Major Jackson to leave UVM next semester

Sabine Foerg and Nicole Hardy

After 18 years at the University of Vermont, University Distinguished Professor Major Jackson is heading for a warmer climate and new challenges.

Nationally acclaimed poet Jackson has announced his departure from UVM, after establishing himself as a tenured faculty member and University Distinguished Professor over the course of his 18 years at the school.

Jackson plans to leave UVM for a position at Vanderbilt University next semester. Now, starting a new chapter of his career, Jackson reflected on his time and accomplishments in Vermont and what motivated him to leave the University he’s taught at since 2002.

“What drew me was the graduate program. I don’t have a graduate program here at the University of Vermont,” Jackson explained. “I am attracted to a residential graduate program and creative writing. It’s been a dream of mine.”

Although proud of the many accomplishments he’s amassed during his time at UVM, Jackson said he still finds himself hungry for new inspiration.

With that in mind, Jackson said he largely made the decision to go to Vanderbilt in a bid to embrace change and grow as an artist.

However, Jackson said that’s not the only thing that drew him to the Tennessee school. He’s also looking forward to the community of writers that await him.

“I feel a deep kinship with my peers on faculty there, and know their work,” he said. “I’m already entering into an established community of writers with a long history.”

Jumping into such a talented program, Jackson said he’s excited for the fresh start, and the potential impacts it will have on him as a writer and teacher.

“It feels like I’m young, and I’m hungry again to impact the next generation of writers, and to wipe the slate clean and start fresh,” Jackson said.

He hopes this change will bring his artistry to new heights and motivate him to look at his writing through a new lens.

“Taking a new job, new colleagues, a new environment makes me want to write with a greater sense of purpose and be accountable to myself as a writer,” he said.

However, this was not an easy decision for Jackson, who said he has formed strong bonds to the UVM community. “UVM has been enormously supportive of my writing life

and my career as a writer. I had, in addition to that, support over the years, which I owe to previous deans and former presidents.” Jackson said the University was prepared to make him an offer that would retain him.

However, he felt the offer at Vanderbilt was an undeniable opportunity, and thought accepting UVM’s offer would be insensitive, given the financial cutbacks on employee salaries and layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to an Oct. 27 Cynic article, UVM’s faculty union and the administration have reached an impasse after UVM cut faculty salary and benefits to compensate for a $10milliondeficitbroughton by the pandemic.

 “I felt it was not an opportune time to engage in those discussions, when my friends, peers, who are non- tenure track record, or who are lecturers, were negotiating for their own positions at UVM,” he said. “I just felt as though that might have been a little callous and unethical so I decided not to do that.”

Jackson said he’s sad to leave faculty members he’s formed strong relationships with over the years.

While in Vermont, Jackson has formed unforgettable connections in the UVM and greater Burlington communities, and will depart with fond memories of his time here.

“I have dearly beloved colleagues,” Jackson said. “I can’t even call them friends, they’re like family. So this was a tough decision.”