VAAS Fellows in the News

Author and Middlebury College instructor, Julia Alvarez (2013) received the 2013 National Medal of the Arts from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House on July 21, 2014.  The citation for her award recognized her “extraordinary storytelling” and noted that “in poetry and prose. Ms. Alvarez explores themes of identity, family, and cultural divides.  She illustrates the complexity of navigating two worlds and reveals the human capacity for strength in the face of oppression.”

Chris Bohjalian (2013) has published his 17th novel Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, with a high school girl, Elizabeth Shepard, as the narrator. Shepard is separated from her parents after a nuclear accident, and becomes homeless in Burlington.  There was a Celebration of “The Life in Poetry of Galway Kinnell” (2001) at the Vermont State House in Montpelier on August 7, 2014. Kinnell was Vermont Poet Laureate from 1989-93 and has published over 30 books of poetry.

Judith Van Houten (2010), George H. Perkins Professor of Biology at UVM, has been named the first recipient of the President’s Distinguished Citizenship and Service Award for her consistent and outstanding record of service over time to the university community.  The award was presented by UVM President Tom Sullivan.  In addition to teaching, Judy has been the long-time director of the Vermont Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

VAAS Announces 2016 Fellows!

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Doreen Kraft
Doreen Kraft has been a leader in the Burlington art scene since 1983, making the Queen City one of the most arts-friendly places in the nation. She has done this by broadening the scope of the BCA and by bringing all forms of art to a wide range of audiences including schools, hospitals and the public streets. Her nominator noted that has have “initiated, advocated and encouraged all kinds of endeavors to engage Vermont youth in the making of and interest in the arts, and that [she has] instilled in a larger public an appreciation of not only art but also of the artist.”

Mary Jane Dickerson
Mary Jane Dickerson has had a long and fruitful teaching career at UVM, and the Trustees were impressed by the work she did to advance courses in African American literature, and with the receipt of the Kidder Award for her impact on students. They were also very impressed by her activities in bringing poetry to the people of Vermont since her retirement. Her two books, the creation of the Sundog Poetry Center, her continued work with new poets, and the sponsoring of Vermont poets to read at independent bookshops in the state were all noted by the board.

Mark Nelson
Mark Nelson has spent many years teaching at UVM and has received many awards for teaching and research. He has also published a significant number of articles in such important scientific journals as Science and Nature. The Trustees were especially impressed by his unique expertise to perform key measurements on singular vascular cells in the brain in order to understand the pathogenesis of small vessel disease there.

Donna Rizzo
Donna Rizzo was nominated because of the quality of her teaching and service as evidenced by all of the awards she has received at UVM. The Trustees were also excited to hear about her research, particularly her work on the problem of pollution in ground water. Her nominator mentioned that she is “…a superb teacher and mentor, inspiring many students, especially women, to carry on careers in engineering” and that “[she is] a critical part of Vermont EPSCoR that is focusing its attention on the health of Lake Champlain.”

Susan Wallace
Susan Wallace has served for a number of years as the Chair of the UVM Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and has conducted award winning research on cellular DNA damage and the repair process and how this relates to an increased risk for cancer if the repairs do not happen.

Erik Nielsen
Erik Nielsen impressed the Trustees with the quality and the quantity of his compositions, and particularly by the number of Vermont commissions he has received. He has created works for chorus, orchestra, wind ensemble, solo instruments, chamber music, dance, film and electronic music.


The Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences is an organization that works to foster intensive participation in the arts, humanities and sciences within the state.   Besides recognizing outstanding Fellows, it organizes intercollegiate student symposia and conferences with a Vermont focus.  VAAS also provides grants and cash awards to high schools to support science and historical research projects.

Past Fellows include: Bill McKibben, George D. Aiken, Sister Elizabeth Candon, Edward J. Feidner, Bernd Heinrich, Ralph Nading Hill, Galway Kinnell, Jamie Laredo, Richard Lewontin, Margaret MacArthur, Larry McCrorey, Wolfgang Meider, Tom Slayton, Claire Van Vliet, Hub Vogelmann and Gwyneth Walker.

For more information, please contact president James Conley

VAAS Fellows Listing