Highlights from the State of the University Address — March 7

University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy delivered the 2024 State of the University address on March 7 in Minsky Recital Hall.

Guest speakers included Amanda Klemmer, president of the UMaine Faculty Senate and assistant professor of landscape ecology; Dannel Malloy, University of Maine System chancellor; Keegan Tripp, UMaine Student Government vice president; Mariam Diallo, UMaine junior and marketing major and 2023 Innovate for Maine Fellow; BJ Marshall, associate registrar at the University of Maine at Machias; Xander LaComb (Penobscot), UMaine Machias junior and creative arts major; and Sandra Butler, professor and director of the School of Social Work and 2024 Distinguished Maine Professor. 

The recording of this event is available online. An album of event photos is also available. Below are highlights and a transcript of remarks.

Providing students with timely financial aid awards

Despite federal FAFSA delays, UMaine Student Financial Services developed an innovative method to build estimated financial aid packages for prospective students, sending estimated aid packages directly to students on March 1. Connie Smith, the executive director of student financial services for UMaine, spoke with WFVX about the nationwide impact of the delays in financial aid offers.

Facing challenges together

UMaine students discuss coming together to create a connected and compassionate community in the wake of the tragedy that occurred in Lewiston in October 2023. Watch the video of their remarks. 

UMaine researchers involved with $30 million NSF Science and Technology Center

UMaine will serve as the Northeast hub for the new Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges and Science (CBIKS) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The Northeast hub of CBIKS at UMaine is one of eight regional hubs spread over different regions of the U.S., as well as in Australia and the Pacific Islands. Read more about the partnership. 

Philanthropic gifts bolster UMaine Athletics and faculty resources

An $80 million supplement in financial support from the Harold Alfond Foundation toward facility improvements will benefit all 17 varsity programs at Maine’s only Division I athletic program. A $15.5 million gift from an anonymous UMaine alum to create two new senior faculty roles will bolster engineering and mathematics instruction and research. This is the largest single gift from an individual the UMaine Foundation has ever received. 

Research learning experiences

UMaine and the UMaine Machias are on a mission to engage first-year students with hands-on learning experiences from the first day they step on campus. Watch the video to learn more about two students and their experience with RLEs. 

UMaine and UMaine Machias integration

Beginning in the ’24-’25 academic year, UMaine and UMaine Machias will have one integrated academic catalog, a result of collaborative work between the flagship institution and its regional campus to continue on its path toward integration. Watch the video of BJ Marshall, associate registrar at UMaine Machias, highlighting this work and its importance for the two communities. 

Full transcript of event


[off‑mic conversation]


[off‑mic conversation]


[background music]

Amanda Klemmer: Good morning, everyone. [inaudible 5:33] . Can you hear me? [laughs]

[background music]

Amanda: Good morning, everyone. [inaudible 5:54] microphones. [laughs]

[whispers] Should I go? Meredith.

Amanda: Good morning, everyone. Can you‑all hear me?

Audience: Yes.

Amanda: OK. [laughs]

Welcome to the 2024 State of the University address. I am Amanda Klemmer, the Faculty Senate President. Will you please rise and join me in welcoming Chana Freedberg, a senior majoring in music performance with vocal concentration. She is from Bangor and currently lives in Orono.

Chana Freedberg: [sings national anthem]



Amanda: Thank you. Please be seated.

We open today’s event with our land acknowledgement, 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 Nation.

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 to other Wabanaki tribal nations, the Maliseet and the Mi’kmaq, through kinship, alliances, and diplomacy.

UMaine and its regional campus also recognize that the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and the other Wabanaki tribal nations are distinct, sovereign, legal political entities with their own powers of self‑governance and self‑determination.

I was asked to do a welcome today, and as the faculty senate president, I thought the best way to start that welcome was through highlighting some of the awesome shared governance that has been happening between the faculty and the administration here at the University of Maine.

The faculty senate, acting as faculty representative, representation, has been working closely with the administration on many matters we will be hearing about this morning.

As we get started, I’d like to share one example that I think truly highlights the important relationship we have been building between faculty and administration this academic year and previous academic years.

In January, during the budget hearings, faculty senate was asked to present faculty ideas on the FY25 budget to the president’s cabinet. As far as we know, the faculty senate budget hearing was a historical moment as the first time at UMaine that faculty input was requested as a part of the larger budget hearings.

As our university continues to grow and adapt, I look forward to strengthening those connections between the faculty and the administration and working towards being a national leader in true shared governance.

It is now my honor to introduce our President, Joan Ferrini‑Mundy. She has been the 21st president of the University of Maine for almost six years. She’s also the president of our regional campus, the University of Maine at Machias.

Since 2021, she has been vice chancellor for research and innovation for the University of Maine System, leading efforts to make the University of Maine’s research infrastructure accessible to and supportive of all universities and faculty in the system.

Prior to joining the university, President Ferrini‑Mundy was the chief operating officer of the National Science Foundation. Her career spans the fields of mathematics education, STEM education and policy, teacher education, and research administration.

She has numerous awards and recognitions and currently chairs and participates in groups at the international, national, and state levels. She is proud to be faculty member in the UMaine’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, an honorary member of All Maine Women, and an honorary Maine Master Gardener Volunteer.

President Ferrini‑Mundy holds office hours regularly and has been known to visit a math class, give a guest lecture in education, and definitely roots for the Black Bears even when they play her alma mater, UNH. Please welcome President Ferrini‑Mundy.


