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College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

STUDENT VOICE IS VALUABLE TO CALS

Victor Izzo is graduate student representative to UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Advisory Board.

On Sundays from 9-10 p.m. Vic Izzo dons outsized headphones in a darkened third-floor studio on Burlington’s College Street. Here, at a low-power, noncommercial community radio station, he broadcasts to the world a kaleidoscope of tunes that are at once eclectic yet thematic, colorful yet transparent. “Moonlight in Vermont,” “Foxhole Manifesto,” “The Revolution will not be Televised,” “Never so Far,” “Miles”…

“Vic’s Big Bag of Glass” show reflects his home, politics and distance from loved ones. Altogether they reveal that Izzo knows to lead a set with impact, make smooth transitions, ramp it up in the middle, then give listeners a little instrumental break before he ends with something they will think about for a while.

Izzo seems to apply those same techniques whether on the radio, in front of the classroom or in the boardroom.

Most people don’t know Vic Izzo DJ. But plenty on UVM’s campus know Victor Izzo, plant and soil science Ph.D. candidate, 2010 teaching assistant of the year, researcher in Jeffords Hall insect and agroecology labs, former UVM student senator and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) advisory board member.

Izzo says he thinks he was invited to join the latter two leadership bodies “because I’m outspoken.” He accepted because, “I’m drawn to seeing how communities work. I try to build community here – I have a strong affinity for the University of Vermont.”

“Vic is outspoken, but in a quiet and very effective way,” says CALS board member Fred “Chico” Lager, a former Ben & Jerry’s CEO. “He typically listens to the discussion and then usually presents an insightful comment that is unique, because he is approaching the issue from a totally different perspective than other members of the advisory board,” says Lager. “That helps elevate the dialogue and keeps the board rightfully focused on the students – who are our most important constituency.”

One issue Izzo brought before UVM leadership is a disparity in graduate student fellowship stipends. Base pay for stipends, he points out, varies widely among UVM’s colleges, and it’s at the discretion of the colleges whether they supplement that. Izzo has spoken with UVM deans and president in an effort to change policy. He was part of a grad. student group working to change how stipend offers are presented “because of costs – primarily the comprehensive fee – later deducted from the offer,” he explains. “The other thing I want to get done is to get the comprehensive fee paid over the year rather than as a two-month payroll deduction.” For graduate students living on a shoestring budget, this can make the difference between taking out loans or getting by.

Izzo, 35, has about a year to accomplish these goals before he completes his research and thesis on cold tolerance and variability among distinct populations of Colorado potato beetles. He’s studying the growth rates and adaptations to climate of this worldwide crop pest, with his advisor, assistant professor Yolanda Chen. Izzo hopes to defend his thesis in February 2013.

When he came to UVM in 2008, Izzo brought with him a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from State University of New York at Geneseo, a master’s degree in bioscience and biotechnology from Drexel University and about three years of science teaching experience at the middle and high schools. He has traveled and worked in Costa Rica, Australia and Mexico. From 2002-2004 he did field work and conservation projects for Earthwatch on the leatherback turtle and desert tortoise.

“I love teaching; it’s my passion. I enjoy the mentoring. I love the performance aspect.” Izzo confides, “If I could do it all over I’d be a rock star,” he laughs.

Maybe that’s why he ends up picking out tunes for a small Sunday night radio audience. “You were the boy that deserved a garden |’Cause everyone knew you were that charmin’ | You were known for good advice | And no one else’s would suffice,” sang a Sallie Ford “Miles” recording during Izzo’s recent show.

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