For a short month, February was certainly full of activities and interesting developments at UMaine. As I do each month, I will offer a few examples in this message and invite you to visit www.umaine.edu/insideumaine for more details about things that are happening in our community.
The pride and commitment of UMaine’s faculty, staff and students have been on full display as we all work within the process designed to find new, more efficient ways to deliver public higher education in our state. The two recent open forums on this subject — one with Chancellor Pattenaude and one with the University of Maine System’s reorganization task force — have been exceptionally well-attended. Members of our faculty and others have spoken passionately about UMaine and its invaluable statewide role and I have no doubt that those who are addressing these issues now have a better understanding of UMaine and its distinctiveness. I appreciate the efforts of Faculty Senate President Dianne Hoff and all the others who continue to work so hard to help communicate the vital message of UMaine’s quality and value at this important time.
I also want you to know that I am committed to continuing to make the UMaine case with the chancellor, the other presidents, the Board of Trustees, legislators and others who will have a say in how the System is reorganized. My central message is quite simple: Without a strong, well-funded flagship university, our state’s problems will only get worse. On the other hand, a University of Maine that is empowered and enabled to fulfill its essential mission is truly the key to a brighter future for our state. A great many advocates — the Board of Visitors, key legislators, community and business leaders, alumni and others — are helping us communicate this message. Even so, it is particularly important right now that every one of us who believes in UMaine and what it means to our state’s future takes the opportunity created by this discussion to emphasize the invaluable nature of this institution. All of our efforts, combined, can really make the difference.
At the same time, we are working to develop the Fiscal Year 2010 UMaine budget. This is, of course, particularly difficult because of the general economic issues and their impact on public higher education in Maine. I particularly want to thank Provost Sue Hunter, VP Janet Waldron and Budget Director Claire Strickland, who have joined me in working with the faculty, the deans and others in leadership positions all around UMaine who are working through the budget planning process. All of our efforts are aimed at minimizing impact on our students and preserving the core academic mission during these trying times. I invite each member of the UMaine community to attend one of the upcoming community budget sessions, to learn more about the details of the situation and to provide input:
* Tuesday, March 17th, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. in Wells Conference Center Room 2
* Friday, March 20th, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in Wells Conference Center Room 3
Once again this month, I would like to mention just a few of the notable achievements involving UMaine faculty and staff members during the past few weeks.
- Congratulations to the great team assembled over the past 18 months or so to respond to Gov. Baldacci’s request that UMaine provide a science-based report assessing UMaine’s climate future. The report, which is on the Web at www.climatechange.umaine.edu/mainesclimatefuture, was delivered to the governor last week and he is — to say the least — pleased with the result of this effort. Professors George Jacobson and Ivan Fernandez led the development of the report, which included input from Climate Change Institute Director Paul Mayewski and a host of other UMaine faculty members and other experts. Catherine Schmitt from Maine Sea Grant did an exceptional job in editing the report, which also reflects the beautiful graphic design work of Catherine’s Sea Grant colleague, Kathlyn Tenga-Gonzalez.
- We were pleased to host Sen. Collins, U.S. Rep. Michaud and Gov. Baldacci at the AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center for an event recognizing commercialization activity related to AEWC research and development work. The event highlighted the center’s “bridge in a backpack” structural engineering innovation, along with commitments by two businesses to move forward in commercializing AEWC technology, a critical step in realizing the economic potential of R&D. Congratulations to Prof. Habib Dagher and his colleagues for the continued recognition of their excellent work in applying UMaine creativity in meaningful ways.
- Prof. Sandy Sigmon, graduate student Laura Brothers and others involved in the UMaine President’s Council on Women have worked hard to develop programming and materials related to a university-wide commitment to promoting civility. As Sandy points out, it is particularly important to focus on civility during difficult times, when courtesy and mutual respect can sometimes fall by the wayside. I applaud this effort and encourage members of the UMaine community to participate in the events, which run through April 28. A schedule of events is online here.
- Congratulations to faculty members, staff members and students in the UMaine School of Performing Arts on the well-received staging of the musical “Side Show” during February. These performances always serve to highlight the extraordinary talent in our student community, and they reflect well on all those involved in the major effort it takes to stage such a production.
- Once again this year, UMaine’s International Dance Festival was a great success. Held at the newly renovated Collins Center for the Arts, the program showcases traditional costumes and dances staged by UMaine international students. The show is so popular that two performances are scheduled — one in the afternoon and one in the evening — each year.
- Maine NEW Leadership, an interesting initiative involving UMaine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and Cooperative Extension, is taking applications from college-age women from around Maine who are interested in participating in that initiative’s June 11-16 program. Based on a successful program at Rutgers, Maine NEW Leadership aims to “educate and empower” women with interest in becoming political and civic leaders. Mary Cathcart and Rebekah Smith are taking the lead in this program, which has great potential for long-term impact on individuals and our state.
- I was pleased with the great attention (including CNN and USA Today) that came UMaine’s way as the result of a student project in UMaine’s New Media Program. Working with faculty members Owen Smith and Mike Scott, the student group developed “Friend Finder” technology, which involves a wearable device programmed with information about the wearer’s interest. When he or she encounters a similarly-equipped person with similar interests, the devices emit a signal that tells the wearers a potential friend is near. It’s a clever idea, and it shows the remarkable creativity in UMaine’s excellent New Media program.
- A record 258 UMaine student-athletes were honored for their classroom success at the recent annual Scholar-Athlete Recognition ceremony. Their success is a credit to each student-athlete honored, and also to Athletic Director Blake James, Academic Support for Student-Athlete staff members Ann Maxim, Chrissy Kerluke and Myer Taksel, and all the faculty members and coaches who work with those who wear the Black Bear uniform. Special recognition goes to student-athletes Ryan Canary (football) and Ashley Waters (softball), winners of this year’s M Club Dean Smith Awards, given annually to the top male and top female student-athlete at UMaine.
- The innovative “Building a Vibrant Maine Economy” online conference, which started in January, is now complete and available online at www.umaine.edu/vme. The conference features presentations by UMaine professors Todd Gabe, Gary Hunt, Terry Porter and Phil Trostel. An initiative developed by the School of Economic, Maine Business School and Cooperative Extension, and sponsored by Bangor Savings Bank, this website provides some interesting, research-based perspectives on what it will take to improve the state’s economy.
- As always, February featured impressive recognition of several of our faculty members, including:
* Deborah Rogers of the English faculty has been named this year’s recipient of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Outstanding Faculty Award for Research and Creative Achievement. This honor recognizes Deborah’s achievements in 18th century literary scholarship, including her work on Ann Radcliffe and Deborah’s latest book, “The Matrophobic Gothic and its Legacy.”
* Ali Abedi of the UMaine from the UMaine Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been tapped by an international non-profit scientific organization to lead an interesting effort related to aerospace applications. Ali will lead development of technologies involving micro and nano technologies for the Fly-by-Wireless Sector Consortium.
* Physics Prof. R. Dean Astumian has been recognized by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation with that foundation’s Humboldt Research Award, one of Germany’s most prestigious scientific honors. The award goes to distinguished foreign scholars, recognizing career academic achievements.
* Jasmine Soros from UMaine’s Climate Change Institute is co-author of a new paper in Science magazine, describing the importance of lakes and reservoirs in understanding climate change.
While our students take a break for the next two weeks, preparing to return to campus for the final few weeks of the academic year, we can all share in appreciation for the good work that characterizes the UMaine community. While we are certainly facing challenges, I am hopeful that our collective efforts will continue to influence those who are examining public higher education in Maine and that the result will be a sustainable structure that recognizes UMaine’s distinctive role.