nation’s and world’s leading experts.

This fall’s “Metabolism, Age and Body Weight” lecture, for example, was presented to an audience of about two hundred by Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Nutritional Sciences Eric Poehlman, who recently received the 2000 Lilly Scientific Achievement Award from the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. Like Poehlman’s topic, many of the lectures hold strong appeal for the many among us with a personal interest in aging issues. Last spring, Drs. Julia Johnson and Cynthia Sites’ presentation “The Science of Menopause” drew the largest crowd in the program’s history.

The next Community Medical School series will begin in March 2001 and promises more of what audiences have grown to expect — exciting scientific information about today’s most important medical issues. And, as the series’ brochure notes, “You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to attend.”

Top Ten Town

UVM students have long known that Burlington is a great place to live, but for the past five years laudatory national rankings have been piling up for the little city by the lake.

Seventh hippest art town.
100 Best Small Art Towns in America

Sixth best “family-friendly” place in U.S.A.
Reader’s Digest

Third best city for women.
Ladies Home Journal

Top retirement areas in New England.
Living Better After 50 Magazine

Top city to “Have it All.”
Arts & Entertainment Network

Top dream town.
Outside Magazine

“AdvoCat” tour guides play key admissions role

The ability to walk backwards” doesn’t rank with “bright, articulate, and knowledgeable” among the traits most frequently sought by employers. But, in varying degrees, all are essential to the work of UVM’s AdvoCats, the team of students responsible for leading campus tours for the university’s Admissions Office.

They say you get just one chance to make a good first impression, and at the University of Vermont that chance rests, in some respects, in the hands of the AdvoCats. UVM isn’t alone in that regard; admissions tours are typically student-led — who better than a current student to show off the campus?

As the AdvoCats stroll familiar paths backwards, they lead small groups of visitors on a tour of key sites on the campus and share their knowledge and student insight on who Ira Allen was or why Williams Hall says The Williams Science Hall on the façade when, in fact, it houses art and anthropology. The AdvoCats boast expertise — or at least the ability to field a tough question — on everything from residential life to student-faculty ratios to the best place on Church Street for dinner. And, in sun and rain alike, they answer the question “Is the weather always like this?”

What’s more, the AdvoCats communicate a style, an attitude, and a personality that speaks as loudly, perhaps, as their words. A good number of the students in a campus tour group (and maybe more of the parents) are thinking, “So, this is a UVM student. Would I (my son/daughter) fit here?”

Sarah McDowell, a staff member in UVM’s Admissions Office who oversees the AdvoCats program, says that interest in the program has grown tremendously among students in the past several years. Last year there were more than twice as many applicants for the roughly forty-five AdvoCats positions, and McDowell suspects that the number will double again this spring.

The Admissions Office helps student guides prepare with an intensive five-day training program followed with bi-weekly meetings. Public speaking, university history, current UVM programs, and the art of persuasion are all topics the AdvoCats need to be well-versed in.

The AdvoCats are a dedicated bunch, many of whom claim to get as much as they give in the role. “I enjoy giving tours because I really love UVM and want to tell the public what a great university this is,” says Eleanor Rees, a sophomore in microbiology and molecular genetics from Madison, New Jersey. “This experience has made me much more comfortable with talking in front of a large group of people.”

“It is always a great feeling when a prospective student says that after talking to you they know this school is the right fit,” says Elizabeth Popp, a junior from Walpole, Massachusetts majoring in studio art and English.

Allison Rude, a junior in psychology from Sacramento, California agrees. “Nothing is more rewarding than, two weeks after a tour, receiving a thank you note from a prospective student telling you that thanks to the tour UVM is now their number one choice. I don’t think many people realize the impact tour guides have on the college decision-making process.” VQ