University of Vermont

University of Vermont

Unversity of Vermont – Burlington, Vermont

The University of Vermont is located in the heart of Burlington, a picture-perfect college town, packed with great eateries, cafes, and clubs. A quick glance over the shoulder reveals Lake Champlain, the sixth largest lake in the United States, Green Mountains, the great outdoors, winter sports, and the best skiing in the East. One recent visitor described Burlington as, “a good college town for young hippies looking to escape their conservative families,” and it is. A recent article in the New York Times, however, offered a revisionist view of the city, due in part to the influx of urban folk as the pandemic devastated city life in New York and Boston.

Burlington, home of the University of Vermont and the birthplace of Phish, Ben and Jerry’s and Seventh Generation, has long embodied the earthy progressivism and can-do independence that define the state’s spirit. Lately that ethos has taken on a sophisticated sheen, as chefs apply Vermont’s longtime obsession with local ingredients in exciting new directions. There are still plenty of Birkenstocks about; they’re just parked under tables spread with confit duck poutine, braised leek crepes and crisp, complex Vermont craft brews like Alchemist’s Heady Topper, a beer of near-mythic reputation among hops aficionados.”

Confit duck poutine and Lake Champlain? Pretty much says it all.

Students at the university are mostly white and mostly Christian, but the diversity of backgrounds and interests is kind of impressive in this relatively small university. The work is tough enough and the reputation sound enough that the general tone of the place is both industrious and cheerful. Hippies and hipsters, jocks, skaters, boarders and skiers, aggies pre-meds, pre-vets all seem to enjoy each other’s company and their privileged location.

The University of Vermont itself has a few quirky characteristics. It is popularly known as UVM rather than UVT because its Latin title is Universitas Viridis Montis or University of Green Mountains (that makes sense). Then UVM is a public/private or private/public university. UVM was founded as a private college in 1791, just as the foundling state abandoned its status as an independent republic to join the newly established United States of America. In the Nineteenth Century, the Morrill Acts established the Land Grant universities, of which UVM was one, thus taking on the role of the state’s public university. Today, the university operates with funds from the state and with tuition paid by students, a good number of whom are from other states. 

The university is an excellent small research university, generally included in the small group of public (ish) universities that offer highly regarded academic instruction. Known as the Public Ivies, the original group includes Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Miami University (Ohio), UC Berkeley, UCLA, Texas, William and Mary, and Vermont. UVM continues to enjoy a solid reputation, due in part to its success in placing its graduates in competitive graduate programs and in part to its many innovations in developing a sustainable campus. In addition, development of specialized programs continues; Healthy Brains, Healthy Bodies, taught by pediatric neuroscientist Dr. James Hudziak from the university’s School of Medicine led to the establishment of a new residence hall program to be instituted in the coming academic year.

For many who apply to UVM, however, the appeal of the place is in its location (already described as spectacular), its size (under ten thousand), its diversity of majors organized in eight undergraduate divisions, and its lively, active, generally happy student body. UVM is a rarity as a public institution in which only 2 percent of classes are NOT taught by full-time faculty.

The totemic creature once prowling the northern tier of New England, the Catamount (also known as mountain lion or puma), is the school’s mascot and a reasonable gesture toward the environmental concerns the Green Mountain State has championed and a gesture toward the elegant power of the university’s Division One teams. Lots of schools have adopted cats of one kind or another (Tigers, Lions, Bobcats, Wildcats), but Vermont’s Catamount prowls alone as a purely regional beast. Well, Maine suggests that their Black Bears are Maine Black Bears, but they look exactly like anyone else’s Black Bears. In any case, while UVM is not generally seen as a sports-mad campus, two winters sports, basketball and ice hockey, draw crowds to some spectacular play.

Residential life is healthy, as is indicated by the high percentage that chose to live on campus throughout the four years. It is rare to see more than 50% remaining in dormitories at a university of this size, but the advantages of living on-campus are many. In describing the social scene at UVM, students quickly disclose that there are three thriving sorts of social activities, outside of clubs, organizations, team and intramural sports, etc. The Catamounts can prowl the Burlington nightlife, which gets high marks – the number of recommended clubs is overwhelming. Many will take to the outdoors; all the usual wilderness activities are within a short drive. Hiking, rock climbing, camping, rafting, sailing – all in a glorious setting. The skiing is excellent and there are a number of types of venues. There are some pretty stylish resorts, such as Stowe, Stratton Mountain, and the aforementioned Trapp Family Lodge, and lots of MUCH less expensive skiing as well. Some offer Nordic and some Downhill and some both.  After a healthy snowfall, numbers of students slap on a pair of skis and cross-country wherever they want.  Lots happens on campus, including an active calendar of student organized coffee houses at which budding singers/songwriters/stand-up comedians take the stage. The university brings in the usual array of big-name entertainment twice a year and provides a number of entertainment choices throughout the year. There are fraternities and sororities at UVM, but they hold no more sway in the social life of students than do a number of other organizations and associations.

OK, the setting is fabulous and social goodies abound. What about academics?

UVM is a relatively small university, and students report exceptional access to professors; many describe themselves as having found a mentor during their undergraduate careers. A fair number choose to stay to complete graduate work and reports on their preparation indicate that they have had a solid undergraduate training. 

The university presents seven colleges, an Honors College, a medical school, and a variety of graduate programs. They are: The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Social Services, the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the Rubenstein School of Environmental and Natural Resources, and the Grossman School of Business..

