Laboratories to dining halls, art studios to athletic fields, a college campus is a diverse village for learning. The Move Mountains campaign raised $99 million in support of facilities, twenty-one projects in all. But new construction and renovation is not about the buildings themselves, but the work they enable.


by Kaitie Catania

On the corner of Pearl and South Williams streets, a stately elementary school that closed nearly forty years ago is once again teeming with creative young minds. The new Michele and Martin Cohen Hall for the Integrative Creative Arts not only reimagines the old Elihu B. Taft School, in which it is housed, but the study and practice of visual and performing arts at UVM, as well.

The building’s original details like hardwood doors, marble wainscoting, and tile work remain, but UVM’s vision for the arts breathes new, twenty-first-century life into the former Taft School. What once was a gymnasium has made way for a sprung floor for dance students. Original chalkboards juxtapose against a green screen for film students.

With new spaces for studio art, drawing, dance, audio engineering, film and production, galleries, classrooms, and more under one roof, Cohen Hall embodies the state of creative arts today: interdisciplinary. “The capacity for experimentation is kind of through the roof at this point, because we have full-access media facilities right next to where all the teaching is taking place,” says assistant professor of time-based media Madsen Minax, who holds joint appointments in the Art Department and Film and Television Studies Department.

Minax’s own interdisciplinary work is a bit tricky to describe. He integrates film, music, sound, performance, and installation to tackle issues of cosmic phenomena, kinship, identity, and justice communities. Blurring genres of documentary and narrative, the work is experimental at its core—imagine it as the nexus of film, soundscapes, and explosions in outer space.

This fusion of media is precisely what alumna Michele Resnick Cohen ’72 and her husband, Martin Cohen, had in mind when they gifted a total of $7 million to establish the state-of-the-art center. “I hope that this new facility will help students experience the joy and the freedom of art, and all the things that one can express through any medium, regardless of their course of study,” says Michele Cohen.

Minax’s students now have shared access to top-of-the-line equipment—including an audio recording studio that he describes as “bananas. It’s amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it”—and greater access to each other’s skills and knowledge. Collaboration abounds in Cohen Hall and reflects the real-world environment in which students will work.

“In video, very few people make their film projects in an insular vacuum in their studios, by themselves,” Minax says. “Quite often, you need to have someone who’s operating sound for you and someone who’s helping to manage your script or actors or performers. Even if you’re doing super-experimental, weird stuff, you usually need help.”

Students prepping for the Family Enterprise Case Competition.
Ifshin Hall, Family Case Enterprise Competition 2019, photograph by Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist '09


by Kaitie Catania

After a two-year hiatus, the Grossman School of Business’s premier student-run event, the Family Enterprise Case Competition, returned to the global stage last January in a new and improved home. A transformed Grossman hosted students, coaches, and judges from nearly thirty different countries as they competed in FECC 2019.

In its sixth edition, this year’s competition was long awaited after construction of Ifshin Hall and renovation of Kalkin Hall postponed last year’s competition. With twenty-five undergraduate and graduate teams, fifty-two judges, and forty-nine Grossman students participating, FECC 2019 was Grossman’s largest yet.

“The new facilities absolutely, completely changed the competition in the best way. It was something that, honestly, was more monumental than we even expected,” says Abby Collins ’19, a senior lead coordinator of FECC 2019, who organized the competition over the span of two years.

Renowned for being the only case competition in the world that focuses on issues important to family businesses, FECC challenges teams to analyze real-world problems involving family business and present recommendations to panels of judges. Teams are evaluated on their analysis of the case, feasibility in their recommendation, creativity, time management, and more.

The 25,000-square-foot addition of Ifshin Hall, including a new café, provided ample space to welcome more teams, while state-of-the-art breakout spaces, study rooms, and lecture halls offered world-class competitors an equally impressive space to prepare and present.

Throughout the competition, international teams ebbed and flowed through Grossman’s modern and open atrium, hunkered down in glass-walled work spaces, and celebrated their wins and networked in Grossman’s main event space, the multipurpose Keller Room. Ifshin Hall was generously funded by private donations, many from Grossman’s advisory board, and is named for the late Stephen Ifshin ’58.

