Dean's Message - March 2016

Warm greetings from the Rubenstein School as we begin our sprint into spring! Much has happened in these past few months; perhaps the most notable to many alums and friends is the retirement of one of our most iconic members of the RSENR community, Marcia McAllister Caldwell. We offer our sincere gratitude to Marcia who has loyally served the School for 50 years, supporting three deans, countless faculty members, and thousands of students. Please join me in wishing her well in her retirement!

Now, more than halfway into my second year as Dean, it comes naturally to me to say that the School holds a special place in my heart. What I find most endearing is the set of strong core values that guide our discussions and actions every day. Faculty value the strength of the community and ongoing engagement with students. While we have set our scholarly aspirations high, and achieving these goals reinforces our academic excellence, we also value our sense of community. We believe that excellent scholarly work goes hand in hand with a climate that empowers and welcomes. We value both intensity and collegiality, and invest in building relationships as much as we invest in building scholarship.

This strong cohesiveness gives the School a unique advantage as we mentor our students and send them off to their careers. Modelling a well-functioning team may be one of the most important contributions we can make to our students’ development. It requires learning how to work across differences, and life skills such as tolerance, patience, empathy, and compassion. It hones leadership skills such as problem solving, conflict resolution, and creativity. Through this, we provide students with a foundation and a standard, a model against which they may measure progress throughout their careers.  We offer them, as well, the tools with which to recreate safe, empowering climates in their future work places. These skills and more will be required to meet the diverse needs and complex global environmental challenges of the 21st century.

In addition to serving as a model for our students, our community serves as the starting point for our new faculty, who will build their scholarly careers here over the next decades. Over a third of our faculty will retire over the next three years and a strong, energized community is more important now than ever. As I conclude my second year at the School, it is my hope that we focus on creating an inclusive and empowered work place, while building a stimulating and rigorous academic environment. Our commitment to both will help ensure that the School stays vibrant, strong, and relevant to the citizens of Vermont, the region, and the world.  

With this philosophy in mind, it is exciting to share that we have several faculty searches underway and a thriving graduate program, distinguished by the success of the new Leadership for Sustainability M.S. (MSLS) program that launched last fall. This spring we will choose a new Director of the Environmental Program and an Assistant/Associate Professor of Limnology. We have a record number of applicants to our doctoral program and we anticipate a new cohort of 20 MSLS students this fall, building our graduate program to nearly 120.  We are also eager to welcome the largest class of undergraduates in the School’s history. Stay tuned!

After the exciting launch of our LEED Platinum building in 2012, the Greening of Aiken initiative has taken on a new life and has now become a quest to be the first academic school or college to have all of its academic facilities reach carbon neutrality. The goal of “Rubenstein Net Zero” is to reach carbon neutrality for the entire School by the end of 2016 by using a combination of energy saving measures and alternative energy sources to reduce our carbon footprint.

Thank you to all of our alumni who participated in our 2016 Alumni Survey. This survey, the first to reach out to our more than 4,000 alumni, will help us understand the career pathways of our graduates. Stay tuned for the results of the survey and an opportunity to hear about the amazing achievements of our alums.

As we look ahead to May 2016 Commencement, we are excited to announce the Rubenstein School Commencement ceremony speaker. Victor Wooten is an American bass player, composer, author, producer, and recipient of five Grammy Awards. He is also an affiliate of the Rubenstein School’s new Master of Science concentration in Leadership for Sustainability.

Last but not least, I am delighted to recognize David Blittersdorf as the new chair of the Rubenstein School’s Board of Advisors. David, President and CEO of AllEarth Renewables, a Vermont-based company that designs and manufactures grid-connected solar renewable energy systems, has been a board member since 2005.

Best wishes for a warm and wonderful spring.

Nancy Mathews' signature

Nancy Mathews, Dean
Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources


Nancy Mathews