Welcome Class of 2022, welcome back Rubenstein School Students and Faculty, and greetings Alumni and Friends! As we launch a very active fall semester, I would like to take a moment to “center” all of us on the UVM Rubenstein School’s core values that help to create our strong and diverse learning community. These values strengthen our resolve to be an outstanding school of the environment, providing an excellent learning community, while striving to prepare our students to become environmental leaders and changemakers.
On a daily basis, we see how our School embraces our core values of innovation, critical thinking, integrative learning, community engagement, and cultural awareness. Collectively, these values guide our teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement.
As many of you recall from last spring, the Rubenstein School emerged as a leader on campus as we worked closely with students to address concerns over inclusivity, diversity, and equity. We recently concluded our Equity Assessment with Shoreline Consulting and have begun to implement recommendations from the consultant’s report this fall, starting with a revamped approach in our first-year NR 6 course, “Race and Culture in Natural Resources.” At the same time, our faculty has redoubled our commitment to professional development in diversity, inclusivity, and equity. These efforts are aimed at creating a welcoming, empowered, and inclusive climate, while providing a world-class environmental and natural resources curriculum to prepare our students for the challenges of the 21st century.
This past year also brought a number of exciting changes in the School. Last spring, we regained accreditation from the Society of American Foresters for our Forestry Program. With the perseverance and dedication of faculty members Tony D’Amato and Bill Keeton, we achieved this after the program’s brief two-year candidacy for accreditation. Luben Dimov, formerly with Alabama A&M, joined the Forestry Program Faculty. Under the leadership of Professors Breck Bowden and Kris Stepenuck, the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Program achieved Institutional status, increasing our support from NOAA to more than one million dollars for research and outreach. Professor Walt Kuentzel and instructor Dave Kestenbaum successfully launched our first, semester-long study abroad in Costa Rica. Twenty-two students completed the course last spring, and we already have filled the course for 2019. We welcome two new professional advisors in the School, Dr. Nadeje Alexandre and Kevin Chu, who will work full time with first-year- and sophomore-level students in the Environmental Sciences and Studies Programs.
This fall, we again set new records for the School as our enrollment nears 800 undergraduate students and 140 graduate students. Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, and Wildlife and Fisheries Biology continue to serve as our largest majors. We are attracting and yielding exceptional students from across the nation and from six countries; our first-year students are among the most academically well-prepared students on campus. Nearly 92% of our 2018 first-year class returned this fall and eagerly jumped into their sophomore year – a record high retention rate in the School and on campus. Rubenstein School students consistently graduate at a very high rate (near 70%) within four years.
I would be remiss in not sharing accomplishments of our faculty, who have had several highly productive years of research. In 2017, our tenure track faculty generated more than $4.83 million in external research funding, each bringing in nearly $220,000 during the year and publishing an average of 4.3 papers per year. Their papers appear in Science, BioScience, Nature Letters, Ecology and other top tier journals, while the impact of their scholarship reaches across the globe.
In closing, the success of students, staff, and faculty in the School depend on a strong and empowering community – one that is centered on strong, shared core values – and the support of alumni, parents, and friends who help to sustain impactful scholarships, internships, and programs to enrich the School and student experience. It was a pleasure to meet parents, family, and alumni at the Rubenstein School Open House during the October 6th UVM Parent & Family/Alumni Weekend.
We wish all of you an enjoyable and successful fall season.
Nancy E. Mathews, Dean
Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources