Dean’s Message – Spring 2017

Happy Spring to all of you! It is my pleasure to take a moment to reflect on significant events that have taken place at the Rubenstein School over the past several months. Last week, we celebrated the 47th anniversary of Earth Day and prepared to engage in two national level marches, one to support science (April 21) and the other to call attention to the reality of climate change (April 29). We are amidst unprecedented times when public trust in science is at a critical juncture and reliance on scientific evidence to inform decisions is under scrutiny. Our students will be challenged to decide for themselves what is fact and what is fiction in a world where the media is full of “fake news.” They will need to think critically and logically, navigate conflict and work across differences, while demonstrating empathy and compassion.   

As our students prepare for their professional careers, they do so with the understanding that they will engage with communities, governments, and businesses, locally and globally. Because of this, our role as teachers, researchers, and environmental leaders has never been more important. And, the Rubenstein School has taken this challenge seriously by enhancing opportunities for students to enrich their learning through research, study abroad, living-learning communities, service-learning, and internships. 

Every undergraduate in the Rubenstein School engages in at least two enriched learning opportunities by the time they graduate. It is through these types of high impact learning, that students will build the tool kits they need to become leaders and advocates for public trust in science and informed environmental decision making.   

It is with this energy and passion that I am pleased to kick off our Spring Rubenstein School Newsletter. This past semester we have had a number of exciting and transformative events. The announcement of the Gund Family’s gift to transform the Institute for Ecological Economics to the Institute for Environment at UVM, is enormously exciting. The transformed Institute will not only build new collaborations across campus; it will build a national environmental research hub that becomes a nexus for innovative science and research. We are grateful to the Gund Family, Director Taylor Ricketts, and the UVM leadership team for bringing this wonderful vision to life.

Over the course of this past year, under the leadership of Margaret Burke (RSENR Coordinator of Educational Innovation), we designed and implemented a three-year assessment program of our undergraduate Core Curriculum, enhanced service learning connections with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and integrated new technology into the classroom. Margaret has helped lead curricular innovation and excellence through programmatic assessment. 

In January, we welcomed two new faculty members, Drs. Aimée Classen and Nate Sanders.  Both are renowned scientists whose life work includes a focus on alpine ecology and the impact of a changing climate. Dr. Sanders is also the new Director of the Environmental Program. We also welcome, as a visiting Professor, former Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, Deb Markowitz. Over the course of this next year, Deb will lead many conversations reflecting on the potential impacts of the new Trump administration’s environmental policy decisions and develop a leadership course for graduate students in the School. 

Continuing the Rubenstein School’s long tradition of civic engagement and service learning, two Rubenstein School faculty and one student received service-learning awards presented by the UVM Office of Community-University Partnerships and Service-Learning. Lecturers Amy Seidl and Trish O'Kane received faculty awards, while B Freas received an outstanding student award. 

These are just a few of the highlights of this past semester and year, so please keep reading. We also wish to congratulate the Class of 2017 on their upcoming graduation. Best wishes to all of you and please stay in touch with us!


Nancy Mathews signature

Nancy Mathews, Dean

Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources


Nancy Mathews