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Fall 2001


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In Brief

Presidential candidates to visit campus soon

The search for UVM’s next president is moving swiftly with hopes of bringing finalists to campus by January at the latest. Working with the national search firm of Isaacson, Miller, UVM’s twenty-member search committee has developed a case statement for the search that presents a realistic view of the challenges before the university and the qualities sought in a new president.

The committee took another significant step forward at the August Board of Trustees meetings when Isaacson, Miller presented preliminary lists of candidates who have applied for the job and prospects the firm has identified. The committee met in executive session to narrow that list and expected to consider more names in September. They anticipate interviewing fifteen or more candidates and bringing four finalists to campus.

The UVM Presidential Search Committee welcomes candidate nominations, as well as questions and concerns regarding the search process. They can be communicated to Barbara R. Stevens at Isaacson, Miller, 1275 K Street NW, Suite 1025, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 682-0164; uvm.2315@im search.com. For updates on the presidential search process or to view the case statement check the Web at www.uvm.edu.

U.S. News rank rises

UVM’s place in the new U.S. News & World Report annual college rankings has moved up from last year. Ranked among the “Top 50 National Universities — Doctoral,” UVM moved from a tie for 47th to a tie for 44th.

Though university officials, and their colleagues at many institutions across the country, downplayed the importance of the rankings, there was a sense on campus that the higher mark reflected recent improvement in areas such as enrollment selectivity, research support, and funding for merit scholarships.

Future Alumna
Marie Benoit, Class of 2003
Helping Vermont kids find their voices

The curriculum for UVM majors in elementary education features extensive field experience, placing students in classrooms with real live kids early and often. Even so, the experience couldn’t start early enough for Marie Benoit ’03 who, almost from the day she arrived on campus, sought out volunteer opportunities that would get her working with children.

Benoit, who grew up in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has known that she wanted to
be an elementary school teacher nearly from the day she was an elementary school student. Her mother taught fourth grade, and Benoit recalls when, as a middle schooler, she accompanied her mom on “Take Our Daughters to Work Day.” Working one-on-one with a student who was struggling with fractions, Benoit helped him to a breakthrough moment.

“Once he started to get it he was so excited, and I was so excited for him,” Benoit says. “I thought it would be really amazing to have a career where you can have an impact on so many lives.” She adds, with a laugh, “Nobody ever forgets the name of their second grade teacher.”

At UVM, Benoit became immediately involved with teaching through America Reads, a national program organized locally by UVM, which provides supplemental tutoring toward the goal of getting students reading independently by the end of third grade. She also hooked up with Vermont Children’s Magazine, a publication that is organized by UVM’s student-run Volunteers-in-Action and created by local elementary school children.

Last year, Benoit co-coordinated the children’s magazine, which involved organizing UVM student volunteers, facilitating their work in community schools, and working directly with children.
Benoit says you couldn’t find more inspiring partners for creative work than her young charges. “The kids’ ideas are crazy. They always make me laugh,” she says. “I love the attitude of little kids — so open minded and willing to try new things.”

Lane Series 46th Season

The University of Vermont Lane Series 2001-2002 season opened October 3. Highlights of the year to come include:
Pianist Olga Kern of Russia, a gold medalist at this year’s Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and silver medalists Maxim Philippov of Russia and Antonio Pompa-Baldi of Italy.

“The Merry Widow” performed by the London City Opera and “Rigoletto” performed by the Teatro Lirico D’Europa.

Shakespearean favorites “The Tempest,” performed by the Aquila Theatre of London, and The Acting Company’s rendition of “The Taming of the Shrew.”

Chamber music by the Miro String Quartet; Triple Helix Piano Trio; award-winning classical group eighth blackbird; and the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

A powerhouse of folk performers, this year in a Celtic vein, features Irish superstar Mary Black; English folkies Chris Wood and Andy Cutting; and Kate Rusby.

Also look for thirteen-year-old jazz guitar prodigy Julian Lage; British guitar master Martin Taylor; and Delta blues singer/guitarist Eric Bibb.

For a complete schedule
and ticket information, visit www.uvm.edu/laneseries or call (802) 656-4455.

