Campus Connection: University of Vermont - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Campus Connection: University of Vermont

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School is back in session at the University of Vermont, and this fall there's a new man in charge.

"I need to learn a lot about the University of Vermont and the state of Vermont," Thomas Sullivan said.

Sullivan is UVM's new president, and so far, he likes what he sees with the university's more than 13,000 students.

"They're bright, they're eager, they're curious and they're well-balanced," Sullivan said.

While Sullivan is pleased with the student body, he admits there's room for improvement on campus.

"We want to have a very candid, robust conversation about where our strengths are, where are our weaknesses, what are the comparative advantages UVM had," he said.

The former University of Minnesota vice president is in the process of outlining and launching his "first thousand day plan" for UVM. Slowing down the average annual 4.8 percent tuition increase tops his list.

"I want to see if we can moderate the growth of that tuition and make sure we had a very significant robust financial aid and scholarships to lighten the burden on our students," he said.

Sullivan says the university must carefully prioritize its resources, stressing that stronger compensation for professors will be key to preventing a "brain drain." And that an enhanced focus on science, technology, engineering and math is also important.

"It will make sense for us to look very carefully at new investments in those stem fields, not only because we're very strong academically and research, but because there are job potentials for our students," Sullivan said.

The one-time professor says that improved facilities at UVM go hand in hand with improving the quality of work and research happening on campus.

"We have to make sure these talented individuals have the very best facilities, and quite frankly, in some areas we're behind because of deferred maintenance," he said.

Sullivan's already met with members of Vermont's congressional delegation and Gov. Peter Shumlin and knows those relationships could be key to figuring out how to pay for his plans. He's also sharing a key question with the folks running to be Vermont's next governor: "How can we strengthen and promote the relationship between the University of Vermont and the citizens of Vermont?"

A bond Sullivan knows will be key as he envisions UVM 10 years down the road.

"In that period of time hope people will say boy, University of Vermont has really elevated the quality and excellence of that university," he said.

Sullivan says a major fundraising campaign is also in the works to help pay for new initiatives.

A few financial facts on UVM: The total cost of attendance for Vermont students for tuition, room and board and other fees is roughly $28,000 and out-of-state students are paying about $49,000.

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