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Shedding Light on Watersheds
Where land use meets resource management

photograph by Sally McCay

A place where the strip malls of Shelburne Road bustle less than a half-mile from the calm of Lake Champlain, Chittenden County, Vermont, circa 2003, would seem to present a unique subject for a scientist focused on the myriad dimensions of watershed management.Yes and no, says Breck Bowden, who joined the School of Natural Resources faculty in August as the first professor appointed to the Patrick Chair in Watershed Planning and Science.

Yes, Vermont is ripe with the opportunity and the need to explore how development trends impact the values we associate with watersheds. But no, the problems certainly aren’t unique, says Bowden, who brings an international perspective to his work. Most recently, he headed up a watershed research program for a government institute in New Zealand, which focused on developing practical approaches to integrated management of water resources. “Many communities — here at home and overseas — are struggling to balance economic prosperity, community values, and environmental resources,” he notes. Vermont can learn plenty from the failures and successes of other places, just as the collaborative work of UVM researchers, resource managers, and community activists will find application in other far-flung landscapes.

When Bowden’s appointment was announced in February 2002, it was the second coup in a matter of months for the university’s School of Natural Resources. December 2001 marked the announcement that a team of University of Maryland research scientists led by Professor Robert Costanza would relocate to the University of Vermont as the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics. Bowden, the Gund scientists, and other faculty in the School of Natural Resources share a broad-based, cross-disciplinary approach to tackling the complex environmental challenges ahead.

“My research point of view has developed from having studied the impact of individual land uses on individual resources — for instance, the impact of plantation forestry on water quantity,” Bowden says. “That type of research is absolutely necessary and provides a firm foundation for a new research and management perspective that focuses on better understanding the integrated impact of multiple land uses on multiple resources.” He continues, “Immediately when we start thinking about multiple and interacting land uses, we have to bring in the human dimension — how do these interactions affect people and how are they affected by people.”

Such a multi-faceted approach requires collaboration, of course, and the possibilities at the university and in Vermont were among the draws that brought Bowden back to the United States and to the new Patrick Professorship at UVM. He and the Gund scientists found each other quickly, and have a proposal on the table to produce what Bowden describes as a “planning and management crystal ball.” He says, “We’ve proposed to develop a toolkit that will allow resource managers, policy makers, and community members to gaze into the future to see what you might expect to happen environmentally, economically, maybe even socially if you follow different development pathways defined by specific policies and regulations.”

Bowden notes that while it is notoriously difficult to predict what people or ecosystems will do in the future, the effort to do so is worthwhile if it creates essential dialogue. “We could have a picture of a possible future fifty years down the road, so people could look at it and say ‘Gee, I don’t want my world to look like that. What could I do to change the likelihood that things will turn out that way?’”

Beyond future partnerships with the Gund scientists, Bowden sees opportunity to work collaboratively within the School of Natural Resources, across the university, and with state agencies and groups focused on Lake Champlain basin issues.

UVM students are an important part of the community Bowden is eager to meet. Honored as an outstanding teacher during a decade on the University of New Hampshire faculty, Bowden hasn’t been in the classroom lately as his New Zealand focus was on research. “I hope I haven’t lost my touch,” he says, smiling. “I’ve missed the involvement with students, the one-on-one mentoring and working with students in research. If I wasn’t fully engaged as a teacher, I wouldn’t be fully engaged with my work at the university.”

Endowed Chairs Help Faculty Excel

The $9 million bequest received by the university from the Genevieve Patrick estate in 2000 marked the largest private gift in UVM history. The university’s ability to bring Professor Breck Bowden to the faculty is due to one aspect of that gift, $1.5 million designated to create the Patrick Chair in Watershed Planning and Science, the first endowed chair in the School of Natural Resources.

The creation of endowed chairs is a key way a university deepens the quality of its faculty, particularly by targeting academic areas that match institutional priorities and societal needs. As UVM continues to build its reputation as a first-rank institution for study of the environment, the endowed chair focused on watersheds fits well with current strengths and future directions.

Significantly boosting the number of endowed chairs will be a priority as the university gears up for a comprehensive fund-raising campaign. No one knows what that can mean for faculty better than Bowden, the university’s newest endowed chair. “It’s a tremendous honor,” he says. “It gives me the freedom to think about the issues that I’ve been charged to think about and a level of visibility that helps to get the work done.”

