Brianna Hughes of New Gloucester, Maine, is a Ph.D. candidate in food and nutrition sciences. Her current research, advised by Dr. Denise Skonberg, focuses on the evaluation of nonthermal shellfish processing methods. She received her bachelor’s degree from McGill University in 2007, and her master’s degree from UMaine in 2010 with value-added food product research focused on the utilization of fish oils for omega-3 fatty acid fortification of soft cheeses. She is also working toward a graduate certificate in Innovation Engineering.
Brianna’s academic and research achievements have earned numerous awards, most recently second place in the Natural Sciences Poster Competition of this year’s GradExpo, and the Outstanding Service Award from the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture in 2012. She also is a three-time recipient of the Suppliers’ Award for Outstanding Achievement from Northeast Institute of Food Technologists, and her research won first place in the Product Development Division of the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo in 2010.
For the past two years, Brianna served as the graduate student representative to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. She chaired two Graduate Student Government committees as well as the K-12 Outreach Initiative, and is the student vice president of UMaine’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. For the 2013-14 academic year, Brianna received the first Blue Sky Fellowship, an initiative of Blue Sky Pathway 4 intended to increase the number of Graduate Fellowships. Brianna is working with President Ferguson to facilitate implementation strategies in year three of the Blue Sky Project.
In 2011, Brianna was one of two students named to the UMaine Blue Sky Strategic Planning Leadership Team and she is a member of Blue Sky Pathway 4 — Transforming Lives: Strengthening the UMaine Undergraduate and Graduate Student Experience.
She plans to pursue a career in research and development in the food industry.
Progress on Academic Affairs Strategies - November 22, 2013
This Fall, it seems campus is just buzzing with positive and exciting things. The enhanced Blue Sky news website has been launched, which seamlessly links University of Maine news to the Pathways in one convenient location. The website also allows easy searching by keyword to connect everyone to progress as it occurs. The integration model is complex, involving all facets of campus, but in true UMaine spirit, it is a model of cooperation, collaboration, and community. The past year has been a tremendous success for UMaine despite many external challenges. As President Ferguson detailed in Blue Sky Impacts, the UMaine 2013Annual Report, UMaine achieved enrollment increases, a balanced budget, bold and unified branding, numerous student initiatives, broad outreach through public and private partnerships, and an investment of approximately $85M in campus improvement. These achievements are the work of the entire campus community through the individual Pathways and the support and leadership of our administration.
This year, the integration of these Blue Sky initiatives began with the deliberate responsibility for the Pathway strategic initiatives moving to specific Cabinet members and their campus advisory teams. The UMaine mission to be the most student-centered and community engaged of the American Research Universities is well under way, and in my Blog, I will be highlighting specific progress of the Blue Sky Strategies through the perspective of each Cabinet member. This first Blog to begin this series will focus on the Division of Academic Affairs.
Provost Jeff Hecker was appointed September 1st, and he immediately began working to implement the many Academic Affairs-related initiatives in the Blue Sky Project. Strategies that had been completed prior to his move to the Provost’s Office included establishment of the PRE-VUE funded UMaine Humanities Center (Strategic Initiative 1b), review of UMaine organizational structure and focus (Strategic Initiative 2h), and enhancement of undergraduate research through the PRE-VUE supported Center for Undergraduate Research (Strategic Initiative 4a). There are 11 strategies still in progress, and to demonstrate the integrated nature of Year 3, only three of those strategies are solely the responsibility of Academic Affairs. The other eight are shared initiatives among other university divisions.
I met with Associate Provost Jeff St. John to discuss what strategies were coming out of the Provost’s Office to ensure continued progress. He explained that on shared initiatives, the Provost is taking the lead as Chief Academic Officer, informed by input from the Deans’ Council, the Provost’s Council, and the Provost’s Executive Council, as well as the Cabinet members sharing the initiative and their respective advisory teams.
