Highlights from the State of the University Address — March 8

University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy delivered the 2022 State of the University address on March 8 in Minsky Recital Hall.

Guest speakers included UMaine Faculty Senate president and professor William Nichols; Alicia Cruz-Uribe, the Edward Sturgis Grew Associate Professor of Mineralogy and Petrology, School of Earth and Climate Sciences; Zachary Wyles, president of University of Maine Student Government; and Valeria Roach, a sophomore in the NROTC (Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps) Program and native of Ukraine.

Short videos focused on fostering learner success at the University of Maine at Machias; the UMaine School of Nursing diversity, equity and inclusion initiative; Maine’s national R1 top-tier research university designation; the Research Learning Experience (RLE) initiative of UMS TRANSFORMS; and students’ Black Bears Care campaign.

The recording of this event is available online, below are some highlights and a transcript of remarks.

Achieving R1

President Joan Ferrini-Mundy at the podium in Minsky Hall for the March 8 State of the University address

UMaine earned the highest possible designation a doctoral research university can achieve from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education: R1. To learn more about what this accomplishment means for the university, read the story and watch the video about it.


Aiding those in crisis

Valeria Roach at the podium of the 2022 State of the University Address while President Joan Ferrini-Mundy (seated at right) looks on.

Valeria Roach, a sophomore in NROTC and native of Ukraine, urged members of the UMaine community to support those affected by the war in her home country to the best of their abilities. Watch her remarks here. Her family created a fundraiser on GoFundMe to help her friend Sasha who lives in Odessa, Ukraine. In response to the crisis in Ukraine, the University of Maine Foundation established the Higher Education Relief Fund to provide financial support for students and faculty who may be impacted by various environmental, political or global crises as they are pursuing or hope to pursue scholarship at UMaine. Visit the UMaine Foundation website to learn more and support the fund.

Black Bears Care

Zachary Wyles at the podium of the 2022 State of the University address

President Ferrini-Mundy and Zachary Wyles, president of University of Maine Student Government Inc., discussed how students, faculty and staff worked together to maintain safe, in-person learning and other experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch this video to learn more.

Excellence in Machias

Photo of 2022 UMaine Machias valedictorian Yani Nganzobo sitting on library steps at the Machias campus

During the address, audience members learned about the excellent work and initiatives from students, faculty and staff at UMaine Machias, as well as ongoing efforts to fully integrate the institution as UMaine’s regional campus. Yani Nganzobo, the newly named 2022 UMaine Machias valedictorian, received special mention for her success and contributions to the campus community. Watch this video to learn more about Yani.

Increasing diversity in nursing

The School of Nursing at UMaine has partnered with Northern Light Health and Morgan State University for a new initiative to diversify Maine’s nursing workforce. Read the story about it to learn more.

Starting college with research experiences

In fall 2021, UMaine and UMaine Machias launched Research Learning Experience (RLE), courses that allow students across academic disciplines to engage in open-ended research and scholarship at the start of their college careers. Learn more about these courses, a crucial component of the UMS TRANSFORMS initiative funded by the Harold Alfond Foundation’s historic $240 million grant, from this story and video about them.

Quotes from speakers

“This year has changed us and has changed our institutions, yet our culture of caring and commitment is stronger than ever.”
— President Joan Ferrini-Mundy

Listen to President Joan Ferrini-Mundy’s full remarks

“The University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias communities have demonstrated incredible resilience, a sense of responsibility and caring for the greater good, which is in keeping with our 150 plus years of land grant heritage.”
— William “Dee” Nichols, president of the Umaine Faculty Senate

Listen to Dee Nichols’ full remarks


“We have fa​​rther to go and much to learn, but we are pointed in the right direction by a president who challenges herself and allows us to place diversity, equity and inclusion at the core of our work”
— Alicia “Cici” Cruz-Uribe, Edward Sturgis Grew Associate Professor of MIneralogy and Petrology

Listen to Cici Cruz-Uribe’s full remarks

“For the community of UMaine, I hope that you can do even more to help millions of others like me from across the world who look at the United States and colleges with hope.”
— Valeria Roach, sophomore in NROTC and native of Ukraine

Listen to Valeria Roach’s full remarks

“Everyone took part in recovering from this pandemic, and today we stand together as a community, stronger.”
— Zachary Wyles, president of University of Maine Student Government Inc.