All of the divisions have distinctive programs or majors; perhaps among the most uncommon are the Green Forest Initiative sponsored in the Jericho Research Forest  by the Forestry Program of the Rubenstein School (and the internship at the Alaska Field Station), the programs in Rehabilitation and Movement Science in the College of Nursing (including Athletic Training and Movement and Exercise Science), and the program in Early Childhood Special Education, sponsored by the College of Education and Social Services.

Most applicants from outside the region will probably apply to the College of Arts and Sciences. One of the distinctive differences between UVM and many other public universities is that a significant number apply without a major. More than 30% arrive without having stated a major choice, and that does not include those in the Honors College. UVM offers the usual comprehensive smorgasbord from anthropology to zoology with some pretty interesting options. There are some good interdisciplinary programs (Neuroscience and Eastern European/Russian Studies), thirty-seven majors including Film and Television and Classical Civilization. 

The Honors College gets very high marks from students who, in many cases, chose it over some hefty “name-brand” liberal arts options. Separate housing is provided in a stunning residence hall, replete with conference rooms, libraries, study centers, and handsome suite and single rooms. In addition, a residential faculty is available for discussion and formal lecture opportunities. About two hundred and sixty students join the Honors College each year, and in addition to getting first choice in registering for classes (a major advantage!), they also meet in council to advise the university on the development of new courses and new programs. 

Students from outside the region may have the misconception that UVM is a snow-bound school for crunchy New Englanders, and in an attempt to correct that opinion, here are a few relatively current initiatives straight from Burlington. 

The first comes from the Business School and the Engineering College, where enterprising students decided to invent a better golf club. “The Bomb”, a high-end driver, was created at UVM and marketed by BombTech, a UVM start-up. From all accounts, it is one heck of a driver.

Dance students from Vermont take their salsa and meringue from alpine New England to … Mongolia? Yes, UVM has an exchange program with Mongolia University Arts College, promoting cultural exchange through dance, and an opportunity to study Traditional Mongolian Medicine and Cultural Immersions.

If you have ever asked the question, “Are we happy?” You’ll be pleased to find that the  UVM Business School students are at work on the “hedonometer”, a device that graphs the emotional state of people by measuring activity on Twitter.  Imagine a ticker such as used on the Stock Exchange, graphing emotional booms and busts as Twitterscapes provide immediate data.

When UVM invites students to “Walk on the Wild Side”, the invitation comes from horticulturalists teaching herbivores to find edible plants.

UVM has sent numbers of graduates into volunteer and service programs following graduation; alumni have flocked to the Peace Corps, and one recent graduate founded a program called Connecting Cultures, a service provided to Refugees from more than twenty countries who find themselves in Vermont. One outgrowth of that initiative was the establishment of New England Survivors of Torture and Trauma (NEST). 

So, what else do Catamounts think about? 

Her Campus based at the University of Vermont is the largest online global community for college women, identifying such issues as The 8 Things You Do That Make You Not Seem Like Girlfriend Material, and 11 Swimsuits We’re Obsessed with for Summer. As a fairly neutral visitor to the blog, I was most impressed with a really sensible and helpful article on how to spend a happy and healthy spring break on campus, directed toward the many students who can’t afford or manage to make the traditional “College Gone Wild” Spring Break. I also found some comfort in understanding, “What House Placements mean in Astrology and What Yours Says About You!”

Or, you might contact Adrian Ivakhiv, Professor of Environmental Studies, who maintains a blog entitled, Immanence, directed toward creating a space for environmental cultural theory. How many people follow Ivakhiv? A recent survey of the “top humanities theorists of the last century” was flooded with nominations. The winners, should you wish to pass them on in casual conversation, were: Michel Foucault, Pierre Bordieu, Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, and John Dewey. Umberto Eco finished a disappointing twenty-eighth. 

As might be expected, there are blogs dedicated to Pasture Management and Orchard Maintenance; for example, the UVM Fruit Blog characterizes the thinning and codling moth population in the state. But there are also rabidly followed blogs attending to issues surrounding UVM’s nationally regarded hockey and basketball teams.

Speaking of sports, UVM fields eighteen Division One teams, including national championship teams in Skiing and basketball teams (both men’s and women’s) that have played a part in the NCAA tournament. Vermont’s ice hockey team is a perpetual powerhouse, often appearing in the Frozen Four. Catamount teams are fairly well supported, but it is the hockey team that gets the most love. Gutterson Field House ROCKS during the hockey season, especially when playing traditional rival Dartmouth. Anyone watching the NHL will recognize the names of goalie, Tim Thomas, and sharpshooter Martin St. Louis, winner of the Hart Trophy, both former Catamounts.

Outdoor Magazine rates UVM among the Top Ten Collegiate Outdoor Programs, and the call of the wild is heard and obeyed. Club sports also abound, including all of the usual options plus Equestrian, Fencing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Figure Skating, Bollywood Dance, and Olympic Weightlifting. 


The University of Vermont  received approximately 25,560 applicants, from which approximately 16,350 were admitted in order to enroll a first year class of approximately 3,000. The acceptance rate in recent years has ranged from 58% to 64%

Scores reported for the 25th-75th percentile ranged from 630-710 on the Evidence Based Reading and Writing subtest of the SAT and from 610-700 on the Math. ACT scores for the same group have ranged from 29-33. College of the Atlantic’s enrolled student population is approximately 62% female and 38% male. Approximately 83% are White/Non-Hispanic.

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