Office of Public Affairs

President Kalikow: “I look forward to our adventures together.”

USM President Theo Kalikow described the good and bad USM’s, and outlined a plan to enable the good USM in her Opening Breakfast address Friday morning, August 31, in the Gorham Field House.

The good USM, explained Kalikow, “centers around transforming students’ lives and serving our communities. This is the USM that everyone in Maine wants to succeed,” she told a record audience of more than 690 faculty and staff.  “That’s why the Chancellor asked me to do this. It’s why I am with you this morning.”

“The bad USM,” she said, “is the one we create by our bureaucratic nuttiness and by our not treating colleagues with consideration and by not putting students at the center of what we do.  That’s the USM we are going to stop being.”

Progress is being made. She pointed to positive enrollment trends showing, “slight increases in new students and a stronger residence hall population here in Gorham.”

Theo made it clear that three recommendations from the 2011-2012 Strategic Planning Steering Committee report, “will form the framework for what we do here.”

  1. Student success.
  2. Making a 21st century university, which she described as “highlighting our extensive community engagement and active learning, and increasing it.”
  3. Making USM financially stable.

As part of this work, she urged the community to participate in the Foundations of Excellence Program that will build on our success in attracting more first-year and transfer students.   

The breakfast also featured the launch of the THEO (Towards a Highly Effective Organization) program, complete with prizes for those of us with “bright ideas” on how to do things better. 

Finally, Kalikow urged adoption of recycling and energy conservation practices, and announced USM is going tobacco free, effective January 1, 2013.

“So that’s it,” she concluded, “we are going to have an exciting year of great service to our students and our community, and increasing financial stability for USM. We are going to have a good time with each other doing this work, and we are all going to learn a lot about how to be a well-functioning organization which uses it resources well for the state and people of Maine.” 

The complete text of her speech follows.

Annual USM Opening Breakfast Address
by President Theodora J. Kalikow
August 31,201

Welcome to the Annual USM Opening Breakfast. Although this has been sometimes traditionally known as the President’s Breakfast, it is really OUR breakfast to celebrate together the opening of a new school year, so welcome to OUR University Opening Breakfast. New tradition!

I’d like to introduce to you the members of President’s Council. Michael Stevenson, our new Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Dick Campbell, Chief Financial Officer. Craig Hutchinson, Chief Student Affairs Officer. Susan Campbell, Chief Student Success Officer. Martha Freeman, Human Resources. Bob Caswell, University Relations. Kelly Frost, our Advancement consultant. We are learning how to be a team together, and I think we will serve USM well.

I’d now like to turn the podium over to Michael, who will say a few words and lead us in honoring new, distinguished faculty.


Thank you, Michael, and again, congratulations to our honorees.

This is a day of introductions, so you are probably wondering a lot of things about me. Your new leader. I know that everyone who knows anyone at Farmington has already made inquiries. Goodness knows what you heard, but you got me anyway.

For the rest of you poor folks with no Farmington new best friends, why did I come? Why am I not enjoying retirement paddling my kayak this morning instead of standing on this stage?

The simple answer is, I came to help get USM back on the right path. Many of you have been here a long time and you love USM. That’s the good USM you love, the part that centers around transforming students’ lives and serving our communities. This is the USM that everyone in Maine wants to succeed. That’s why the Chancellor asked me to do this. It’s why I am with you this morning.

And then there’s the bad USM. That’s the part we are going to stop being, with each other’s help. The bad USM is the one we create by our bureaucratic nuttiness, and by not treating our colleagues with consideration, and by not putting students at the center of what we do. That’s the USM we are going to stop being.

It can be done! Look at our enrollment trends, which show that we are stable for this year, with slight increases in new students and a stronger residence hall population here in Gorham. This is absolutely critical to our success, and I want to thank all of you who have worked to make it happen. So, let’s recognize, acknowledge and thank all those staff members, students and faculty who have worked together to do this excellent recruiting job.

Now, we have to keep those students. Keeping the ones we have recruited is a lot better and cheaper than going out and finding all new ones. Retention, retention, retention! Our number one job!

Why? Aren’t we done yet? Can’t we just get back to the way it used to be? Well, no…. The world is different now. We have all done a painful reorganization and we have saved a lot of money, and this is good, but we are not done. Student tuition is the largest single source of our budget funding.  That is why we have to concentrate now on student retention (and recruitment). This is the key. It is still all hands on deck. Nobody out there is going to save us. We have to save ourselves. We can do it and we will.

