One day, every student at this university is going to have to get a job in the real world. For some students that day will come sooner than for others, but it will almost undoubtedly reach us all. When that day comes, our degrees from The University of Vermont are going to matter, not just our grades or our classes, but the standing reputation of the university itself. Many people see a university’s reputation as fairly static, it’s either a good school or not, right?
Well, that’s not always the way it works. One of the main gauges of a university’s status is the quality of its professors. UVM has a great advantage in this department because it is a teaching university, meaning that the professors are here to teach, not to do research. Ultimately, UVM’s status lies with the student body and how they care to shape the university. Being a student at a teaching university certainly has its advantages, but it also carries responsibility. Professors are here to teach the students. When students don’t show up, or show an attitude unbefitting the level of university UVM has obtained, it hurts not just the education of those students but the university as a whole. At the end of the 2003-2004 academic year, there were 15 tenured political science professors. When students arrived back on campus for the fall 2004 semester, there were only 10. That’s 1/3 of the university’s best political science professors who decided they would rather be teaching somewhere else.
UVM cannot lose tenured professors at that rate and sustain its current status. Right now UVM is ranked 97th in the country among national universities by US News and World Report. UVM has the opportunity to climb even higher with expanding enrolment and a strong vision for the future, but it’s not possible with the rate of professor retention the university is currently facing. In an interview with Professor Nelson, a professor at UVM since 1968, he pointed out that when students don’t show up to classes and show a poor work ethic they break the emotional student-teacher bond, which is what many of the professors at UVM depend on. Nelson also pointed out that “[n]one of us got into academics to make money.” In order to keep and advance UVM’s standing in comparison to universities around the country UVM has to retain its professors and bring in more talent to help accommodate enrollment expansion. If the university isn’t able to achieve this goal, the market value of current and past degrees from UVM will devalue. potential employers take into account UVM’s standing at the current as opposed to it’s standing back when the potential employee got their degree. Professor Nelson stressed the point that the best thing students can do to boost the moral of current professors and help the university achieve a higher standing is to demonstrate real interest in their classes by showing up and showing effort. Professor Nelson noted “First class teachers are those who make emotional commitments to their students”. The only way to obtain, and more importantly for UVM, retain that caliber of professor is to foster a more positive and supportive environment for them to teach in. And that will make all the difference in the value of past, current, and future degrees granted by the University of Vermont.