It was my great honor to address our community on August 20th with our annual State of the School report and reflect on the accomplishments, momentum, and challenges ahead. The words of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead certainly came to mind: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Truer words couldn’t be spoken about the Rubenstein School community.
We are a School on the move. Our incoming class of undergraduates includes 152 first-year students and 22 transfer students, well beyond our admission targets. They hail from 20 states, Canada, China, and Tanzania, including 12 new Honors College students and 29 Aiken Scholars. This is the most diverse incoming class in our School’s history, with 16% ALANA students. And 1 in 4 accepted students arrived in the fall, the highest applicant yield among UVM colleges and schools, with selectivity metrics well above campus averages.
This fall our graduate program welcomed 22 new students, joining a group of 52 masters and 45 doctoral students. To fund graduate education, our School leveraged 28 partial teaching assistantships from the Graduate College with external funding for 36 additional research assistantships. We also awarded the first Rubenstein Graduate Fellowship and are revamping our McIntire Forestry Research Program to further invest in doctoral research.
Our new students join a growing community of faculty and staff. In the last few months we’ve welcomed thirteen new colleagues, appointed our first Rubenstein Professor of Environment and Natural Resources, and launched a national search for our next Dean. We have underway three new faculty searches, including a research assistant professor in behavioral economics with the Gund Institute, a tenure-track hire in forestry, and the newly endowed David Blittersdorf Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy.
We’re on the move, and we’re not slowing down. To increase our applicant yields and improve our selectivity, the Rubenstein School has undertaken a curriculum-wide review of our undergraduate programs with an eye towards enrollment pressures and the ever-changing landscape of environmental careers. To compete for the very best graduate students in the world, we are revamping our masters program, investing in new doctoral fellowships, and focusing our research infrastructure and investments in core areas of excellence. To elevate the impact of our work, we are doubling down on our commitment to service-learning, student internships, and partnerships with state, advocacy, and community stakeholders.
Check out our School in action. Land Stewardship interns fanned out across the state this past summer to inventory urban tree canopies, survey UVM Natural Areas, and manage invasive species. The George D. Aiken Center received LEED Platinum certification with the highest number of LEED points of any building in Vermont. Our 30th Annual Graduate Research Symposium this month featured the cross-cutting work of our second-year masters students on the leading edge of environmental science, policy, and management. We continued a series of meetings with senior leadership of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources on collaborative opportunities. And our faculty hosted visiting professors and speakers from around the world on topics ranging from mainstreaming natural capital and Baltic Sea ecology, to tropical biodiversity and the blood ivory crisis.
These examples are just from the last few months. Over the past year our School managed over 150 funded research projects and submitted over 85 new proposals. Over 500 students worked on 130 service-learning projects with 80 community partners. We tallied 125 Rubenstein undergraduate internships, including the third year of our perennial internship program.
We enter this new school year with pride of our accomplishments – a belief that the state of our school is strong – but also the humility and hope to do better. Imagine what the future holds for our “small group of thoughtful, engaged citizens” with the intellect and optimism to change the world for the better.
Thank you for all you do to make our community strong and reach still higher.
Jon D. Erickson
Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources