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UVM Notebook
The Latest from Burlington

 

Student Center at hub of UVM’s future
Ground-breaking anticipated next summer


It was the morning of September 17, 2004 when the Board of Trustees Facilities and Technologies Committee voted approval to move ahead on a new $70 million student center, dubbed with the working name of University Commons. Vice President Thomas Gustafson, a veteran UVM administrator whose experience dates back to the Lattie Coor era, was reluctant to let the moment pass. After the ayes were tallied and before the committee moved down the agenda, Gustafson urged trustees and others gathered in Memorial Lounge to pause and acknowledge the importance of the board’s action to the University’s future and the many in the past who had helped bring it about. Some two months later, the University would mark another critical step in the commons’s evolution with the announcement of major private support from the Davis family and a new name for the facility — the Dudley H. Davis Center.

Some would say that the long-perceived need for a new student center at UVM traces back to the day the old student center, the retrofit/addition to Billings Library, opened in 1986. Billings’ dark and stately interiors, the work of noted architect H.H. Richardson, made perfect sense for a 19th century library but were ill-suited to the needs of a 20th century student union. With the lounges and meeting spaces in the original building linked to Cook Commons, the Campus Center Theater, and student activities offices by a long and winding corridor, the center has always seemed to lack a center.

Recent Student Government Association leaders have been among the strongest proponents of a new student center. When Andrea Minkow ’00, who now lives and works in Washington, D.C., is told of plans to move ahead on the student center, she says, “That’s awesome.” Though the ribbon cutting will post-date her graduation by a number of years, she’s pleased that student voices have been heard. Minkow, who was 1999-2000 Student Government Association president, says, “The SGA felt that there was no place to gather on campus. Billings was quiet and a good place to study, but there was not a place to get together and hang out and be loud, no real open and common space.”

The new student union idea gained traction during the interim presidency of Edwin Colodny, then began to move in February 2003 when President Daniel Mark Fogel made it the bricks-and-mortar centerpiece of his ten-year vision for the University. “But none of the additions to the physical campus have had the transformative power of the University of Vermont Commons, a vital student union that seethes with activity from early morning to late night,” Fogel wrote in describing his vision of the campus in 2012. “It is more than a physical change. The Commons has rewoven the fabric of community at UVM in ways that all agree are highly positive.”

At the earliest stages of the student center planning process, the University conducted an extensive survey of campus life, one of the most far-reaching ever undertaken by a college or university to determine the need for and feasibility of a new facility. The results not only confirmed the need at UVM, but showed trustees how dramatically the University lagged behind key competitors. The survey would create a strong grounding for building designers to work from as they strove to meld form and function.

WTW Architects brings extensive experience with college and university student centers to the Dudley H. Davis Center, a project on which they are working with local firm Truex Cullins and Partners Architects. Designers knew the location of the new student center would be critical — envisioned as a figurative crossroads of campus, it had to be a literal one, as well. Their solution promises to dramatically improve two aesthetic negatives of the UVM campus — the culvert-like pedestrian tunnel under Main Street and the University’s lack of a “front door” on Main, the primary route into Burlington. The Davis Center will stretch along Main, roughly in the area between Morrill and Terrill halls. (Carrigan Hall will be removed.) The pedestrian tunnel will be reworked and integrated into the center, a strong link between the residential and main campus that will draw thousands of students into the building on their daily travels.

The campus life survey has driven the building’s design, addressing the areas that students said were lacking: dining venues, a campus pub/bistro, performance spaces, study lounges, conference/meeting room, student organization and support areas, an expanded bookstore, and other retail outlets. The space is divided into two main building components: a student union composed of four building levels and a performing arts theater on two levels with seating for approximately 600. In keeping with UVM’s strong environmental ethic, the Davis Center team is striving for LEED certification of the building, incorporating a variety of practices that meet the strictest standards of environmental design.

Pending permitting, the University will break ground on the project next summer with a projected opening date of fall 2007. For Colin Robinson, a student member of the Board of Trustees, who brings both the perspective of one involved in the long-term strategic planning of the University and the day-to-day of a UVM undergraduate, that will be a critical step forward. On September 17, as he urged his fellow trustees to give the project the final green light, Robinson made clear the connection between facilities such as the student center and UVM’s plan to grow both the size and academic quality of the enrollment. “University Commons is integral to the next phase of this University,” Robinson said. “I don’t think it is possible for the University to progress without it.”