The Professors are in the House

When John Gennari, a new UVM professor of ALANA Studies and English, first strolled through the Living/Learning Center it felt like home.
“Walking around here, I concluded that the layout was totally irrational… and it was a place where I might like to be. The art gallery, the photography, the pottery… it looked interesting,” Gennari says from the L/L apartment he shares with wife Emily Bernard, another new ALANA Studies and English professor.
The center has always been lively — pottery and poetry will do that — but as facilities aged and administrators struggled to attract a full complement of resident faculty, some began to wonder if the innovator in residence-based learning had lost its edge. But it’s now clear that the center is back… if it ever left.

“Great things have been going on here all along,” says Charlotte Mehrtens, a geology professor and the center’s director. “But with the momentum on campus toward residential learning, people are just noticing them more.”

There’s plenty new to notice at L/L this year. Residence-based seminars — in which students live in suites with their classmates, sometimes with their instructors living nearby — have doubled from three to six. Three
new professors, including Gennari and Bernard, moved in this fall, and the demand for faculty housing far exceeds supply. The aging cafeteria is gone; its replacement, a sleek “University Marché,” should open in January. The dining project already has created a new classroom/theater space in addition to new reading and computer rooms.

Mehrtens is enthusiastic about the new facilities, but she’s happiest about the ten full faculty apartments.
“Living among professors is incredibly powerful for students,” she says. “It breaks down hierarchies and lets them be around normal home life in a res hall, complete with dogs, cats, and crying babies.”

Belly up to the Mussel Bar

Intriguing news from the depths of Lake Champlain – zebra mussels, the invasive species that has aggressively spread through the lake over the course of the last decade, may not have it so easy down there. A team of researchers led by Mary Watzin, director of UVM’s Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory, have found evidence that the zebras are faced with a natural predator.
Watzin’s crew, using a sophisticated underwater, remote-controlled vehicle, witnessed sheepshead fish using their powerful jaws to crush the mollusks. Most revealing was the sighting of a massive pile of crushed zebra mussel shells. The researchers also saw yellow perch dining on the zebra mussels, but unlike the sheepshead, the perch were seen eating the mussels whole. Further research will investigate whether the fish are eating enough zebra mussels to serve as a population control.

Class of 2005 Brings Much to Celebrate
The word to describe UVM’s entering Class of 2005 is “more.” More applicants, more enrollments, more excellence, and more diversity.

Thanks to an intense recruiting and scholarship effort, UVM received more applications for the class of 2005 than it had in any year since 1996. From this large pool of hopefuls, about 1,850 new first-year students ended up enrolling, an increase of seventy-four over the previous class. The new first-year students came from forty-two states, the District of Columbia, and twelve foreign countries. About 560 members of the class are from Vermont, an increase of almost one hundred over the class of 2004.

The group is academically distinguished — twenty-one top Vermont high-school students accepted four-year, full-tuition “Green and Gold Scholarships” — and diverse. The year’s ALANA (African-American, Latino, Asian American and Native American) enrollment leaped 36 percent over last year, to 128 students, thanks in part to an innovative recruiting partnership with Christopher Columbus High School in Bronx, N.Y.
“We’ve exceeded our expectations, and I’m delighted. This class is good news on just about every front,” says Donald Honeman, UVM’s admissions director.

Scholarman

In a single boundBradford Wright ’90, author of Comic Book Nation and arguably the world’s leading academic authority on matters superhero, discovered the dark side of comic books while spending a summer doing research in East Lansing, Michigan. It wasn’t violence or the elevated eyebrows of historian peers. It was eye strain.

“I read comics for twelve hours a day for three months,” he says. “The brain turns to mush under those circumstances.”

Wright managed to stay lucid enough through the overload of bangs! and POWS! to produce a lively and well-reasoned look at the role of comic books in twentieth century American culture. His 336-page history, which he wrote as his Purdue University doctoral thesis, has drawn positive reviews in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal — rare buzz for an academic book published by a university press.

“The response is thrilling,” says Wright, who is teaching overseas while he seeks a tenure track job in the States. He was back in Burlington recently to teach a UVM summer course on American pop culture.
The book painstakingly establishes the historical significance of a long-ignored medium that had enormous popular reach. In Wright’s hands, the pulpy pages of obscure comics speak eloquently about societal anxieties — war, civil rights, communism, crime — as well as the personal struggles — insecurity, alienation, bullies — of their teenage readers. “Comic books help young people get through adolescence,” he says. “They both play to insecurities and help relieve them.”