I’ll bet you are wondering, what have we got here and what is she going to do to us this year????? My first bit of reassurance is, there will be no new strategic plans. We are going to carry out the plans we have already made.  

The strategic planning committee, led by Monique Laroque and Rob Sanford, and all their task teams from last year, ended up making three major recommendations that I love and that will form the framework for what we do here 

They are: First, Student success.

Second, Making a 21st century university, which I interpret as highlighting our extensive community engagement and active learning, and increasing it.

And third, making USM financially sustainable.

This is it. Our three tasks.  Happily for us, these goals align nicely with the Board of Trustees goals set for all campuses last January.

Thank you, Strategic Planning Committee! I am turning over your more detailed recommendations to the President’s Council and they will implement the ones that are especially timely and focused on, you guessed it,  student success, community engagement and fiscal sustainability.

Now, you may not like these plans. You may be angry about them. Heck, we still have people around here who are mad because 42 years ago “they” created USM out of  Gorham State College and the University of Maine at Portland, which ultimately became USM, back when some of you were not even born.

Nonetheless, in spite of this, we are going to do our best to stick with our current plans and see how they work. There will be adjustments along the way but we are going to stick to the general outline. Enough disruption, we need to give ourselves time to see how things can be made to work.

So, here are my general operating principles that will help us along the way as we fulfill our mission of student success, community engagement, and fiscal sustainability. That’s it.

So, operating principles to help enable the good USM:

-Don’t be stupid!

-Clean the cage. Remember, “The dove descends when the cage is clean” – Robert Shaw, Robert Shaw Chorale in Atlanta.  So we’re going to clean the cage, throw out those dirty newspapers on the bottom, and get on with it.

-Operate well – you will be able to help here, as I’ll tell you in a minute.

-Choose a few new things to experiment with. [More on this later.]

-No whining! Of course we don’t have any money. Of course there is not going to BE any more money. We have to do our magic with what resources we already have or what we can lay our hands on through our own efforts. And we’re not going to lie around howling and expect Development to do it all, either. That’s magic thinking.

First, we have lots to do before we can expect the kind of private support that we think we deserve.  Second, development is just what it says, development, and it takes time and cultivation to pay off. We have to be patient gardeners. We can get there, but it will take a unified effort.

Nor can we bellyache and wait for the Board of Trustees to change the funding formula. We will all be dead before there is radical change, and anyway, whatever parameters they choose, we’d better be good at them, and right now we aren’t. But we can get a heck of a lot better. And we will.  Meanwhile, no whining!

And by the way, an easy way to save USM some money is through recycling and energy conservation. We have power strips, tiny trash containers, and information on your tables and elsewhere. Take the strips and the containers back to your offices and use them. Some little behavioral changes can save us big bucks.

So let’s keep moving from the principles to the practice. Students at the center. Retention is the name of the game and it will be a major thing we can do to help ourselves.  Here’s a major activity that we are continuing to do this year on retention.

It’s called Foundations of Excellence. Because the first year matters -- really matters! -- We have joined with a small cohort of schools across the country in the acclaimed Foundations of Excellence program.  This is a project that builds on our success this year at getting more first-year (and transfer) students to come to USM. This is important to all of us! Now they’re here, we have to make sure that they stay. We do that by creating excellent service, caring and teaching for our students, whoever we are and whatever we do. We all need to be involved in student recruitment, retention, success in their classes and all the rest of their activities here, readying them for lives of civic, family and professional excellence. We can’t leave it to someone else. It is everybody’s number one job. Everyone. Everyone here is a teacher. Whatever your job is, serving the food or cleaning up or teaching or advising or working in an office or wherever it is, what you do affects the students and teaches them how a high-functioning organization should behave and what it should look like and how it should treat folks. Everyone has a part in this, and everyone here can and does make more connections with students than we even know.

As we look at what we’re doing, we’ll use the nine dimensions of excellence that FoE gives us. Our work will begin with our developing our philosophy of the first-year experience. When we’re clear and intentional about the student experience, and how we can organize to best deliver it, student success - -persistence and graduation – improves dramatically. Our students and the entire USM community and region we serve, deserve our best. Our very best. This is what FoE can help us achieve.

