Dean's Message - July 2016

In May 2016, graduates were delighted by the extraordinary commencement address delivered by American bass player, composer, author, producer, and Grammy Award winner, Victor Wooten. As an affiliate of the Rubenstein School’s new Master of Science concentration in Leadership for Sustainability, Victor shared vision and wisdom that reflected his philosophy of leadership and life. Through a combination of bass solos, and while playing a background theme, Victor reminded students that a college education is more than technical training: it is about preparing for life. He confronted the students with the question “What does the world need with just another Rubenstein [School] Graduate?”  Then he revealed his answer: “What the world needs is good people.” (YouTube video of Wooten address)

“Good people” — what does it mean to be a “good person?” As I reflect on Victor’s question, I believe tolerance and empathy are traits that stand out. With these in mind, I am continually inspired by the School’s strong focus on environmental justice and service learning. For over 15 years, our students have been motivated by these virtues through our core curriculum. Courses such as Race and Culture in Natural Resources and Power, Privilege and Environment stand out in this regard.

Through service learning projects during their senior year, our students work in diverse communities where they learn tolerance and cultivate empathy with their community partners. If these traits help define “good people,” and good people are what constitute the goal of higher education, then I am confident that the Rubenstein School is preparing students to become strong citizens and wise leaders — leaders who will be foremost among the best prepared to resolve the thorniest environmental challenges of today and in the years to come.

A semester in review

This past spring and summer, we celebrated the retirement of two faculty members, Professors Suzanne Levine and Robert Manning, and long-term staff, Carl Waite, Kate Baldwin, and Erin DeVries.  Please join me in thanking Suzanne, Bob, Carl, Kate, and Erin for their outstanding contributions and many years of service to the School.

As we bade farewell to our retiring colleagues, the School bustled with activity; we conducted two faculty searches, one for a limnologist and the other to be director of the Environmental Program. We are delighted to share that, following a highly competitive search, Dr. Mindy Morales Williams will join us in summer 2017, following her postdoctoral research at the University of Minnesota. Watch for an announcement of the incoming Environmental Program Director in the fall enewsletter.

Following a record number of undergraduate applicants last winter (860), we are excited to welcome the largest incoming class in the history of the School (174). We are also pleased to welcome a group of 19 outstanding transfer students. 

As we enter the second year of the MSLS program (Master of Science in Leadership for Sustainability), we have every indication that the program is hitting its stride. There have been more than 90 inquiries about the program, and we have accepted a class of 16 outstanding students. This year marks the first year of a new track in Education for Sustainability, one that is an excellent fit for working educators. The program has now doubled in size in two years and is poised to meet its growth targets by the end of 2017. (Read more.)  

Our core curriculum revitalization is nearly complete, thanks to the leadership of Senior Lecturer Walter Poleman and Educational Innovation Coordinator Margaret Burke. By this time next year, we will have a fully operational assessment program tied to learning outcomes for the core — a model that will be emulated in all six of our academic programs and across campus.

This fall, three of the six undergraduate academic programs, in addition to the graduate program, will be reviewed by an external team as part of the eight-year Academic Program Review (APR). The self-study preparation, led by Program Review Coordinator Sarah Heath, has been underway for nearly a year, and includes a thorough review of alumni achievements as well as program curricula. (Read more.) Following on the heels of the APR, the School will welcome the Society of American Foresters’ accreditation review team in February 2017 to as part of reaccreditation of the Forestry Program.

As we continue our efforts to ensure that the Rubenstein School leads the campus in the quest to become the first academic unit at UVM that is carbon neutral, we thank Burlington Electric and UVM for their support in this endeavor, and for the installation of four electric vehicle charging stations on campus. One of the stations is located adjacent to the Aiken Center and is used daily by the growing number of electric vehicles on campus.

Finally, I want to personally thank the donors and friends of the Rubenstein School who have helped ensure a highly successful year of UVM's Move Mountains comprehensive campaign. With the help of our amazing board of advisors, alumni, parents and friends, the School raised more than $260,000 for scholarships and internships this past year and more than $700,000 overall. Your gifts to the School enrich the curriculum, support internships, and enable students to succeed. We appreciate your generosity and express our gratitude to each of you as one of our more than 4,000 graduates and enduring friends. 

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer!

Nancy Mathews' signature

Nancy Mathews, Dean

Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources


Nancy Mathews