Jacqueline Edmondson named 14th President of the University of Southern Maine

A headshot of Jacqueline Edmondson smiling in her office.

A first-generation college student and accomplished faculty member, academic administrator and author at Penn State University will become the 14th President of the University of Southern Maine starting July 1.

Dr. Jacqueline “Jackie” Edmondson was introduced to the USM community today by University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. Her appointment by the Chancellor follows unanimous authorization by the UMS Board of Trustees after an inclusive national search that brought four final candidates to USM’s campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn this spring to meet with faculty, students, staff and community stakeholders, including through open forums.

“I am thrilled to be joining the University of Southern Maine as its 14th President,” Edmondson said. “USM is a wonderful institution that is well positioned for an even greater future. I want to acknowledge and thank President Cummings for his success, and I look forward to working with the faculty, staff, students and communities where our campuses are located to build on USM’s strengths, confront challenges and realize new opportunities that will expand its impact and reach in the University of Maine System, the great state of Maine and beyond.”

Edmondson will live in the president’s residence on the Gorham campus with her husband, Michael. The couple has two adult sons, Jacob and Luke, who both live in the Northeast.

Edmondson brings to USM more than two decades of collective service and progressive leadership experience at Penn State, which currently enrolls nearly 90,000 students. She was a tenured professor and associate dean in the College of Education and later associate vice president and associate dean for undergraduate education, where she worked across 20 campuses to develop curriculum and programs to advance college access and affordability.

Her research has focused on education policy, rural education, teacher education and popular culture. In addition to publication in numerous academic journals, she has authored eight books on subjects ranging from education policy to Jesse Owens to Jerry Garcia.

Since 2017, she has been the Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer of Penn State Greater Allegheny, where nearly half of students are the first in their families to attend college.

While heading the commonwealth campus outside of Pittsburgh, Edmondson launched eight new degree programs in response to regional workforce and student needs. Many match popular programs at USM, including cybersecurity analytics and operations, information science and technology, and criminal justice, as well as recreation, park and tourism management, which was developed as a shared program with two other Penn State campuses.

Edmondson also earned her undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees at Penn State, where she was a first-generation college student who started as a music major before transitioning to elementary education.

“Jackie is a brilliant, dynamic leader who deeply appreciates the proven power of public higher education. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated that she has both the vision and the ability to work well with others to achieve great things for students and institutions,” said Chancellor Malloy.

“She was valued, highly respected and, frankly, beloved, at one of our nation’s largest universities. I am confident that as our search committee quickly understood, USM and the broader community will soon know that she has the unique qualifications and characteristics to build on the progress realized under President Cummings to take USM as an essential educational, economic and cultural asset to even greater heights in its service to our students, System and the state.”

Penn State colleagues praise Edmondson’s leadership: ‘Our champion every day’

Edmondson was asked to lead Penn State Greater Allegheny in 2017 following the unexpected departure of the previous chancellor.

With an open door policy, frequent meals with students in the cafeteria and her commitment to the success of all students, faculty and staff, she quickly transformed the climate while also reconnecting the campus to the local community.

Her experiences as a low-income student, who, at 17, became the first in her family to attend college, have driven her dedication to fostering a sense of belonging for all students, and ensuring they have the services and support they need to realize their full potential.

In addition to the new academic programs, Edmondson raised more than $4 million for scholarships and campus priorities, launched initiatives to address housing and food insecurity among students, and was the first to incorporate a student speaker into commencement ceremonies.

She was also known as a collaborator with and champion for campus employees, overseeing renovation of 35% of instructional, faculty and common space, supporting faculty promotion, including to full professor for a significant number of professors, and securing exclusive programs that elevated her institution within the university and the state. For example, starting this summer, Penn State Greater Allegheny will have the sole Bachelor of Social Work program at Penn State. Students can start at 14 of Penn State’s campuses, but must complete the final two years of the degree program at Greater Allegheny.

“Jackie has been an outstanding chancellor and we will miss her greatly. She is recognized as a thoughtful leader, an outstanding community partner and a strategic thinker,” said Penn State President Emeritus Eric J. Barron, who retired this month.

He noted Edmondson’s long-standing commitment to equity and inclusion. At Penn State Greater Allegheny, she increased student and employee diversity, and in 2017, started the Crossing Bridges Summit to situate the campus as a catalyst for change in bridging racial divides in the region.

“I am thrilled for Dr. Edmondson and the University of Southern Maine. Jackie is a visionary and passionate leader who understands the complexities and demands of a multi-campus university, and the importance of building a strong sense of community belonging and pride among its members,” added Dr. Madlyn L. Hanes, senior vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor emerita.

“She is a tireless champion of faculty and staff development, and student success. Jackie’s ability to forge trusted relationships and partnerships with internal and external stakeholders will advance the rich history and strategic priorities of the University of Southern Maine.”

An avid runner, earlier this month Edmondson and four faculty colleagues ran the Pittsburgh Marathon together as a relay team, raising money along the way for a digital fluency initiative on campus that she launched that provides each student a modern device and training to optimize their learning and 21st-century workforce readiness.

“We are incredibly sad to lose her, but her whole career has led up to being the next president of the University of Southern Maine,” said Victoria Garwood, director for strategic planning and communications at Penn State Greater Allegheny.

“What she has done here in McKeesport is just remarkable. It’s not just the new academic programs and the improved relationships with the community and the fact that we awarded more degrees during the first three semesters of the pandemic than the year prior, but most importantly is the pride we all feel when we come to campus. Jackie was our champion every day.”

Edmondson has signed a three-year contract with UMS. She will earn $290,000 annually.