University of Maine System administrators will soon be interviewing candidates who have applied to be the next president at USM after current president David Flanagan leaves at the end of the spring semester.
The window to apply for the position closed in mid-December and the candidate pool has been whittled down to a workable number. Applicant details, such as name, prior experience and background will remain confidential until they are chosen as a last-round candidate and are invited to visit the USM campus, which will happen in February.
Search consultants met with small groups of USM students, staff, faculty and community members throughout the fall semester in order to gauge what USM needs in a president and leader, which resulted in the drafting of an official leadership statement which was posted along with the job description and application.
According to the statement, the new president will be tasked primarily with continuing to implement the metropolitan university vision and strategy, building enrollment by reversing headcount declines, raising retention rates and being more engaged with students and faculty.
“We want someone to be an agent of change, someone who will continue the process we started,” said James Irwin, a UMaine system trustee who has led the search committee, in an interview with the Free Press in December. “We need someone to articulate why USM matters in this community.
Flanagan has repeatedly told the Free Press that he is only on board for the remainder of the academic year and has no intention to stay at USM or apply to extend his contract into the following year.
According to Irwin, the goal is to have a new president start during the summer and be comfortable by the start of the fall semester.
When the faculty senate reached out to the USM community in early December for input on possible changes to the academic calendar, survey participants said they wanted everything to stay the same.
The idea to align the academic calendars of all seven UMaine campuses has been brought up regularly throughout the fall semester by system-level administrators as a way to unify the many arms of the system. System administrators are looking into changing USM’s spring start date, changing the dates of breaks and possibly moving from having two one-week breaks to having one two-week break instead.
The USM community says they’re content with our current schedule though, with 67 percent of 753 respondents saying they prefer multiple one week breaks over a longer break.
Right now, USM’s academic schedule is molded to match that of the local K-12 programs. Because the university has such a non-traditional student body, many respondents noted that being able to share vacations with their children is an absolute must.
“For faculty who have children in schools, having our break align with the K-12 school breaks as much as possible is optimal,” commented one respondent. “This is also true for our non-traditional students who are parents.”
If parents’ schedules didn’t match up with their children’s breaks, they would have to find childcare coverage, which can quickly become expensive in many cases.
“Not having the same time off will greatly impact their attendance in classes,” wrote another respondent on students with young children.
Other comments noted that switching to a two-week break would halt any progress being made in class and that students can forget a lot in or find it hard to get back into the swing of things after two weeks of vacation.
“The one two-week break makes it seem like school is done,” wrote a respondent. “Going back after [would be] really difficult.”
“You should definitely keep the two separate one week vacations. It provides us students with the opportunity to get a small break in between stressful classes,” wrote another.
There were some supporters of the two-week break among the replies, most citing the want to align our spring break with other colleges for serious vacation time and general unity of the campuses. Some supporters of the change still recognized that this would be an inconvenience to parents.
When the survey was distributed, there were some in the community who were alarmed, thinking that USM was going to alter our breaks for the coming semester, which would affect vacation plans which some people plan months ahead of time.
Christopher Quint, the executive director of public affairs, emailed all students, staff and faculty, reiterating that the administration was gathering input on possible changes to vacations in future academic calendar years, not the spring of 2015.
Now that the framework to balance USM’s budget has been drafted, the administration has focused its efforts to securing a bright future for the school, through four main initiatives that they hope to have completed before President David Flanagan steps down at the end of the semester.
“The budget is balanced and the hardest part is over,” said Quint. “We’re shifting our efforts to the future now.”
One of these goals includes putting together the framework behind USM’s new persona as “Maine’s Metropolitan University.” Quint said that he wants to get the right people involved and engaged in their advising group, and is always open to feedback from faculty and the community.
“We’ll be hosting a series of ‘lighting chats,’ which will be an opportunity for us to exchange questions and ideas with community members,” said Quint.
According to Quint, the ultimate goal during Flanagan’s time here is to send USM along a path that leads to the receival of the Carnegie Designation by 2020. According to their website, the Carnegie Designation is the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in American colleges. It’s what Quint described as, “the gold standard of what it means to be a metropolitan university.”
A second goal for the administration this spring semester is a redesign of some of the academic departments. While Quint didn’t get into specifics, he did say that the three colleges will be restructured to align themselves with the metropolitan model.
“Does this program make sense in this department? What classes or programs could we combine to create administrative efficiencies? Those are the kinds of questions we’re asking ourselves,” said Quint.
The third administrative project under way is an amelioration of student services. According to Quint, the administration is in the process of recruiting a new vice president of enrollment management that would be overseeing athletics, student life, admissions, financial aid and academic advising. The other effect an increased attention on student services would be an easier time for students to engage with the community and find internships.
“The idea is that when a student walks on campus, they’ll have both an academic and professional advisor,” said Quint. “This will make it easier for a student to plan for both life in college and life afterwards, which in turn will help with retention.”
Retention and recruitment is something that Quint believes should always be worked on. This semester Quint said the administration is going to have a “laser-like focus” on ways that USM can increase its applicants and keep them from leaving.
“We’re out in the field aggressively working on it, from marketing to admissions,” said Quint. “We’re going to deploy 900,000 more dollars right now to current students through financial aid. We don’t want them to get to a point where they feel like they have to leave because they can’t afford to stay.”
Quint said that in the future he hopes that USM is able to widen their advertising reach, and progress from email and Facebook ads into more radio and television spots.
After 28 years as head coach of the men’s ice hockey team, Jeff Beaney retired over the winter break and the reason why has been left unclear.
According to Chris Quint, USM’s executive director of public affairs. Beaney would have ideally finished up the rest of the season with his team, but a “variety of factors” spurred talks of Beaney’s early retirement amongst Bean and President David Flanagan.
Quint mentioned an anonymous letter that was sent to both Bean and Flanagan expressing some concern with the longtime hockey coach. Quint said he didn’t care to get into the full details of the letter, but that it was first mentioned in the press by the Maine Hockey Network.
“Now, after Coach Beaney announced his retirement, we’re looking towards the future and the hope of rebuilding this team,” said Quint.
Beany declined to speak about his retirement to the Free Press, but told the Maine Hockey Journal that the decision to retire was not entirely his.
“The decision was made [President] David Flanagan. I didn’t choose to leave now on my own. There are six weeks left in the season, and I would have liked to finish them out. [ Athletic Director] Al [Bean] is taking the blame, but the decision was not his,” Beany told a MHJ reporter.
The Division III Husky’s are 1-9 this year and have suffered nine consecutive losses. Beaney has been working with the hockey team for 30 years and 28 as head coach. The last time the team had a winning season was in 2008. Since Beaney’s time at USM, the Huskies have been 260-380-50 and without a championship title.
“The hockey team has been struggling for some time now,” said Quint.
In the meantime, former player and assistant coach, Ed Hardy will take Beaney’s place as coach, but just temporarily. According to Hardy, he was the last person to know of Beaney’s retirement and received a phone call saying the hockey program was “in a bit of a jam.” After meeting with Bean, he agreed to take over Beaney’s position.
“Hardy’s our new interim coach,” said Quint. “He’s here to stabilize the team and start building towards a new season. Once that’s over, we’ll announce the search for a new, permanent coach.”
As of now, Hardy plans on submitting his name for consideration as the new, permanent head coach.
Hardy has coaching experience with the Lewiston Maineiacs as well as at North Yarmouth Academy, Casco Bay Youth Hockey and the New England Wolves junior team.
According to Hardy, his goals are to make sure the four seniors on the team get the most out of their last season playing, citing that college is supposed to be the best years of a person’s life.
“I don’t want them to leave here with a bad taste in their mouth,” said Hardy. “Win or lose, we’re going to play hard and we’re going to have some fun doing it.”
Players like freshman double major in international business and marketing, Victor Ivarsson thought highly of former coach Beaney and are sad to see him go.
“This is an unfortunate situation for us all, but we’ll rebuild and get even stronger,” said Ivarsson. “I enjoyed having Beaney as a coach and I’m positive many others did as well.”
Quint is also optimistic about the future, adding that although they’ve faced some challenges, the team still has a lot of potential.