You will be receiving an invitation to participate in FoE work. Until then, go to the Foundations of Excellence website to read more about it - - and take the mousepads, wear the buttons, and live the fact that at USM, the first year matters to everyone!

Here’s the second practice, and you all get to join in here too. What bright ideas do you have to do things better around here? How could we do things more effectively? What makes you crazy that we should stop?

I told you there would be prizes, so that means there has to be a contest. And here it is, the THEO contest – Towards a Highly Effective Organization!!!!

If you have a suggestion for a way to do things better, or people or offices you should be collaborating with, or things we should stop doing, or if you have an idea of something that would save us time, money or people-power, I want to know. If you come across a piece of bureaucracy that makes you crazy, let us know. 

I don’t want to hear anything like just get rid of my boss or my co-worker and everything will be fine. I don’t want to hear any complaining about the System. No whining, remember? What I do want to hear is, How can USM deliver a better and more effective service to our students and to the community? How can we save time and money and effort? Give us your thoughts.

Send your ideas to the President’s Office,  This is what will happen to these ideas.

We’ll read them all. If there are any simple easy and good things to do right away, we’ll do them. Example – correcting a website, etc.

We’ll look for patterns.

We’ll bring them to President’s Council.

President’s Council will set some priorities. Then we’ll start doing them. Those that are cheap or no cost or low cost may be done first; others may take some planning.  Some we will discard or not get to. I hope there will be too many to do all at once!

Oh yes, the prizes. Here they are (show) – THEO bars! How do you get yours? You have to play to win!  We’ll give them out for bona fide suggestions until they are gone and if you keep having ideas we will find more THEO bars.  There will be elastic criteria and not very much screening, or the candy will get stale. Now that would be bad. Come on, we can have some fun with this, and we can gather some good ideas and make a little progress here. The deadline is two weeks from today. 

There will also be some slightly bigger prizes, USM polo shirts. We will give these out after somewhat more deliberation. We have a small number of shirts of various sizes. If you want to win one, we will spell out the criteria a little later and I’ll let you know. 

And speaking of polo shirts, on your table you will find a coupon for 20% off USM gear at the bookstore, so you can get your shirt right away. On Fridays those who are not already wearing a USM shirt should also plan to come to work wearing your new pretty blue shirt as a sort of USM casual day. Show your pride. Let’s make this a regular thing on Fridays. I know it’s corny, but so what.  Wear your USM gear. Husky Pride!

My community connection/engagement fantasy is that sometime next spring everybody in Maine who is connected in some way with USM – students, alumni, hosts of student interns and volunteers, beneficiaries of service learning, friends, donors, family members, classes of student teachers, and us -- will be wearing a blue shirt on a given Friday. Think of it! A sea of blue USM shirts throughout the state! I have no idea at this point how we are going to pull that off, so if you have any ideas and would like to be on a team to plan and make this happen, be in touch soon!

So that’s a lot of information for you, but one more thing you have to know about now. USM is going tobacco-free. We start on January 1, 2013. Here’s how we get from here to there.

The Tobacco Policy Committee, chaired by Suzanne Roy, has assured me that the faculty and staff senates have reviewed and approved, and that the student senate is being consulted on an ongoing basis.

So President’s Council and I have approved this and we are doing it in three steps.

Step 1. Announcement! During this semester we’ll be putting up publicity, signs, doing education, and so on. 

Step 2. Beginning January 1 of 2013, we enter a period of transitional compliance. We’ll continually remind each other that we are a tobacco-free community, and help each other learn to comply, provide resources to help with quitting, and generally start adhering to the policy as best we can.

Then, Step 3: Into it! September 2013, we will be in full tobacco-free mode.

So this is Step 1: Announcement! Ta da—we’re gonna do it. 

We can count on the Wellness folks and the Tobacco-free committee to be doing lots of education with us all so that we’ll have all our questions answered and we can join the more than 700 other educational institutions across the country which have done this successfully already. At least three other UMS institutions have already done this successfully, and it is now our turn.

So that’s it – we are going to have an exciting year of great service to our students and our community, and increasing financial stability for USM. We are going to have a good time with each other doing this work, and we are all going to learn a lot about how to be a well-functioning organization which uses its resources well for the state and people of Maine. 

That’s our job. I’m happy to be here doing it with you, and I look forward to our adventures together. Thanks for coming this morning.