President’s Message to the Community: Sept. 20

In this, the first month of the new academic year, I want to take the opportunity to talk about the important work ahead of us.

For the last five years, we have had a strategic plan that has acted as our road map for meeting benchmarks in serving Maine, achieving a culture of excellence, and ensuring student engagement and success. It was created to reaffirm public higher education at Maine’s flagship university and, from the planning process in 2011, was designed as an inclusive and consensus-driven strategic planning process. It launched with the help of a great deal of engagement and input from across the university — from leadership, faculty, staff, students, alumni and community partners.

Now, it’s time to assess our five-year strategic plan, understanding what worked and what didn’t, and learn from the process.

And time is of the essence.

As I announced in May, my fulfilling tenure as University of Maine president ends in June 2018 with my retirement. This fall, a national search is launching for the next president.

It is critical that leading up to the leadership transition, we assess where we’ve been to inform where we’re headed. The culmination of a five-year strategic plan does not mean we then operate from a blank slate. The Blue Sky Project and its five pathways was a working guide for our planning and decision making. It will help determine the success of UMaine’s next strategic plan.

The strength of the Blue Sky plan came from the hundreds of UMaine community members who provided input and aided in its implementation. That same community engagement is needed now, in the next seven weeks as we move into the assessment forums.

Sept. 27 at 3:30 p.m. in Hauck Auditorium, Provost Jeffrey Hecker and I will kick off the Blue Sky Strategic Plan Assessment Forums. Please join us. Then beginning next month, assessment forums are scheduled for each of the five pathways. The full schedule of town hall-style forums is online. There, we’ll also post videos of the forum presentations, as well as a feedback form and copies of the Blue Sky Project to read or download.

Just as we did at the start of the strategic plan process, it’s critical to hear any and all feedback and reflections on the past five years at UMaine.

At the start of our strategic planning process, input from the many members of the UMaine community mattered. Now, it’s important that everyone engage again, also to help shape the next chapter in UMaine’s history.

In my Presidential Acceptance Speech on June 17, 2014, I noted that I would focus my efforts on three major areas. Two of those efforts involved engagement with state leadership on the role of public higher education in advancing Maine, and fundraising. But the first priority I cited: continued implementation of the initiatives defined by the Blue Sky Strategic Plan. I noted then that the integrated plan had become “the new operating model of the institution.”

Strategic plans often end up on a shelf, but not this one.

Join Provost Hecker and me Sept. 27. Come to the other five forums in October and November. Provide feedback online. We look forward to hearing from you.