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UMaine 2024 State of the University Address

The University of Maine President Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy delivered her State of the University Address on March 7 to discuss budget, enrollment, R1 status, athletics and university-wide updates. Following the speech, Ferrini-Mundy and Dean Robert Dana held a reception to hear undergraduate concerns and answer questions posed by various student leaders.

Some internal and external market forces UMaine faces include declining enrollment, increasing competition, rising costs, changing student needs and aging infrastructure.

The Board of Trustees-approved Fiscal Year (FY) 24 budget ends in June. It centers around reducing operational expenses and generating new revenues. The budget proposals for FY 25 were reviewed on March 5. 

The average age of buildings on the Orono campus is 53 years. An estimated $1 billion is needed to fund repairs over the next decade. Ferrini-Mundy shared that the UMS is working with the federal government to build the necessary resources for the university to make investments.

“We need to hear every creative revenue generation idea possible and be nimble in implementing the most promising of them. We need to grow our enrollment and improve retention,” said Ferrini-Mundy. “UMaine has a particular challenge of working to correct decades of deferred maintenance and I’d like to thank the chancellor for his leadership in expecting that all of the system campuses step up their spending on deferred maintenance as a part of our budget work.”

Vice President for Financial Affairs and Chief Financial Officer Kelly Sparks convened two new committees, the Presidential Space Advisory Committee and the Budget Advisory Committee. The progress of each commission is visible via the president’s webpage.

There are currently 16,000 first-year applicants for the fall of 2024. Over 670 students officially committed to pursuing higher education at UMaine. According to Ferrini-Mundy, acceptance letters welcoming the class of 2028 are sent out rapidly. The total admitted applicants and matriculated students supersede the number from last year. 

Ferrini-Mundy ensured the administration listens to prospective and current students about which factors they consider most important and intends to develop various programs and offerings to increase enrollment. Similarly, UMaine will provide monetary support despite FAFSA challenges. Estimated financial aid packages were mailed to prospective students and their families on March 1.

UMaine’s research enterprise received national and international recognition in 2022, granting the University its R1 Status. The American Council on Education will base the qualifications for R1 status on new criteria for 2025. 

“What is most important is that we are an excellent university where our three missions of teaching, research and engagement are interwoven in ways that benefit our students and our state,” said Ferrini-Mundy.

UMaine Women’s Soccer secured the American East Women’s Championship. The quarter-final will take place on March 8 at 5 p.m. UMaine Guard Anne Simon was named both the America East Player and Defensive Player of the Year on March 6. Amy Vachon was deemed Coach of the Year for the eighth time by the same league. 

Ferrini-Mundy praised the UMaine community’s response to prevalent state-wide afflictions. Student Body President Michael Delorge, first-year student Jeremy Collamore and others organized an on-campus vigil shortly after the Lewiston shootings to unite the UMaine community. 

Several coastal regions across Maine suffered severe flood damage resulting from the mid-January storms. There were high tides, heavy rain and strong gusts of wind. The Downeast Coastal Conservancy and Maine Coast Heritage Trusts worked with volunteers from the Machias community to take tide height measurements and gather information.

In terms of global engagement, UMaine currently has the highest number of international students that it has seen, with 563 students from 86 countries enrolled. The Office of International Programs supports 27 refugee students from 12 countries of origin. 

A total solar eclipse will occur on April 8. Versant Power Astronomy Center is hosting a series of special programs for the event.

Efforts to confront climate change are underway. The UMaine Facilities Management Team prioritizes reducing its carbon footprint. The Energy Center plans to establish a new steam plant that runs on biofuels instead of fossil fuels. 

The societal introduction of Generative Artificial Intelligence marks the first time a technological revolution of this magnitude has been widely accessible. The European Strategy and Policy Analysis System predicts that 125 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2030, which is nearly five times the reported number in 2017. UMaine moves broadly into the use and study of AI. 

UMaine Associate Professor of Special Education Sarah Howorth is researching the use of AI tools for text language generation to support students with disabilities. 

Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School Kody Varahramyan established UMaine AI. His vision is to make Maine “a world-class hub for artificial intelligence research education, application.” The objective is to educate students and faculty in computing efforts, privacy, attack detection, surface contamination, imagery and visualization, virtual reality, forestry, agriculture, 3D printing, etc. 

