I’m pleased to welcome each of you, especially our new faculty and staff members, to a new academic year at UMaine. We had a remarkably smooth move-in day on Friday, as the members of the Class of 2012 joined our community. This is the largest class in UMaine’s history, 2,173 students as of Friday, and the logistical challenges were significant. Thanks to the student affairs and facilities staff, along with many others — including 700 Maine Hello volunteers — the day’s activities went very well, and our new students were appropriately welcomed to UMaine.
This year’s first-year class is notable for many reasons, including the sharp rise in the number of out-of-state students. There are some 34 percent more out-of-state students than we had in last year’s class, while the number of Mainers remains constant year-to-year. As I visited with new students and their families on Friday, I met people from all over New England, Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and even Nepal. Forty-seven states and 47 countries are represented in UMaine’s student population this year, and we can all take pride in the fact that so many fine students and their families have chosen UMaine. Enrollment has now increased at UMaine for 11 consecutive years, and we will have a total enrollment of more than 12,000 students this semester, continuing our pattern of steady, controlled growth. This year’s student population will be the largest UMaine has had, and I look forward to reporting the official enrollment number in next month’s Go Blue message.
Starting this month, we’re going to try a new format for these monthly Go Blue messages. I intend to point out approximately ten developments and achievements from the previous few weeks, providing a representative sample of the items that describe UMaine’s distinctiveness, value and impact. At the same time, we have created a new Inside UMaine website (http://www.umaine.edu/umweb/insideumaine2/index.htm), featuring more monthly highlights and an Along the Mall page that focuses on faculty presentations and publications. We’re excited about the new Inside UMaine site, through which our University Relations staff can provide regular updates with news and information of interest to UMaine faculty and staff members. I hope you will bookmark the site and visit it regularly. You can also stay current on UMaine news by subscribing to UMaine Today Online (www.umaine.edu/umainetoday), our daily news and information update. If you have ideas for the Inside UMaine site, let Joe Carr (firstname.lastname@example.org) know.
Here are just a few of August’s highlights:
We have recommended to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees two members of our community to assume leadership positions. Stuart Marrs, a music professor and music division chair in our School of Performing Arts, has taken over as associate provost and dean for undergraduate education. This is a critical role in our administration, with broad impact on our students, and Stuart is ideally suited for it. Provost Sue Hunter and I are very pleased that Stuart has agreed to take on this challenge.
At its September meeting, the board will also take up our recommendation that Eric Rolfson take over as vice president for development through the rest of Campaign Maine, our six-year fundraising effort that began just over three years ago. Eric will succeed Barbara Beers, who let me know earlier this summer that she would like to step down from that role, in which she has served with great distinction. Barbara has done a terrific job in building a strong fundraising infrastructure at UMaine and in bringing us to the campaign’s mid-point with good success to report and with momentum to propel us into the second half of the campaign.
You may recall that we launched the campaign in 2005, with a six-year goal to raise at least $150 million in three core areas: faculty support, student scholarship support and capital projects. This is a comprehensive campaign, through which UMaine is working closely with all of its fundraising partners — including the University of Maine Alumni Association and the University of Maine Foundation — to meet that goal. As of August, the campaign has secured over $90 million in gifts and pledges. As the campaign progresses, you can expect to hear more about related activities, including a formal public launch, and ways that students, faculty members and staff members can participate in this effort to build UMaine’s future.
I was very pleased when Gov. Baldacci and other state officials announced the first 14 projects to receive funding from the Maine Technology Asset Fund, created last year when voters ratified a $50 million bond for R&D. UMaine researchers submitted five of the successful proposals, totaling more than $13 million. In addition, UMaine is the primary R&D collaborator on two of the other successful projects, with more than $1 million in additional funding. All told, UMaine R&D is at the core of 48 percent of the funds awarded in this first round of awards. Details are on UMaine’s advocacy network website at http://universityadvocacy.org/umaine/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=9735738. More information about the advocacy network, including details about how to join, is at http://universityadvocacy.org/umaine/home.html.
