Maine Memo — July 1

Dear members of the University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias communities,

We are coming back together!

A pandemic has reshaped our world. It has reshaped the University of Maine and our regional campus at Machias. Our Black Bear and Clipper communities have not been together on-site, on our campuses, at our offices, or in our facilities across the state in these past four months.  But we — YOU — have stayed connected to the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias. The Class of 2024 from around the country has committed, the faculty have taught their classes and continued their research from their homes, and staff members have sustained the operations of our complex enterprise.  We have been planning — hundreds of hours of Zoom calls, dozens of committees, and task forces. We never closed, we continued, in very new ways, doing the new work we needed to do to be ready to be together again.

And today we announce that we will have students, faculty, and staff on our campuses and in our academic sites statewide for the start of classes on August 31 — reshaping our university for now and for tomorrow with new connections, new learnings, and new commitments.

What will it be like? That will, in part, be up to all of us. We will build this new world together, in Orono, Machias and all of the other places where there are Black Bears and Clippers, with new expectations for each other, with creative changes that will redefine what it means to “go to college” in 2020 during a pandemic — a new learning adventure, together.

I know that you are craving details, directions, information, and more certainty. Letters are being released today from several senior administrators with some of that information, along with resources and sites where you will learn more. As this virus reshapes the world, we have learned to be flexible, to use new information as we have it, and to change our plans when the situation changes. Here is what I can say:

We are committed to safety and health, and our planning will pay off. We will be ready, when you all return, to keep the university as safe a place as we can, with your help. We have a UMS Scientific Advisory Board that is guiding us. We will ask all to follow federal and state health and safety guidelines. Face coverings, 6-foot distancing, fewer students in classrooms, and symptom checking will be our new world. We will provide COVID-19 testing for our communities — watch for details on this.

We are dedicated to keep learning going. Universities are about the future — about opportunity, social mobility, new horizons, and the preparation of the next generations of leaders, innovators, and creative contributors.

And as Maine’s public research university, we are about service to the state and beyond, as evidenced by our all-out efforts since March to help address pandemic-related needs that have arisen. We have been a leader in advancing public health and economic recovery, and we will continue to be in the coming months, from exploring development of biobased PPE to helping Maine businesses and industries pivot products, supply chains, and production processes. We influenced our communities with our research and presence throughout the state of Maine and that work will not stop, making this an exciting time for students to be on campus and getting hands-on research learning experience tackling the pressing problems raised by the pandemic.

I cannot wait for us to be together again as a community. We will continue to learn, grow, and conduct great work as we provide opportunities for our next generations.