President’s Message to the Community: March 21

Welcome back for the second half of the spring semester. I hope your break was as productive as you hoped it would be. I know for some members of our community, Spring Break was particularly memorable. They included 15 students and one faculty member from the School of Nursing, who were in Costa Rica on a medical mission trip. For the 19th year, our Alternative Breaks program sent UMaine volunteers into communities to undertake service projects, this time at sites in Virginia and New York state. And 18 students majoring in anthropology, zoology, wildlife ecology, and ecology and environmental sciences were in Tanzania for a field studies course in ecology led by two faculty members.

Closer to home, we had numerous students, faculty and staff volunteering their time and talent for important STEM initiatives, including Expanding Your Horizons, Maine Science Festival and Maine State Science Fair. Another popular event, the Engineers Week EXPO, organized by the Maine Engineering Promotional Council led by UMaine and the University of Southern Maine, had record attendance this year.

All are great examples of UMaine’s community engagement that is so much a part of the student experience here.

This month in Augusta, the FY17 Supplemental Budget became law and more work is ahead on the biennial budget this legislative session. We held our March Board of Visitors meeting in Augusta, where members had an opportunity to connect with legislators and Department of Education leaders. The conversations were positive and a reminder of our important role partnering across Maine.

Also in the legislature just before spring break, Chancellor James Page gave the State of the University address. His remarks can be found online.

These last two weeks in March find us going full bore in the student recruitment cycle, with our upcoming Accepted Student Day events March 25 and April 10 expected to see record attendance. This Saturday alone we expect to welcome 3,200 accepted students and their guests.

Prospective student applications, admissions and confirmations are all up from this time last year. And our overall winter/spring enrollment is up 150 students from this time last year, due in part to a 10 percent increase in the number of graduate students.

I also want to mention the growing success of UMaine’s Think 30 initiative that encourages students to complete 30 credits a year so they can graduate in four years, saving money and reducing debt. The percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduates taking 15 or more credits is on the rise, with 78 percent of the 2016 cohort taking 15 or more credits this semester — a 16 percentage point increase over the percentage of the 2015 cohort taking 15 or more credits during their first spring semester.

As for graduation, we are gearing up for our 215th Commencement on May 13. This week, we announced this year’s honorary doctoral degree recipients — alumni Donna Loring, a Penobscot Indian Nation elder and council member, and Kenneth Hodgkins, a leader in developing and maintaining peaceful international use of outer space as director for the Office of Space and Advanced Technology in the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs in the U.S. State Department. Donna will join us for the morning ceremony beginning at 9:30; Kenneth for the afternoon ceremony that starts at 2:30.

Between our Commencement ceremonies is the President’s Faculty Recognition Luncheon, starting at noon, where we will present the Presidential Awards. This year’s winners: Research Professor Marcella Sorg will receive the 2017 Presidential Public Service Achievement Award; Professor of English Harvey Kail, the 2017 Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award; and Professor of Anthropology and Quaternary and Climate Studies Daniel Sandweiss, the 2017 Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award.

The caliber of their outstanding achievements in teaching, research and community service speak to UMaine’s leadership. And they have contributed to the UMaine student experience in and out of the classroom. I hope you’ll join me when we honor them May 13.