3 Questions
Domenico Grasso, the new dean of UVM’s College of Engineering and Mathematics, has pioneered an approach to undergraduate engineering education that combines the quantitative rigor typically associated with his field’s curriculum and expands on it with the study of the social sciences and humanities. Grasso comes to UVM from Smith College, where he was founding director of the Picker Engineering Program, the first engineering program at a women’s college in the U.S. Prior to that, Grasso was head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at the University of Connecticut. Grasso’s experience outside of the academic world includes four years as an environmental engineer in the U.S. Army, where he worked prior to pursuing his doctorate at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the ways contaminants are transported through the environment, expertise put to work through Grasso’s current role as vice chair of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board.

Q. In your essay “Engineering and the Human Spirit,” you write, “A common misperception is that engineering is another one of the sciences.” Could you elaborate on that?

A. Engineering certainly builds on the sciences. The sciences, of course, must be a cornerstone. But engineering’s goal is not only understanding what exists, but creating what has never existed and it does that for the sake of humanity. And because of that, it is not gratuitous. It is not just to create something because you can, but creation to enrich humanity. Because of that, engineers have to understand the human condition and the human spirit. Engineers have to be well-educated and well-grounded in the sciences and in the humanities and the social sciences.

Q. When did that perspective begin to emerge for you?

A. It’s continuing to emerge. As my professional career evolves, I see that I am becoming more of a minority at major decision-making tables. There are fewer and fewer engineers there and more and more economists and social scientists and attorneys and philosophers, and we’re dealing with larger and larger questions. I’d like to see more engineers at these tables. But, as things stand now, I don’t know if engineers are prepared to be there, and I want that to change here at UVM.

Q. How did your experience as an environmental engineer in the military influence you?

A. It was an important influence, a character-building experience. Working on real problems that the military was facing was very important to me in terms of contextualizing the global significance of environmental problems, which I think is difficult to fully convey in a classroom. That started me on the path of thinking larger and really realizing what you could do with an engineering education. People often think that engineering education is vocational and you can really only do so much, but an engineering education opens up so many tremendous possibilities. It trains your mind to think in such wonderful ways. If you can relax the constraints a bit and apply that thought process to other problems and other issues — the political scene, or policy issues — you realize that it is incredibly powerful. An engineering education can make your mind a wonderful place to live for the rest of your life.

photo by Sabin Gratz

 

Campus Base Camp
It’s a Monday afternoon early in the fall semester, and a steady stream of students stop through the UVM Outing Club House. They’re returning sleeping bags and backpacks from weekend excursions; signing up for trips sea-kayaking in Maine, canoeing in the Adirondacks, or hiking the Long Trail; grabbing a few posters for the OC Fest, a day-long festival/concert set for later in the week. Between the visitors, a persistently ringing phone, and the String Cheese Incident playing on the stereo, the well-worn OC House is fairly hopping.

Ria and Andrew D’Aversa, a sibling duo who are among this year’s Outing Club House managers, handle it all with affable calm. They make you feel kind of like you’re hanging out around the campfire rather than the warm glow of a PC. Sure, all options considered, Andrew would probably rather be on the Long Trail; Ria in the Adirondacks, but sharing the joy and personal growth found in the outdoors is also a big part of the fun for the family D’Aversa.

It’s been that way for a long time. Growing up near the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey, the D’Aversas’ parents made a family hike part of every holiday and seeded a love of the north woods with annual summer camping trips to the Adirondacks. It was little surprise that both looked to the mountains for college. Andrew is a senior in the Environmental Program with thoughts of working with inner city kids post-graduation. (He also sees a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail in the near future.) Ria is a junior studying botany, and splits her work-study hours between the OC House and the student-run Common Ground Farm.

The D’Aversas’ Outdoor Programs experience started with Ria’s freshman year participation in TREK wilderness orientation. It wasn’t long until Andrew got involved as well, and they’ve both taken part as trip leaders and with the Outing Club’s Wilderness Instructors Leadership Development Program (WILD). As managers of the Outing Club House they help oversee the day-to-day at a building that has served as campus base camp for generations of outdoor-bound UVM students.


Accounting


18

UVM’s rank in a Wall Street Journal survey of top public universities singled out for their success getting students into the nation’s most prestigious medicine, law, and business graduate programs. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, and MIT were among the 15 grad programs whose admissions records were surveyed to develop the Journal’s top “feeder schools” list.