Listen to Zachary Wyles’ full remarks

Full transcript of event

Dee Nichols: Good morning. I am William Dee Nichols, president of the University of Maine Faculty Senate and literacy professor in the College of Education and Human Development, and I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you. As we begin our session today, I would also like to recognize our education major, Kaitlin McCullough, who will lead us in the National Anthem. Please join me in standing while Kaitlin leads us through the Anthem. 

(The Star Spangled Banner)

Dee Nichols: Thank you Kaitlin, that was beautiful. 

We open today’s event with our land acknowledgment, which recognizes that the University of Maine is located on Marsh Island in the homeland of the Penobscot Nation, and the University of Maine at Machias is sited in the homeland of the Passamaquoddy Tribe. Both of our universities recognize that in these homelands, issues of water and territorial rights, and encroachment upon sacred sites, are ongoing. Penobscot and Passamaquoddy homelands are connected with other Wabanaki Tribal Nations — the Maliseet and Micmac — through kinship, alliances and diplomacy. UMaine and its regional campus also recognizes that the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and the other Wabanaki Tribal Nations are distinct, sovereign, legal and political entities with their own powers of self-governance and self-determination.

We invite all of you to consider how we live and work on this land, and to attend carefully to the roles that each of us plays as members of the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias communities in shaping future relationships with the land and among people.

Today, as we get ready to listen to the State of the University address, I bring you greetings from the Faculty Senate and from my colleague Eric Jones, president of the University of Maine at Machias faculty.  It is a pleasure to see everybody here today, to be together and to celebrate the state of the university and to reflect on all that we have accomplished — individually and collectively — to be here. A great deal has occurred this past academic year, including many accomplishments to be proud of. 

A reflection on this academic year has to be couched in our past two years of the pandemic. The University of Maine and UMaine Machias communities have demonstrated incredible resilience, sense of responsibility and caring for the greater good which is in keeping with our 150 + -year land grant heritage.  

Extension and engagement activities — the service which we all provide — are, along with education and research, core to the mission of the University of Maine. The Faculty Senate will continue to work in collaboration with President Ferrini-Mundy’s administration to shine a brighter light on our collective outreach activity and its incredibly important impact that these services provide the people and the state of Maine. It is a story of selfless acts, inspiration, and action that needs to be told. Together, in the year to come, we will do just that.  

I now want to introduce Professor Alicia Cruz-Uribe, the Edward Sturge Grew Associate Professor of Mineralogy and Petrology in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences. Cici is back from a research trip to the Oak Ridge national research laboratory and she will provide a further introduction for President Joan Ferrini-Mundy.

Alicia Cruz-Uribe: Thank you, Dee, for that kind introduction, and good morning everyone. Today, March 8, marks International Women’s Day, when we celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. First observed in 1911, this day is a chance for women to work together for the rights to work, vote, and hold public office, and for all to support the causes of peace, equality, and a world without gender bias. 

Each of us has a role to play in forging a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive, and it is far too big a job for just one day. Although the war in Ukraine and its impact on women dominates the headlines, and deservedly so, atrocities and alarming injustices against women occur regularly around the globe. And, sadly, far too often in the communities we call home.  

I am pleased to be part of a community here at UMaine where we are not yet perfect, but where we still strive for inclusive excellence and gender parity. I am grateful for the many opportunities afforded to me at the University of Maine. We have farther to go and much to learn, but we are pointed in the right direction by a President who challenges herself and allows us to place diversity, equity, and inclusion at the core of our work. 

Before joining us in Maine, President Joan Ferrini-Mundy was the Chief Operating Officer of the National Science Foundation. She was named President of the University of Maine and its regional campus, the University of Maine at Machias, in 2018. In addition to these duties she accepted an appointment as the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation of the University of Maine System in 2021, formalizing the work she does to make the resources and expertise of Maine’s R1 top-tier research university available to all UMS universities and their faculty, staff, and students.