Green and Growing
UVM is a leader among eco-aware campuses

Jeff Wakefield
art by
Suzy Legault

The living room of student John Orr’s Burlington apartment is crowded with the stuff of an environmentalist. A natural waste- water treatment system called a living machine perks away quietly in one corner, its plumes of vegetation streaming into the middle of the room. A large solar panel leans against the wall.

But the junior civil engineering major’s pride and joy is parked outside on Handy Court — a 1985 diesel Mercedes 300. It’s not that Orr covets power symbols from the greed-is-good decade; it’s the diesel engine he’s interested in.

With the help of Scott Gordon, an assistant professor of chemistry, Orr and several friends worked through the fall semester to launch a bio-diesel business that they hope will supply fuel for UVM’s fleet of bio-diesel buses and, eventually, the community.

Orr is one of a growing number of students, faculty, and staff at UVM — and across the country — interested in turning colleges and universities into showcases of green technology. UVM is a leader in the national trend; several of its demonstration projects, including the bio-diesel buses and the solar array on the roof of the heating plant are featured prominently on the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology Project website.

Two new projects solidify the university’s position at the forefront of the campus green-up trend — a just completed inventory of UVM’s greenhouse gas emissions comparing emissions in 1990 and 2000 and a wide-ranging assessment, called Tracking UVM, of the university’s environmental impact across a spectrum of categories.

While demonstration projects like the bio-diesel car and buses are important undertakings — because they model what’s possible — it’s just as important to take on the tough assignment of measuring environmental impacts, according to Stephanie Kaza, associate professor of natural resources and co-chair of UVM’s Environmental Council. Only a few colleges and universities have had the gumption to put together comprehensive report cards like UVM’s, Kaza says.

“You have to do these kinds of baseline audits to see what’s really happening,” she says. “Then you can begin to transform the institution.”

The university’s grades are mixed, an outcome that was surprising in some ways but ultimately constructive, says Gioia Thompson, coordinator of the Environmental Council, who managed data collection for both reports and wrote Tracking UVM.

Thanks to efficient new technologies and cleaner sources of electricity, greenhouse gas emissions at UVM increased only 2 percent over the 1990s, a relatively positive outcome compared with other institutions and communities. Burlington, for example, saw a more than 20 percent increase over the period.

But the Tracking UVM report showed UVM’s environmental footprint has grown heavier in a number of areas, including where the university takes pride in its eco-friendly programs. Despite a model recycling program, for example, the university is producing more trash today than it did in 1996. And electricity use has grown significantly since 1990 — by 23 percent — in spite of intensive efforts to install efficient technologies.

Thompson notes that these numbers mirror national trends, emphasizing the fact that “the university is not an island. We operate within the culture and standard of living of the U.S.”

Laughter in the Halls of Academe?

Amid the neon collage of hooded Mexican wrestlers, Zapatas, and the Virgin of Guadeloupe decorating anthropology Assistant Professor Luis Vivanco’s door, there is a cartoon that he thinks neatly summarizes one of his discipline’s problems.

“It’s a Far Side and you just see these long-legged giants from the knees down, and there are these little tiny anthropologists in the foreground, and they say, ‘Maybe they will worship us as gods.’ That’s my little jab at the arrogance of anthropology,” he says.

Welcome to the world of UVM’s faculty doors, where political slogans coexist with paper abstracts, and Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side keep right on going, even if their creators didn’t. Aimed at waiting students, passing colleagues or no one in particular, the clips and cartoons bedecking their doorways both celebrate and satirize academic life, serving as the ivory tower’s sardonic wallpaper.

Take Margo Thompson, professor of art history. Her door, thanks to some enterprising students, comments on her work with a pair of Calvin and Hobbes strips. In one of them, Calvin proposes to sign and then sell Hobbes a snowy landscape as a work of conceptual art. The tiger declines, citing a conflict with his furniture. Calvin rejoins, “The problem with being avant-garde is knowing who is putting on who.”

Thompson, though a fan of the strip, usually decorates her door with exhibition postcards. But she has enjoyed making an exception. “I believe my first-year honors students may feel that I may take art history a little, well, seriously, so I told them I would put up the cartoons and I did,” she says.

