During the spring semester I have the privilege of talking to prospective students and their families during Admitted Student Days. After reflecting on how it seems like yesterday when I was in their seats (with Van Halen loaded in my Walkman and an 80s mullet to match), I provide a brief sketch of their future studies at the Rubenstein School. Ten minutes to highlight the big takeaways of our School’s content and character. Why join the Rubenstein School? What makes the Rubenstein experience distinctive and compelling? What is the return on investing four years at UVM to their future careers and ecological citizenship?
I stress that we are a School without departments, bridging the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities through a core curriculum, experiential learning, and interdisciplinary research. We challenge our students to develop deep expertise in an area of study, but also the skills to navigate and integrate across disciplines to tackle complex problems. I emphasize that we are a community built on partnerships with other colleges and schools through cross-campus majors and interdisciplinary research; with state and national government agencies through cooperative research and extension programs; and with private companies and non-governmental organizations through student projects and action research. And I underscore our commitment to learning by direct experience through service-learning classes, internships, diversity training, undergraduate research, and senior capstone projects.
Thankfully, we also invite current students to talk to their peers. Their first-hand experiences bring my assertions to life and always make me want to go back to school! To name a few: student research projects at the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory on Lake Champlain; internships with one of our many perennial partners; service-learning projects with over one hundred community partners to choose from; and co-curricular activities in the new Ecological Design Collaboratory. Our undergraduates participate in evaluating and evolving their own curriculum through the Student Advisory Board; benefit from study and career advice with graduate student mentors; and build environmental leadership skills as Rubenstein School Stewards, members of the student-run chapter of the Wildlife Society, and Eco-Reps with UVM’s Office of Sustainability.
It may feel like my own school years were just yesterday, but today’s education is certainly worlds away from my own. Today’s students take ownership of their education like never before. They expect a lot from our faculty and staff, and we in turn expect the world from them. There is a lot of pride on display at our Admitted Student Days, and a lot at stake in a Rubenstein School education. As the Class of 2018 makes their big decision to join our community, let’s welcome them with an unwavering commitment to their success and to make the world a better place for each new class to follow.
Jon D. Erickson
Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources