Sullivan named UVM President

E. Thomas Sullivan has officially been named UVM’s 26th President. At a formal introduction Feb. 22 held in the Silver Maple Ballroom, Robert Cioffi, the Board of Trustees Chairman, called Sullivan the perfect fit for the University of Vermont. “The final outcome was a smashing success,” Cioffi said of the presidential search process. Sullivan took the stage to a standing ovation and expressed his gratitude to the community as well as his excitement to take charge of a University with a prosperous future. “The University’s future is indeed bright and very, very promising,” Sullivan said. Sullivan shared Cioffi’s sentiment and said that the alignment of UVM’s mission and vision with his own experiences, values and aspirations made the decision to accept an easy one. “In so many ways, the position of President of the University of Vermont is a natural progression and fit for me,” he said. Sullivan outlined four core principles that will guide his presidency: financial access and affordability, a rich curriculum, growth of research programs and maintaining a strong relationship with the Vermont community to promote economic growth. All those who spoke, including Governor Peter Shumlin and University governance heads, said they were confident in Sullivan’s ability to lead and looked forward to working with him. Gov. Shumlin said he was satisfied the Board of Trustees chose the right candidate and believes that as President, Sullivan will further the objectives and interests of the University and Vermont communities. The Governor presented Sullivan with an atlas of Vermont, and amid laughs from the crowd, urged Sullivan to familiarize himself with it so that he can learn the lay of the land like his wife Leslie, a UVM alumna. Sullivan said he hopes that all members of the community will join him in the pursuit of success. “If all of us work together and support each other, we will have a very bright future,” he said. Sullivan was joined onstage by his wife, Faculty Senate President Julie Robbins, Staff Council President Ida Russin, Alumni Association Board of Directors Member Afi Ahmadi, Graduate Student Senate President Eduardo Cotilla Sanchez, and SGA President Julian Golfarini. Sullivan was interviewed by the Cynic later that afternoon. Seated in front of a canvas decorated with a picture of UVM scenery, Sullivan answered questions concerning his new presidency that pertain to the student body. Sullivan reiterated his previous statements that affordability, financial assets and minimizing debt will be within his core principles and will benefit students. “[We will] look very carefully at the right formula between tuition and the financial aid scholarship opportunities,” Sullivan said. “And get that balance right so that no student would be denied an opportunity to come to UVM because of financial need.” Sullivan also expressed his support for the First Amendment, specifically free speech, when asked about how he plans to handle student activism. “Sometimes, as it has been said about democracy, it can get a little messy,” he said. “But my own view is that it is part of the discourse and the debate and that’s so important because if we can’t have it in on our American colleges’ campuses, where can we have it?” Regarding keeping the administration transparent, Sullivan said he would try to work with students as much as possible. “I’m not sure how that works right now, but there certainly will be formal opportunities as well as informal opportunities for access and conversations with the President,” he said. Sullivan mentioned a program at Minnesota called “Conversations with the Provost,” in which he would meet with 12 to 15 students in order to discuss various issues. “It was incredibly educational for me,” he said. “I want to be able to hear [student voices] even if we ultimately disagree on something.” At 4:00 p.m., there was a campus-wide reception at Billings Library. Over 150 students, faculty and staff attended the event to welcome the new President. After focusing his efforts on the presidential search this past month, Chief of Staff Gary Derr said he is excited about the decision. The administration is now planning Sullivan’s coming months, until July 15, when he will officially move to Burlington. “I’m sure there will be an occasion when he’s going to meet with the delegation senators and representatives as well,” Derr said. “We are planning a trip to Washington so he can meet with the leaders there. He also talked about future campus visits.” Among other organizations, Greek Life representatives from every chapter were present at the reception. President of Delta Delta Delta sorority Kristen Hamilton expressed her hope that the new President will better relations with the Greek community. “He talked a lot about uniting the Burlington community and the campus and the organizations on campus,” Hamilton said. “Sometimes I feel like there’s a disconnect between the University itself and then Greek organizations – hopefully he can work on bringing them all together.” Former President Dan Fogel, who was also in attendance, said he was thrilled about the new President and pleased with the search committee’s dedication. “I thought it was an excellent process and we had stellar candidates,” Fogel said. Fogel also talked about his transition into teaching and said he was anxious about planning for his classes.   “Presidents don’t usually focus on particular academic departments,” Fogel said. “That’s one of the bad parts about being President: you lose touch with the real playing field of the students and faculty.” Will Vitagliano, Vice President of SGA and member of the presidential selection committee said his experience choosing the next President was wonderful. “I learned the most about this University in the last year than any of my previous years,” Vitagliano said. “I learned the inner functions of the University that I don’t think a lot of students are aware of.” The event was interrupted with a couple of brief statements made by Cioffi and Sullivan.  During his speech, Sullivan continued to talk about his excitement in becoming the new President. “It has been a day to remember,” he said. “This is a place that Leslie has loved since her student days here and one that I am very quickly falling in love with. “We look forward to many, many years of working with colleagues and friends,” Sullivan said.