Provost Hecker has certainly hit the ground running since September, spearheading a number of critical changes for Academic Affairs supporting the Blue Sky Plan including:
- Reviving the University Teaching Council, made up of eight faculty members, which is currently focused on online course evaluations, as well as the creation of professional development opportunities for adjunct faculty. (Pathways 3, 4)
- Hiring the new Director of Assessment Dr. Brian Doore, so that the University of Maine will be better prepared to meet accreditation expectations and be responsive to academic quality. (Pathway 4)
- In collaboration with the Faculty Senate leadership, has scheduled a series of three Academic Affairs Forums in December, February, and April to openly discuss Blue Sky initiatives including signature, emerging, core, and evolving academic programs, as well as retention and degree-completion initiatives. The program designations of signature, core, emerging, or evolving will continue to be defined, based on the foundational criteria suggested by the Faculty Senate. (Pathways 1, 3)
- The advent of the Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program is also underway, with 20 outstanding faculty members chosen from among all of the colleges to engage in highly focused professional development and leadership opportunities. (Pathways 1, 3)
- The 29 new faculty who started at UMaine this fall represent the largest new faculty cohort in six years, and is reflective of the increases in enrollment and progress the University of Maine has made in the first two years of the Blue Sky Plan. The Provost is very interested in hires that will benefit multiple colleges, promoting interdisciplinarity and responsiveness to Maine’s needs. (Pathways 3, 4)
- The Flagship Internship Program is a joint initiative between Provost Hecker, Vice President Ward, Vice President Dana, and the Faculty Senate to increase undergraduate educational quality, job preparedness, and partnership with Maine companies. (Pathway 4)
These are just a sampling of the many initiatives coming out of Academic Affairs, but it is easy to see the positive effect throughout campus already. The Provost’s leadership in just the past few months has been highly inclusive and effective. His commitment is clear for achieving integration of Academic Affairs throughout all of the Blue Sky Plan Pathways.
The Blue Sky Plan “Creation to Integration” – July 19, 2013
I have been very fortunate to have been a part of the Blue Sky Plan since its inception in the fall of 2011. The 26 members of the Blue Sky Team were chosen for their campus engagement and diverse interests in the future of the University of Maine. There were members from each college, alumni, undergraduates and graduate students, faculty and staff, administration and outside constituents. It has truly been an inclusive experience, made even more so by President Ferguson’s Community Conversations and the entire Team’s effort to host over 30 information gathering sessions. We read each and every submission that was made, which I felt really spoke to the President’s goal of having the Blue Sky Plan be a campus-owned initiative, and not just an on-paper strategic plan.
In our first meetings as a group, discussions revolved around our mission and our vision, essentially asking who are we? Our first discovery was that while we were all familiar with our own niche on campus, we had limited knowledge of what was happening not only across campus, but sometimes within our own buildings or colleges. It was as if a spark had been set off, and suddenly the discussions were transformed from “who are we?” to “who do we want to be?” These revelations gave rise to the five Pathways, which describe who we want to be at the end of 2017. The Pathways contain the specific goals of the Blue Sky Plan, and are tribute to an incredible year of discovery, partnership, creativity and commitment.
Year 2 was all about Implementation, and transforming the 30,000-foot perspective of the Pathways to boots-on-the-ground reality. The Blue Sky Team broke into individual Pathway groups, as well as a Communication Team and a Leadership Team. The integral aspects of inclusivity and diversity were maintained from Year 1, but the groups worked individually to balance and prioritize the initiatives within their own specific Pathways. Along the way, community engagement was achieved through videos, numerous presentations by President Ferguson across the state, and a newly launched website. Progress was mapped, so everyone could see what each Pathway team was working on and what they had already finished. Some initiatives were completed very quickly, while others will take the full five years to finish. In all though, Year 2 was really about working together to organize and deliver a feasible and fiscally sustainable plan.
