- By Tom Sullivan
The first six months of my presidency at UVM have been busy, productive, and a time for Leslie and me to become acquainted with our beautiful new hometown and state. Getting to know Vermont and our neighbors here has been a top priority as I’ve visited all fourteen counties, and traveled some 1,600 miles to meet with citizens, civic and business leaders, and alumni. We also have made several trips to New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.
With those recent travels in mind, I particularly looked forward to the opportunity in January to take part in the Vermont Chamber of Commerce Webinar series with a discussion of the University of Vermont’s role in statewide economic development. This relationship, of course, is a vitally important one between states and their public flagship universities throughout our nation. In Vermont, the human scale of this special place creates particular significance and unique opportunities.
As I’ve met many Vermonters, I’ve been reminded continually of a very plain truth—the success of our state’s communities, industry, small businesses, and University are closely interconnected and dependent on close working relationships and mutual support. I was pleased that Governor Shumlin, in his January “State of the State” address, affirmed the relationship between education and the health of the state, particularly economic development.
As a public ivy university, we are a talent magnet for students, faculty, and staff. It is a top priority that we attract and retain the most outstanding students—first and foremost, Vermont students, but also the great students we recruit throughout the east coast and the country. Beyond graduation, it is our sincere hope that these new alumni will remain in this state, becoming civic leaders and business leaders, employers and employees throughout Vermont.
Research studies consistently show that when you have a high percentage of college graduates in communities, these communities grow, have greater economic vitality, greater health, and, of course, higher tax values along the way. The University of Vermont boasts more than thirty thousand alumni living in this state, and together they earn approximately $1.7 billion that is returned to our Vermont economy.
As for the University itself, whether considering direct or indirect impact of UVM on the Vermont economy, the figure is more than $1 billion per year. We have almost four thousand employees, accounting for some $344 million in annual salaries and benefits poured into this economy. Visitors to the University, parents and families of our students, generate more than $14 million per year. And since 2004, the University has undertaken more than $400 million in capital projects—new construction and renovations that have not only transformed our campus, but have also created jobs for many and channeled funds into other sectors of the economy.
I am fortunate to begin my tenure at the University of Vermont during an era when so many share a belief in this integral relationship between higher education and the state’s well-being. I’m particularly pleased that my colleague John Bramley—seasoned as a professor, provost, interim president of our University, and a man who knows and cares deeply about this state—will be our point person in facilitating a discussion on the recommendations of the fine work done by the Governor’s Higher Education Advisory Group. These initiatives hold great promise to further strengthen the partnership between the state and this University.
In closing, my thanks to the many, many people who have so graciously welcomed Leslie and me to our new home in Vermont and to the UVM family. We look forward to our work and our lives in this very special place.