The historian knows this firsthand. As a shy kid growing up near Burlington, he loved comics, especially Spiderman. “Someone who knew me when I was four wouldn’t be surprised by what I’m doing today,” he confesses.

But Wright’s old friends might find this surprising: He no longer reads comic books. With his book taking off, he doesn’t have time for flying superheroes.

Fleming Features Peruvian Weaving

“Weaving the Patterns of the Land: Preserving Inca Textile Tradition,” currently on exhibit at the Fleming Museum, offers a glimpse into the product and practice of contemporary Peruvian weavers, who build upon a cultural history of more than three-thousand years.

The display of Inca textiles is guest-curated by Elizabeth VanBuskirk, who has been deeply involved with the preservation of Peruvian weaving through her work with the Center for Traditional Textiles. Her husband, David VanBuskirk, UVM professor emeritus of psychiatry, lends his color documentary photographs of life in the three Peruvian weaving villages where the work displayed at the Fleming was crafted.

A variety of talks and public events throughout the semester will take a closer look at the art and culture of Peru. For more information, (802) 656-0750, or <www.flemingmuseum.org>.

Convocation Returns as Semester Opener

In a speech bracketed by two standing ovations, Sen. James Jeffords, whose change of party tipped the balance of the U.S. Senate, addressed a standing-room only audience for the 2001 University Convocation to assert the importance of choice.

“One person can make a difference,” Jeffords said to the faculty, staff, and students filling Ira Allen Chapel. “The direction of our community and our world depends on individual acts.”
The opening convocation, UVM’s first in five years, focused on themes of choice, personal integrity, and the redeeming power of education for individuals and society.

The presence of Jeffords, whose anguished personal choice to leave his party briefly put him in the center of the nation’s political life, gave these themes additional resonance, as did the appearance of alumna Michele Forman ’83, the 2001 National Teacher of the Year. Forman also received an ovation from the crowd, the third in the hour-long event.

Jeffords’s emphasis on individual integrity and initiative echoed themes in Interim President Edwin Colodny’s remarks. In his first university-wide address, Colodny told members of the academic community that they — and UVM —faced serious choices with far-reaching implications. He underscored his commitment to making progress on the university’s strategic plan and laying a strong foundation for his successor as UVM president.

Stating that “the best institutions are always undergoing change,” Colodny implicitly emphasized that he would be an active, rather than passive interim president. He said that UVM's leadership must make choices that include focusing curricular offerings, enhancing educational quality and image, and increasing financial resources.

Judging by the spirited reception in Ira Allen Chapel, Colodny’s decision to resurrect the convocation ceremony was a success, creating a sense of community and shared purpose for the academic year ahead.

Campus Gathers in Solidarity Following Terrorist Attacks

As the terrible events of Tuesday, September 11 unfolded, UVM students, faculty, and staff joined with the rest of the world watching the media reports in horror and disbelief. With a large percentage of the UVM student body hailing from the East’s metropolitan areas, the deaths in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania hit particularly close to home for the campus.

Classes were not canceled at the university, but the community acted swiftly to create support for those struggling with the tragedy, foster dialogue and understanding of the challenges faced by the United States, and reach out to the victims of the violence.

The Ira Allen Chapel pews, aisles, and stage were filled to capacity for an afternoon observance on September 12. The bells of the chapel tower slowly tolled as the crowd, predominantly students, filed through the entrance and paused to pin on purple and white ribbons symbolic of mourning and hope for peace.

Song, silence, and words of solace and hope marked the gathering, which featured comments from Interim President Edwin Colodny; Roddy O’Neil Cleary, affiliate minister at Burlington’s Unitarian Church and longtime campus minister at UVM; and William Tickner, president of UVM’s Student Government Association.

Two days later, the campus gathered in the chapel again for a campus teach-in on issues surrounding international terrorism, which featured presentations by faculty followed by questions and answers. In the week following the tragedy, many paused to put their thoughts on paper as part of a student-initiated campuswide journal project. And many in the UVM and local community stood in line for hours at a Red Cross emergency facility set up in Patrick Gymnasium to handle the thousands eager to help by giving blood.

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