University of Vermont

Board of Trustees

Board of Trustees, Chair's Report

Robert F. Cioffi
Board of Trustees, Chair’s Report
October 25, 2013

Good morning.  

Let me begin with a welcome and a note of thanks.  The welcome is for David Rosowsky, our new Provost, to his first official meeting of the Board.  David has been here less than three months and has already accomplished a great deal, and we are fortunate to have him in an important leadership role at UVM.  Welcome to David and his wife, Michelle, and their two children.

And our sincere thanks to David’s predecessor, Interim Provost Bob Low, who volunteered to disrupt his civilized work in academe for the swirl of challenges inherent in the Provost’s position.  We deeply appreciate all that Bob did for us, and sacrificed, over the past academic year.  Many thanks, Bob and best of luck in your return to the faculty.

The academic year is well underway, and it’s hard to believe but the fall semester is already past its midpoint.  We have managed to attract a very talented and bright class of students to UVM this fall, in a highly competitive higher education marketplace nationally.  

I want to underscore the importance of this community’s commitment to academic excellence, an outstanding student experience, and high quality in our facilities, services, and activities, which will allow us to continue to compete successfully for such students in the future.  I intentionally used the word compete here because we all must continue to remember that we are in competition with other colleges and universities for these students and we must continue to improve our offerings to these students if we are be successful.

A particular example of the kind of progress we are making is the start-up of the new Career + Experience Hub here in the Davis Center, which helps students explore their interests and passions, and enhance their personal and career development through:

  • Internships
  • Jobs
  • Study Abroad
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Service Learning
  • Fellowships
  • Volunteering
  • Leadership
  • Campus Employment

I want to thank Dean Abu Rizvi, Annie Stevens, and Pamela Gardner for their hard work in making this idea a reality.  I should also note that I have appointed an ad hoc Trustee Work Group to stay in touch with all we are doing on the career services and related fronts going forward.  More and more (and rightly so) students and their parents are focused on outcomes and this Center will help to ensure better outcomes for our students.

The UVM Foundation had a very successful Board meeting and series of events during Reunion Weekend early this month.  I want to very much thank our former colleague, John Hilton, for agreeing to Chair the Foundation Board, and look forward to much success in the future as we approach the upcoming fundraising campaign.  John is the second Chair of the Board of our newly formed Foundation and has large shoes to fill in following Eugene Kalkin but he has shown that he is up to the task.  In addition to the Board meeting, I attended the Alumni Awards Banquet, which was an exceptionally well done event, and I congratulate Rich Bundy and his staff for all they accomplished during a very hectic few days.

Moving on, let me applaud Tom Sullivan and his staff for the work that has been done on the Strategic Action Plan - not only in terms of developing it, but also in keeping the plan front and center in everyone’s mind as priorities are set and decisions are made that affect the future of the University.  I will tell you that this Board is fully supportive of the plan’s priorities, and we are shaping the work we will do together to support and complement the Strategic Action Plan.

Over the summer the annual Presidential Review was completed, and I am pleased to report that President Tom Sullivan received an excellent performance review.  Tom was offered the University salary pool increase of 2.9%, and he immediately designated the full amount as a donation to scholarships for deserving UVM students.

As always, we will be talking about a number of challenges at this Board meeting, not the least of which is an early look at the possible shape of the FY 2015 budget.  We will get into the business at hand soon enough.

But I will take a moment to note a series of articles entitled the “American Futures” project that is appearing in The Atlantic Magazine, written primarily by its preeminent writer James Fallows, and including interviews with him on Marketplace Radio on NPR. This multi-year project has Fallows and his wife visiting various small American cities to write about what makes them resilient and successful.  One of them is Burlington, and has resulted in a nice piece entitled, “How Did A ‘Public Ivy” Take Root In Vermont?”  I know that many of you have seen it, but if you haven’t make sure to check it out online.  

Fallows writes about his visit to Burlington:  “A principle of economic history that ran through many Burlington stories: the importance of college location, college friendships, college socialization, etc., in the formation of businesses.  

Jan Blomstrann, the current head of NRG Systems, and her former husband,” David Blittersdorf, “had both been students at the University of Vermont -- in her case, for training as a nurse.

More times than not,  when we asked a startup-founder,  or his or her employees, why they  were doing business in Vermont,  the answer began, ‘We  were up here for school ... ‘  That was an even more frequent response than the one beginning, ‘My parents came here with IBM .. ‘or ‘My parents were looking to get away from the big cities.’ "

In another Atlantic post about Burlington we read:

“...Even [a visitor] can see that there is a remarkable symbiosis that enriches the city and its colleges and infuses both with a strong sense of community (about which [Fallows] will be writing more soon). The dominant values of the townsfolk give the colleges a special vibe that gets magnified on campus and then shot back out through the larger community in various ways.”

It struck me as I read these observations:  How absolutely central this University is to the identity and the success of this state and this community.   How important the sense of place is.  

And, not only is UVM a part of Vermont’s sense of place, but we also actively build it and shape it and improve it, through the people who come here, who stay here, and who are here!  Not to mention our essential role in strengthening the economic vitality, cultural richness, and quality of life in this state and for its people.
And that’s the truth.

This ends my Chair’s remarks.

Last modified October 25 2013 03:01 PM