Gregory Gause, associate professor of political science, also displays a sketch that lampoons one of his fields of interest. In a photocopied frame labeled “Pitfalls of Near Eastern Studies, Part I” he presents a clipping from The New Yorker.

“A schlumpy guy and a rather fetching woman are standing in front of an apartment door,” Gause explains, “and the woman tells him, ‘I would say you should come up, but I need time to digest what you’ve told me about the Ottoman Empire.’”

Other faculty don’t go in for satire, preferring strips that embrace what they do. Malcolm Sanders, lecturer in physics, decorates his door with an old clipping from For Better or For Worse, a family strip. A child is asking his mother for help with a complex word problem that involves a package heaved over the bridge. She refuses to tackle it, and instead wonders aloud why the person would throw a box off the bridge in the first place. Perhaps frustrated by a challenge left unsolved, Sanders drew a neat speech balloon with a trio of equations answering the problem.

Back at Williams Hall, Vivanco says he hopes the professorial postings do more than while away time for students waiting to see him. “I want to decenter people with some of these clippings,” he says. “That’s what we as anthropologists do, we upset the fancy table at the party.”

Bill Davison’s Lasting Imprint

Standing in the center of the Coburn Gallery, with harsh winter light pouring in through the corner windows and shadowing five walls containing 160 student prints collected over decades of teaching, retiring art Professor Bill Davison is asked to reflect on the artwork and his career.

“Well, I’m not getting all teary-eyed about it,” growls the famously hard-nosed printmaker. He pauses. “But there’s a certain kind of wonderful nostalgia that standing in here looking around brings. I’m very proud.”

Davison will teach a course this summer, but this is his 35th and last spring semester at the university. He is retiring in May, he says, “to devote myself to having uninterrupted time to make art.” Last fall, the Fleming devoted gallery space to his work (another show of Davison’s work opens at Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery in late April); this semester he wanted to show off his students. So he spent three or four days vetting the 1,100 or so pieces he has collected over the years as he reviewed his printmaking students’ final projects.

Compiled together in the gallery, they are a testimonial to the variability of major printing techniques, decades of student interests, changing art fashions, and a teacher with an appreciation for wit and verve.

The thing to know about teaching printmaking is this: The equipment is expensive and fragile, the chemicals potentially dangerous. Making a decent print — really, any print at all — requires a reasonably high level of technical facility as well as some kind of artistic vision. So when Davison instructs his students, he’s often demonstrating a subtle technique with his hands while simultaneously explaining the process.

“It’s like Julia Child on TV — you’re talking and using your hands,” he says. “Except I can’t throw around and spill stuff like she did. I’ve got to handle dangerous chemicals and try to be entertaining with 18 people staring at me.”

The theater of teaching, the improvisation of it, similar in its mysteries and thousands of tiny adjustments to the process of making art, is something Davison says he will miss when he is no longer teaching.

“It’s the first week of classes, and I’ve already taught six times already,” he says. “I’d say four of those classes were pretty good, one was brilliant, and one was just awful.”

Fellow faculty and former students cut the professor a little more slack than he’s willing to give himself. Ed Owre, an art professor who started at UVM the same year as Davison and will also retire this summer, respects his colleague’s ability to change his approach to fit the needs of a particular class or a particular student. “Bill teaches a lot of technique, and he’s very direct about it. He calls it as he sees it,” he says. “But teaching art is a kind of psychology, and he has a great feeling for the individual.”

Tim Grannis ’75, a Burlington jewelry artisan, praises Davison’s ability to describe what he sees to students. “He has such a good eye,” Grannis says. “He can just look at a piece, pick something out, and nail it.”

MBA Students Strut Their Stuff

Juggling studies, jobs, and, for some, family needs, last fall five MBA students in Professor Bill Averyt’s business policy class became living proof of the maxim: If you want something done, give it to a busy person.

They received no extra credit for the months of preparation that culminated in seven days of grueling competition against the best of their peers, but Team UVM members say they would gladly do it again. Competing in the Concordia University John Molson School of Business MBA International Case competition in Montreal — the oldest and largest challenge of its kind — left them exhausted yet exhilarated. “It wears a bit on personal life,” says Thad Omand, who is the controller at Hallam Associates, “but it was a phenomenal experience.”