“With our old Kalkin Hall, although it was a great facility, we just didn’t have space to create that collaboration within the school itself,” says Collins. In years prior, FECC organizers utilized faculty offices and classrooms to get by on the global event. “Now we have this space that matches the intensity,” she says.

For coaches, alumni, and judges familiar with FECC that return year after year, 2019 was a homecoming of sorts. Grossman alumna and former FECC senior lead coordinator Emily Bates ’15 revisited campus from Sunnyvale, California—where she is now a project manager at Google—to judge the competition. Upon entering Grossman, Bates immediately marveled at the renovation. “I’m so excited to be in Ifshin Hall, this is my first time here. I love the new coffee shop and all the new brick work. It’s so pretty,” she said.

Collins and co-FECC senior lead coordinator Doug Hirschhorn ’19 are grateful for the opportunity to bring the world’s top schools in family business together under one expanded roof to explore the nuances of how family businesses operate across the globe. “Family businesses are a very large part of the global economy,” explains Hirschhorn. “This competition and this event really facilitate a unique understanding of how different cultures view different scenarios in family business and it brings a truly global community together.”

Jeff Marshall teaching a class in Special Collections with students around a table looking at books from the archives.
Jack and Shirley Silver Special Collections Library, photograph by Sally McCay


by Thomas Weaver

Among all of the new construction and renovation projects boosted by the Move Mountains campaign, none are as rooted in UVM history as the return of Billings Library to its original function. When Frederick Billings, Class of 1844, pledged $75,000 toward construction of a new library, he and President Matthew Buckham envisioned a cathedral for books. They hired just the man for the job, Henry Hobson Richardson, one of nineteenth-century America’s leading architects, to design a library in his grand Richardsonian Romanesque style.

As fall semester 2018 opened, Billings was a library once again, home to the Jack and Shirley Silver Special Collections Library, following several decades as the university’s student center. The top floor of the 1980s addition to Billings (what some alumni will remember as Cook Commons) now houses rare books, manuscripts, and document collections with the security and climate control such valuable materials demand. Richardson’s original structure is now devoted to study, classroom, and event space overseen by Special Collections.

More broadly, Billings is now a central headquarters for the humanities at UVM, with space for the Carolyn and Leonard Miller Center for Holocaust Studies, the Humanities Center, and the Center for Research on Vermont. More than two hundred donors contributed $8.5 million toward reinvigorating this UVM landmark at the core of the university’s academic mission.

As Jeffrey Marshall ’78 G’82, director of the Silver Special Collections Library, named for the lead donors to the Billings renovation, spoke at the rededication ceremony last October, he observed that when it comes to rare books and historic documents, nothing can match “that inscrutable sensation of handling the original.”

Though Library Special Collections have long been a critical resource for faculty research and a teaching tool for courses from studio art to plant biology, the ability to more seamlessly work with the diverse collection has been enhanced by the Billings renovation. The Marsh Room is now a state-of-the-art teaching space where faculty can bring their classes in for lectures focused on materials in Special Collections.

One-of-a-kind artist’s books, an illuminated manuscript from sixteenth-century France, a Civil War soldier’s letters home to Vermont, a first edition of Look Homeward Angel inscribed by author Thomas Wolfe to his sister are just a few of the items that suggest the depth and diversity of the treasures in Special Collections. If the task of such a library is the collection and preservation of rare materials, the genius rests in the sharing of them—that “inscrutable sensation of handling the original”—how it sparks the imagination of a student or scholar, and where that thought leads. 

Students working on a mechanical arm operating a bike in the Votey Design Studio.
Votey Design Studio, photograph by Joshua Brown


by Joshua Brown

Last September, a team of four UVM engineering students received a challenge from Nick Dechev, the executive director of the Victoria Hand Project: build two better hands—one for riding a bike and another for holding cutlery. The project works with amputees in seven developing countries, from Haiti to Cambodia, using 3D printers to produce custom-fitted prosthetics—that local people can afford and local medical professionals can manufacture and service.

Challenge accepted, students would spend the months ahead brainstorming ideas and developing prototypes in Votey Hall’s new design studio for senior student projects. And in March, mechanical engineering major Katie Stokes says, “We’re almost done.” She holds up a red-and-purple plastic device with two finger-like extensions holding a fork firmly in their grip.

