The University of Maine is launching an innovative leadership program that will prepare a group of faculty from across the campus to serve as ambassadors to Maine communities and constituents. The Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program will help to strengthen UMaine’s contributions to the state by building a network of faculty leaders who can communicate the importance of UMaine, and build stronger bridges to people and organizations across the state.
The six-month program will provide training in media relationships, interpersonal communication, audience analysis and partnership building. As part of the program, the Faculty Fellows will participate in a state-of-the-art communication and engagement training in conjunction with representatives from Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Combining theater improv techniques with communication training, the experience will help participants communicate about UMaine and their own work with passion and confidence.
Laura Lindenfeld, Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, proposed and designed the program in conjunction with Jake Ward, Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development, and Judy Ryan, Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Administration, in order to create better pathways for making UMaine’s work matter more to the state.
“The program is designed to get faculty members and researchers more connected with Maine communities,” Lindenfeld said. “The Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program will help us bridge boundaries and create stronger connections between our university and the state. We already do so much for the state, but we can do more. Getting a creative, entrepreneurial group of professors together through this program is a remarkable opportunity to increase our ability to help businesses, industries, and citizens. I want this program to help us make a tangible difference, and that is so inspirational and exciting.”
From engineering to marine sciences to art history, the program includes 20 outstanding faculty members who will learn about contemporary issues in Maine. The program will prepare them to make their own research more engaged and relevant to the issues in Maine.
Kathleen Bell, Associate Professor of Economics, was selected to participate in the program. She hopes to gain knowledge, skills, and experiences that will help her advance as a leader, researcher, and community member.
“I adore living in Maine and working at UMaine,” Bell said. “This program really presents me with a unique opportunity to understand the shared histories of Maine and UMaine, and to participate actively in their shared future.”
Ali Abedi, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will also participate in the program and hopes that it can bring about new connections between the state and the university.
“The University of Maine has been playing a pivotal role in Maine’s economy and improving people’s lives for a long period of time, but it is often hard to clearly link the research activities and their impact to the State’s quality of life and show the importance of investing in educating the next generation of students,” Abedi said. “The Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program is a great way for UMaine faculty to get trained in how to communicate their research with Maine’s stakeholders in a language that is clear, concise and to the point.”
Lindenfeld and the UMaine administration will be running monthly training sessions with faculty this spring semester and plan to make the program a cornerstone training initiative at the university. The program, funded in large part from the Office of President Paul Ferguson, clearly aligns with the vision and strategies of the University of Maine’s strategic plan, the Blue Sky Project.
“Part of our job as faculty members at a land and sea grant institution is to create a shared vision with the state and find ways to connect our efforts in research and teaching with the daily lives of Mainers,” Lindenfeld said. “This is a big responsibility that we bear, and my aspiration in designing this program was to help us increase our ability to address the needs of people right here at home. We hope this program is a big step in that direction and are so excited to have launched the Blue Sky Faculty Fellows.”
The Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program will hold its first training session Jan. 14 at UMaine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation.
The Blue Sky Faculty Fellows
Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Associate Professor, School of Economics
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
Assistant Professor in Management, Maine Business School
Associate Research Professor, Center for Research and Education & Maine Education Policy Research Institute
Research Assistant Professor, School of Marine Sciences
Associate Professor of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, School of Forest Resources
E.L. Giddings Associate Professor of Forest Policy, School of Forest Resources
Professor, Department of English
Director of Academic Programs, Innovation Engineering
Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Director of the Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering
Mauricio Pereira da Cunha
Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
Associate Director and Professor, Climate Change Institute, and School of Biology and Ecology
Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Associate Professor, Department of Education and Human Development
Research Professor of Marine Sciences
Associate Professor of Forest Biometrics and Modeling, and Irving Chair of Forest Ecosystem Management, School of Forest Resources
Associate Professor, Department of Art
Associate Professor, School of Marine Sciences
Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
The University of Maine will dedicate its new Innovative Media Research and Commercialization (IMRC) Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an afternoon conference celebrating innovation and the state’s creative economy Jan. 9.
