Scholarship boosts Vermont’s brightest and helps shape our state’s future

At every one of Vermont’s high schools each fall, a student begins senior year with a head start on what’s next, the news that by virtue of holding their school’s highest academic distinction, they’ve earned a full-tuition Green & Gold Scholarship to the University of Vermont. This financial support is built on the generosity of the late Genevieve Patrick; part of her $9 million bequest, realized in 2000, created the foundation for the scholarship. More than four hundred Vermonters have since earned their UVM degrees on the strength of this support, many of them graduating to careers in their home state. In this issue, we catch up with several Green & Gold alumni and a current scholar.

A BETTER PLACE

Standing along Route 2 in Bolton, Ethan Tapper ’12 considers a question about his work as the state’s forester for Chittenden County. In particular, if there are different duties and challenges for the forester in this, the most “urban” of Vermont’s counties. Gesturing east toward Bolton Valley, he makes the point that there are 70,000 acres of habitat unbroken by roads, clear over to Stowe. And to the west, another 70,000 acres unbroken across Camel’s Hump, Robbins Mountain, and parcels of private land.

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Point made. Even in relatively populous Chittenden County, the forests of Vermont are still a vast and vital part of the economic, recreational, and visual landscapes of the Green Mountain State. Later, walking up a steep slope on a piece of land he owns in Bolton, Tapper points out the damage wrought by poor logging practices decades ago and details how, with a little help and lots of time, the forest can regenerate in a healthy way. One key aspect of his job, Tapper says, involves having similar conversations with private land owners, helping them to better know and manage their forests.

Tapper grew up in Saxtons River, attending Vermont Academy on scholarship as a day student. Looking back, he says he wouldn’t be a forester today or, very likely, even living in Vermont, without the financial support and direction of the Green & Gold Scholarship. John Shane, emeriti faculty member, was a key influence on Tapper, who recalls Shane’s lectures for their direct style, wisdom, and lasting impact: “No slides, no PowerPoint, just a piece of chalk in his hand. He would talk to us and everybody was riveted. We used to call it ‘John Shane Explains the Mysteries of the Universe.’”

Teaching, whether it’s adult education courses in dendrology or in discussion with landowners, is part of Tapper’s work, and Shane’s example still guides his approach. The chance “to demonstrate what good forest management looks like” is a powerful motivator in his life.? “I get to do the business of making the world a better place while I’m at my job, which is pretty incredible,” Tapper says.

TAKING CARE

Full disclosure, this is Abbey Rouleau’s second turn in Vermont Quarterly related to the Green & Gold Scholarship. Thirteen years ago, she was Abbey Lamos, a first-year nursing student featured in an ad for the UVM Fund—“Investing in UVM students is investing in Vermont’s future.”

Vermont’s future now Vermont’s present, Rouleau ’10 has just finished a Friday morning shift as a palliative care nurse practitioner at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, sitting down in the lobby to discuss her career and reflect on her undergraduate years. Rouleau was a sophomore at Richford High School, the oldest of six kids in a family with deep roots in Franklin County, when she learned about the Green & Gold Scholarship. Her words in 2007 and 2019 are virtually identical: “When I realized what the scholarship could mean to me and to my family, I worked extra hard to become first in my class.”

In addition to the Green & Gold full tuition scholarship, Rouleau earned a Freeman Nursing Scholarship that covered her room and board, setting her on solid footing financially as she set out on the career in nursing she envisioned. Her interest in the field was initially sparked by helping care for her grandmother and, as she gained education and experience, she was particularly drawn to end-of-life care. A palliative care nurse at Central Vermont for the past six years, she recently completed her master’s online from Drexel University and became a consulting provider for palliative care in the same department.

“If our team can make it a little easier for patients and their families, I find a lot of fulfillment in that,” she says. “If the patient is more comfortable or they are feeling like their values are being heard or we’re helping get them home where they want to be for end of life, I feel like I can leave work that day and say, ‘OK, I made a difference.’”