 

photo by Sally McCay

 

Campus mourns loss of Joan Smith
Family, friends, and colleagues of Joan Smith, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, filled Ira Allen Chapel on September 17 to celebrate the life of a “remarkable woman” who loved to cook, loved to laugh and “invented multi-tasking” as she pursued advanced education and a successful career in academia while raising five children. Smith died at home in Hartland, Vermont on September 10, nine years after she was diagnosed with a form of cancer that is almost invariably fatal within five years.

Addressing the campus memorial service, one of Smith’s daughters, Beth Danon, capsulated her mother’s story. Joan Smith was born in 1935, and grew up in a working-class Irish neighborhood in Chicago’s Southside, where she married early, began having children, and moved to a Levittown-like suburb of the city. As the 1950’s gave way to the 1960’s, Smith was stirred by the Civil Rights movement, working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi. As she awakened to political activism, she took action in her own life, returning to school and eventually earning her doctorate from New York University. After teaching at Dartmouth College and the State University of New York at Binghamton, she came to UVM in 1990 to become the University’s first director of Women’s Studies. She became dean in 1996, a position that she held until her death.

Smith, a professor of sociology with special interest in economic processes and labor force issues, was the first woman dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest academic division. Her accomplishments in that role were many, including implementing the ALANA Studies program and developing integrated first-year programs and an honors program. Under Smith’s leadership, enrollment in the College of Arts and Sciences increased more than 15 percent and applications for admission to the college increased by 28 percent. Smith was also a leader in implementing UVM’s commitment to diversity, significantly increasing the numbers of women and ALANA faculty and multicultural enrollments in the college.

At the request of Dean Smith’s family, a faculty professional development fund has been established in her memory. For more information, please contact the Dean’s Office of the College of Arts and Sciences at 802-656-3166 or email a-sdean.admin@ uvm.edu.

 

Green Genes in Common
The rooftop of New York City’s High School for Environmental Studies — dense with trees, plants, a greenhouse, and numerous student projects — creates an oasis of sorts several stories above West 56th Street. Still, there’s no mistaking that you’re in concrete-jungle Manhattan rather than a more bucolic setting like, say, Vermont. While UVM and this urban high school may not share much in milieu, they are institutions with kindred spirits in respect to environmental study — and a growing partnership program between the two schools is drawing them closer.

UVM has made great strides in bridging this cultural and geographical gap since Brooklyn-native Don DeHayes, dean of The Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, first looked to New York’s HSES some seven years ago to see if he could build connections with a high school considered a national model for urban environmental education. It seemed like a natural fit not only from an academic perspective, but also in synch with UVM’s efforts to build diversity. At the time, HSES was relatively new and had about 500 students. It has more than tripled in size since and now has a racial composition of 37 percent Latin American; 23 percent African American; 21 percent white; and 18 percent Asian American.

DeHayes and other UVM faculty and staff were soon traveling to the school to give guest lectures and talk with students and teachers. The relationship has become part of the University’s growing high school partnerships initiatives which are designed to help students — particularly those who would be the first generation in their families to attend college — to better prepare for and sort through the higher education application process.

Guidance counselors at the HSES say Vermont has become one of the most applied-to schools for graduates and continues to grow in popularity. Deborah Gale, UVM admissions officer and diversity team leader, sees the possibility of landing as many as ten grads of the New York environmental high school with each new class of students.

NYC students considering the trip north would do well to talk with Joanna Pina, one of the first HSES graduates to further her education at Vermont. The member of UVM’s Class of 2002 says, “The Latin community is very family-oriented and you don’t get a lot of support when you want to venture out of it, especially to a place that seemed as far away as Vermont. But UVM made it like a family. I love my college.”

What’s New
Huck Gutman, professor of English; David Massell, assistant professor of history; and Matthew Moore, lecturer of political science were selected for the 2004-2005 Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Awards. The annual awards are based on excellence in instruction, an ability to animate and engage students, innovation in methods, commitment to cultural diversity, and excellence in advising.

Jill Mattuck Tarule, dean of the College of Education and Social Services since 1992, announced her retirement from the dean’s post this fall. Before returning to the faculty, she will work with Provost John Bramley to create a leadership development program for UVM. Under her leadership, the college developed innovative programs for professionals statewide, grew significantly in graduate education, and played a major role in education and social services policy. Tarule is a professor in human development and in leadership whose research led to the co-authored book Women’s Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind.

