When Connor Tobin, a native of Fort Collins, Colorado, was thinking about college, he had a unique problem. He wanted to find a place where he could play Division 1 soccer AND get a first-class engineering education. He was considering Yale, among other colleges, and then he visited and applied to the University of Vermont, mostly because he knew UVM had a strong, nationally known soccer program. But he was pleasantly surprised to hear about the direction the UVM School of Engineering was taking, and when he read Dean Grasso's article on "Engineering a Liberal Education," he was sold.
"I was led to UVM originally because of soccer," Connor said in a recent interview, "but what made me really excited about coming to Vermont was Dean Grasso's vision. Plus, I can't imagine many deans would take the time to meet with an incoming first-year student, and he talked to me for a half-hour. He encouraged me to explore the curriculum beyond engineering, and that was all I needed to hear."
Connor was also admitted to the Honors College, and has enjoyed the benefits of a diverse educational community. "I was a little skeptical at first, but once I got here, I found out how great it is to be mixed in with such a wide range of students. It's very stimulating to work with students with other perspectives."
When asked how he manages to juggle the rigorous engineering curriculum with the demands of a varsity sport, Connor's answer is a little surprising. "Actually," he said, "if I didn't have soccer, I don't think I'd do as well in school. It forces me to be organized and hit the books hard."
Last year, the Catamount soccer team was young — 17 out of 24 players were freshmen or sophomores. Even with their youth, the soccer Cats finished second in the league and lost in the conference finals. Just as importantly, the Catamount soccer team had the highest GPA among UVM sports teams. "Coach (Jesse) Cormier pushes us academically as well as physically," Connor says. "It's always a team goal to have the highest GPA among the teams, and it was great to accomplish that."
Says Coach Cormier: "Connor is a special individual with very high principles and personal standards. He constantly pushes his limitations and the others around him to be at their best. His character, intelligence, and self-motivation are why we named him as a captain — even though he's only in his sophomore year."
With the season and semester break over, Connor will have a little time to focus on academics. "The curriculum is really getting interesting. Also, every professor has been very friendly and helpful, and if you are willing to put in the effort, they will make the extra effort for you."
When asked about his plans after college, Connor admits that he isn't sure yet. "I want to take some time to explore things, and I plan to keep learning even after college. I'm considering grad school, but I want to see how far I can take soccer."
But Connor's sure about one thing: Burlington is the ideal community for the college-age person, both academically and socially. "There's hiking, skiing, biking, the lake," he explains, "lots of places to explore. The community is small enough so you don't feel lost, but big enough that you can find your own place."