Message from the Dean - June 2010
At a sunny Commencement celebration on May 23rd, U. S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki exhorted the graduates to make caring for others a driving force in their lives. He advocated for a more systematic approach to the world's problems, enduring in its effects, which he contrasted to the performance of heartfelt but fleeting (or 'random') acts of kindness. This message sat well with the graduates, including many of the 110 graduating Honors College Scholars who have already woven this ideal into the fabric of their lives.
The profiles of a large number of graduates show that this spirit of engagement with the world is alive among Honors College students. I'll restrict myself to two students, whose approaches differ. These two students also illustrate the University of Vermont's guiding emphases and strengths in the fields of environment and health. Importantly, their accomplishments show that answering Gen. Shinseki's call involves understanding the problems to be addressed as well as their solutions; that is, action must be based on relevant knowledge, its extension to new areas, and its application to the world. This active form of learning, whether or not it is immediately relevant to the solution of pressing problems, is the basis of the Honors College's thesis requirement and is a pillar of its educational philosophy.
At Commencement, Dana S. Gulley, of Garrison, NY, received one of the University's five prestigious recognitions for its graduating seniors, the Mary Jean Simpson Award, which is given to a student who exemplifies the qualities of scholarship, leadership and character. This award capped an undergraduate career full of accolades for Dana. An Environmental Studies major (with a concentration in Political Science) in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, Dana's undergraduate career is remarkable in its melding of academic endeavors and out-of-classroom activities, leading to an enhancement of both. In her last semester, Dana was an intern in the office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, writing briefs on renewable energy and job development while conducting her thesis research on policy entrepreneurs involved with Vermont's Farm-to-School Program. Earlier, she took part in the Charlie Ross Environmental Public Service Practicum, which combined academic study and interaction with State Legislators. Dana also served as a research assistant with the Pataki-Cahill Group, researching projects on environmental policy. In other words, as an undergraduate Dana found that applying and extending her academic work was the best way for her to advance her concerns for environmental and political change, which in turn served as the basis for her thesis work. In a few weeks, Dana will embark on a six-month Student Conservation Association/Unilever Congressional National Parks internship, which combines work at the National Park Service at Ellis Island National Monument and three months on Capitol Hill working for U.S. Representative Grace Napolitano, D-CA, on environmental policy. The Simpson Award makes reference also to leadership and character. On campus, among many other roles Dana served as the Vice President and Treasurer for Free 2 Be, the LGBTQA student group, and as the junior link President of the Tower Senior Women’s Honors Society.
Tyler Aten, who joined Dana at Commencement, hails from Montpelier, VT. He was the president of the campus senior men's honors organization, The Boulder Society. In contrast to Dana's focus on public policy issues through an understanding of environmental issues and politics, Tyler's work and activities are more concerned with improving human health through the application of science. This approach is another way to address the problems of the world. A much-awarded Biology major with minors in Chemistry and Statistics, Tyler has long been involved in undergraduate research. His work, in the laboratory of Prof. Bryan Ballif, Co-Director of the Vermont Genetics Network Proteomics Facility, is on the signaling mechanisms of cancer-causing cells, an important piece of the puzzle of understanding cancer. He has presented this work on campus, and at conferences such as the Society for Mathematical Biology Conference in 2008, which followed a summer of research under the auspices of the McNair Scholar Program. Tyler's work was supported by the Mathematical Biology Program, funded by the National Science Foundation, and the University's Premedical Enhancement Program (PEP), organized by the Honors College. Tyler hopes to apply his understanding of human biology to the problems oral and dental surgery. Tyler will join the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine in the fall.
Along with their colleagues, many of whom have similar stories (take a look at the 2010 Honors College Scholars story in this newsletter), Dana Gulley and Tyler Aten heard Gen. Shinseki's speech at Commencement as a validation of their work at the University of Vermont. We wish all of the Honors College Scholars the very best as they venture forth from the Honors College and the University.
Last modified June 03 2010 03:18 PM