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February 29, 1988 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-02-29

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It's Not All Downhill at UVM
The skiing is still cool in Vermont, but the academic pace is hotter


You could move many a public univer-
sity across state borders without
changing its character, but not the
University of Vermont. Known as UVM,
for Universitas Viridis Montis or Universi-
ty of the Green Mountains, it fits comfort-
ably in their foothills, overlooking the city
of Burlington, and lives intimately with its
environment. Fisheries biologists learn
aboard a floating laboratory on Lake
Champlain, and botanists study in the sur-
rounding forests of birch and pine. The
Outing Club leads hikers along the icy Wi-
nooski River to where they're building a
cabin. And from the moment a snowflake
falls in autumn until the sloppy runoff in
April, nearly everyone seems to hit the
slopes at nearby Killington and Stowe.
But if you can't separate the U from the
VM, the idyllic surroundings can bring
drawbacks. Some students seemingly put
skis before studies, giving UVM an endur-
ing reputation as a party school. At the
other end of the spectrum, UVM's tradi-
tional obeisance to Mother Earth has
earned it another image as Crunchy Gran-
ola U (indeed, certain ecology-
minded students are known on
campus as "crunchies"). Now
in the midst of an effort to tight-
en academic standards, UVM is
coming to terms with an envi-
ronment that has often proved
too distracting for the scholarly
good. "When people come to
Vermont they figure, 'Let's go
skiing'," says Leslie Dunn, an
Outing Club staff member.
"But when they settle down to
18 credits, the mountains seem
farther away."
The good academics and
great location make UVM a
sound package deal-and more
than Vermonters have noticed.
About half of the student body
comes from out of state, mostly
from the East. An almost 40
percent increase in the number
of out-of-state applicants over
the last four years has driven
admission standards higher;
about one in four out-of'staters
now gets in. (The total annual
cost of more than $13,000 for
nonresidents is roughly twice
what Vermonters pay.) The
state itself has a bargain: its
legislature kicks in only 14 per-

cent of the university's operating budget,
ranking it last in state aid in the nation.
"We say we're state assisted, not state sup-
ported," remarks William Kelly, associate
dean in the College of Agriculture and Life
The most popular majors are similar to
the big ones at most places-political sci-
ence, business administration, economics
and psychology-but many of the best pro-
grams take advantage of local resources.
The Environmental Program attacks is-
sues such as toxic-waste disposal from
several angles. Students not only identify
environmental issues scientifically, but
also learn how to draft legislative remedies
and lobby for them. The School of Natural
Resources frequently holds wildlife biology
or forestry classes in one of the four univer-
sity-owned forests; the favored offering is
recreation-area management, which cov-
ers ski resorts, wilderness areas and
campgrounds. Three-quarters of the ani-
mal-sciences majors participate in faculty
research projects, including work with the
state's dairy industry. The department also

makes and sells its own sinfully rich and
subtly flavored ice cream, challenging Ben
& Jerry's in its hometown. (From 1979 to
1982, UVM actually mass-produced Ben &
Jerry's mixes according to the entrepre-
neurs' formulas.)
Inrecentyears, UVMhasbeenstriving to
make its academics as celebrated as its sur-
roundings. The College of Arts and Sciences
instituted a core curriculum in 1986,
enforcing advanced mathematics and
foreign-language proficiency, mandating
courses in non-European culture and insti-
tuting distribution requirements in fine
arts, literature, humanities, social and nat-
ural sciences. The business school requires
about half of an undergrad's program to be
similarly grounded in liberal arts.
Cracking down: Many students say they see
the faculty cracking down. "Music 1 is no
longer clapping for credit," says David
Pope, president of the Student Association.
And faculty members focus on both the
international and parochial. Holocaust
scholar Raul Hilberg served as consultant
for the documentary "Shoah." Frank Bry-
an, a politics professor, is an expert in the
history of the Vermont town meeting and
the state's legendary, fierce independence.
His latest book, "Out! The Vermont Seces-
sion Book," fantasizes ahead to 1991, when
the state leaves the nation during its bicen-
tennial-a throwback to 1777-91 when
Vermont was an independent state.
(UVM's most famous alum is probably edu-
cation philosopher John Dewey.)
Still, the complaint is often heard that
departments are diverse but not deep.
"You don't get everything you want," says
Schuss, we're trying to study here:
Forestry-class field trip, varsity skier

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