Now we are getting ready for Year 3, the moment-of-truth Integration phase, where all of our momentum as a campus has led. Year 3 will really bring the Blue Sky Plan to every level as the Pathway initiatives are achieved. We have the opportunity through the Blue Sky Plan not only to transform the University of Maine right now, but to take hold of our future. The Blue Sky Plan is not a strategic plan fixed in time, but is a continual improvement process fueled by the cooperative sense of spirit that has been so fundamental to the Blue Sky Plan all along. As Henry Ford so aptly put it, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Year 3 is going to bring about many exciting changes to the University of Maine, and I am excited to be a part of them!
Born and raised in Central Maine, Derek Francis received his B.A. in Journalism and Minor in Theater at the University of Maine in 2011. He is currently in the University of Maine’s Student Development in Higher Education M.Ed. program.
Derek is also a Graduate Assistant for New Student Programs at the University of Maine as well as an intern for the university’s Student Wellness Resource Center. He has a passion for academic success programs as well as student wellness initiatives. Derek is involved in an independent study for the Office of the President.
Derek’s Blog No. 4.
Blue Sky “On the Street” – May 7, 2013
As the spring semester comes to a close, it is a great opportunity to take the pulse on just what UMaine community members know about the Blue Sky Plan and how they feel it affects them personally.
In the spirit of the traditional “Man on the Street” interview style, I thought it might be beneficial to interview folks at UMaine about the Blue Sky Plan in this candid format to truly measure their engagement with the Blue Sky Plan. Without limitations on who I would approach—whether they be students, staff, or faculty—and considering that there were no wrong answers, the possibilities were wide open.
While combing the mall in front of Fogler Library for potential interviewees, I ran into a co-worker—and fellow Team Maine member—Jason Myers. Keep in mind, I was actively avoiding interviewing people I knew, but I knew that Jason would be a great person to talk to about Blue Sky. Jason, a sophomore English major from Connecticut, is not only a Team Maine member, our tour guides and student ambassadors, but he is also a resident assistant (RA). Being so involved, Jason seemed like a great person to give an undergraduate perspective on Blue Sky. The following is from our talk during a particularly beautiful day out on the mall:
“What do you know about the Blue Sky Plan?”
“Well…it was begun and progressed by President Ferguson. [As an RA] most of my experience comes with raising school spirit with students [Pathway 3 – Morale and Marketing]. RAs really try and get our residents to come to more games…which is fun…”
“How do you feel about the Blue Sky Plan?”
“The stuff I see [regarding Blue Sky] is good! And it seems like President Ferguson really has a purpose for the Blue Sky Plan…But I do wish there was a little more info [aimed at] students…more in-depth and targeted info towards students could be helpful.”
“How does the Blue Sky Plan apply to you personally?”
“These initiatives show what UMaine has [to offer]. So, it applies to all students…[The Blue Sky Plan] is trying to get us more on the map. And we already have a lot to offer here, but the people on top are trying to show Maine our potential…and more than engineering and sciences, but [show what he have] in all majors!”
As I suspected, Jason has a pretty good grasp on the overall general goals of the Blue Sky Plan. Maybe I will see YOU around campus and we can have a chat about Blue Sky as well!
Derek’s Blog No. 3.
Students First – March 28, 2013
My favorite Blue Sky Pathway—or at least the Pathway that I feel closest to—is Pathway 4: Transforming Lives: Strengthening the Undergraduate and Graduate Student Experience. As a student, the objectives of Pathway 4 feel the most immediate and tangible to me. Pathway 4 deals directly with student success. And, if you have read my short bio at the top of this page, you will find that student academic success is near and dear to my heart. Maybe it is because I took a more casual approach to my undergraduate career and hope that my shortcomings can help others students find success faster than I did. Or- maybe I just want to see everyone get the most that they can out of their college experience. Regardless, Pathway 4 will be the focus of my closer look at the Blue Sky Pathways.