“The current models they produce are aesthetically pleasing, and are able to assist users with a broad range of tasks,” explains mechanical engineering major Alex Troche. The Victoria devices are also body-powered and able to be manufactured for about $80 worth of materials, key advantages in poorer parts of the world.

“But people have been asking for models that can do a better job of holding silverware and riding and braking on a bike,” says team member Josh Goodrich ’19. He loosens a large purple plastic screw on one of the team’s prototypes and the fork slides out. “For this one, we went with a simple design. It’s pretty much just a clamp and it works very well.”

A few minutes later, Katie Stokes hops on a mountain bike in the design studio. She moves the muscles in her shoulder and back and a series of cables connected to a hand-like hook, attached to her arm, pulls on the brake lever. “We’re fine-tuning this biking one,” she explains. “We can get it to stop the bike wheel, but, when we’re actually riding, we’re still figuring out the best way to make it work.”

The four UVM undergrads took on the work for Victoria as their Senior Experience in Engineering Design project, a capstone that is the culmination of their education within the school’s curriculum. The Votey Design Studio—with easy access to space, tools, and a spirit of innovation and collaboration—has been critical to their success, the students say. “Only seniors can work in here,” says Josh Goodrich. “It’s been nice to know it’s not going to be overrun and to have a decent amount of space to make our project, like, real.”  

Cooking class in theCentral Campus Dining Hall
Discovery Kitchen Central Campus Residence Hall, photograph by Sally McCay


by Kaitie Catania

"We didn’t have anything like this when I was in college.”

Chef Sarah Langan says she hears this regularly from parents and families when they arrive at Central Campus Dining Hall during their tour of UVM. As the executive chef of culinary education, Langan is part of a team that’s reimagining the university’s commitment to sustainability, nutrition, and wellness around food.

As the name suggests, the dining hall is located in the center of campus, connected to a first-year residence hall that houses the Wellness Environment. It serves up nearly 20,000 meals each week that meet the national Real Food Challenge of being comprised, 20 percent, of ingredients that are local, organic, ecologically sound, and fairly traded. Currently, 26 percent of the university’s foods are considered Real Foods that sustain producers, the environment, and communities.

With an open kitchen concept, students see their food—ranging from classic mac and cheese and French fry bar, to vegan and allergen-free—being sliced, diced, and prepared in front of them. The food stations also display facts about the farm, farmers, and location the food has come from and processes used to prepare the food.

“I think part of the ethos of coming up with this particular dining hall was really a farm to table theme and making sure students, through the sustainability emphasis, really understand where their food comes from,” says Melissa Zelazny, director of dining and resident district manager for UVM’s food services company Sodexo, which provided a corporate gift in support of the new Central Campus Residence Hall.

What makes parents’ and families’ jaws drop, however, is how the dining hall incorporates those values into hands-on culinary experiences for students. Exploration Station enables students to cook and customize their own meals—from stir fries to pastas—while Discovery Kitchen, another area in the dining hall, is a unique learning laboratory, turned educational kitchen.

Langan leads cooking lessons, twice weekly in Discovery Kitchen, featuring easy-to-replicate dishes that are seasonal, locally sourced, and nutritious. “Vermont highlights one crop per month based on the harvest calendar, then we highlight it in our dining hall, and I’ll do a class around it. We did a squash class in the winter and an apple class during the fall,” Langan says.

“Last week I did a tapas class just because I have a passion for that food, and we made all these small plates of tapas and sat around and shared those. They were phenomenal. I think it was my best class yet,” she adds, with a smile.

Langan and Discovery Kitchen don’t just walk budding chefs step-by-step through a recipe, a la meal delivery services like Blue Apron and Sun Basket. The facility is a place where true education happens. Langan has teamed up with academic classes, like the nutrition and food sciences course “Bite Me: Food Facts and Fallacies,” to help students learn about whole grains, healthy fats, and proper portions. She’s even hosted a creative writing class in Discovery Kitchen to cook apple galettes.