Rouleau and her husband, Jason Rouleau ’05, with his own family roots deep in central Vermont, live just down the road from the hospital with their two young daughters, Livia and Myah. As Rouleau was quoted in Vermont Quarterly in 2007 regarding her love for her home state, “I can’t picture myself anywhere else.”

Jess Bullock in a law office library

Jess Bullock ’12, Attorney, Dinse P.C., Burlington

CATALYST

Expect a one-time college debater and current practicing attorney to be prepared. Sitting in Kestrel Coffee on lower Maple Street in Burlington, waiting on a late-afternoon appointment to discuss her college days and current career, Jess Bullock ’12 has sketched a timeline of key moments in her young life. “I appreciated the Green & Gold at the time,” she says. “But through the lens of somebody who is now twelve years past high school graduation, I can look back and see how being offered that scholarship was a catalyst for what came next, so many links in my life trace to that point.”
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Though Bullock was involved and, clearly, strong academically as a student at Mill River Union High School, just outside of Rutland, she says she was still apprehensive about college. Receiving news of the Green & Gold as she entered senior year began to shift that perspective. “It felt like UVM put a vote of confidence in my abilities, the sense that I had a voice that was worth being developed,” she reflects.

The next UVM door that opened for Bullock would be, literally, the hefty front door of Huber House, 475 Main Street, home to the university’s Lawrence Debate Union. She recalls, in detail, hauling it open for the first time, joining an event for novice debaters, and meeting the late great Professor Alfred “Tuna” Snider, guiding light to scores of debaters at UVM and beyond. Through UVM debate, she would travel to competitions worldwide, find her voice, and deepen her confidence, gifts that she would later pay forward by founding SPEAK Inc., a non-profit providing debate and public speaking training for traditionally underrepresented groups, particularly inmates in Vermont correctional facilities.

Bullock and her husband, Liam Donnelly ’12, are at home in Burlington now. Following a two-year clerkship with Justice Harold Eaton on Vermont’s Supreme Court, Bullock is working in private practice for a year with the law firm Dinse P.C. before a return to Rutland next fall to pursue a second clerkship.

Leonard Bartenstein in the high school classroom where he teaches

Leonard Bartenstein ’17, English teacher, Mount Saint Joseph Academy

BOUND BY BOOKS

Love of writing, reading, and talking about literature drew Leonard Bartenstein ’17 to The Book House community in Living/Learning as a first-year student. Picture a “live-in book club,” Bartenstein says. But if “book club” conjures visions of a chardonnay-sipping circle, consider instead the UVM undergrad take on the concept: competitive writing fight nights, book-themed cafe crawls, all-night writing marathons, a punk rock show in Billings Library, and daring to discuss whether “some of the Star Wars spinoff novels are better literature than anything James Joyce ever wrote.”

Those first friendships from the Living/Learning suite held firm throughout college (and beyond) and led Bartenstein to related passions—president of the Quidditch team and editor of The Water Tower newspaper. And the residential learning experience deepened his desire to do exactly what he’s doing now, teaching high school English.

Bartenstein found inspiration and support from a number of faculty, including Lia Cravedi, Jennifer Prue, and Alan Tinkler in his secondary education classes and field experience. As both advisor and English professor, Tony Magistrale was another key influence. “His good humor, guidance, and keen insight have helped reshape my perspective on literature,” Bartenstein says, adding that they’re still in touch, “following up on discussions of literature neither of us wants to leave behind.”

For the past three years, Bartenstein has passed on that love for literature and writing as a teacher at Mount Saint Joseph Academy, his high school alma mater in Rutland. (Children of the seventies may be hearing a faint echo of the “Welcome Back, Kotter” theme right about now.) He acknowledges some initial apprehension at standing in front of classes in the same school where he was in a student’s seat not so long before, his teachers now his colleagues. But, appreciating the small classes and close community, he’s found a happy teaching home. This year, Bartenstein’s courses include American Literature, AP Literature & Composition, and religion classes for sophomores, in addition to supervising the staff creating MSJ’s yearbook.

Some of the best moments for a teacher, Bartenstein says, are “when a student is able to finally ‘get’ it. It’s great to see things click in the students’ minds.”