The 15,000-square-foot IMRC Center in the newly renovated Stewart Commons is home to UMaine’s Department of New Media and the MFA in Intermedia Program, and available to Maine entrepreneurs for creative exploration. It features intermedia graduate research labs, state-of-the-art technology classrooms, audio and video production studios, a 3-D and immersive visualization presentation environment, and facilities for prototyping, fabrication and computer numerical control (CNC) manufacturing.
The more than $10 million renovation of Stewart Commons, which also houses the Wyeth Family Studio Art Center, was funded in part by the state of Maine through a Maine Technology Asset Fund award from the Maine Technology Institute.
The IMRC Dedication Ceremony begins at 5 p.m., followed by a reception and facility tours. For more information or to request a disability accommodation, call 207.581.3582.
The conference, IMRC Maine: Celebrating Creative Innovation, from noon to 4:30 p.m., is held in partnership with the Camden-based Juice Conference and Midcoast Magnet, the Belfast Creative Coalition and Realize Maine Network.
Juice conferences connect leaders of the creative economy to foster growth and prosperity. Weaving the arts, technology and entrepreneurship, Juice inspires innovation by bringing talented people together from widely different backgrounds to learn, exchange ideas and share success stories.
The UMaine event will be a mini-Juice conference and the first outside the midcoast region.
The conference will feature a keynote by award-winning graphic designer John Bielenberg, co-founder of Future, and two seminars: “What’s Possible Tour,” featuring presentations by entrepreneurs who have used the IMRC prototyping and media development facilities, and “Diving Deeper: Prototyping Specifics,” featuring detailed presentations on 3-D printing and media production.
The full schedule of IMRC Maine is online. For more information, call 207.236.6545.
Dr. Jeff Hecker, University of Maine Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost, is enthusiastic about his role in facilitating implementation of the Blue Sky Plan — the university’s blueprint to become a nationwide leader among America’s research universities in student success, achievement and community engagement.
UMaine President Paul Ferguson named Hecker to this position in July. He replaces Susan Hunter, who was named Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the University of Maine System.
Provost Hecker, the former Dean of the UMaine College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, says his challenge is to manage the day-to-day operations of the Academic Affairs division while keeping an eye on the big picture — communicating long-range, mission-driven goals, and moving Blue Sky Plan initiatives forward in collaboration with faculty, other Cabinet members and the broader UMaine community.
Hecker describes the Blue Sky Plan unveiled in October 2011 as unified, ambitious, focused and inclusive. He is primarily focused on those initiatives that relate to the academic affairs agenda that are integral to each of the five major Blue Sky Pathways.
“The heart of UMaine’s mission is undergraduate education. As we pursue our research, community engagement and graduate education goals, we can’t lose sight of that core mission,” he says. “The beauty of the Blue Sky Plan is that it is at once aspirational and pragmatic. We are committed to growth as Maine’s land grant research university and equally committed to pursue excellence in our core mission.”
Provost Hecker and Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Jeff St. John are leading the campus in addressing a number of the Blue Sky Strategic Initiatives related to academic affairs. The newly reconstituted University Teaching Council and several Blue Sky Advisory Teams are assisting them in addressing a number of priority issues.
Faculty Development is at the top of the list. Those initiatives include promotion of best practices in the classroom, labs and studios, creating faculty development opportunities for the more than 100 adjunct faculty UMaine employs every year, enhancing online teaching quality, and launching the new Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program to develop the next generation of faculty leaders and university spokespeople.
Due to significant enrollment increases, particularly in engineering and sciences, Provost Hecker is also exploring a new initiative to bring postdoctoral fellows to UMaine as Visiting Assistant Professors.
During their two- to-three-year fixed-length appointments, the visiting faculty will hone their teaching and research skills to prepare themselves for careers in academia. At the same time, they will help address the need for high-quality instruction in high-demand areas, such as mathematics, English and laboratory sciences.