To achieve this lofty goal of student success, Pathway 4 focuses on bolstering residential life, increasing graduate research fellowships, undergraduate internships, as well as creating more opportunities for advising and environments for learning. That is all well and good, but just how does Pathway 4 aim to accomplish all of this? Now, this is a blog and not a doctoral thesis, so I am going to focus on only a few highlights. You can follow along by pulling up http://umaine.edu/bluesky/the-five-pathways/pathway-4/
An exciting development within the realm of Pathway 4 is the STRIDES program. STRIDES stand for Students, Technology/Marketing/Branding, Responsibility, Inclusivity, Development, Engagement, and Staff. What STRIDES represents is a game plan, designed by the Division of Student Life, by people who work with students in a mentoring capacity on a daily basis. “ It is not a strategic plan, but a starting point,” as emphasized by those who developed it. It allows those working with Student Life to better meet the needs of students and better facilitate the avenues in which students can be served.
But here is what is most fascinating to me about STRIDES—its framework is built around not just Pathway 4, but with all of the Pathways. When initiatives are designed with Blue Sky thinking in mind, it becomes all but impossible not to incorporate all 5 Pathways into your work. To improve the student experience it will require aligning with Maine’s needs, an eye towards financial sustainability, building a community and culture of excellence, and a commitment to stewardship of place. It is inherently inclusive and mindful of each Pathway -no matter which Pathway directly affects you-or is your “favorite.”
Pathway 4 also has some neat initiatives such as a Greek Initiative that involves self-assessments for fraternities and sororities to turn good organizations into great organizations. The Greek Initiative also is considering a sorority village, which will help provide an oft-desired housing complex for members of our university’s sororities.
Take a look at Pathway 4 for yourself. You will see all of the hard work that is going into improving student life and hands-on learning and leadership experiences for our students. I am a bit jealous of the students who are moving up through the undergraduate ranks and the growing opportunities that are being developed for them.
To wrap-up up this love fest for Pathway 4, I think it is important that everyone realizes that each Pathway is as potentially impacting as the other. And each Pathway, as the STRIDES framework illustrates, depends on all Pathways-with the entire UMaine Community- to move forward. I feel like that is kind of a big deal-and the value of the Blue Sky Project.
Derek’s Blog No. 2.
Tips to Effectively Navigate Blue Skies – March 6, 2013
In “A Strategic Planning Primer for Higher Education” Alexandra L. Lerner (1999) stresses that a successful strategic plan allows constituencies to work together towards their common goals and allows them to reflect creatively. The Blue Sky Plan’s website allows us all to do just that. Through the website’s easy-to-read progress charts, news articles, and informative videos, the UMaine Community, as a whole, can obtain a clearer picture on how each Pathway functions in achieving our common goals for a better University of Maine.
To begin, it only seemed logical to spend some time navigating the site and get the most of what the Blue Sky Plan website has to offer. Although this website is one banner-click away from the main UMaine page, I still found it helpful to bookmark the Blue Sky Plan page. If you are anything like me, the UMaine website is my homepage when I open up any web browser. However, any sub-site that I find helpful I like to have bookmarked and on my browser toolbar. I just like the instant access, I suppose. You can bookmark the Blue Sky Plan site at: http://www.umaine.edu/bluesky/
Now that you’ve bookmarked the site (…or not–your call), let’s look at what the Blue Sky Plan website has to offer. Each Pathway is multi-faceted and holds depth in what it is aiming to achieve. Believe me, I get that it can be hard to keep track of some of the nuances of each Pathway. I have been knee-deep in Blue Sky for a couple of semesters now and I find myself referencing the individual Pathways all the time. But I think that reflects the integration of each Pathway with another creating a breadth of common ground. So, if you need to reference anything from the individual Pathway goals to an overview or executive summary of the Blue Sky Plan, this site has got you covered.
