University of Vermont

Predicting the Future: The State of the College 2007

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Successes and Challenges

Let me review some of the highlights of the last year, as well as discuss some of the challenges that lay ahead.

First, I would like to recognize the academic unit heads and associate deans: Jeff Marshall, Jim Burgmeier, Sean Wang (filling in for Xindong, who is on sabbatical), and Jun Yu. Being situated between the faculty and the dean's office is not always as pleasant an assignment as it appears. These individuals have been dedicated to helping to sustain this College's excellence and move us forward with enthusiastic and unwavering commitment.

On the adminstrative side, I would like to recognize Dan Harvey for his indefatigable efforts, his keen insight, and his ability to keep his eye on our vision and mission with regard to the many decisions that we face daily.

Recent Hires

Certainly, the most important and exciting highlights of the last year are our recent hires.

After international searches, we are very proud to announce that the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences has recently hired:

  • Bernard (Chip) F. Cole, Professor/Director of Statistics Program, Dept. of Mathematics & Statistics;
  • Jane Hill, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering;
  • Paul Hines, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering; and
  • John Voight, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Mathematics & Statistics.

I'm also pleased to announce some new members of the CEMS staff:

  • Michelle Mayette, SoE General Office Support; and
  • Kurt Anthony, SoE Electrical Lab technician.

At last year's retreat, a major recommendation was that we hire a grant administrator to help PIs with their projects. In response to that recommendation, I am very happy to announce that we have hired Anthony Fouche as our new grant administrator. He'll be working 50% of the time in support of Karen Bernard and SoE grant projects, and 50% of the time with Monika Ursiny to support College-wide grant projects. He comes to us from the Miami Dade Parks and Recreation Services in Florida and his start date is September 17, 2007.

Another recommendation from faculty, during that same retreat, was that we hire an individual to help attract research funding and help faculty members move appropriate technologies to the marketplace. I am very happy to announce that we are working to establish such a position, which will benefit our faculty, the college, the university and the State.


As with any great institution of higher learning, the key to success is balance. Balance among the three traditional areas of faculty life: scholarship, teaching and service. This past year saw many awards to the College that underscore our commitment to excellence in all of these areas. Some of the most notable accomplishments that brought distinction to the university and the College include:


  • Created CEMS Complex Systems Center: Two years ago I announced a $10,000 cash award for any paper published in Science or Nature on complex systems based on work that was done here at UVM. The Chair of our Board of Advisors, Peter Bernhardt, generously promised, on behalf of Pizzagali Construction, $10,000 per year for three years to fund this award.

    I am very proud to announce that we have our first recipient of this award. Dr. Richard Foote has recently received notification that his paper, "Mathematics and Complex Systems," has been accepted by Science. This is most exceptional because Dr. Foote had not really worked in the area of complex systems and he was able to write a major review that synthesized fundamental aspects of this important field — a reflection of his true brilliance. We are all truly fortunate to claim him as a colleague!

    As is characteristic of his self-effacing and modest nature, he has declined the monetary prize that was established with the Pizzagali Distinguished Publication Award, and indicated that I do what I will with these resources. Therefore, today I am establishing the Foote Lecture Series on Complex Systems.

  • Started Faculty, Staff, and Student advisory councils.
  • Improved student recruitment: We created an effective recruitment video, improved our website, improved the program for Admitted Student Visitation Days, and started a postcard and email campaign to highlight the Vermont advantage.
  • Passed new SoE RPT Guidelines: These guidelines will serve as a model for the rest of the University.
  • Standardized faculty activity report and contracted Digital Measures to move it online.
  • Continued our new Distinguished Lecture series and Student Essay contest: This fall, we will be hosting David Pensak, former chief computer scientist at DuPont, founder of multiple AI/complex systems companies, and professor emeritus at Wharton; and Dr. Chris Wood, VP of the Santa Fe Institute.
  • Hosted Wolfram Complex Systems Conference and Workshop: We worked with Continuing Ed to move the Wolfram Complex Systems Conference and Workshop from Brown University to UVM.
  • Held Environmental Engineering Workshop at UVM for Vermont environmental firms and concerns.
  • Sponsored first art show with Burlington City Arts at Firehouse Gallery.
  • I had the honor of being appointed the Chair of the Governor's Advisory Council on Environmental Engineering.
  • Balanced the College budget: Thanks to the infusion of base funds from the Provost over the past several years, coupled with well-considered spending, the College finds itself solvent. However, we — and every other unit on campus — were asked to make a 1% rescission to our FY08 budget, which swept $103,000 out of our coffers. We were able to make the rescission and still keep all staff, as well as fund all new faculty positions with reasonable startups. Unfortunately, some of those cuts were also passed on to the departments.

    Looking ahead to the FY09 budget process, we hope to leverage our excellent student recruitment results as well as successes in research and State outreach into a more robust budget for the College.