The idea, Hecker says, is to create opportunities that benefit both the postdoctoral faculty member and UMaine. “These positions could be an important piece of the puzzle,” Hecker says. “We are exploring cost-effective ways of meeting our students’ needs for quality, innovative instruction.”
A second Blue Sky emphasis for Provost Hecker is student success. He is leading a multipronged approach to improve the four- and six-year graduation rates by 10 percent by 2017. “Relative to our peers, we do well,” he says, adding that UMaine’s four-year graduation rate is about 40 percent and its six-year rate is about 60 percent. “But we can do better.”
An advisory group is gathering data about factors that impact whether students remain enrolled, including affordability; timely access to courses they need; and quality of their campus experience.
Dr. St. John, says Provost Hecker, is also working on the UMaine Blue Sky Plan Pathway 2 initiative to improve annual student retention by 5 percent by 2017. From 2011–12, UMaine succeeded in that effort — 81 percent of the 2012 cohort of first-time, full-time students stayed in school, which was a 5 percent improvement from the 2011 cohort, according to the University of Maine Office of Institutional Research. The challenge is to maintain that improvement.
Lastly, Provost Hecker and Faculty Senate President Harlan Onsrud are working collaboratively to create a process of inventorying UMaine’s academic programs to better define UMaine’s strengths and opportunities. By jointly hosting Academic Affairs Faculty Forums in which faculty members discuss academic initiatives and how to best advance strategic goals, the university is engaging in an open process that will help to guide investments central to future success.
“It’s fantastic having an opportunity like this,” Hecker says. “This is my 28th year of employment here and I am thrilled to be in a leadership role, helping UMaine achieve its goals.”
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
Active, interested University of Maine students stay in school, says Robert Dana, UMaine’s dean of students.
Fostering student engagement is therefore important for Dana, who knows a thing or two about longevity and stability. The vice president for student life has been at the state’s flagship university for nearly three decades.
“UMaine truly is a world-class institution and student success is at the top of the priority list,” he says, adding that it’s empowering to help lead the charge for a UMaine Blue Sky Plan Pathway 2 initiative to improve annual student retention by 5 percent by fiscal year 2017.
From 2011–12, UMaine did just that. Eighty-one percent of the 2012 cohort of first-time, full-time students stayed in school. It was a 5-percent improvement from the 2011 cohort, according to the University of Maine Office of Institutional Research.
The national first- to second-year retention rate for four-year public institutions is 72.2 percent, according to ACT (2013) and the national retention rate for selective public institutions is 77.6 percent, according to Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange (2013).
Dana says that UMaine President Paul Ferguson has energized this community specifically through the Blue Sky Plan and his total commitment to student success and his emphasis on our obligation to support students so they can achieve a college education. According to Dana, this orientation creates all sorts of opportunities.
Opportunities, for instance, to create “super-enriched” interconnected academic, cultural and social environments that serve as effective, durable, connected student support structures. It helps, Dana says, that all faculty and staff are “pulling in the same direction.”
He points to several recent developments intended to bolster student academic engagement and success, including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Advising Center, the College of Education and Human Development Advising Center and the Unum Black Bear Leaders program.
Advisers, he says, provide academic guidance, personal support and resources and seek to forge authentic supportive relationships with students. The advisers understand that students are complete and complex human beings, and not just an education or engineering major, Dana says.
The Unum Black Bear Leaders program provides selected first-year students with a trained one-on-one coach, team-building activities, as well as yearlong mentoring, seminars, social events and experiences.
The retention rate of the 113 first-year students who participated in the 2011–12 Unum Black Bear Leaders program was 87 percent; 73 percent surveyed said they had gained leadership skills, life skills and knowledge by participating in the program.
Of the students who completed the program, 13 percent withdrew after the first year, compared to 31 percent of first-year students with similar characteristics who chose not to participate.