The relevance and reach of UMaine’s R&D activities was demonstrated during an August event when Sen. Susan Collins and Jay Cohen, undersecretary for science and technology who heads up R&D activities at the Dept. of Homeland Security, visited UMaine’s Advanced Engineered Wood Composites (AEWC) Center to learn more about Maine-based research related to homeland security. AEWC was an appropriate venue for such an event, because it is home to several important research projects in that realm. The forum also featured displays and presentations from 20 Maine-based businesses and other UMaine research centers involved in this important work. Several of those businesses are UMaine R&D partners, signifying in a vivid way the important statewide role UMaine plays by extending its resources and expertise to assist businesses in important ways.
Congratulations to Prof. Bob Bayer and Cathy Billings in UMaine’s Lobster Institute, for receiving funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop a statewide Lobster Health Coalition. This project is part of the institute’s Conservation, Outreach, Research and Education (CORE) initiative, through which Bob and others provide invaluable service to that industry in Maine and beyond.
UMaine Cooperative Extension continues to provide its unique brand of education, research and outreach programming to assist people all over our state. An interesting recent example involves Barbara Murphy in Oxford County and Gleason Gray in Penobscot County, who are studying the economic viability, necessary growing conditions and viable cut flower varieties for Maine farmers interested in that growing market. Barbara and Gleason and all the other Extension faculty members are great UMaine representatives who do outstanding work in extending UMaine expertise to help Maine businesses and individuals in numerous ways.
UMaine art professor and New Media Department director Owen Smith has taken on another important role, having been named vice chair of the Maine Arts Commission. I congratulate Owen on this appointment, through which he lends his expertise and vision to helping that state agency accomplish its goals related to promoting artistic expression and cultural heritage in Maine.
Barry Goodell, UMaine professor of wood science and technology, has been elected vice president of the Forest Products Society. The Wisconsin-based organization has more than 3,000 members and subscribers around the world. It is an international nonprofit technical association that has been in existence for some 61 years, providing reliable information for the forest products industry. Congratulations to Barry for being chosen for this important position.
It was great to see UMaine people playing an important role in the American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront, which completed a very successful three days on Aug. 24. Pauleena MacDougall, director of the Maine Folklife Center and Gretchen Faulkner, director of the Hudson Museum, are among those in our community who play an important role in that event and in bringing UMaine’s unique expertise and resources to helping those in attendance gain a better understanding of Maine’s cultural heritage.
Please join me in welcoming home engineering professor John Hwalek and Jerry Ellis, the retired director of UMaine’s Onward Program, who recently completed a 4,300 mile cross-country bicycle trip to raise money for the Jerry Ellis Scholarship Fund for Onward Program Students, while also increasing awareness about the program and its students. John and Jerry started in Washington state on June 18 and arrived at Sand Beach on Aug. 12.
As we welcome our students, I would be remiss if I failed to mention my pride in seeing the great turnout when UMaine’s Resident Assistants volunteered to work in area community service agencies on a late-August Saturday. Their work and good spirit helped those agencies and reflected very well on UMaine. A group of 12 UMaine students who aspire to healthcare careers also undertook a volunteer project, spending four days recently providing health education programs to migrant workers and children in rural, underserved Aroostook County communities. The commitment of UMaine student volunteers in the immediate area and all around Maine is laudatory and most noteworthy.
One final quick note: If you haven’t already done so, I hope you will visit UMaine’s emergency communications website (www.umaine.edu/umainetxt) and register your cell phone so that you will receive text messages during an emergency, or when our class schedule changes because of inclement weather. This is a great way for us to reach you quickly and I encourage all members of our community to sign up.
I hope you like this new format, and I look forward to seeing you at the annual Faculty and Staff Breakfast, scheduled for 7-9 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 12 at the beautifully renovated Wells Conference Center.
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