University of Vermont

Board of Trustees


Robert F. Cioffi
Board of Trustees, Chair's Report
October 29, 2010

Good morning, everyone, and welcome. We have a very full agenda over the next day and a half, so I will keep my Chair's Report brief and I know that Dan will be covering a variety of issues in his President's Report.

As we all know, this University and this Board faces numerous challenges that so many in this room grapple with every day. All of that comes with the territory of this complex and competitive enterprise of higher education. Although we always have room to improve and more work to do, it is important on occasion to recognize milestones and accomplishments. I would like to do that right now, reflecting the information that was conveyed yesterday in a press conference held in the McCrorey Gallery in the Bailey/Howe Library.

In case you missed the coverage, speaking at the press conference were:

  • Fayneese Miller, Dean of our College of Education and Social Services and Chair of the Vermont Board of Education
  • Armando Villeseca, Vermont Commissioner of Education
  • Governor Jim Douglas
  • President Dan Fogel

In addition to this distinguished group, I offered a few brief comments as well. And the subject of the press conference? The plain fact that we are by a number of measures at a high water mark in the 219 year history of The University of Vermont.
A few examples from the past year or two include:

  • Our research funding came in at $146 million in 2010, an all-time high.
  • Two more faculty earned Career Awards from the National Science Foundation in 2010, bringing the total number of Career Award winners to nine in the last six years.
  • Applications have reached record levels, as has the academic quality of incoming classes.
  • Our athletic teams are not only winning games, including post-season ones, they've earned an unprecedented sixth straight America East Academic Cup this year.

But what makes the picture of UVM's success truly compelling are our graduation rates and those predictors of graduation-rates-to-be, retention rates. And while these numbers are a terrific reflection on all of our students, the accomplishments of our Vermont students is especially noteworthy.

First-to-second year retention for our overall student body was the second highest in our history: almost 87%, up seven full points from a decade ago, but first-year retention for in-state students was truly astonishing: a record 91%, tying last year's all time high.

To put that number in context, if you look at statistics compiled last year by the U.S. Department of Education for the 163 public doctoral universities in America, most of whose students come from in-state - only 22 had better first year undergraduate retention rates than in-state students at UVM.

Another important number to highlight is six-year graduation rates. The six-year rate for all students who graduated in May 2010 was a record 76.3%, over 8 points higher than a decade ago and 22 points higher than the national average for publics. As good as that number is, the six-year graduation rate for Vermont students was even better: 80.5%, a figure that would rank us 17th among publics on the list I mentioned a minute ago.

Another key fact from our new fall enrollment report: undergraduate enrollment of ALANA students at UVM hit double digits this year for the first time ever. I think we all know how hard this University has worked on this issue, and 10% ALANA enrollment is an impressive considering that 10 years ago, the number was just over 4%. In real numbers, we have more than tripled the ALANA student population (from 445 to 1376). But as with our overall student population and Vermont students, we aren't just bringing ALANA students to UVM in record numbers - they're also staying here. We have more work to do, for certain, but our first-year retention rates for ALANA students this fall, an historic 91%, show we're making good progress toward creating a place where students of color will succeed.

Why are these retention and graduation rate numbers so important? It's not enough to simply attract students to college, which we're very good at in the United States: what we're not so good at nationally enabling students to succeed once they get to college. Nationally, we're falling behind: Since the 1990s, the United States has dropped from first place among developed nations in the percent of its young workers with a college degree to 12th - with all the problems for global competitiveness that implies.

We're succeeding at UVM in getting students to, and through college. Across the campus we see numerous efforts to promote student success, from expanded library technology and services, to the creation of additional learning communities, to promoting undergraduate research to planning a comprehensive First Year Experience, and it is the University's goal to achieve even better numbers in years to come. Yes we still have work to do and there are areas that we can strive to improve for our students including academic advising, career assistance and strengthening the overall student experience, but we have come a long way and the retention numbers certainly demonstrate that.

Obviously these results represent of some very hard and creative work on many people's parts, for which I am grateful, and this Board is grateful. And those who make us most proud of these accomplishments are our students themselves because they are the ones who are working hard, pursuing an excellent education, and graduating in record numbers.

Let me assure everybody that our University is not going to rest on these laurels. There is more to do and higher goals to reach. But it is also important to recognize our successes, and many of these have been a long time coming. I grew up in Vermont, and this is my University. Now live in Connecticut, I will tell you: from the perspective of those "from away," the University of Vermont is viewed as a first-rate institution with a terrific reputation. And that's a very good place to be, for the University, and for the State of Vermont.

Although we will have an opportunity for some more extensive recognition tonight at our dinner and tomorrow in the form of a resolution, I wish to close by thanking a departing Trustee who has given an extraordinary measure of his time, attention, and commitment to Vermont's University and its Board. It is rare, maybe even unprecedented, to see the Governor of Vermont in attendance at nearly every Board meeting, and it means a great deal to me, to this Board, and to The University of Vermont. On behalf of all of us, thank you and Godspeed, Governor Douglas. This ends my report.

Last modified September 21 2013 06:48 AM