To Brian Toy — the interim dean of the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College — just walking onto the Lewiston Campus and meeting the staff is all it takes.
“I have never seen a more friendly or open environment for a student,” said Toy, who began his tenure as interim dean on July 1. “If I can get people through the front door here, I know I have the individuals here who can help those students and get them over any hurdles.”
No delays. No fuss.
“It’s a one-stop shop,” Toy said. “If a student needs services, they can come here and get all the services you’d expect on the campuses in Portland or Gorham. There are people here who know how to get things done for students, and there’s no run around.”
It’s an operation that Toy began observing a year ago, when he went to work as the college’s assistant dean alongside longtime dean Joyce Gibson. When she decided to return to teaching, Toy was named acting dean. Then came interim dean.
“I got to know the issues and the potential,” he said. “I got to know the building. I got to know the people.”
It’s a been a return to administration for Toy.
The Long Island, N.Y. native came to USM in 1996 to start a new department in Sports Medicine.
“My academic discipline is athletic training,” he said. Based in Gorham, the department grew to include Athletic Training, Athletic Sciences and Health Sciences. He then became the associate dean and dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions. The college would later become part of the College of Science, Technology and Health.
Toy had been out of the university’s administration for about seven years when he saw an invitation to apply for the Lewiston job by USM Provost Jeannine Uzzi.
The challenge excited him.
“I use the pyramid analogy,” Toy said. “If your base is strong, you can build on that. And we have a strong base.”
Reaching his biggest goal — to bring more students onto the Lewiston campus — begins with building on its most popular programs, he said. They include Nursing, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Leadership and Organizational Studies, and Occupational Therapy.
He is working to expand the size of cohorts and deliver complimentary programs. He also hopes to offer more professional development programs on the campus, partnering with local businesses on what to teach and when.
“We can put them up quickly and they can serve a need,” he said.
The campus already has close ties with the community through organizations such as the LA. Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and its own Community Advisory Board.
“We’ve tried to embed ourselves in the community and meet the needs of the community,” Toy said. “If we can give people what they need, we can all improve.”
That includes working with more local schools to offer college classes to high schoolers. It includes continuing the close relationship with the community colleges, reaching out more to the local immigrant community and ongoing work to respond to students.
“And maybe we’ll start something new that we haven’t even thought of yet,” he said.