The meat and potatoes of the website- for me, anyway—are the handy Pathway progress charts. These are located conveniently in the middle column of the page. This is where anyone can see the specific initiatives of each pathway and where we stand on reaching the goals. And if that particular initiative has been completed, it gets checked off from our Blue Sky Plan To-Do list.
The Blue Sky Plan site also now features a few new items that may be of interest to you. You can tell they are new because there is a little [(NEW)] tag next to them so you can’t miss them! These new features include in-depth videos that overview each Pathway in easily digestible and aesthetically-pleasing clips. As of this blog post there are currently videos for Pathways 3 and 4, but more are on the way. The other new feature, perhaps not as impressive but hopefully worth a peek, is called “Derek’s Blog”. I hope that you enjoy it.
As you will hopefully see, the Blue Sky Plan website provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made towards our goals and take note of what still needs to be done. It helps keep us informed as well as motivated. I think Ms. Lerner would be proud.
Even as a student, I find myself wandering through the various pages of the site. Personally, my favorite aspect of the Blue Sky Plan site is the News Report page where we learn about the great things UMaine is achieving through the lens of the Blue Sky Plan. These are achievements that have given me a certain sense of Black Bear pride as I read some of these news stories. And prior to this news aggregate page, I may have not even been aware of these accomplishments by the UMaine Community. So, if you haven’t spent a few spare minutes navigating the Blue Sky Plan site, I hope this overview has given you a reason to do so. Spending the time to check out this blog is certainly a good way to begin Blue Sky thinking!
Not Just Another Strategic Plan – February 15, 2013
I will start off by saying—I prefer not to think of the Blue Sky Project as merely just another strategic plan.
Typically, the term “strategic planning” induces a glazed-over look on many in higher education—or a labored sigh, at best. It is the buzz word to end all buzz words. In fact, Benjamin Ginsberg’s article “The Strategic Plan: Neither Strategy Nor Plan, but a Waste of Time in The Chronicle of Higher Education (7/17/11), suggested that
“interchangeability of visions for the future underscores the fact that the precise content of most colleges’ strategic plans is pretty much irrelevant. Plans are usually forgotten soon after they are promulgated…The plan is not a blueprint for the future. It is, instead, a management tool for the present.”
As a future student affairs professional, I must say that I am inclined to empathize with such a response. Googling four-year public institutions for a gander at their strategic plans only emphasized just how clichéd the practice of developing one has often become.
In my pursuit of learning what other four-year publics are doing, words such as “expand”, “sustainability”, and “focus” were in many of the strategic plans that I read. Our strategic plan, the Blue Sky Project (BSP) has words like that too. The difference? The lion’s share of strategic plans of the institutions I looked at seemed like simply that—plans. They are laundry lists filled with hopes and dreams, but without a real road map of where the institution was going.
It seems that the plans of many other institutions are not as concrete-no specificity and no ways to measure success. There is presumably much effort put into the planning process at these universities. Some of them had really snazzy-looking pages for their plans. There was even lots to say about the planning of the plans. It was as if the planning portion was all that needed to be done. In fact, one state took their whole planning show on the road, sharing “what might be” for their constituents to see.
The Blue Sky Plan is different.
The Blue Sky Plan has built-in short-term goals for real results targeted for the UMaine community as well as long-term goals that will strengthen our academics, faculty, staff, student life, and infrastructure through five well-maintained pathways: Maine’s Renewal, Money & Management, Morale & Marketing, Mentoring & Modeling, and Master Plan & Maintenance.
Although the development process in the Blue Sky Project was inclusive-many participated in its design- the Implementation phase is designed to be just as inclusive, enriched with people-driven timelines. This will only help us make constant progress towards our goals. That seems to me like a plan-with a plan!
Each entry of my blog will take a closer look at what each pathway means for you, for me, and for the larger community. The Blue Sky Plan is not just talking about planning, it is intended to solve some problems, improve our work and study environment and take us to a higher level-a better and brighter University of Maine.