Students test selves on NASA flight
UVM’s reputation for offering students down-to-earth, hands-on learning experiences is about to lose ground. Elevating experiential education to the celestial realm, four engineering seniors will be testing their bioengineering experiment — and themselves — aboard NASA’s KC-135, commonly known as the “vomit comet.” Their March flight, officially part of the NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities, should snag “most unusual off-campus placement” honors in the annals of career development.

It likely will be the flight of a lifetime for Dan Barnett of Asburg, N.J.; Dan Cheung of Roslyn Heights, N.Y.; Megan Carroll of Vineyard Haven, Mass.; and Noel Nutting of Essex Junction, Vt.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to meet with other students and see what they’re doing,” Carroll says, referring to the other student teams accepted by NASA. Carroll, whose parents encouraged her to participate, admits to being “a little nervous about it” and, like the other students, “really excited.”

The four mechanical engineering majors have been part of a yearlong bioengineering project for NASA’s Student Launch Program.

The two-week, March program will take place at Ellington Field, Texas, home of the Johnson Space Center’s Reduced-Gravity Program. The students will undergo a one-week, pre-flight, physiological training that includes testing in a hyperbaric chamber. Then, donning their flight suits, they’ll board the KC-135 for a two-to-three hour flight.

Look for a feature story on this unique field experience in a future issue of Vermont Quarterly.

Re-thinking Russian relations
As United States leaders develop future foreign policy regarding Russia their thoughts may well be shaped by the work of UVM’s Peter Stavrakis, associate professor of political science. His recent paper, “After the Fall: U.S. – Russian Relations in the Next Stage of Post-Soviet History,” has been forwarded as required reading to every member of Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President and the Vice President, and all major agencies in the administration that deal with foreign policy.

Stavrakis’s paper was published by The Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan network of leaders in the policy, academic and corporate communities dedicated to fostering informed public policy in the United States and abroad. The organization requested that Stavrakis analyze the factors underlying the failure of America’s previous Russian policy and reflect on what should be the elements of any future policy.

“While the objective of influencing policy is generally a high-risk affair,” Stavrakis says, “the present vacuum of ideas and interest surrounding Russia increased the likelihood that my work — through the auspices of the Atlantic Council — would stimulate serious thinking regarding how to best craft future policy and avoid the mistakes of the past seven years.”

Stavrakis explains that his paper suggests an approach to reform that not only saves the United States and international financial institutions time and money, but demonstrates to Russians that America is not interested in defeating or exploiting them through their transition to the modern world.

Prof a key witness in “Civil Action” case
John Travolta and Robert Duvall may be the marquee attractions of the recent film A Civil Action, but a UVM engineering professor played a lead role in the trial itself as an expert witness for the plaintiffs. George Pinder, professor of civil and environmental engineering and mathematics, is one of the world’s foremost experts on groundwater hydrology and computational methods for modeling groundwater flow and remediation. His work figures prominently in Jonathan Harr’s National Book Award Winner, A Civil Action, the basis for the recent motion picture.

In 1986, Pinder was an expert witness for the seven Woburn, Massachusetts families who had suffered serious illness and lost children to leukemia. The defendants, two large corporations, W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods, were accused of contaminating the groundwater systems and nearby production wells with a variety of toxic materials. Pinder’s reconstruction, using elementary and sophisticated mathematical modeling, was critical to the outcome of the case, as it determined when and at what concentration contaminants arrived at the production wells.

British actor Stephen Fry portrays Pinder in A Civil Action. Pinder himself will appear in an upcoming documentary about the Woburn story on the Lifetime channel, and the Arts & Entertainment channel covered the story on its American Justice program.

Casting UVM in a new light
By night or by day, seventy new fixtures lining the sidewalks have made the UVM Green both a safer and a prettier place. The lights are the first step in a five-year project to improve outdoor lighting throughout the campus. The fixtures recall historic Burlington with a design inspired by the streetlighting that was commonly used in Burlington in the 1920s and 1930s, says Thomas Visser, interim director of UVM’s Historic Preservation Program. “This is an investment that’s going to greatly enrich the quality and character of the campus,” Visser adds.



“Go northeast, young man!”
Burlington has been hailed as a top town for women, for children, for outdoor enthusiasts. Recently, another “Top Ten” came from Point of View, a magazine which targets “career-minded young men.” Burlington ranks number five among American cities in which to start a business, according to Point of View. The Queen City tied with Jacksonville, Fla. for posting the highest ratio of success for start-up businesses. Plus, the city earned high marks for quality of life and the ever-present if somewhat less tangible “cool” factor.

Shaping American higher education’s future
UVM President Judith Ramaley is among a group of current and former university presidents urging their colleagues in higher education to go beyond traditional public service and become more fully engaged. The twenty-seven presidents serving on the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities laid out a forward-looking framework for change in their open letter to the chief executives of the nation’s state and land-grant colleges and universities.