In addition to these duties, President Ferrini-Mundy has chaired the University of Maine Science Advisory Board from the start of the pandemic and is co-principal investigator of UMS TRANSFORMS, the initiative overseeing implementation of the Harold Alfond Foundation’s $240 million grant to the University of Maine System. She also contributes to the leadership of a number of Maine-based and national economic development, research, and educational enterprises. 

Please join me in welcoming President Joan Ferrini-Mundy for her 2022 State of the University Address.

Joan Ferrini-Mundy: So today is Cici’s birthday, I think we should wish her a happy one. Good morning everyone, and welcome to the 2022 address on the State of the University of Maine and its regional campus, the University of Maine at Machias. Thank you, Dr. Cruz-Uribe, for the warm introduction, and welcome to all who are participating today, both in-person and via livestream.

Just a word about recognizing the place that we are gathered in here together today, the Leonard and Renee Minsky Music Recital Hall — and the alumnus who made it possible. With the passing last month of Leonard Minsky, UMaine lost a passionate visionary who, with his wife Renee, touched the lives of generations of UMaine students and Maine people with their advocacy for the arts, lifelong commitment to inclusiveness and community, and dedication to enhancing the quality of life for all.

We have some special guests with us here today. I believe I see state representative Maureen Terry here, welcome and thank you for coming. And I’m not sure if state representative James Thorne has made it, he may be watching, but in any case thanks to everyone for being here, and I see so many familiar faces. What I’d really like to do is have a conversation with you and find out how things are going with those of you I’ve not seen in a while. Members of the President’s cabinet are here, and I’ll ask them now to please stand so that we can recognize their incredible work and commitment to this university. So I’ll ask you all to stand please, briefly.

Thank you. You will hear from several students today. They include Zack Wyles, the President of UMaine Student Government, who will share some observations about the student in-person experience. Zack is a senior political science major from Old Town, Maine. You’ll hear from Zack in a minute, but Zack, identify yourself so the folks can see you. 

Also with us today is Valeria Roach, a native of Ukraine, now from North Carolina, who is a UMaine Naval ROTC cadet and a student in the School of Marine Sciences. I have asked Lera to share her story and thoughts with us at this time. Our university communities and the world stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and all who are affected by the senseless violence and dangerous crises resulting from Russia’s invasion of their peaceful country. So Valeria, I invite you to the podium.

Valeria Roach: Good morning everyone. It’s an honor to be sharing the stage with President Ferrini-Mundy and to be asked to speak to you today. My name is Lera, and I’ve been going to the University of Maine for almost two years. Prior to going to UMaine, I used to visit Maine to see my adoptive grandparents. I’ve lived in North Carolina with my biological brother, Vitalik, since 2014. We were adopted from an orphanage in Ukraine, where we lived for about seven years.  

When Vitalik and I came to the United States, we did not speak any English. We had not known the unconditional love and support of parents and family that we have now.  We missed our homeland, and all of our friends that we grew up with, and especially our extended family who are still in Ukraine. Through adoption, we found amazing adoptive parents who love us unconditionally. My brother and I became U.S. citizens in 2014.

When it was time to go to college, I found UMaine’s Pathways to NROTC program. I am now a second-year student on a five-year NROTC program scholarship. I am enjoying being part of a university community where there is quite a bit of diversity and good teachers who I have enjoyed.

While I have lived in this country for eight years, I have fond memories of Ukraine. I appreciate the beauty of the country and its people. And since the Russian invasion on  Feb. 24, my heart lives with Ukraine and its people. I worry about my biological father and uncle who have been drafted and are forced to take up arms. I worry about my aunt and my cousins who are in Ukraine, and last I spoke to them, my aunt told me that they can’t have lights on in their house because it might make them a target for bombing. I worry about the kids with whom we grew up in the orphanage. Especially one of my dear friends, Sasha and his family who are stuck in their city. Ukraine is no longer safe, and for them to stay there is very dangerous, and for them to leave is also just as dangerous. Sasha and his family are in danger no matter what they do. 

 Amid the humanitarian crisis in my homeland, there is hope in humanity. Countries are opening their borders and strangers are opening their hearts to those who are forced to flee their country. Many nations are providing aid in various forms.

