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New STEM Facility Launches 'New Era' For UVM

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Taylor Dobbs
/
VPR
University of Vermont Board of Trustees Chairwoman Deborah McAneny broke ground on UVM's new $104 million STEM facility.

Officials at the University of Vermont broke ground Friday on a $104 million building project to overhaul the university’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) facilities.

“We are here to celebrate, as you’ve heard, the start of a new era for the University of Vermont,” UVM President Thomas Sullivan said at a ceremony before the groundbreaking.

That new era is one of dramatically expanded enrollment in STEM programs at the university, which is planning to increase the number of STEM graduates by 50 percent over five years.

With 35 percent of UVM students currently majoring in STEM programs and no plans for a major increase in overall enrollment, a 50 percent increase in those fields would mean about half of all UVM students will major in STEM under the university’s plan.

UVM Provost and Vice President David Rosowsky said that shift won’t require a major shift in recruitment strategies.

“Our applicant pool quite organically is trending toward the STEM disciplines,” he said, so those programs will grow naturally. Rosowsky said another trend is also likely to contribute to that growth.

“Because of the quality of students that we attract at the university and the types of programs we offer, we’re seeing many more people double major, and that’s a trend at many of the top universities in the country,” Rosowsky said. “And we expect and we’re already seeing people choosing a STEM major as one of a pair of majors, perhaps complimented with a major in the social sciences or in the humanities.”

UVM Board of Trustees Chairwoman Deborah McAneny said one feature of the facility is a center to help foster the growth of underrepresented demographics in the STEM fields.

“The complex will also include a center for women and minorities in STEM to support national efforts to grow the representation among those groups of students,” she said. “That’s a personal favorite of mine.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger also made remarks at the ceremonies, congratulating university officials and thanking Sullivan for pushing the project forward. Both Weinberger and Shumlin have been proponents of the technology sector as they seek to stimulate job growth in Burlington and Vermont.

“This is a very exciting commitment,” Weinberger said. “The idea that the graduates that will be coming out of the university will shift in this very dramatic way so that there will be a 50 percent increase in STEM graduates emerging from UVM in the years ahead – I think it’s just going to have an enormous impact on the state of Vermont, and it’s clearly going to have an enormous impact on Burlington.”

Construction on the 266,000 square foot complex on UVM’s central campus is expected to finish by May 2019.

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