They call on public institutions to become “engaged institutions” by responding to the needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s, not yesterday’s; enriching students’ experiences by bringing research and engagement into the curriculum and offering practical opportunities for students to prepare for the world they will enter; and putting critical resources (knowledge and expertise) to work on the problems facing the communities they serve.

“Becoming a more fully engaged institution requires a commitment to enhance the student experience, encourage innovation and creativity, and share its intellectual resources with the citizens of its state and beyond,” Ramaley said. “Engaged institutions will find ways to create real partnerships with local communities – partnerships in which we define problems together, share goals and agendas, develop common definitions of success, and pool or leverage university, public, and private funds.”

The Kellogg Commission’s recent letter is the third of a series framing a vision for reforming public higher education and outlining actions for change. Ramaley and her presidential colleagues stress that “engagement” goes well beyond conventional, one-way notions of public service. “The Commission,” says the report, “envisions partnerships, two-way streets defined by mutual respect among the partners for what each brings to the table.”


New Center for Cultural Pluralism
The freshly restored 160-year-old Allen House, at the corner of Main and Prospect streets, is the new home to UVM’s Center for Cultural Pluralism. “Our goal is to provide the common space for people to get together and discover their own culture and each other’s cultures,” said Annie Allen, executive officer for cultural pluralism and racial equality. “We need to explore our own cultures first and then move into a greater appreciation of other cultures, points of view, and perspectives.”



Researcher to head anti-drug effort
A UVM College of Medicine researcher has been selected to head a White House-appointed panel of experts to develop the largest-ever national youth anti-drug media campaign. John “Kim” Worden, a former film and video producer, has gained national recognition for pioneering the use of radio and television advertising to reduce adolescent smoking. In 1996 this research earned Worden and his colleagues at the UVM Office of Health Promotion Research the C. Everett Koop Award.

Worden will chair a seven-member panel that will develop strategies and key advertising messages in a five-year, $1 billion media campaign, the largest and most comprehensive ever undertaken by the federal government. The campaign’s goal will be to educate and empower America’s young people to reject illicit drugs and substance abuse.

Worden and his UVM colleagues have already contributed to the campaign through their research. The group’s smoking prevention project in the 1980s showed that a well-designed TV and radio campaign can result in as much as a thirty percent decrease in levels of youth smoking.

“Several features of the new, national anti-drug campaign were designed in a similar way to the UVM campaign,” says Worden, “except that the one we’re undertaking has a one billion dollar budget.”

Telemedicine links Burlington to Hanoi:
The UVM College of Medicine and Fletcher Allen Health Care have earned national recognition for pioneering work in telemedicine. Those efforts broke new ground this winter with a live video hookup linking sites in Vermont, northern New York, Washington, D.C., and Vietnam. It was the first-ever telemedicine connection involving Vietnam.

On hand in Vietnam for the initial hookup was Dr. Michael Ricci, medical director of the UVM/Fletcher Allen telemedicine system. The goal of the program is to improve the level of medical education in Vietnam. When fully implemented, the program will provide advanced medical training for medical students and physicians in the United States and Vietnam, enabling people in both countries to share knowledge about conditions and techniques that are less common at one site or the other.

Vermont was among the first states to explore methods of providing health care at a distance. Now Vermont’s system provides a tool for daily consultations around the state and in northeastern New York, while experts in Vermont are teaching others from around the world how to use this promising new technology.

“This effort is a logical extension of our telemedicine program,” says John Evans, executive dean of UVM’s College of Medicine. “We designed our system to serve, teach and learn from the people of our region by linking physicians and patients across some of the nation’s most rural and rugged territory. Now we see an opportunity to serve, teach and learn from the people of Vietnam by extending our expertise across the globe.”

Prof revisits “Salesman” roots
Jeff Modereger was born in South Dakota on Feb. 9, 1949 — the eve of the Broadway opening of “Death of a Salesman.” This coincidence of birthdate and opening night foreshadowed the central role Arthur Miller’s stage masterpiece would take in Modereger’s life.

Modereger’s link to “Salesman” came via Jo Mielziner, a legendary set designer known for his simple yet suggestive stages including the original one for Miller’s play. Mielziner taught at the University of Utah when Modereger was a graduate student there. After graduation, Modereger hit the road with Mielziner as his mentor, assisting him for two years on everything from architectural work at the Denver Center for Performing Arts to set designs for Don Giovanni at The Met.

This winter, Modereger and his students have prepared Royall Tyler Theatre for their department’s production honoring the 50th anniversary of “Death of a Salesman.” Due to the theatre’s configuration, they had to design and build the set under special spatial considerations. The result suits the story in the signature Mielzinerian way.

“He always told me never to design reality,” Modereger says. The point, as he describes it, is to create a hyper-reality and thereby foster a heightened sense of drama. Quoting his mentor, Modereger says, “We’re all salesmen, trying to get the audience to believe in something they didn’t know they were going to buy.”