There are a lot of people fighting for Ukraine behind the scenes. Many selfless people are helping those in need. That gives me hope. It shows me that Ukraine is not alone. For the people in Ukraine, my hope is that they will come to feel safe again, that they won’t have to worry about their children and other loved ones or “whether tonight is the night.”

For the community of UMaine, I hope we can do even more to help millions of others like me across the world who look to the United States and its colleges with hope. This university and this amazing school are a part of me now and it can be for many more young people who deserve the same chances I have been given.  

My message to you today: If you know of anyone who is impacted by the crisis, please check in with them. Please stay updated on what’s going on in the news. If you have the financial means, please donate. I think it’s important for people to be aware, to stay informed, because while it may not affect you directly, it affects people around you every single day. And I think it’s important to help wherever you can. And I just want to thank you guys for all your help, and anything you can do for the people of Ukraine. Thank you.

Joan Ferrini-Mundy: Thank you Lera. It’s kind of hard to go on.

This State of the University address falls on International Women’s Day as you’ve heard, which began in 1911 based on the suffrage and labor movements in Europe. This year’s theme, established by the United Nations, is “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.”  It is a time to celebrate women’s achievement and strive for a world that is free of bias, gender stereotyping, all stereotyping, and discrimination. You have already heard from Lera, and we will hear from and see other strong, accomplished women throughout this talk.

Our hybrid presentation today will convey the state of the university in the contexts of our state, region, nation, and the world. Over the past year, we have observed war and its devastating effects in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and sadly, many other countries, we have witnessed continued racial and social injustice, and endured the relentless challenges of the COVID pandemic. Higher education leaders around the world are discussing the place of our institutions in defining tomorrow. 

We have a UMaine commission looking right now at such questions as: what should our students’ education and college experiences be like, in a turbulent world and a changing climate?  How should those students expect higher education to transform them, and maybe more importantly how will they transform it? How can we draw on the assets and experiences that each student brings? Are we doing our best to educate the problem solvers, innovators, and leaders for the future — leaders who will stand up for inclusion, strive for peaceful solutions, and save the planet? I am pleased and proud to say that the University of Maine is already positioned for that future. The strategic values that we agreed upon in our 2019 strategic framework — fostering learner success, discovering and innovating, and growing and advancing partnerships — guide what we do. 

Today, in 2022, the defining features of the state of our university are: commitment to making a difference and a culture of caring. For example, UMaine Machias has developed a partnership with Eastport Health Care that will be setting up weekly booster clinics on campus that will serve the Machias area.  This fall, UMaine Machias will also admit its first group of nursing students in our new 2+2 program to bring more nursing professionals to Washington County and beyond. All involved are committed to making a difference.

In addition to its work to expand access to nursing education in Machias, our UMaine School of Nursing is working with partners such as Northern Light Health and Morgan State University, a historically black university, to build a stronger, more diverse nursing workforce. This project is funded by a $1.7 million grant from the Health Resources and Service Administration, and the new and inclusive practices being developed will be national models and will make a difference in Maine and beyond.

Director Kelley Strout and student success coordinator Dylan Walsh in the School of Nursing are both here today, along with Barbara Salgado, a first-year nursing student, and Camilla Silva, a senior nursing student. Please stand and wave to the audience, folks. Great work, great great work. Thank you for what you do to promote the health of our communities  and greater belonging and opportunity in the nursing workforce. This is a culture of caring.

In the past year, we all learned to do twice as much at a time when we faced mental and physical health challenges, family needs, and unexpected problems. An already hard-working and busy community willingly took on more. Think of what you are doing now that you were not doing at this time in February 2020: wearing a mask; teaching with a mask; playing the flute with a mask. Searching for at-home test kits. Taking care of friends and family affected by COVID. For the members of our committed Science Advisory Board, led by Dr. Melissa Maginnis, that team was working every day to study all of the emerging science as they sustained their own programs of teaching and research. They were collecting wastewater samples. We were being ready to pivot when your child care for the next morning wasn’t available. Watching Dr. Shah’s briefings and feeling relieved when the trends are moving in the right direction for Maine. Remembering to do required weekly testing and marveling at how much our testing technology has progressed now to our new self-monitoring options.  

