When Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy hung up her hat on June 30, 2018, as the chief operating officer of the National Science Foundation, all that separated her from a new position as president of the University of Maine was a good night’s sleep.
“It’s been good to be back in New England,” Ferrini-Mundy said last week of her roughly three months in office. “I’ve been very warmly welcomed, very heartily welcomed at both campuses.”
President Ferrini-Mundy arrived on campus on July 1, 2018, to fill the position left by President Susan Hunter, who served in the position for almost four years. The new president brings administrative experience from the National Science Foundation and holds a doctorate in mathematics from the University of New Hampshire.
According to UMaine’s website, she “is a national leader in STEM education research and policy, co-leading the development of a governmentwide strategic plan for science, technology and engineering education across 14 science agencies that has achieved improved coherence and impact in the federal government’s $3 billion STEM education investment.”
It’s no surprise, then, that during the presidential selection process, decision-making representatives thought Ferrini-Mundy would fit in at UMaine, a university with a strong commitment to expanding STEM education to serve the state. The University is currently planning construction of a state-of-the-art, $80 million engineering building.
“We’re always going to need to pay a lot of attention to enrollment, to making sure we are serving the state of Maine well and that we are helping to prepare students who can be a part of growing the economy in the state of Maine,” Ferrini-Mundy said.
While her priorities are focused, they are not one-dimensional. Ferrini-Mundy is making it a priority of her administration to serve the student body at UMaine, something that can be accomplished through outreach and making herself and her office accessible.
“I’ve been on university campuses where I’ve seen presidents who know the students by name, and I hope we can get at least to a partial point of some of that,” Ferrini-Mundy said.
To meet this end, she has taken steps to reach out directly to individual students and organizations. A new system of presidential office hours has also been implemented with hopeful expectations.
“I hope people feel welcome to [office hours] and will come by and talk to me about their experiences at the University of Maine,” Ferrini-Mundy said. “UMaine has such phenomenal activity going on, such good stories, great accomplishments among the students, the faculty everyone. I’m eager to be a part of helping to spread the word to make sure the stories from here are well known, beyond the university and beyond the state, nationally and internationally.”
The form to request office hours with the president can be found through a link on the website of the Office of the President.
Before her departure from UMaine, President Hunter offered a word of advice to the next to fill her position. To best support UMaine, she said, you “really have to get out, you have to drive around, you have to visit the towns, you have to look at all the lighthouses.”
For Ferrini-Mundy, the past summer has been a time for the kind of empirical self-education that President Hunter advocated, both statewide and locally. She traveled to UMaine Machias and Acadia, attended dinners on campus and student move-in day, went to a barbecue for Honors College students and celebrated the first home football game with alumni.
Most of her time as president was before students arrived on campus in the fall, however, and Ferrini-Mundy acknowledged she still has “work to do to get to know the student culture here [in Orono].”
She even joked that maybe, in the future, she could be a substitute lecturer in a calculus class.
“I love to teach, and I always have,” Ferrini-Mundy said.