The University of Maine System has begun its search for its next chancellor. James Page, the System’s current chancellor will retire at the end of this academic year on June 30 after a nearly seven-year tenure.
Appointed by the board of trustees, the chancellor is responsible for governance and administration of the entire University of Maine System, acting as the chief executive and chief education officer. The new chancellor will be the head spokesperson for the System and the primary coordinator between the System and Maine’s network of community colleges and primary, middle and secondary schools. The chancellor will, above all, be accountable to the board.
The board of trustees nominated board member and former chairman Sam Collins to lead the search committee. The committee has contracted the process out to Academic Search, Inc., an executive search firm based in Washington, D.C.
As of now, there are no prospective replacements for Page this early in the search, but the committee is looking for nominations. The search committee is asking for input from all levels of the UMaine internal community. They’ve presented a confidential survey open to anyone, asking what “priorities, preferred characteristics and leadership qualities” are important in a chancellor.
At the student level, the search for a new chancellor isn’t a pressing concern to all. Andrew Nolan, a fourth-year earth science student at UMaine, when asked what he thought about the change in leadership replied that he didn’t even know who currently holds the chancellor position.
Page, 66, began his position as chancellor in 2012, during a period of financial distress for the System. The deficit was projected to be $90 million, and the System was relying on increasing tuition to cover financial woes. In Maine, this threatened to put higher education out of reach of working-class families. Page held a tuition freeze for six years, finally increasing for the first time in 2017. The board of trustees did vote however, to raise tuition by an average of 2.3 percent for the second time in six years in the spring of 2018.
The biggest legacy of Page’s time as chancellor may be the adoption of the One University Framework and the Declaration of Strategic Priorities. These initiatives are aimed at unifying the seven System campuses and aligning the universities’ student production more closely with the employment needs of the state of Maine. This involved efforts to increase enrollment in the engineering and nursing schools, two areas experiencing a worker deficit in Maine.
As chancellor, Page oversaw wide-reaching budget cuts, as much as $80 million in savings, according to System officials. These cuts involved the firing of several tenured professors at the University of Southern Maine and the elimination of several academic programs.
Susan Hunter, UMaine’s first female president, was appointed by Page in 2014 as was the current president, Joan Ferrini-Mundy, in 2018.
Enrollment in University of Maine System campuses fell from about 31,000 when Page was hired to 29,735, according to the UMS Data Book.
More information is available at chancellorsearch.maine.edu.