You don’t need to look very far to see the caring and commitment everywhere. From custodian Meghan Faulkingham in Machias, whom I met at the Blue Hill Fair last summer, and who is committed to helping students in the residence hall feel at home in downeast Maine; to the head of our Children’s Center Kim Dodge-Cummings, who is finding every way she can to protect the children in her care; to faculty member Dave Townsend recording his lectures just in case a student with COVID can’t come to class, and so many, many other examples of committed, caring people in our community.

All this has been “added in” to our busy, full, and demanding lives, where learning, research, and public engagement — the core work of universities and the embodiment of our strategic values — continue. Black Bears and Clippers care. We see that in so many places. The UMaine Counseling Center has expanded its mental health services and is supporting more than 1,000 people. The Bodwell Center and Black Bear Exchange have provided record amounts of food and critical supplies to students, and the Office of Veterans Education and Transition Services is supporting more than 400 veterans. UMaine Cooperative Extension is making a difference statewide, including through the thousands of hours donated by Master Gardener and Maine Harvest for Hunger volunteers, educating and helping Mainers to overcome food insecurity. And our students, throughout a very tough year, have made a difference. Zack Wyles will tell us more about this. 

Zack Wyles: Good morning. I would like to begin by thanking the University and President Ferrini-Mundy for inviting me to speak here today on behalf of the undergraduate student body. My name is Zack Wyles, I am the president of UMaine Student Government Inc., and I am also a 4th year student finishing up a Bachelor’s in Political Science this May. 

It certainly goes without saying that the past two years have been extraordinary; not just for education, but for all facets of life. Never in many of our lifetimes have we experienced something as world-rattling as the Coronavirus pandemic. Almost two years ago to this day, the University was forced by circumstance to send students home for the year, and many graduating seniors were forced to say goodbye to their friends early — that is, if they had the chance to do so at all.

When we returned to campus the next year, life at UMaine looked very different to both students and staff. Incoming freshmen were tasked with building community despite restrictions, and returning students had to adjust to what would become “the new normal.” Students stayed in their dorms from sunrise to sundown, mental health issues ran rampant in our student population (and still do to some extent); loneliness and isolation truly changed how students perceived their educations.

Despite these significant changes to their lives, students endured all the challenges, all the mandates, all the schedule changes, all the isolation. I want to thank our students here at the University of Maine for their resilience, their commitment to public health, to UMaine, and to one another. It’s not just the students who faced these changes; I would also like to thank our staff and faculty for sticking by their students throughout these extraordinary times. Whether you all want to congratulate yourselves or not — everyone took part in recovering from this pandemic, and today we stand together as a community — stronger.

As we approach commencement in May, I want to extend my thanks again to the university for putting its trust in the student body, and undertaking a return to in-person learning successfully. We took the risk, we did the right thing, and because of that, students have been able to experience for the first time in a long while some sense of normalcy. Every undergraduate student that I have spoken with has expressed sentiment similar to this — that being able to attend hockey games, walk down the Mall during the Organizations Fair, study in the library, attend in-person events, and even grabbing drinks with buddies at the end of the day is a significant piece of the college experience — and it has been a privilege to see that UMaine spirit return to campus.

To show you exactly what I mean, I have been working with the Marketing and Communications department over the past couple of weeks to produce a short video for all of you today. In this video, we interview students on campus and gauge how they feel about COVID-19, this semester, and what is next for UMaine. Please, take a look. 


Joan Ferrini-Mundy: Thank you very much, Zack and team.

So, today would maybe help us believe that spring is actually coming, sort of. The pandemic seems to be waning at least for now and becoming endemic — an ongoing part of life in the world. We are beginning to cut back, cautiously, on the number of regular COVID-related meetings that have consumed hours of each week for the COVID Operations Group, incident commanders, university and System leadership, and testing and vaccination planners. We owe a thank you to all who have taken the time to make a difference.  And they really have. 

Today, 96% of the in-person population at UMaine and 90.7% of the in-person population at UMaine Machias are fully vaccinated and/or boosted. I encourage you to get boosted if you have not done so. And definitely boost and test before you head off for semester break.

