Graphic by Olivia Schanck

On Oct. 26, Chancellor Dannel Malloy and his team presented alongside the University of Maine System and UMaine leadership members on academic collaborations, budget development, strategic planning and accreditation. 

“We are so grateful to this university and to all of our universities for the great work that’s been done in managing the pandemic,” Malloy said. “We are doing extraordinary work with the fewest number of cases on campus that we have seen in quite a while, so I just want to say thank you to everyone for responding, particularly I’m very proud of our students in the background, and the vaccination rate that we were able to achieve, quite frankly exceeding our initial goal but not necessarily our expectations of the people who make up our student body.”

Unmistakably, the ongoing global pandemic has played a major role in the upkeep of the UMaine System across all campuses. Ryan Low, the vice chancellor for administration and finance discussed the financial impact of COVID-19. Between COVID-19 tests, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and quarantine costs, the total state fund rested at $14,929,462.

“I think you can see here the support that we received from our state and federal partners was substantial and that’s the point I like to emphasize every time I talk about COVID[-19] and the impact, I always like to make sure I at least pause and acknowledge that incredible support that we got from our federal government and our two senators for sure, as well as Governor Mills and the legislature,” Low said.

Earlier in the meeting Robert Placido, vice chancellor of academic affairs, talked about academic collaboration and partnerships, as well as UMS enrollments. 

“We wanted to talk about collaboration… [For] some institutions it’s important for them to see that [enrollment] because they’ve had as much as 30% declines in some areas. So when they want to ask me, ‘Why collaborate?’ I would point to, because there is a real problem. If we can do it by having stand alone programs, if we can do it by collaborating on programs, all the better,” Placido said. “If I could pander a little bit for [The University of Maine System] is that you all have been leaders for decades in partnership and collaboration.”

From marine science to engineering, many faculty members have already been connecting and working with other individuals in their field. Placido went on to discuss how the other side of partnerships has been the administration and he deliberated on how these members have been leaders across the state. Besides having statewide roles in research, Placido also emphasized how members such as Robert Dana, vice president for student life and inclusive excellence and dean of students, has been a mentor to the other Student Life Leaders around the state.

“Student success and retention is one of the four major areas of the Alfond gift and with that gift and the student success and retention, we have three major areas or initiatives that we’re looking at. Research Learning Experiences, Pathways to Careers and Gateways to Success,” John Volin said, UMaine provost.

In the latter half of the meeting, Joanne Yestramski, vice president of finance, discussed revenues and expenses as well as strategic investments for growth. Examples of these strategic investments include additional faculty and leadership for growth in engineering, business, computer science and other areas; incentive-based reallocation of indirect cost recovery to expand research programs; diversity, equity and inclusion incentives, including financial aid; strategic software efficiency solutions for academic affairs and research operations and other strategic initiative and growth opportunities, including student retention efforts. 

There has also been renewed efforts in the master plan for 2022, as the Information Technology and Space Committee will be appointed to help manage unprecedented capital growth and space considerations. Additionally, the completion of the Ferland Engineering, Education and Design Center will open in fall 2022 and bring in more engineers to UMaine through the UMS TRANSFORMS projects in Engineering, Computing and Information Science, Graduate and Professional Center and Athletics. There will also be a research expansion, UMaine Energy center, deferred maintenance and space reduction, public/private partnership potential and renovation and renewal of residence halls. 

James Thelen, the vice chancellor in strategic initiatives and chief legal officer, ended the meeting in the discussion of the historical context of UMaine. He emphasized how working better can help serve the state of Maine and drive our own in alignment with the general framework and strategic plan.