Jeffrey Hecker, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, says it’s key that the multipronged approach to improving both retention and four- and six-year graduation rates is informed by data.
Retention is affected by a number of factors, says Hecker, including affordability, quality of instruction, access to required classes and quality of residential life.
There are more than 200 campus organizations in which students can become socially and culturally engaged and connected, says Dana, whether they’re from Maine, another state or country, are a veteran and/or a nontraditional student.
Dana listed a myriad of ways that students can be a contributor and leader on campus, including through research, volunteering, Greek Life, athletics, theater, music, GLBT advocacy, recreation, the campus newspaper and student government.
“Engagement matters,” he says. “Community matters. Being truly engaged in the world around us provides us with the opportunity to realize leadership. We admit people capable of greatness. It’s true you can do anything you want…teacher, doctor, lawyer, scientist…”
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
The Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News reported that while fall enrollment in the University of Maine System is down 2 percent from a year ago, enrollment at the University of Maine is up 3.2 percent.
The Kenway Composite Materials Laboratory will be dedicated Friday, Nov. 15 at 3 p.m. at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine.
The lab is being named for Kenway Corporation, a third-generation family business in Augusta, Maine. Founded in 1947, the company produces fiberglass pleasure boats and composite, industrial components.
Kenway Corporation, Kenneth Priest II, Michael Priest and Ian Kopp Families contributed a $100,000 endowment held in the University of Maine Foundation. The earnings support UMaine staff, students, research and scientific advancement of polymer matrix composites and related materials at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center.
Kenway Corporation is also a manufacturing partner with Advanced Infrastructure Technologies to produce Composite Arch Bridges, formerly known as Bridge-in-a-BackpackTM.
A tour and an infusion demonstration will be held following the dedication.
Undergraduate enrollment in the Maine Business School (MBS) at the University of Maine is at an all-time high of 947 students, an increase of nearly 21 percent from a year ago. And, at the same time the SAT scores of the incoming classes have consistently improved since 2009.
MBS Dean Ivan Manev says the 162-student increase reflects the quality of the school’s education and is the result of institutional recruitment and marketing efforts by MBS Associate Dean Stephanie Welcomer, student ambassadors and faculty.
The school’s enrollment jump aligns with Pathway 2 of UMaine President Paul Ferguson’s Blue Sky Project, which targets ensuring the university’s financial sustainability by attracting more students, particularly to signature programs, Manev says.
One big draw for the MBS includes the recently acquired Bloomberg Terminal, which affords students the ability to observe and analyze real-time financial market data and electronic trading. Students can learn important skills, including how to access global economic and security price information, as well as energy prices, interest rates, currency rates and supply chain analysis — advantageous skills for those seeking to land jobs in banking and marketing research.
Students also can glean valuable experience managing the Student Portfolio Investment Fund (SPIFFY), which is a part of the University of Maine Foundation’s endowment. More than 70 students actively participate in this group led by faculty adviser Professor Robert Strong. In October 2013, SPIFFY surpassed $2 million for the first time, says Manev.
And, through the IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, business student volunteers gain hands-on skills preparing tax returns while simultaneously providing a community service for students and low-income taxpayers.
This year, U.S. News & World Report cited the Maine Business School as one of the nation’s top 150 business undergraduate programs. The MBS offers a four-year undergraduate degree in business administration with majors in accounting, finance, management and marketing, and concentrations in entrepreneurship, international business, and management information systems. It also offers an MBA. The school’s mission is to prepare students for successful careers by challenging them to discover their potential, develop business skills, and act responsibly.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
The University of Maine College of Education and Human Development will host the third Symposium for Educators of International Students in Maine from 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 at the Buchanan Alumni House on the Orono campus.
The professional development conference will focus on issues related to the education of international students attending Maine high schools.
Teachers, counselors and administrators of schools with international students, as well as University of Maine faculty and students, are invited to the free event.
Aretha Marbley, visiting professor from Texas Tech University, will deliver the keynote. Breakout sessions will address topics such as dating and relationship customs, the perceived pressure for international students to attend Ivy League universities, and increasing competence as multicultural educators.
At 11:30 a.m., a panel of international students from local high schools will answer questions about their experiences coming to Maine. International UMaine students will also perform musical presentations throughout the day.
An initiative to transform the University of Maine by enhancing opportunities for women has received an additional $284,093 from the National Science Foundation.
The supplemental funds will be used to develop a regional consortium to assist in the retention of female science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) faculty by facilitating dual-career hiring –– providing opportunities for partners of UMaine faculty and staff members.
The new hiring consortium — Maine Career Connect — will help partners and professionals seeking employment in the region by connecting them with employers and resources, as well as supporting transitions.
“This funding will assist in recruiting and retaining dual-career couples at UMaine,” says Susan Gardner, director of the Rising Tide Center at UMaine.
“In our study of faculty who left UMaine, up to half of those who did so in a given year was due to a lack of employment for their professional spouses and partners.”
National studies have indicated 70 percent of academics, and 83 percent of female scientists, are in dual-career relationships.
UMaine’s ADVANCE Rising Tide Center, which was formed after the initial portion of the five-year, $3.2 million grant was secured, strives to improve opportunities for female faculty members in social-behavioral sciences (SBS) and STEM to “create a rising tide for the entire university.”
The initiative has four goals: to increase the percentage of women teaching in STEM and SBS; to support effective policies and opportunities to recruit, retain and promote female faculty; to decrease isolation of women faculty by fostering a positive work environment, promoting work-life balance, pursuing diversity and partner relocation assistance, lowering barriers to success and improving connections within and outside of Maine; and to engage the University of Maine System and the faculty union with programs and policies.
UMaine’s ADVANCE Rising Tide Center personnel include Jeffrey Hecker, principal investigator and incoming executive vice president of academic affairs and provost. He takes over for Susan Hunter, former provost who Sept. 1 becomes vice chancellor for academic affairs for the University of Maine System; Gardner, associate professor of higher education; Amy Fried, professor of political science; Eleanor Groden, professor of entomology; and Karen Horton, associate professor of mechanical engineering technology.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
University of Maine President Paul Ferguson has been elected to serve a two-year term on the steering committee of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). His term begins July 1.
ACUPCC is a consortium of 677 colleges and universities committed to reducing carbon emissions and aggressively promoting energy efficiency. The 33-member steering committee is ACUPCC’s chief governing body, responsible for guidance, policy and direction.
The committee convened at the Annual ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit, June 21-22 in Washington, D.C. The summit was designed to provide senior leadership at colleges and universities nationwide an opportunity to discuss how to achieve ACUPCC goals and promote sustainability on their campuses and throughout higher education. The ACUPCC also released its first five-year report at the summit
As ACUPCC signatory schools, the colleges and universities pledge to conduct annual inventories of all greenhouse gas emissions; implement immediate “tangible actions” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; develop a customized climate action plan to reach climate neutrality in operations; make sustainability a part of the educational experience for students; and to make periodic progress reports publicly available to facilitate and accelerate progress for fellow institutions and society.
In 2011, UMaine was one of three winners of ACUPCC’s Second Nature’s Leadership Award in the doctorate degree-granting university category. The award recognizes the university’s work, progress and commitment to creating a low-carbon future with UMaine constituents and the public.
UMaine has a campus wide commitment among faculty, staff, administrators and students to the mission of the university’s Sustainability Alliance. The alliance has been responsible for the UMaine climate action plan and the sustainability-focused campus master plan.
Other examples of UMaine’s climate leadership include the creation of several new graduate programs that provide opportunities for UMaine students to become environmental leaders; an infusion of $50 million from external sources to create solutions to Maine’s environmental problems through the Maine Sustainability Solutions Initiative; and research in climate change, offshore wind energy and forest biofuels.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, (207) 581-3745