I look forward to writing these missives each week. But this will be the last one until the start of the semester in 2018. I could look backwards on the year (and it is amazing that I've been here for a year already). But instead, I'd like to look forward to next year and tell you about some of the initiatives that are likely to be launched next year, or at least worked on seriously by many. You've read some of this before, or I've at least hinted at some of the topics in previous Friday emails. But here goes (and I'm certain I'll forget some things…).
Initiative 1. Preparing students for the world. Last week, I wondered aloud whether we are preparing our students for an increasingly connected world. Early next semester, I hope to have some brownbag meetings, across campus, to think about what we could be doing better, and what we could be doing that we're not doing. I know some faculty affiliated with Our Environmental Program are equally excited about talking about this. I am especially interested in connections with China and connections within the US, but would welcome any and all ideas.
Initiative 2. Advising and mentoring. Starting on February 1, we will have an additional professional advisor housed in Bittersweet. Kevin Chu is going to join us, and he's bringing both a wealth of experience and exciting ideas to the Environmental Program. Kevin graduated from Middlebury and has been working in UVM's Office of Admissions for a while. Once he's here, he and Ibit will be in charge of advising for all first- and second-year students, and they will be point people for all ENVS students across campus. Adding Kevin to our staff will transform, in a very positive way, how we support our students and our faculty advisors across campus. Plus, having Kevin as a colleague will allow Ibit, whose plate is always so full, to think about new projects and initiatives.
The search process was amazing. I’d really like to thank Brendan and his search committee (from RSENR, CALS, and CAS) for all of the hard work they did in getting the applicant pool down from ~100 applications to 4, and finally to Kevin. Amy Seidl got the ball rolling on this search way back in May and June. Cathy in our office did tons of leg work to make the search run smoothly and was an incredible asset on the committee. An incredible crop of thoughtful ENVS students met with each finalist, and their perspectives were a huge benefit. Ibit thought long and hard about each of the finalists and provided the committee with incredible insights about what each could bring to the position and ENVS. And Deans Mathews, Vogelmann, and Falls should also be commended for funding this position that is going to help us, and our students, in so many ways.
Initiative 3. Undergraduate research and scholarship. We will continue to support undergraduate research and scholarship in ENVS. In fact, we are going to increase our support. I will look to hire an undergraduate on an NSF-funded project for ~$5,000 this summer. We will also offer our usual ENVS Summer Research Award (this has traditionally been $2,000 per student, but I want to increase it). The Ian Worley award will be announced in January. And, I hope to announce news about supporting even more undergraduate research and scholarship in the very near future… Stay tuned.
Initiative 4. Strengthening our cross-campus connections. You all know this, but some of the best environmental scholars might not have offices in Bittersweet. (However, there are some darn good folks in Bittersweet). Instead, they are scattered across campus, in Philosophy, Classics, Biology, Political Science, History, Forestry, Plant and Soil Sciences, and elsewhere. Beginning in February, we will initiate a series of meetings with the goal of engaging with these incredible scholars and teachers even more than we do now.
Initiative 5. Building on our Program Assessment. Brendan Fisher has been going above and beyond to think about how we go about assessing our programmatic learning outcomes. We'll finish this up in the early spring. But our discussions have made many of us in the ENVS faculty think more deeply about what we're trying to accomplish, and what we hope our students leave UVM with. Maybe by the end of spring semester, we'll be able say more about this. But I think it's an exciting time in Environmental Studies.
Initiative 6. Alumni engagement. I've travelled a lot the past 3 weeks. Just this morning, I was in the Brussels airport, waiting to board a plane back to the US, when I recognized one of our alumni walking by me. We have thousands of alumni, scattered all over the world. But it was REALLY cool to bump into one in an airport in Europe. All semester, I've been thinking about our incredible network of alumni around the world, and how better to get their insights and thoughts and increased engagement in Our Environmental Program. Toward that goal, beginning in spring of 2018, I will invite a group of alumni to join an Alumni Advisory board for ENVS. I have some names in mind, but I would love to receive nominations up until February 15 (including self nominations!). I'll send out a reminder about this after the holidays.
Again, I'm sure I've forgotten some things. But that's what I'm thinking about now, and what I hope we can move forward on in the spring.
Until then, I hope you enjoy some time away from UVM to think, to write, to explore, to reconnect, to rebalance, to spend time with loved ones, to read, or, if you're Brendan Fisher, to work on Assessment Plans.
Thanks for a wonderful first year.
If you would like to work with Nate
Please email him a summary of your research experience and research goals, along with a CV.