Maine Memo — March 16

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

I hope this note finds you healthy and ready for some favorite March activities, including tapping maple trees, prepping gardens, hiking, or maybe spring cleaning.

One reason I appreciate March is that it’s Women’s History Month. This time to celebrate women’s accomplishments got its official start at the national level when President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the week of March 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week.

At UMaine and UMM, we have much, and many, to celebrate. Our female faculty and staff are leaders. They make discoveries, inspire students and conduct meaningful outreach. They lead from atop glaciers, in oceans, forests, labs and classrooms, well as via Zoom, and in gyms and on stages. Students lead the way, too, in research, academics, community service, arts and athletics.

By intentionally highlighting women’s achievements, we give young people a glimpse of some of what is possible. And we move toward a more just, equitable, diverse and inclusive university and world.

For me, as a woman in the mathematics field, I can tell you from experience how crucial it was to see women in my life who could inspire me to go on and believe that I could succeed. Teachers and mentors include my fierce high school calculus teacher Helen Blinn, as well as then-new professor Marie Gaudard at the University of New Hampshire who so diligently helped me be sure the statistical analysis in my dissertation was sound and rigorous, and Cora Marrett at the National Science Foundation who guided me and gave frank advice with extraordinary grace. There have been so many others over my career whose confidence was a model and whose support for me I so deeply appreciate. Among other things that I have learned from them is that when a group tackles a complex problem or seeks an innovative solution, the quality of the result is always better when people with diverse experiences, backgrounds and perspectives are at the table.

With this in mind, I’d like to share with you two celebratory events.

The first — a virtual roundtable titled “Women in Leadership and Social Justice: The Importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” — took place March 15. I moderated the panel, which included Dr. Shontay Delalue ’00, ’03G, vice president for institutional equity and diversity at Brown University and soon-to-be senior vice president and senior diversity officer at Dartmouth College; Leigh Saufley ’76, ’80, dean of the University of Maine School of Law and former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court; and Angela Okafor, attorney, business owner and councilor on the Bangor City Council. If you missed the live event, here is the link to a recording of the discussion.

At 5 p.m. Thursday, March 25, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program will present three outstanding women with Maryann Hartman Awards for their inspirational achievements. Awardees are: Sharon Barker of Bangor, retired director of the University of Maine’s Women’s Resource Center; Maulian Dana of Old Town, Penobscot Nation Ambassador; and Kandyce Powell of Wiscasset, executive director of the Maine Hospice Council. Hartman, a former UMaine associate professor of communication, is the namesake of the award. In addition to being a distinguished educator, she was a feminist, scholar and humanitarian. All are welcome to register with the University of Maine Alumni Association for the free event.

Additional Women’s History Month events offered by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion are online. I also encourage readers to reach out to a woman or women who have inspired them. Let them know the difference they have made in your life.

Thank you. I wish everyone a rewarding and remarkable spring.


Joan Ferrini-Mundy
Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, University of Maine System
President, University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias