On Wednesday, April 5, Dr. Frederick Servello, Interim Dean of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture, was the second of four candidates to give a talk on the UMaine campus. Dr. Servello’s speech explained why he thought he would be the best candidate appointed Dean and Director of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture.
The talk, which lasted from 1:30-3:00 p.m. in 57 Stodder Hall, was followed by a half an hour question and answer reception. Around 80 people were in attendance. A majority of the crowd were adults, but there were a few students who attended as well.
Dr. Servello’s talk was titled “Leadership with a Large, Diverse College at a State Flagship University.” Servello, who became an Assistant Professor at UMaine in 1996, became a full time Professor in 2007. He has been serving as Interim Dean of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture for the past six months.
Members of the crowd were given a blue sheet at the start of the speech to comment on Servello’s strengths, his weaknesses and whether or not they would recommend him for Dean of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture.
Servello started out his speech by addressing both the positives of the college as well as the multiple pressures and expectations the college also faces.
In terms of opportunities, Sevello spoke about how there was currently a huge optimism in agriculture for the state of Maine, as the state has over 8,000 farms, the greatest number of any state in New England. He also talked about how UMaine brings new technologies to their forest sector. He stated that UMaine needs to look for better wood products and forest cropping systems.
Servello also stated that this was a great time for health care jobs because, according to him, it is predicted that 3,000 nurses will be needed in Maine and the New England area by 2025.
Servello then began to address negative pressures on the college, such as student debt and affordability. Servello stated that although these pressures were not on the top of his “worry” list, the college must still be mindful of them.
Other pressures he was more worried about include the increasing enrollment within the college, improving student success, having relevant academic programming as well as workforce engagement.
Servello made it clear to the crowd that there is currently a high focus on increasing enrollment and he worries that the quality of classes could potentially be affected by this. He would rather see the focus be on maintaining quality rather than increasing enrollment because, according to him, a lot of programs within the college have doubled their number of students.
Another pressure Servello addressed were budget cuts. The college has taken around $7.5 million in budget cuts. Although Servello said that this was a normal occurrence, he emphasized the importance of remaining competitive.
Servello also said that these budget cuts frustrated him because it forces the department to begin each year by trying to patch the holes from the previous budget cut.
Servello then went into the last segment of his speech, which was about what he envisioned for the future of the college.
He started off by saying that the college needs a specific, strategic plan and he holds the leadership of the college responsible. Servello emphasized this by saying that for the 28 years that he has been employed at UMaine, he has not once seen evidence of a solid strategic plan that the college has developed to ensure success for the future.
He then talked about what the role of “dean” should entail. He stated that a good dean should act like a facilitator. He also talked about organizational hierarchies and how the dean and the 12 or so employees below the dean should create a tighter unit and work closer together.
Servello also stated that UMaine needs to work on its marketing and communication. He said he would be willing to hire a communication specialist for the department, if he were elected Dean.
Servello also said that UMaine has a huge infrastructure challenge that needs to be addressed.
Dr. Servello ended his speech by briefly talking about his leadership profile and the specific skills he could bring to the role of dean. He said that he tends to favor strategic planning, strives for consensus, has a low key personality, is slightly extroverted, has been at UMaine for 28 years and was extremely proud at everything the college has achieved.
Following his speech, Dr. Servello was met with a warm applause from the crowd. Two more candidates who are eligible for the position will give their speeches on April 10 and April 13.