Last year, I introduced a new presidential Black Bear Award for Extraordinary Impact, which went to our highly deserving UMaine Emergency Operations Center. This is a group of more than 40 people who went on duty in February 2020 and, despite a name change, hasn’t stopped since. Their commitment to making a difference for our health and safety during the pandemic has been unwavering and we need to thank and recognize them. In particular, I’d like to single out Incident Commander Roland LaCroix and Section Leaders Bob Norman, Geremy Chubbuck, Dick Young and Will Biberstein for their incredible work helping to lead the EOC and the COG.

At UMaine and UMaine Machias, we kept going, managing through a pandemic and so many other challenges, while at the same time persisting with all that it means to be a public state land grant university, and we have prevailed and succeeded. Our state of the university really includes cause for celebration. After many years of moving toward this goal, the University of Maine has achieved the coveted Research One— “very high research activity” — Carnegie Classification.  

What does an R1 university look like? Let’s see. 


Joan Ferrini-Mundy: I want to thank Vice President Kody Varahramyan and our research team. We will be publicizing our research successes and providing more opportunities to get to know our researchers in the coming weeks and months. Special thanks to our remarkable faculty and staff who are committed to making a difference in this area. They are doing just that, and that is the main reason why we are being recognized with this national designation that applies to fewer than 4% of universities. Thanks, too, to the “faculty five” who led advocacy in the state many years ago to introduce an R&D appropriation. Thanks to state legislators who have sustained the MEIF funding over decades, and to Governor Mills and to our congressional delegation, all of whom are part of this great success story. Thank you.

Our university is successful because we are an inclusive, student-centered community committed to making a difference and caring. We have much to be proud of over the past year relative to fostering learner success. Our retention of first year students, from fall 2021 to spring 2022, was 88%, similar to our average over the past few years, and this is during a pandemic. I know that our faculty went above and beyond to meet students where they were, to accommodate all of the uncertainties and challenges of COVID and more. Our students also were caring and understanding when faculty had to put their families or their health challenges first. Special thanks to all in Residence Life, our deans, and all the faculty and staff working directly in classrooms, studios, laboratories, research sites, and playing fields.  

Speaking of playing fields, and in particular on International Women’s Day, I want to recognize the competitive success of Black Bear Women’s sports this year, with conference championships in field hockey and women’s basketball. Tonight, women’s basketball plays New Jersey Institute of Technology at 7 in the Pit in the America East semi-finals, and you can still purchase tickets, I’m told. And I want to congratulate PhilAnn Dixon who was named “Diver of the Year” at the America East Swimming and Diving championships. Eight Black Bears also competed in the Olympic Games this year, including two of our current women’s ice hockey players who are with us here today. Please join me in recognizing Amalie Andersen, a junior from Denmark, and Rahel Enzler, a sophomore from Switzerland.  Congratulations. We are so very proud of you and all of our outstanding student athletes.

And students want to come to our now-R1 university. UMaine has achieved a 30% increase in graduate enrollment since 2017. And during the pandemic, when across the nation university enrollment has been down 6% since the fall of 2019, UMaine’s undergraduate enrollment has held steady at 9,447 students in the 2021-22 academic year. UMaine currently has the second largest applicant pool for fall 2022 in our history. And UMaine Machias has 664 applications for admissions, the largest applicant pool year-to-date in the last five years.

The commitment to making a difference, and to being a caring community, is exemplified at the University of Maine at Machias. A hard-working task force and associated working groups spanning all facets of university operations, academics, and stakeholders, under the leadership of UMaine Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Emily Haddad, delivered a thorough set of recommendations late in 2021. I will be in Machias later today to discuss the report with all who are interested, to discuss how to move forward on the highest priority recommendations. One example of the kind of activity that is possible under our partnership is the Coastal Year at Machias. This was made available to interested first-year students admitted to UMaine as an option for starting their college career in a small community, where they would have access to hands-on learning experiences. There are six students in the program and we are hearing great reports.

A student who exemplifies why our commitment to learner success matters is Yani Nganzobo, a business and entrepreneurship major, and a music minor at UMaine Machias. Yani is an international student and a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She fled atrocities in her birth country to live with her family in South Africa and begin college at the University of Johannesburg. Yani, along with her twin sister Jeni, came to our Bold Coast campus in Machias in fall 2019. Let’s watch this video to learn more about Yani and how education transforms lives — and how our students transform our universities.


