Provost seeks to listen, support, advocate

With multiple degrees in psychology and 20 years experience working with research subjects, Dr. Georita Frierson knows how to listen. How to help solve problems. How to connect with people. 

As the University of Southern Maine’s new Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, it’s a skillset that will come in handy.

“We’re trained to say come in, talk to me, share your concerns, share your pleasantries, whatever. We’re here to help problem-solve, we’re here to have a vision, we’re here to help people get to their goal,” she said. “I see everything as being relationship building.”

The Provost serves as the University’s Chief Academic Officer, responsible for strategic oversight of academic programs, strengthening and enhancing the culture of inquiry and research, ensuring compliance with accrediting bodies, and overseeing academic governance.

Provost Georita Frierson
Dr. Georita Frierson, the University of Southern Maine’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Frierson grew up in New Jersey and received her B.A. with honors in Psychology from Hampton University, her parents’ alma mater. She received her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, with a specialization in Health Psychology, from The Ohio State University and completed her residency at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

She spent 20 years in psychosocial research involving breast cancer survivors. But she also felt a strong pull to be an advocate for faculty and students.  

Frierson moved up the administrative ladder, from professor to entry level administrator to program director. At Rowan University in New Jersey, she launched and oversaw the initial accreditation of a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology. At Seton Hall University in New Jersey, she raised over $2.8 million through philanthropic initiatives, developed new programs in applied physics and engineering and health sciences, and restructured the Dean’s Office to bring more faculty to the leadership table. She most recently served as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the School of Arts, Sciences, and Education at D’Youville University in Buffalo, New York.

Frierson was looking for the next step in her career when she learned the University of Southern Maine was searching for a new Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. 

“I was looking for a school that was wanting to grow, that had multiple campuses — an urban campus, a suburban campus — and had a medical flavor to it. I wanted a school that was multifaceted,” she said. “I also wanted a school that had an amazing president who was a visionary and an excellent leader.”

She found that and more. 

“The chemistry of the people here and the energy sold me on USM,” she said. 

While Frierson is proud to be a Husky at work, she’s more of a terrier person at home. She has four of them– all Yorkies. They are W, age 12, and Mario, Channing, and Tatum, all 16-months. 

“Hopefully, they meet Elbow one day,” she said, referring to President Jacqueline Edmondson’s popular dog. 

Frierson and her beloved pups are settling into their new home in New Gloucester — close to all USM campuses but small enough to remind her of a beloved town she used to live in. 

“It’s refreshing,” she said. “I like working in the city and living more rural. I don’t need the hubbub or the hectic, but I do appreciate working in a city and what that brings.”

As Provost, Frierson has a number of goals: work on making Lewiston-Auburn College more visible, help build the University’s research portfolio, help with retention and enrollment strategies, and work on new program development. But one of her main goals is to be a clear, available resource.

“One thing I did at my prior school when I was dean was that I ate lunch in the cafeteria. Students saw administrators, so that we’re not this untouchable, scary person,” she said. 

Frierson plans to regularly work out of each of the three campuses so that she’s more easily accessible to students, faculty, and staff. She also plans to go on a listening tour over the next few months to get a sense of needs, concerns, and things that are going well. 

Like a psychologist, she sees it as her job to listen and support those who need it. 

“I want the campuses to know who I am,” she said. “My goal is that people know this position does exist to help them.”