Alum gives donation

UVM alumnus David Blittersdorf is putting $1 million on the table to create a new professorship in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

As a 1981 graduate of UVM’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences Blittersdorf recognizes renewable energy is at the forefront of many conversations. 

He hopes his new Professorship in Sustainability Science and Policy will help to bridge the gap between natural resources and technology. 

“When I went to UVM, students went to the different colleges and got different perspectives,” he said. “I want this professorship to intertwine the environment and the technical aspect of renewable energy.”

The driving force behind his donation was that he wanted UVM to move a little faster when it came to sustainable energy and its developments, Blittersdorf said.

“I want to position UVM as an environmental university,” he said. “Other universities talk the talk better. One of the requirements for me to fund this professorship was that it have no nuclear and no fossil fuels funding in it.”

Ideally, Blittersdorf wants UVM to divest entirely.

Though his donation will be going to the Rubenstein School, the professorship will incorporate both natural resources and the technology behind them.

“Engineering and Rubenstein work well together,” Blittersdorf said. “I want graduates going into the natural resources field to have more physics and hard sciences. They need a basic understanding of the concepts, and incorporating engineering into this can help.”

He hopes his professorship will provide new partnerships with the engineering and business schools to get things moving in the right direction.

Although Blittersdorf will be funding the professorship, the Rubenstein School will be in charge of finding the ideal candidate for the position.

“This is an endowed professorship,” Interim Dean of the Rubenstein School Jon Erickson said. “This type of professorship generates income that the professor uses to advance research.” 

Erickson said that a search committee is in the process of being put together, and that he hopes to have an advertisement out for the professorship by December.

“The application for the position would be due in the spring, and interviews would start during the spring semester,” he said. “This is a typical timeline for new hires.”

Because this professorship will incorporate an engineering aspect, Erickson said that the ad for the position would need to be as broad as possible.

“It remains to be seen exactly how this will work,” he said. “We’re going to have to look at candidates depending on their skills and interests. Joint classes between the Rubenstein School and engineering may be offered, as well as some joint projects down the line.” 

Erickson admitted he was thrilled to be able to create an endowed professorship, and that the opportunity is fantastic for the school.

Professor and Associate Dean of the Rubenstein School Allan Strong agreed with Erickson.

“I, perhaps obviously, think this is a wonderful gift for the Rubenstein School,” he said. “One reason for the importance of the gift is the incredible interest that our incoming students have in green technology.”

Strong said that because Blittersdorf’s donation is designed to bridge the gap between natural resources and technology, this professorship would enable students interested in this aspect of renewable energy to learn more about it.

“The gift is designed to foster with collaboration with the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences,” he said. “So we think this will be great for students that are interested in the more technical aspects of sustainability.”

Some students in the Rubenstein School are intrigued by the prospect of a new professorship.

“It sounds like a cool idea,” junior James Farrell said. “A big part of sustainability is business economics and you have to know math to make solar panels.”

Farrell thinks the professorship would enable students to approach renewable energy from different perspectives.

“Having someone who’s an expert in both natural resources and engineering would be cool,” he said. “It would give students the opportunity to look at different aspects of sustainability.”