Maine Memo — Equity for Excellence

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

Before coming to UMaine, I served as the chief operating officer of the National Science Foundation (NSF). I loved my role there and continue to follow news of their activities with great interest. Recently, I learned that one of their grant-making entities has updated its name, changing it from “Division of Human Resource Development” to “Division of Equity for Excellence in STEM.” The phrase “equity for excellence” struck me deeply, as it reminds me of what we’re striving toward at our universities.

At UMaine and UMaine Machias, there is an abundance of excellence on display. There always is, but it has been especially apparent to me over the past few weeks and months.

After reading rave reviews in local and national outlets, I was thrilled to finally have time to read Morgan Talty’s “Night of the Living Rez” during a recent business trip. Talty is a Penobscot writer and recently joined the UMaine faculty as an assistant professor of English in creative writing and Native American and contemporary literature. The book, winner of the 2022 New England Book Award for Fiction, contains a collection of short stories about growing up in Panawahpskek (Penobscot) Nation that are moving, raw and thought-provoking.

During our recent Homecoming festivities, we announced that Phil and Susan Morse, both alumni, have committed $10 million to UMaine Athletics. The Morses met here in the early 1960s and formed a long-lasting bond with this community through Greek life, Athletics and campus activities. Their extraordinary generosity is an affirmation of their commitment to this university and to the future success of UMaine Black Bears.

Speaking of success, I was proud to see that Jeremy Peña ’16 was named the American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player, having led the Houston Astros to defeat the New York Yankees four games in a row. It’s been a thrilling season and I am looking forward to following his progress as the Astros meet the Phillies in the World Series.

Also, I am proudly following the success of our women’s soccer team winning the quarterfinal round of the America East tournament on Sunday at Mahaney Diamond, and the field hockey team’s perfect 8–0 record in conference play and heading into the America East Tournament this Friday as the 1-seed.

In addition, I am looking forward to seeing the Blind Boys of Alabama, an American gospel group, when they take the stage at the Collins Center for the Arts this month. Celebrated by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) with Lifetime Achievement Awards, these legendary musicians are Gospel Music Hall of Fame inductees and five-time Grammy Award winners.

At UMaine Machias, we congratulate the GIS students of professor Tora Johnson for their success at the Maine GIS User Group Fall Conference poster session last week. Austin Simmons and Megan Leach earned the undergraduate student poster and graduate student poster awards, respectively. They were joined in the poster session by Jesse Robert and Trish Tilton, and history graduate student Maja Kruse gave two talks on her groundbreaking geographic Holocaust research.

I believe that these examples of excellence — and many, many others — flourish here thanks to an enduring commitment to equity and inclusivity. Our students remind me everyday of the power of living our values by prioritizing diversity, inclusion and equity, and demanding excellence from ourselves and our community.

During the recent University of Maine Foundation luncheon, I was deeply inspired by Lauren Turcotte Seavey, Class of 2023 giving manager, as she described her mission of helping her peers graduate from UMaine debt-free, as she is, by fundraising for scholarship dollars. Likewise, I was moved by a recent discussion with Tamra Benson, a member of All Maine Women, who is campaigning for equity and improvement in wages of student employees, and recently made an excellent presentation to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees.

As we observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day, National Coming Out Day, LGBTQ History Month, the beginning of Diwali, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, American Indian Heritage Month, Veterans Day and others throughout October and November, it is a good time to recognize that it is the extent of our realization of diversity and the norms of inclusion that give us a chance at equity and the excellence it brings.

I am extraordinarily proud of how equity for excellence is embodied in so much of what we do
here at UMaine and UMaine Machias. I challenge all of us to practice an ethos of equity and inclusion that moves us forward in the pursuit of growth and development through education and excellence.

Wishing all a safe and healthy second half of the fall semester, and a caring start to the season
of giving.


Joan Ferrini-Mundy