At the heart of this hands-on approach to food, UVM’s dining team wants to empower students to become self-sufficient and successful, both in their own kitchens when they leave campus and when it comes to their health and nutrition. “I always say they can’t live on ramen and frozen pizza,” Langan jokes.

Student and professor working in the clean room in Discovery Hall

Clean Room, Discovery Hall, photograph by Joshua Brown


by Joshua Brown

Better science is in the air of Discovery Hall. “Literally, in the air,” says Chris Landry, chair of the Chemistry Department. When he asked graduate students how the new STEM facility had improved their experience over their days in the dark and dank Cook Building, “the uniformly most important thing was—air conditioning,” he says. Sure, it’s nice to no longer have to endure labs that shot up to ninety-five degrees, Landry says, but the new building’s state-of-the-art air handling system means more than comfort. “It’s safer,” he says. Not only can students and professors wear their lab coats and goggles without sweltering, but the air system and new fume hoods keep the air clean. “Cook always smelled,” Landry says, “and a chemistry building should not smell.” Plus, the air handling recaptures heat in the winter and cool air in the summer, saving money and “being green,” Landry says.  The building also uses piping for an integrated set of “house gases”—nitrogen, compressed air, and other specialty gases—for scientists throughout the building, stored in a secure bunker outside, instead of dozens of space-wasting tanks chained to the wall in many separate labs.

The air is clean in Discovery Hall—and in one large, white room in the basement, it’s crazy clean. This advanced laboratory—the only open-research clean room in Vermont—is essential to physics professor Matt White. “We make high-performance solar panels and LEDs,” he says. To create these, he and his students drip polymers onto spin coaters turning at 5000 rpms. “They can leave behind a very uniform film—ten nanometers thick,” he says. “But if there’s one speck of dust, that causes what’s called a comet defect. It looks like Halley’s Comet behind the dust”—and the experiment is ruined.  “In Cook, you’d be making twenty-four solar cells and maybe three of them would work,” White says. “Now, in the clean room, one hundred percent of them work, because there’s no dust,” he says—accelerating his research.

Better science is in the air of Discovery Hall, “in a more intangible sense too,” says Landry. Its tall windows and glass walls fill fourteen new teaching labs and twenty-two faculty research labs with light. With, for example, some 1,200 undergraduates taking introductory chemistry each year, the new spaces have allowed faculty to, “totally revamp how we teach courses, closely linking lectures and lab time. It’s the building,” Landry says—part of the university’s $104 million investment in new science and technology facilities, the largest-ever capital project at UVM—“that’s driving all sorts of curricular change.”

Aerial view of central campus from new Miller building at the hospital, showing central campus residence hall, Discoery and Innovation Hall, and Ifshin Hall


Cook? Angell? Beloved Chittenden-Buckham-Wills?! Farewell to all. Central campus has changed dramatically in the past several years with
enhanced facilities for STEM research and education, student housing, the Grossman School of Business, and the UVM Medical Center, all boosted by private funding from the Move Mountains campaign. With Innovation Hall construction and landscaping wrapping up this summer, the projects are nearly complete.

1. Robert E. and Holly D. Miller Building  
This new inpatient building at the UVM Medical Center is designed to enhance quality of care and healing for patients. The 180,000-square-foot facility allows the medical center to expand its single-occupancy room rate from approximately 30 percent to 90 percent, improving privacy and allowing more space for families.

2. Central Campus Residence Hall  
The new six-story, 700-bed hall houses first-year students in the Wellness Environment, the university’s
pioneering residential learning program grounded in neuroscience and mindfulness. Building features include a fitness center, a multi-option
dining hall, and an enclosed walkway connecting to Howe Library.

3. Innovation and Discovery Halls  
These two connected buildings, which also connect to the renovated Votey Hall via an enclosed walkway, are headquarters for pursuits in the STEM disciplines. They feature cutting-edge research and teaching space, supporting breakthroughs in nanotechnology, materials science, and bioengineering, to name a few.

4. Ifshin Hall 
Remember the Kalkin Hall courtyard? That space is now Ifshin Hall, essentially a new wing to Kalkin, joined by a handsome atrium. Ifshin
features classrooms and dedicated areas for collaborative student work, space for hosting case competitions, guest speakers and other events, plus a coffee shop.  


Thomas Weaver