President's Perspective

As the spring semester opened, our campus community participated in what I hope will become an annual tradition at the University of Vermont. It was my honor to deliver UVM’s first-ever State of the University Address. For individuals, for nations, and for universities, the new year presents a natural point from which we can take stock of our present position and set a course for the future.

I touched upon many points in that talk to the faculty, staff, students, and community members gathered in Ira Allen Chapel on January 26. Among them, I discussed some of the achievements and steps forward that we have taken on this campus in the past year, and some of the financial challenges that we must meet before we can become the university we aspire to be.

In my inaugural remarks of October 1997, I addressed the special challenges that lie before us. It is worth repeating what I said. “Our future lies in ensuring the excellence of our academic programs so that we create the assets and energy that we will need to pursue our core mission, which is the creation, interpretation, and sharing of knowledge. We do not need to transform this university. Instead, we need to release its energies and support its involvement with its many constituencies.” By selective investment in those features that differentiate us from other universities and by the exercise of fiscal responsibility and strategic thinking, we can continue to develop the extraordinary qualities that characterize the University of Vermont and assure ourselves that we will leave for our successors an institution of quality and distinction that will continue to enrich the lives of many generations to come.

We must continue to invest in a targeted and strategic way in those aspects of UVM that create our distinctive character as an intellectual community and that enhance our ability to accomplish our mission. The necessary strategy for responding to the intellectual and financial challenges facing us consists of two elements: differentiation and a commitment to academic excellence centered on the student experience at UVM and on the quality and impact of our engagement with society. All of these decisions must contribute to the hallmark of a UVM experience: to link learning and life. We are fond of quoting our own alumnus, John Dewey, who wrote, “Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself.”

Provost Geoffrey Gamble and I propose to focus our investments in five critical areas, all of which can be derived logically from both the history and tradition of UVM and from our mission.

They are: liberal education and the enhancement of the curriculum; research and advanced study in the health sciences; research and advanced study in the environment; technology; and programs and capacity that promote engagement with society.

These are all programs that build upon our strengths, fit with the character of our state, and meet the critical needs that higher education must address for society. Ours is a two-tiered challenge. We must strengthen the foundation of what we have — meeting the serious financial challenges this university faces. And we must step higher. Our strategy must be to direct our budget, our time, and our effort toward those activities that can create and support academic excellence; make UVM a first choice for students, faculty, and staff; establish a campus environment that supports discovery, learning, and engagement; and ensure our continued development as a national research university.

For those of you interested in learning more about the “State of the University,” I invite you to explore the President’s Office Web page — you’ll find video, audio, the full text of my comments on that day, and the background materials that are guiding us in our future course. The address:

Thank you for your interest in and support of the University of Vermont as we continue to learn and grow as a leader among this nation’s public universities.