Susan Dinitz, senior lecturer in English and director of the University of Vermont Writing Center, has been named Vermont Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council of Advancement and Support of Education. “Sue is a one-woman-teacher-of-writing miracle on this campus,” said Jane Knodell, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Not only is she an outstanding teacher of writing in her own right, she trains undergraduates to be peer tutors, helping other students strengthen their writing skills.”

The Princeton Review’s 2004 edition of “America’s Most Connected Campuses” ranked the University of Vermont twentieth among 357 top colleges and universities surveyed for technological sophistication. The survey examines computing capabilities, technology policies, and coursework.

History
The times they were a changin’

The 1913 edition of The Ariel, UVM’s student yearbook, documents the “Old Yell” as opposed to the “New Yell.”

OLD YELL
Rah-Rah-Rah!
Rah-Rah-Rah!
Vermont! Vermont!
Rah-Rah!

NEW YELL
Ver-mont! Ver-mont!
V-E-R-M-O-N-T
Ver-Mont!
Rah! Rah! Rah! Rah!
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Ver-mont!

 

Curse Reverser?
Long before “Big Papi,” the Fenway faithful counted on the big hit from Larry Gardner, UVM alumnus and Catamount baseball coach from 1932 to 1951. The Louisville Slugger that Gardner used to drive in the 1912 World Series’ winning run is part of UVM's Athletic Hall of Fame. Not that die-hard Sox fans are superstitious, but Bruce Bosley ’79 of UVM’s Athletics Communications office swears that checking up on the historic bat before game seven of the ALCS provided “just the right amount of karma for the Sox to finish the job.” Yeah, Bruce, that and how many amulets, incantations, and lucky ballcaps across New England? Go Sox.

The long, happy life of Heinz Ansbacher
“They lived Adlerian psychology,” says Professor Robert Lawson as he recalls coming to know Heinz and Rowena Ansbacher during his first years on campus some 40 years ago. “Social support, the priority of home life and individual responsibility were all very important to them.”

Heinz Ansbacher helped the young professor Lawson settle into faculty life in the mid-1960s and would continue to be a regular presence in the Psychology Department long past his retirement in 1970.

Professor Ansbacher doesn’t make it over to campus much these days, but is still going strong. He celebrated his 100th birthday on October 21. In recognition of that milestone, Heinz and the late Rowena Ansbacher’s family has assured that the influence of their parents will continue in the UVM Psychology Department for years to come. The Ansbachers’ four sons — Max ’57, Ben, Ted G’68, and Charles — have established a fund to support The Heinz and Rowena Ansbacher Endowed Green and Gold Professorship in Psychology.

“He has all the ties he needs,” quips Max Ansbacher, “we thought we’d do something a little more meaningful to celebrate his wonderful life.”

About half of Heinz Ansbacher’s long life has been spent in Burlington, where he joined the UVM faculty in 1946. Heinz and Rowena both worked directly with Alfred Adler as scholars and editors and are considered among the leading early followers of the Adlerian school of thought.

On the eve of his 100th birthday, Ansbacher considers what initially attracted him personally and professionally to Adler’s way of thinking. “It was against Freud,” he says. On another inevitable question, Ansbacher declines any credit for his impressive longevity, “I didn’t do anything about it,” he says. “I just have a good heart.”

Quote Unquote
Fall 2004 was a lively semester for guest speakers at UVM and a quotable one. Here’s a sample of what a few had to say.

“The Constitution is not a living organism for Pete’s sake. It’s a legal document.”
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

“We want to do good in the world, but to do good in the world, you have to deal with the damn world.”
Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek international editor

“Writing prose is a six-year ordeal, kind of like gradually searching for something you have lost.”
Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient and other works

A New Tool for Business
So much for a three-ring binder and a box of No. 2 pencils. This fall UVM’s School of Business Administration joined the forefront of a national higher education trend by requiring entering first-year students to own convertible “tablet” PCs.

The convertible tablet functions both as an ordinary laptop and, if the screen is swiveled and closed on the keyboard, as a kind of souped-up digital notepad, with the lid becoming an illuminated writing screen.

Students file their tablet-mode notes in folders, either in handwritten form or converted to text, where they have all the advantages of searchable digital files. The tablet will even record a lecture, synchronizing the audio to the notes. If a section of notes is incomplete or unintelligible, a student taps the text in question and the professor’s words boom forth.

About 180 first-year business schools students are using the new technology. Erin Schumacher, a first-year student from Harvard, Illinois, says working with the tablet has far exceeded her expectations. “It can do everything you need,” she says.

