About Us - Our Staff
Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development
Jake Ward actively supports economic development projects at the University of Maine and in partnerships with many state and nonprofit programs. Originally from Saco, Maine, he holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering and an M.S. in ocean engineering from the University of New Hampshire. Prior to his current position at the University of Maine, Ward worked at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and in private industry both in software and manufacturing. Click for full biography.
Director of Economic Development Initiatives
Renee Kelly serves as a liaison to the state’s economic development community. She works directly with innovation-driven businesses to help them reach their potential in the State of Maine. Kelly also co-directs the University’s Foster Center for Student Innovation, which gives students the tools, knowledge and inspiration to become innovators and entrepreneurs. Prior to joining the university, she developed and administered training programs for Manpower of Connecticut’s employees and clients and served as an aide to then U.S. Representative Olympia J. Snowe. She received her A.B. from Smith College and has worked at UMaine since 1997.
Special Assistant to the Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development
Jennifer O’Leary leads integrated marketing and communication efforts for the Office of the Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development in collaboration with UMaine’s Division of Marketing and Communications. She graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in adult education. O’Leary worked for Dow Jones & Co., in Boston and in New York City. Most recently, she was the marketing manager for University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Director of Technology Commercialization
Kris Burton focuses on transferring knowledge and technology from the university to organizations and companies that can put it to profitable use. Contact her if your company has an interest in commercializing university technology, using university facilities, or collaborating with the university to complete a research project. Burton is the point of contact for faculty and staff who are working with industry or who have developed intellectual property with commercial applications. Burton received a B.S. from Texas Tech University and an M.S. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She has prior professional experience in academia, government, small business and Fortune 500 companies.
James Beaupré, Ph.D.
James Beaupré is the University of Maine’s Innovation Engineer, the first such engineer world wide. In addition to creating, communicating and commercialize meaningfully unique ideas for the University of Maine, Beaupré currently instructs courses in innovation and chemical engineering. His scientific background is in paper making processes specifically in water removal and is a patented inventor in the field. Beaupré has a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Maine (2007) and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Maine (2012).
Fiscal and Administrative Officer
Jonnie Johnson oversees and supervises all departmental bookkeeping and accounting of more than 300 project accounts with annual revenues exceeding $4.1 million. Johnson also manages office staff personnel and is the contact person for the department.
Grant Manager and Fiscal Officer
Karen Lidral is responsible for reviewing industrial contracts, purchasing materials for all Office of Innovation and Economic Development projects, and managing grants received in the department. Raised in Saco, Maine, Lidral is a 2005 University of Maine graduate with a bachelor’s degree in music. Lidral has worked at UMaine since 2006, and currently works remotely from Boise, Idaho.
Celeste Cota is responsible for administrative tasks that include processing orders, accounts payable, travel, expense reimbursements, event coordinator and website management. Raised in Biddeford, Maine, Cota attended the University of Maine at Farmington and University of Southern Maine and has worked in both for profit and nonprofit organizations gaining business experience in grant management, marketing, graphic design and accounting.