  • ABET Assessment Process: A new program assessment process was developed and implemented, which includes assessment input from current students, alumni, and regional industries.
  • Curriculum 21: A major restructuring of the undergraduate curriculum was completed and approved by the School faculty in May 2007. Key items of this restructuring include:

    1. development of a common two-year core for all engineering students;
    2. elective focus area for all engineering students;
    3. a common multidisciplinary senior design course;
    4. a professional seminar for junior-level students;
    5. a proposal for a new Bachelor of Arts in Engineering program intended to serve as a bridge between engineering and the liberal arts, and to prepare students for careers outside of engineering; and
    6. a proposal for a new Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science program to allow students to pursue interdisciplinary studies in multiple engineering areas or in areas connecting engineering with mathematics, physical or life sciences, or business.
  • Student Experience in Engineering Design: A new capstone design program was developed for the School that emphasizes collaboration with an external professional engineering entity, such as a company or governmental organization. The projects are solicited from industry or government agencies, and student teams are developed with backgrounds consistent with the requirements of the projects. Each student team has one faculty advisor and one external liaison engineer from the collaborating industrial or governmental organization. The course provides an extensive two-semester senior design course in which students learn to work on multidisciplinary teams to accomplish real-life engineering designs. A gift account has also been set up with funds solicited from the participating companies and government agencies to support the program. We have raised over $150k to support this program.
  • CS Department:

    • A curriculum review resulted in changes that allowed the CS Department to introduce courses for first-year students that have more breadth than typical CS courses and provide these students with a flexibility that will allow them to participate in the Curriculum 21 initiative.
    • CS faculty members were actively involved in the Senior Design Initiative.
    • The CS Department met with Dr. Reda Anmar, Chair of the UConn CS department, who helped the CS department review what was going well, and what areas could use improvement.
    • CS formed a Board of Advisors.

  • Compared to last year, our applicant pool is up 14% — compared to FY04, the applicant pool has increased by 66% to a total applicant pool of 1554.
  • Our matriculating students are up 25% over last year to 200 students bringing our total enrollment to 738 undergrads. The entering students claimed a combined average verbal and math SAT of 1212, which is 46 points above the University average. Our yield is also up over last year, although it is still not where we want it to be.
  • Our College-wide student/faculty ratio is 14:1 with a goal of 15:1, and an overall University goal of 16:1. By way of comparison, Stanford has a ratio of 15.3:1 and Berkeley has a ratio of 26.9:1.
  • Last year we awarded 127 BS degrees, 36 MS degrees and 4 PhDs.

We hosted a Chinese delegation to help improve environmental issues in China and are working on co-sponsoring a conference next year in China.

We hosted MITRE Corporation senior leadership to discuss collaboration on complex systems between UVM and IBM.

We arranged to have Dr. Jim Spohrer, Director of Service Systems Engineering for IBM - Almanden California Research Center, to spend a week at CEMS as a distinguished visiting scholar.

Grant Activity

  • FY06: 74 proposals submitted for $8.4M; 40 proposals awarded for $5.3M.
  • FY07: 87 proposals submitted for $10.3M; 33 proposals awarded for $4.1M.

As a College we published 102 journal articles.

At the graduate level, we have 151 total graduate students of which 60 masters students and 50 doctoral students are full time (enrolled for more than 6 credits).

Outreach/Public Relations

  • We have adopted a strongly proactive approach.
  • "Spire" — our online newsletter for alums, CEMS community, legislators, and friends — was launched.
  • Dawn Densmore's Governor's Institute was connected with the NSF-sponsored Global Challenge and drew national media attention and participants from as far away as the China, South Korea and India. Senator Sanders personally visited the Institute and spoke to students.
  • There were major articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education as well as the headline story in the Burlington Free Press on the unique approaches to education that we are taking in our College.

Our development success is in no small manner attributable to the hard work and diligence of Kim Aldous. Unfortunately, we lost Kim to World Learning, a Vermont-based not-for-profit that fosters global citizenship through experiential education and community-driven development programs, and we wish her the best of luck. The development metrics are good: we have increased 68% over FY06.

  • FY06: $246,021
  • FY07: $413, 233

We expect the following initiatives to assist the College:

  • Vermont Advanced Computing Center (VACC): We are reopening the search for a director with a focus on someone with complex systems expertise.
  • Engineering and the Environment Advisory Committee: This new Vermont State committee reports directly to the Governor.
  • Vermont EPSCoR: An EPSCoR proposal will focus on complex systems.
  • UVM Transportation Center (UTC): UTC funding is supporting significant work in CEMS with much of it focused on complex systems.


After persistent negotiations and lobbying, we have approximately $1 million in renovations currently ongoing in Votey to accommodate new research labs. I would also like to note a remarkable trend in interdisciplinary research proposals, and a growing willingness by the faculty to share research lab space. It is this approach that will help us all succeed.

A new building is currently in the second tier of priorities.

Faculty Searches (7)

All of our faculty searches will focus on complex systems.

  • Bioengineering
  • Biofuels (non-tenure track, shared with Extension)
  • Controls and sensors
  • Green design
  • Transportation (energy and systems; 2 openings)
  • Combinatorics and graph theory

After these hires we will still have 9 new lines.

I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the faculty members who have consented to serve on or chair the committees. You will be instrumental in helping us continue to hire the best and brightest!

Next page: Concluding Remarks

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See also: State of the College: 2006