The University of Vermont will enhance partnership and support efforts throughout the state with the creation of a new Office of Engagement. The office, which builds upon the University’s land-grant mission, will act as a “front door” to the University for private, public and non-profit entities and communities looking to access UVM’s many strengths and capabilities.
“I’m optimistic and excited about the connections and innovation this office will facilitate,” said UVM President Suresh Garimella. “UVM is uniquely positioned to help Vermont communities and businesses evolve and capitalize on current resources in new ways. Given the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the creation of this office—and the opportunity it presents—is even more timely.”
The UVM Office of Engagement will respond directly and comprehensively to challenges articulated by Vermont Governor Phil Scott during his 2020 State of the State address in January: an aging population; the need for additional skilled workers; and inadequate growth in the number of well-paying jobs.
“Establishing the UVM Office of Engagement is a critical initiative as we work to restart the Vermont economy,” said Chair of the Vermont House Appropriations Committee Representative Kitty Toll (D) Caledonia-Washington. “I am confident that Vermont’s businesses will be stronger because of this new and important partnership with the University.”
To increase its effectiveness in partnering with the state in the areas of workforce development, retention, and growth, UVM received $2 million in funding from the Vermont Legislature.
“I have felt for some time that Vermont has not taken advantage of the technical and intellectual expertise we have at the University of Vermont, said Chair of the Vermont Senate Appropriations Committee Senator Jane Kitchel (D) Caledonia District. “The Office of Engagement now provides the opportunity to make a productive connection between UVM and the Vermont economy.”
The targeted funds will be deployed to:
- Assist small employers with expertise in writing and submitting proposals for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) and other federal grant programs.
- Serve as a potential pass-through for SBIR matching funds from the state to stimulate small business growth.
- Mobilize the intellectual capital of UVM faculty and research labs to assist Vermont communities, businesses and institutions with data-driven planning and policy options.
- Engage UVM alumni in all aspects of the business continuum with a goal of attracting out-of-state alumni back to Vermont.
- Coordinate and amplify efforts with UVM Extension.
- Upskill and cross-skill the Vermont workforce, to address existing gaps and new challenges complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Connect student interns with Vermont businesses and nonprofits.
- Offer accessible training modules in areas of need across the state with credit- and non-credit-bearing certificate programs, enhanced pathways for 2+2 degree programs and other programs that are accessible for non-traditional students in rural communities.
President Garimella, who ran a similar office at his previous institution, will closely oversee the ramp-up of the Office of Engagement. He appointed Dr. Christopher Koliba as President’s Fellow for Engagement to take the lead on rapidly getting the office organized and engaged with the state. Koliba is Professor of Community Development and Applied Economics, in UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Fulfilling the University’s land grant mission is one of three overarching priorities in President Garimella’s Amplifying Our Impact strategic vision for UVM. The University has more than 200 programs designed to help Vermont and Vermonters; the creation of the Office of Engagement will facilitate better understanding of, and access to, those offerings. It will also help to while also identify and fulfill additional needs.
For more information on the UVM Office of Engagement, please visit go.uvm.edu/engage.