President Suresh Garimella and leaders across campus have worked over recent months to establish a strategic framework for the University of Vermont’s future success. Grounded by the university’s distinctive strengths and reflecting broad feedback from the UVM community, “Amplifying Our Impact” received unanimous endorsement from the Board of Trustees at their May 2020 meeting.
The University of Vermont is poised and ready to build upon our reputation as a premier research institution focused on sustainable solutions with local, national, and global applications and impact. Our distinctive strengths align with the most pressing needs of our time: the health of our societies and the health of our environment. And we pursue these interconnected issues through the cross-disciplinary research and collaboration that comes more easily at a public research university of our size and scale. Our setting in the state of Vermont, with its deep-seated commitment to the interplay between education and a healthy democracy, enables us to be nimble while still providing the depth of analysis that contemporary challenges demand.
To more fully realize our significant potential, we must view all our endeavors through the lens of enhancing student success—on campus and beyond—while drawing upon our unique strengths as one of the nation’s first land grant universities. This will require steadfast focus, discipline, and the pragmatism for which Vermont is known. The approach will be three-pronged, but the efforts will be interrelated, working in concert with one another.
ENSURING STUDENT SUCCESS
UVM has historically served its students extremely well. We have a culture of strong faculty mentorship, and staff dedicated to our students’ growth. The connection between health and well-being and academic achievement is promoted holistically. We must continue to build on that legacy by making their success and that of our alumni a core measure of all we do. This means offering a vibrant educational experience, ensuring that UVM is affordable and accessible for a broad and diverse population, and providing support and meaningful opportunity well beyond graduation day.
To ensure that we extend UVM’s appeal to a wide cross-section of talented students, while enhancing the quality of education offered and safeguarding our financial stability and sustainability, we must:
- Provide an unparalleled educational experience for our students by continually enhancing course offerings through rigorous evaluation and evolution, and alignment with a liberal arts foundation and societal demands. Exposure to the humanities—and the critical thought this engenders—will position our graduates for success in the broadest range of pursuits.
- Carefully evaluate expenses to minimize costs and make a UVM education more affordable and accessible.
- Grow corporate, foundation, federal, and philanthropic partnerships to develop new internship, research, study-abroad, and service-learning opportunities, while enhancing existing programs.
- Enhance online offerings and programs that promote efficient course and degree completion with targeted support for first-generation and non-traditional learners.
- Attract a larger cohort of graduate students by enhancing their academic experience and research opportunities.
- Accelerate our success in recruiting students from areas beyond the Northeast, as well as internationally.
- Provide an environment that fosters diversity of all kinds, including diversity of thought.
- Envision programming that leverages campus assets on a year-round basis to increase and strengthen connections to UVM while building financial resources.
- Welcome non-traditional students to new professional, certificate, and online programs.
Doctoral students at work on research in the Discovery Hall lab of Professor Madalina Furis, director of UVM’s Materials Science Program. Photograph by Joshua Brown.
INVESTING IN OUR DISTINCTIVE RESEARCH STRENGTHS
UVM benefits from the powerful combination of a liberal arts core and the comprehensive academic resources of a major research institution. This dual nature has also positioned our faculty as leaders across multiple disciplines that support investigation and discovery in areas key to the university’s reach and reputation.
In particular, UVM has built distinctive research strengths that align with the urgent—and interdependent—need to support the health of our environment and our societies:
- Healthy Societies: Our cross-disciplinary work is strengthened by collaboration and research in areas ranging from immunobiology and microbiology, to data mining, mapping, and analysis, to ethics, historical context, and communication. This will drive actions with broad application including substance abuse prevention and rehabilitation, and immunobiology, microbiology, infectious disease treatment, vaccine testing, and public health campaigns.
- Healthy Environment: Faculty, researchers, and practitioners from throughout UVM collaborate to create new knowledge and establish best practice in areas related to sustainable farming, food systems, and business solutions, and the protection of water systems. Leveraging our strength in engineering, machine learning, and complex systems will provide pathways for the development of scalable solutions.
Strategic investment of available resources will accelerate and enhance these distinctive strengths, positioning us as the preeminent institution for innovative and sustainability-focused solutions. At the same time, the intersections between these areas provide opportunity for investigation, innovation, and impactful discovery in areas dedicated to the associated economic, ethical, and policy considerations. Targeted support will create research opportunities that span disciplines and foster pathways for collaboration. Our students will be among the greatest beneficiaries of this focused investment.
Cultivating these areas of research strength will leverage the unique characteristics of the state of Vermont. As one of the smallest states in the nation, with a thriving participatory democracy, Vermont offers a microcosm for national programs to be piloted at manageable scale.
Articulation of distinctive strengths will also grow corporate, philanthropic, foundation, and federal partnerships to enhance UVM’s research portfolio, impact and recognition, and make enriching new opportunities available to faculty and students.
Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources faculty member Gary Hawley with students on the Aiken Building’s experimental green roof. Photograph by Glenn Russell.
FULFILLING OUR LAND GRANT MISSION
As one of the nation’s first land grant institutions, the University of Vermont’s alignment with the state is fitting. We are nationally acclaimed for helping Vermonters tackle everything from farm viability to complex environmental issues to business growth. We support commercialization and job creation initiatives in the state, and our partnerships with large corporations enable the possibility of attracting satellite operations, jobs, and a talented workforce to the state.
UVM’s partnership with the state includes more than 200 programs designed to help Vermont and Vermonters. For example, the Rural Center of Excellence on Substance Use Disorders confronts the opioid epidemic with innovative new approaches, while Vermont EPSCoR and the Vermont Biomedical Research Network attract millions in federal funding and make sophisticated technology and learning opportunities available throughout the state. But to better realize the vision of the Land-Grant Act’s author Vermont Senator Justin Morrill, we must create a more streamlined gateway for Vermonters to learn about and access the many resources UVM offers. Efforts to set up that front door—inviting the community to engage more fully with UVM—are underway.
Engaging with the state not only helps Vermont, but also benefits the university by strengthening its connection to entrepreneurship, hands-on learning, problem-solving, and critical thinking, all ideals championed by alumnus, educator, and noted philosopher John Dewey. This enriches the educational experience of our students and broadens our faculty’s research portfolios.
The University of Vermont’s future success will be assured by following these three strategic imperatives: student success and experience; focusing on and expanding upon our distinctive research strengths; and better-realizing our land-grant mission by partnering with our communities, businesses, and state. Doing so effectively will require insightful leadership, unprecedented collaboration, and our decisive collective action. This commitment to explore without reservation while working as one, resonates with our state motto, “freedom and unity.” And it will enable us to amplify our impact for years to come.