Four students formed the team that faced top MBA students from 29 other competing universities from around the world: Neil Chartier, a full-time student working three jobs; Teresa Montemayor, a marketing manager at IBM; Philipp von Schickfus, a full-time scholarship student from Germany; and Omand. A fifth, Agam Sheth, a project engineer with the pharmaceutical firm Mylan Technologies, was the alternate with the full-time job of coaching the group during the Jan. 6-11 business bout.

For five preliminary rounds of case presentations, the UVM team impressed judges with its abilities and team work and came out first each time, topping fine teams from Sweden, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, and Canada.

“The biggest challenge,” Sheth says, “was probably overcoming the fear of the unknown. … We did not realize our potential going into the competition, (but) after winning the first three rounds unanimously … we knew we could win the whole thing.”

By the end of semi-finals, it looked like they might. UVM’s was the only American team in the final round, where contest rankings become meaningless. You might enter as the Serena Williams of MBA-land, but you could well be surprised by spoiler Jennifer Capriati on a very good day. UVM placed third, behind the University of Laval and York University, both in Canada.

The point of the competition, according to Molson’s dean Jerry Tomberlin, is “to bridge the gap between corporate and academic worlds,” benefiting both students and executives. Senior business execs judge each round, assessing teams on “creativity, insight, and real work applicability of their presentations.” The final case study was real — an Irish bank that had too quickly expanded globally and then retreated was seeking to define its competitive advantage and position in a global market.

The intensity of the contest “may be artificial,” Chartier says, “but it mirrors the fast-paced atmosphere in most of the business world.” He adds, that it also “allows the students to connect the dots from all of their classroom experiences into a coherent solution to the cases presented.”

Saving Rural Trauma Patients

Research by doctors at the UVM College of Medicine and Fletcher Allen Health Care has shown that trauma victims in rural areas are nearly twice as likely to die from their injuries as people in more urban areas. Hope to reduce that grim statistic has driven funding for new research that will put telemedicine technology in a Vermont ambulance on a trial basis.

A $250,000 U.S. Department of Transportation appropriation obtained by Sen. Patrick Leahy will fund the installation and testing of mobile telemedicine in an ambulance that services the academic medical center. This technology allows for one-way, full-motion video and two-way audio communication between a command center, located at Fletcher Allen, and an emergency medical services crew inside an ambulance. It has the potential to virtually place the trauma surgeon in the ambulance with the crew and the injured patient en route to the medical center.

“Thanks to Senator Leahy’s support, we have the privilege of testing this mobile technology in Vermont, where long rides and difficult weather conditions can complicate patient transport,” says surgeon Dr. Michael Ricci, whose roles at UVM and the hospital include serving as clinical director of telemedicine at Fletcher Allen. “Using mobile telemedicine in trauma situations is, in fact, the tip of the iceberg. Imagine that we virtually place a high-risk obstetrician in the back of the ambulance with a difficult birth or a neonatologist with a sick premature infant. Suddenly our ambulance crews will have more support when unexpected and difficult situations arise.”

Building a Tastier Hot Rod

Rutland fourth-grader Troy Davine unwraps a piece of Bazooka Joe, pops the chunk of pink goodness into his mouth, chews, and asks his buddy Ryan Browne, “Hey, do you want this gum?”

Gross at first glance, but the moment nicely illustrates something that is important to know about the Edible Car Competition during UVM’s Engineer’s Week — the vehicles may be constructed of food, but they’re built with ingenuity and teamwork.

Ryan, in fact, doesn’t want the gum and Troy is just as happy to chew rather than give it up for adhesive. Together with their teammate Emily Davine (Troy’s cousin), the boys are into the thick of building a car that they hope will roll farther, roll faster, or at least appear tastier than the works of 83 other teams clustered around tables that fill the whole first floor of Billings — North Lounge to Apse to Marsh Lounge.

The edible car contest leads off a day full of activities that will bring more than 500 Vermont elementary through high school kids to campus. The occasion, of course, is the annual Engineer’s Week with activities sponsored by the College of Engineering and Mathematics that work from a spirit of fun to offer a window on the field.

