UVM appoints Irvine to lead expansion of professional and continuing education

-A A +A
Tue, 10/12/2021 - 10:57am -- Denise Sortor

The University of Vermont is elevating its growing array of courses, certificates, micro-credentials, and other programs that serve the state’s workforce with the appointment of Jill Irvine, Ph.D., to an inaugural senior leadership role, Chief Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) Officer. Irvine will envision and launch a renewed effort to extend the university’s learning resources and bring its distinctive academic strengths to more citizens and businesses throughout the region and the world. 

“For the past several months, we have considered and discussed ways to position UVM to be even more responsive to the needs of Vermonters and Vermont businesses,” said UVM President Suresh Garimella. “Jill Irvine is just the leader to address the growing disparity between areas of greatest demand and available skills among our state’s workforce. We are fortunate that Jill will join our community later this fall.” 

Reporting to President Garimella and working with senior leaders and the deans of UVM’s colleges and schools, Irvine will assume the newly created role following decades of success as a teacher, researcher, and innovator. Irvine’s experience in higher education is extensive, including most recently serving as interim senior vice president and provost at the University of Oklahoma, the state’s flagship with enrollment of more than 30,000 students.

“Jill has decades of experience as a celebrated scholar and university leader,” said Patricia A. Prelock, UVM’s provost and senior vice president. “I know she will build on UVM’s strong legacy of innovation to create and deliver new world-class programs in subjects that leverage our outstanding faculty and their research expertise.”

To help achieve one of three imperatives in UVM’s strategic vision—Amplifying Our Impact—the university launched the Office of Engagement (OOE) in 2020 to provide a single point of contact for Vermont businesses, entrepreneurs, and citizens to connect with the university’s many opportunities for collaboration and partnerships. OOE’s growing understanding of the needs of Vermont’s business leaders has led Garimella, Prelock and others to bolster UVM’s programs to build high-demand skills within the workforce. 

Last summer, UVM partnered with the State of Vermont to offer $1 million in professional development courses at no cost to participants. The Upskill Vermont program added to well-established partnerships with Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College. The program sold out in 24 hours.

“The more I’ve learned about UVM’s role in the state, the more impressed I’ve become,” said Irvine. “In the wake of the economic disruption due to the pandemic, now is the time for UVM to step forward with big, long-term solutions to the economic and societal challenges that face the region. Providing access to highly relevant educational and professional development programs and workforce training is one such solution. I’m thrilled to join an academic community that is so profoundly connected to the state’s needs.”

Irvine will have the benefit of building upon a highly successful operation currently under the leadership of Cynthia Belliveau, who has served as dean of Continuing and Distance Education for the past 14 years. Among her accomplishments, Belliveau established successful partnerships with other public higher education institutions in Vermont, creating new pathways that lead to UVM degrees in a variety of fields. Earlier this year, Belliveau indicated her desire to step down at the end of the current semester to pursue innovative and entrepreneurial program initiatives in health, business, and environmental education. 

“Cynthia Belliveau has empowered our professional and continuing education unit to soar under her leadership,” said Prelock. “The present transition allows her to pursue creative programming that will add to her impressive legacy at UVM. The other deans, university leaders, and I are profoundly grateful for her many contributions, and we look forward to what’s next.”  

In addition to Irvine’s recent role as interim senior vice president and provost, she has served the University of Oklahoma with distinction as an award-winning faculty member in international and area studies, senior vice provost, vice provost for faculty, director of community engagement, founding director of the Center for Social Justice, and chair of Women’s and Gender Studies. Her scholarship, including numerous books and publications, centers on transnational activism, social movements, and organization to catalyze democracy, security and human rights in Eastern Europe and North America. 

Irvine earned a B.A. in history from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in government from Harvard. She will begin her new role at UVM November 1, 2021.