Maria Noth standing on the bridge in downtown Montpelier

Mariah Noth ’17, Outreach and Communications Coordinator for the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program

PLACE, PEOPLE, POTENTIAL

Invariably, new college students are urged to dive in, get involved; Mariah Noth ’17 could be Exhibit A for the wisdom of taking that advice. She rattles off the names of faculty who influenced and inspired her—Dan Baker G’95 ’07; Jane Kolodinsky; Josh Farley, “his ecological economics course was paradigm-shifting;” Kelly Hamshaw ’06 G’11, “a crucial mentor to this day;” and the late D. Brookes Cowan, “the embodiment of empathy.” Study abroad and service learning courses took Noth to Peru, Italy, and Brazil. “These opportunities allowed me to expand my knowledge and understanding of different perspectives and bring that back to Vermont. The work I do today is very much influenced by those experiences and the people I learned from.”

By sophomore year, Noth was clear that she’d found an academic home in Community Development and Applied Economics and built in a focus on food systems. “UVM was a wonderful and supportive place to explore, and this program was an applied version of all of my passions combined,” she says. Noth returns to campus to share the experience of a recent grad with current students: “One of my personal tenets is always give back, always help people not only find but explore and engage with their passions. The support I’ve received has made the difference for me, and I want to pay that forward.”

After working as a community planner in the Mad River Valley, she moved to a new job last summer, outreach and communications coordinator for the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, helping connect Vermont working lands businesses and citizens with expertise and advising to empower keystone entrepreneurs and strengthen the state’s rural communities.

Noth, who grew up in the Champlain Islands and graduated from Colchester High School, is a strong advocate for her home state, a deep believer in this place, its people, and its potential. “Vermont should be the place where people come to test out and hone their skills in sustainable agricultural production,” she says. “We have the right land base. We embrace connection, collaboration, and have the learning-community ethos. Concerted efforts will enhance the process and we are realizing that: it’s unfolding before us. And I’m excited to be part of Vermont’s progress with such a passionate and caring group of colleagues across the state.”

Nursing student Ken Nguyen standing in the hallway outside the medical library, wearing a UVM green Bolder Society jacket.

Thong “Key” Nguyen ’21, Nursing student

ONE STEP CLOSER

Choosing the nursing program at UVM came easily to Thong “Key” Nguyen ’21, but it was music, not medicine, that led him here. Nguyen was a Winooski High School student and a member of the Vermont Youth Orchestra Chorus when his vocal coach held his recital at Wake Robin retirement community in Shelburne. The melody he sang prompted a Wake Robin resident to suggest that he become a nurse.

“An older lady approached me with eyes full of tears, she held my arm with her hands shaking, needing my support to stand up. She told me I reminded her of a nurse she once knew who had a beautiful voice. She said, ‘your voice is so beautiful,’ and she asked if I would consider becoming a nurse. I thought it was just a fun compliment, but I looked into her eyes and I realized it was a serious question. It stuck in my head a lot after that,” Nguyen recalls.

Soon after that experience, Nguyen’s parents, who speak no English, asked him for help at the Social Security office to discuss their future, and he realized that his parents will need his support. The Nguyen family emigrated from Vietnam to the United States in 2013, and Key’s parents are ineligible for government retirement benefits. “The image of the lady in Wake Robin reflected back to my mind. My parents depend on me for basic needs,” he says. “With skills as a nurse, I can provide care for my parents and give them financial support.”
Beyond the demands of the nursing curriculum, Nguyen has carved out time for an array of activities, including membership in UVM Boulder Society and keeping his voice in shape with the Catamount Singers.

Nguyen has also worked as a tutor-counselor for TRIO Upward Bound, a federally-funded program that helps young people—particularly those whose parents did not attend college—successfully complete high school and pursue post-secondary education. Discussing this experience, Nguyen says, “I wake up every day full of happiness and excitement, knowing that I will get to help forty-five high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to be one step closer to a better future. And who knows, I might be able to inspire some future nurses.”

PUBLISHED

03-02-2020
Thomas Weaver & Janet Franz

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