Ryan, clad in a t-shirt celebrating skateboarder Tony Hawk, is clearly a kid who likes things that roll, preferably fast. I ask him why his team has decided to run a pair of marshmallow wheels up front and bagels in back. “Aerodynamics,” he says, pointing out how the shape is like a dragster. “Right now we’re trying to fix the bottom. It needs support so it will roll better.” Troy has gone off in search of another sheet of lasagna noodle.
At the other end of the table, their Rutland classmates — teams #40 Samantha Cohen and Dana Nelson, and #41 Caitlin Bliss and Alexis Taylor — are hard at work on their own vehicles. Samantha takes a break to tell me how they prepared for the competition with prototypes. “Our teachers said they wanted us to make sure we were serious if we were going to miss a day of school to do this,” she says. Alexis notes that such preparation gave them a jump-start today. They learned that donut wheels don’t work, and this morning they’ve quickly rejected that option in favor of rice cakes.

Teachers Wendie McLaughlin G’79 and Martha Welch ’72 stand by, but leave the kids to their own devices. They say that the lessons their students take home from this day — teamwork, problem-solving, and thinking quickly — are ones that apply to any career or life endeavor, engineering or otherwise.


Applications up

The university has posted its second straight year with a very significant rise in applications to join next fall’s freshman class. The 10,300 applications received by the Admissions Office is up 7 percent from last year, making for the greatest interest shown by prospective students since the mid-1980s. The increase comes on top of the 18 percent rise in applications the university saw last year. Admissions Director Don Honeman reports that the applicant pool boasts quality as well as quantity. SAT scores increased 17 points overall, with out-of-state scores rising an average 14 points and in-state scores jumping an average 29 points. More good news: initiatives to build diversity are promising, with a 13 percent increase in applicants from students of color.

Honorary Degrees

Marion Pritchard, who saved the lives of more than 100 Jews during the Holocaust, has been honored by Yad Vashem in Israel and by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., for her heroism. UVM will present an honorary degree to Pritchard at the 2003 Commencement on Sunday, May 18. Jon Kilik, a highly regarded film producer and alumnus of the class of 1978, will also receive an honorary degree and will be the featured speaker at the graduation ceremony. Throughout his successful career in film, Kilik has been involved with projects guided by a strong social conscience and distinguished by artistic achievement. He has worked extensively with director Spike Lee since 1989’s Do the Right Thing, and has also been producer on films by directors such as Robert Altman, Tim Robbins, and Julian Schnabel.

UVM shelflife

Major Poet
Young professor’s verse draws attention

photograph by Sally McCay

When you’re smart, young, and brooding, the series of self-assertions necessary to become a poet can start with plucking two books off the long shelves upstairs at your grandparents’ house in Philadelphia.

They just have to be the right books. For Major Jackson, an assistant professor of English whose first book, Leaving Saturn, is reaping accolades and awards, they were collections of Robert Frost and Langston Hughes that he carried in his backpack all through high school.

Twenty years later, Jackson’s poems are rich in allusions to everything from Cezanne to dancing the Cabbage Patch but return again and again to personal themes: the streets of his hometown, gritty and otherwise; family; jazz. And love, again and again —gritty and otherwise.

“They say that a poet’s first book is an announcement of who you are,” says Jackson, who is in his first year teaching at UVM. “Then your gaze widens.”

These days, Jackson’s eyes are swiveling in all directions. He was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award along with four other older and better-known poets (inspiring him to say, “I feel like a bonsai in a forest of redwood”), and won a prestigious fellowship given by United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins.

His work, also, is turning and drawing less overtly on his life and hometown. His current project concerns historical figures like Paul Robeson, Thurgood Marshall, and Gwendolyn Brooks.

The attention, awards, and pieces in The New Yorker raise the stakes over the tiny journals for which he wrote just a few years ago. “There’s a certain responsibility that comes with a wider audience,” Jackson says. “People make unexpected connections. A group therapist told me that he starts sessions with my poem ‘How to Listen.’ That floored me.”

That poem, which finds something spiritual in a dirty patch of sidewalk, is typical of Jackson’s humanity and preferred material. It ends with the speaker vowing to hear and identify with a street person who endlessly combs his matted hair outside a bar:

For once, I am going to ignore the
profanity and
the dancing and the jukebox so I
can hear his head crackle
beneath the sky’s stretch of faint

Hear Major Jackson read "”How to Listen” at