Thomas Apple

  Presidential candidate Thomas Apple summed up his reaction to visiting UVM and the opportunity to be its 26th president in one word: “stoked.”   As the fifth and final candidate for the presidential position, Apple’s visit to campus concluded the search process and culminated in an open forum session on Jan. 30 where he addressed a crowd near capacity and fielded questions.   “My philosophy as an administrator is to be someone who maintains a presence on campus, believes in transparency and strongly advocates shared government,” he said.   Apple spent much of his 10-minute forum introduction and interview with the Cynic touching on key issues that he felt strongly about, including the importance of faculty, diversity and trans-disciplinary education.   He emphasized the ways in which UVM is similar to the University of Delaware (UD), where he is currently serving in his third year as provost.   Both schools share the distinction of being the only small-research, land-grant university in their respective states, have similar expenditures, budgets and are roughly the same size, Apple said.   UVM and UD also have unionized faculty, a point Apple stressed because he said he is the only presidential candidate to have negotiated with a faculty union.    Previously involved with the American Association of University Professors, Apple said that it is important to work hand-in-hand with university faculty and ensure that their needs are met, calling them a university’s most important asset.   “I want to help students find their passion,” he said. “This can only happen with great faculty, because great faculty create great programs which attract great students.”   At the forum, Sullivan outlined his hope to not only attract diverse students, faculty and staff but also to find ways to incorporate them into the community as equals.   “It’s critical to have diverse populations that bring different value systems, life experiences and cultural systems,” he said. “When we think about issues of diversity, we need to make sure that these people are included and feel equity.”   For Apple, diversity also extends to the academic realm.   He said he was interested in attracting a different type of student through continuing education programs and access learning online. Apple said he thinks these options could increase the University’s income.   “As state support declines, we need to find new revenues that attract new students, perhaps non-traditional students looking for retraining as they make a career change,” he said. “We need to find new ways where we can help other segments of society find opportunities.”   In an interview with the Cynic, Apple said UVM’s undergraduate program is one of the core strengths of the University because it integrates a solid research reputation with a commitment to education.   “Combining education and research programs is really the hallmark of a small research university,” Apple said. “There’s a commitment here to the education of students.”   Encouraged by UVM’s advance in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, Apple said he is determined to see this trend continue and thought the rise was a reflection of university-wide improvement.   “The most important mission is creating the next generation of leaders, focusing on student success, making sure they end up with a degree and a passion in their area,” he said. “The ranking is the result of doing the right things.”   Yet in the midst of rising education costs and a lagging economy, Apple said that equal access for all qualified students is an ever-important priority.   “It shouldn’t be about the money,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way for students to earn a degree without being overburdened with loans.”   To this end, Apple championed administrative changes at UD that guaranteed all tuition needs would be met by no more than 25 percent in student loans.   Apple also highlighted the importance of alumni relations.   His approach to fundraising is not just to value past students, but also to reach out to them as sources of wisdom and stewards of their university.   Last year, Apple spoke with students at a UD Student Government Association forum about his initiative to improve the quality of academic advising, according to UD’s student newspaper The Review.   In email correspondence with the Cynic, University of Delaware SGA President Molly Sullivan praised Apple for his ability to listen to the student body.   “I know that those who have worked or spoken with Provost Tom Apple, myself included, find that they are speaking to someone who is willing to listen and willing to help,” Sullivan stated. “He loves speaking to students and is always, without fail, open to new ideas.”     Info Graphic:   Burlington: “Lake Champlain is absolutely beautiful. The town has a neat vibe.”   Presidential Mansion: “I want to have an on-campus presence. I was glad to hear they’ve already started renovations; one of the last things you want is to be chosen and then your first expenditure is feathering your own nest.”   Arts & the Humanities: “I think it’s an important part of educating a human being. I took a drawing class 10 years ago and it changed my outlook on things, and I began to appreciate beauty in different ways.”   Alumni: “I think it should be that you learn, you earn, you return.”