So thank you to Yani and all who were part of that video. I’ll also share some additional exciting news. Because of her outstanding accomplishments, the UMaine Machias Commencement Committee has named Yani Nganzobo the 2022 Valedictorian. Please join me in congratulating Yani.  

UMaine and UMaine Machias are becoming known for their commitment to making a difference by engaging learners in authentic experiences of discovering and innovating — enacting our strategic values. This past fall semester, almost 10% of our first-year class participated in our Research Learning Experiences initiative, weaving research and scholarship into the classroom starting in the first semester. I’d like to recognize Isabelle Kostelnick, Isaac Dostal, and Kai Kelley — all RLE students who I believe are with us today. This fall, we will have enough sections to support 40% of the incoming class. And UMaine is taking the lead in working with campuses across the University of Maine System to make this program widely available. 

Faculty-mentored opportunities to create knowledge and search for original solutions through an RLE will give every new Black Bear an opportunity to know something first. Next week, we launch a campaign urging every student admitted to our universities to join us in the fall and start their college journey with a chance to unravel the unknown.  

Let’s take a look at what “knowing it first” looks like at a top-tier research university committed to fostering learner success.  


Generous funding from the Harold Alfond Foundation makes this possible, and we owe special thanks to Provost John Volin, University of Maine at Fort Kent President and Provost Deb Hedeen, Associate Provost Brian Olsen, and the 30 faculty and staff members who made this happen, as well as to the 250 students who brought their creativity and great ideas to the table. So anybody who was involved in an RLE should stand so that we can thank you.

There is so much more that aided in defining who we are over the past several months: we are developing a new and clearer commitment as a university to playing our part in climate action; we have instituted more transparent processes for budget development; we are actively planning for the much-needed improvement of the university’s aging capital plant; we are partnering with the state to develop the Maine workforce through the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, and more.  

We are restructuring our marketing and communications operations, under the leadership of Executive Director Dan Demeritt and others, to tell our phenomenal stories more widely. Our UMaine Foundation has had a record-breaking year for fundraising, and we are looking toward new and expanded efforts.

Indeed, today we are happy to announce the establishment by the Foundation of a Higher Education Relief Fund. This fund will provide relief for anyone in the world where there is a crisis who is pursuing scholarship at the University of Maine. So thank you to the Foundation. That is opening, we understand, this morning. We’re very grateful for your contributions there.

We welcomed four new deans — I see some of them in the audience, but I’ll miss someone so how about they wave or stand if they can — two new head coaches, and dozens of new faculty and staff members, all of whom are shaping our community and enriching it.  

So what’s next? And this is the beginning of the end of the talk, so you’ll be glad to hear that. In the coming months we will celebrate the commencement of the class of 2022 and the recognition of the alumni of the classes of 2020 and 2021. We will release the exciting findings of the UMaine 2025 Commission on Excellence and Equity; hold dedications for Beryl Warner Williams Hall and Karen Boudreau Hall; open the James and Eileen Ferland Engineering Education and Design Center; and take the recommendations of the UMaine Machias Regional Campus Task Force and the DEI Council to the next levels. We will open searches for new administrators, faculty, and staff. The class of 2026 will join us in just a few months. This all happens as we strive for the continuous renewal and invention that characterizes public higher education and the excellence and inclusion of UMaine and UMaine Machias.

Everyone in the UMaine and UMaine Machias communities has experienced disruption and challenges in their educational pathways, or their work, or their personal lives in this past year. The pandemic has touched all of us. War, crises, discrimination, and global challenges have touched all of us, too, because we are an inclusive community and we share collectively in what individuals throughout our community experience. This year has changed us and our institutions. Yet our culture of caring and commitment is stronger than ever. Our circles of supporters and collaborators beyond our university is expanding and deepening. We are, indeed, making a difference, by caring. 

I know that, together, we can flourish with the support and care of one another. Thank you very much.

With this we conclude the State of the University 2022. Thank you so very much for coming.