An additional $80 million was allocated from the Harold Alfond Foundation to complete its Black Bear Athletic Master Plan, extending the initial amount of $90 million. $7 million from New Balance will fund a new track/field and soccer complex. An anonymous UMaine alum donated $15.5 million to create two new senior faculty roles in the mathematics and engineering department, marking the largest individual donation the university has received. 

Last year, UMaine received its first Center of Biomedical Research Excellence Award (COBRE). This award involves a $11.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, led by Dr. Clarissa Henry, professor of biomedical sciences.

Approximately 280,000 people received college credits from UMaine without fully completing their degree programs. Chief Executive Officer of the Cooperative Extension Dr. Hannah Carter is leading an adult education initiative titled “Finish Strong,” with a focus on new Mainers. 

Mariam Diallo, an international student from Mali, speaking on sustainability and business

A reception following the President’s address provided several students with an opportunity to ask questions.

In the following reception, UMaine Student Government Senator Meredyth Waters mentioned that the microbiology department has experienced significant funding cuts from its college, which will decrease the number of courses and potentially professors next semester. 

Ferrini-Mundy explained that UMaine is a decentralized university, and reductions do not necessarily indicate that the affected departments are valued less.

Vice President Keegan Tripp pointed out that very few students were included in the reception. He seeks to expand similar opportunities to more people who are interested. Tripp also referenced the poor communication of administration regarding the Estabrooke Hall restructure and asked, “What are the steps currently being taken to make sure that the next time something like that happens the communication is better? Also, are there any opportunities that perhaps we can do to maybe expand town hall-like things to more students?”

Ferrini-Mundy agrees to plan such programs between now and the start of the next academic year. She understands that monthly office hours are different from a focused group discussion. 

While large, open sessions are difficult because the number of people who speak are limited, Ferrini-Mundy believes conversations with student government and other organizations are of great benefit. She mentioned a re-implementation of flash surveys to gauge student opinion on different issues that lead to meetings. 

Tripp feels a mixture of both bigger and smaller group discussions is pivotal because many students feel that the administrators are inaccessible and prefer asking questions themselves rather than through student leaders. It would benefit both sides for the administration to hear from many populations. 

The Maine Campus scaled common concerns by asking students at the Memorial Union what they feel the administration needs to address. The three most prevalent issues include dining quality, safety in terms of potholes and icy walkways, which are inaccessible, and the experience of racism or misrepresentation of marginalized groups on campus.   

“Those concerns have been clearly and firmly conveyed to Sodexo, with expectations and even some sort of a program in plan for them to be able to address them,” said Ferrini-Mundy. 

According to Ferrini-Mundy, Facilities Management is competent in maintaining an old campus, specifically its HVAC systems, heating and leaking roofs. The team closely monitors the status of roads and sidewalks. There are only certain times of the year when those issues can be resolved. She agreed to bring those points to them.

“When students experience that [racism], someone in the faculty or staff needs to hear about it directly. They should choose the people that they are closest to if they have a professor or a faculty member or an RA, anyone in student life, anyone in the provost office, my office, me,” said Ferrini-Mundy. “Hearing those stories is really critical for us to try to take the right actions to make a more systemic difference.”

Dean Dana considers racism an “ancient problem” and feels it requires a consistent discussion and approach, especially involving student groups. The Student Heritage Alliance Commission was re-established to provide a safe space for such discussions and comradeship. The Multicultural Student Center is another resource for support.

“The good news is, I will tell you this, in my 40 years here at the University of Maine, things have improved a lot just in terms of the cultural makeup on campus,” said Dana. “Maine is now a place where there are resettled refugees numbering in the multi-thousands. To get those folks here for our discussions is really important.”

Rachel Pellis emphasized the need for an increase of staff and resources in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. There is a prominent shortage of safe physical spaces, and the organization requires more faculty-driven power and less weight on student leaders to host more events beyond its singular room in the Memorial Union. 

“We do not have the proper facilities to incentivize and invite students of a diverse cultural background to come here compared to UMass, UCONN, Binghamton, compared to schools that have really invested in having spaces and having faculty that are dedicated to those issues,” said Pellis.

Ferrini-Mundy is the 21st UMaine president, nearing her sixth year in the position. She is a faculty member of UMaine’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, an honorary member of All Maine Women and a Maine Master Gardener volunteer. For more information about the Office of the President, visit

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