That panoply of functions — all in support of enhanced learning — is just what the School of Business Administration leaders envisioned. Faculty report good anecdotal feedback and see more students taking more notes in class. And, of course, the tablet PC is affecting not just students but faculty who use the tool.

“It’s had a bigger impact on how I teach than anything else,” says Jim Kraushaar, an associate professor and a specialist in the use of computers in business. He makes notes on his Powerpoint presentation during class discussion, then posts the annotated file almost immediately on the class Web site. For the first time, Kraushaar can also complete the digital loop with student assignments, e-mailing back papers adorned with digital comments, edits, and grades.

Business School Dean Rocki-Lee DeWitt says students will benefit from their experience with the tablet PCs as they begin their careers. “When you walk around different organizations, you see tablets,” she says. “We don’t want our students to be surprised the first time they walk into an organization and see this.”

 

UVM Shelflife

Delving Into Disaster
Alumna/professor explores historic Grand Forks flood

Sociologist Alice Fothergill’s book Heads Above Water: Gender, Class, and Family in the Grand Forks Flood (State University of New York Press) tells the story of the 1997 flood in Grand Forks, North Dakota, through the perspectives of dozens of women who lived through it. The volume, which melds academic analysis with the voices of the women Fothergill interviewed, is a compelling unpacking of an enormous event, a once-a-century flood that pushed 60,000 people out of their homes, and an intellectual corrective to past decades of male-dominated disaster study.

“I wanted to capture stories that hadn’t been told before,” says Fothergill, an assistant professor of sociology who earned her bachelor’s degree from UVM in 1989. “Disasters are understudied, generally. What struck me in graduate school was that this is one area of social life where we hadn't done the studies. We see disasters as these random acts of God, as indiscriminate. But they reveal social structures, social relationships. It’s a great context to study all the classical sociological themes.”

Many of the women Fothergill spoke with had epiphanies in the aftermath of the flood, changing and realizing new strengths. Some changed careers and left abusive relationships. But Fothergill found themes of continuity as well; much of the disaster work, in which members of the community found themselves filling sandbags or volunteering at relief centers, broke on gender lines, with women spending more time cooking and taking care of children than responding in the public sphere.

This is a particularly crucial point for Fothergill, who has also studied volunteerism in the context of the Sept. 11 terrorism strikes in New York. Pitching in, she says, is a major part of coping, so women who can’t volunteer because of family responsibilities may be losing an opportunity to feel like they have given something back to the community. A sense of giving something back was particularly important in Grand Forks, Fothergill says, because her research again and again found that many flood victims felt violated by the event itself, which was so damaging to their private space, and deeply stigmatized by the charity they had received in the wake of the disaster.

“The stigma of welfare, the ideology that it is someone’s own fault if they are poor, is so strong that you can be hit by disaster and feel ashamed about needing help,” Fothergill says. “People told me again and again, ‘I had to swallow my pride and go to Red Cross.’”

The Essential Aiken: A Life in Public Service
Compiled and Edited by Samuel Hand and Stephen Terry ’64,
The Center for Research on Vermont

George Aiken’s tenure in the United States Senate spanned World War II to Watergate, and years of public service in Vermont preceded his Washington work. Professor Emeritus Sam Hand and alumnus Stephen Terry share editorial duties on this collection of writings and speeches by the foremost Progressive Republican of his generation. In their introduction, the editors suggest that Aiken’s bipartisan perspective is especially relevant given today’s polarized political landscape, a state of affairs that “Aiken and those of his ilk would consider troublesome if not downright dangerous.”

Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks
Edited by Jane Barlow ’49
Syracuse University Press

Jane Atwood Barlow and her husband have spent nearly fifty summers at Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks, making them well-versed in the corner of the world they document in their new book. Jane Barlow edited the volume, which tells the story of the lake through many sources and voices. Big Moose might have a familiar ring for English majors; it’s the community made famous by the incident that inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.

Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds
By Johanna Rothman ’77
Dorset House Publishing

Hiring well is one of the toughest tasks any manager faces. The stakes and the challenges are especially high when it comes to hiring technical workers who, among other things, hold your life in their hands when the server goes down. Alumna Johanna Rothman is here to help, bringing 20 years’ experience to the tricky business of attracting, interviewing, and hiring technical workers. (For more on Rothman, see Ask An Alum, page 53.)