President Joan Ferrini‑Mundy: Thank you so much, Amanda. Is the mic working? Yeah. Good morning, everybody. Thank you, Hannah, for your beautiful performance, and thank you to the University of Maine Navy ROTC students for joining us this morning.

I’m pleased to introduce the next speaker, Chancellor Dannel Malloy, the Chancellor of the University of Maine System. Chancellor Malloy is completing his fifth year in that role and came to us from having served for eight years as the governor of the state of Connecticut.

Through his time here, Chancellor Malloy has demonstrated his transformative, bold vision for this system, for this state, and especially for our flagship university. Through Chancellor Malloy’s leadership and dedication to making constructive change happen, the system achieved our historic unified accreditation with our regional accreditor, NECHE.

He was pivotal in securing the $320 million investment in the University of Maine System by the Harold Alfond Foundation, more than $170 million of which is directly focused at the University of Maine. Chancellor Malloy is dedicated to making the University of Maine System a destination for excellent and affordable public higher education.

Daily, sometimes hourly, he has new ideas for innovation and approaches to serving our students better. He’s an avid consumer of data, and if there’s any kind of public database anyplace, you can bet he’s watching it and can tell you those numbers at any moment.

I’m very, very grateful, Chancellor, for your colleagueship, your friendship, for your understanding of what it takes to have a great flagship, and for your recognition that the health of the University of Maine is vital to the entire system and to our state. Thank you, Chancellor.


Chancellor Dannel Malloy: Joan, thank you very much for the invitation to participate today. I’m deeply honored to once again be asked to say a few words. Someone’s written a whole bunch for me, but I’m going to do what I always do and talk about the things that I think are really important.

I say this on a routine basis to other audiences, but some of you have not heard me say this before. As a system, we can only hope to be considered as good or great as our flagship university. We are so invested in the success of this university, which, after all, represents 50 percent of the system itself.

We couldn’t have a better partner than your president in the efforts to improve all of our universities, to stabilize our smallest universities, and to move forward in a very competitive marketplace and make progress within that marketplace. The people in this room are in some senses what that effort is all about.

We need your concentration, participation, and dedication, all of which is exhibited on a daily basis by everyone in this room. We have an opportunity with the Alfond commitment to reinvent ourselves as well as give this university the facilities it so richly deserves and needs. We are responsible for supporting those efforts.

By the way, the Alfond money, which is $320 million, really is a half billion dollars when you consider the money that we have raised to make the matches already and those commitments which are underway. I would put out to you that this university has not seen that type of investment, your share of that investment, since the early 1960s.

Now, we begin again to reinvent ourselves at a critical time in our nation’s history. Being reminded of the greatness of our ROTC efforts or the arts that were demonstrated in the singing of the Star‑Spangled Banner. We have a mission. It is to make the state of Maine a stronger and better place for our being part of it.

To make sure that the workforce necessary for it to prosper, not just as a state, but as part of a nation, that’s our job. Quite frankly, I want to be very clear, no one could be leading a university, in my opinion, better than your president at this time of challenge and at this time of opportunity.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for being invested. Thank you for doing the jobs that you do. God bless you. May I say, thank you for inviting me.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: Thank you so much, Chancellor. Officially, welcome to the 2024 State of the University Address. Thank you to everyone who is here with us in Minsky Hall and to all who are able to observe and participate via livestream.

This event is always an exciting opportunity and a challenging one to try to share in a short time, the many things going on at our university to feature the incredible work and accomplishments of our outstanding students, faculty and staff, and to reflect on our challenges and on our opportunities.

I’d like to welcome the many distinguished guests who are here, I think really that would be everybody in this room is distinguished, but in particular, the members of the cabinet are here if you raise your hands, members of the faculty senate who are here, members of the group of Dean’s of our university are here, members of the community who are directors of research centers and institutes who are here.

Then, there are some areas of the University where I think the whole staff is here. I can see athletics over there. Thank you and welcome marketing and communications as well. Just thank you for taking just this short time to reflect together on where we are.

Last week, I was talking with somebody casually, and he said, “Hey, I see you’re doing the State of the University Address next week. What’s the State of the University?” I said, “Oh, it’s OK,” being diligent answer. I might have said, “It’s good.” Probably I said, “It’s OK,” knowing I’m always moderate.

I immediately realized that in trying to give that brief version, it was a disservice. You can’t answer this question adequately and forwards. I’ve invited many others today to help present the picture of the State of the University.

You’ll hear themes that are always familiar for UMaine and for UMaine Machias connection, caring, commitment, convergence, but it will take more than four words. I do believe the State of the University is good, and I hope by the end of this talk that you will agree and also that you will be excited about moving forward with the challenges and opportunities that we face.

I’d like to begin by getting out onto the table a few things that we know are on everyone’s minds ‑‑ budget, enrollment, R1 status, and athletics. Colleges and universities nationwide are facing budget deficits spurred by a variety of internal and external market forces. Those include declining enrollment, increasing competition, rising costs, changing student needs, and aging infrastructure.

The University of Maine is not immune to those challenges. We experience all of them. However, I’m confident, and I’m going to try to explain to you throughout this talk why I’m confident, that we can overcome those challenges together because of our history of connection, caring, commitment, and convergence.

We are on track with our fiscal year ’24 Board‑of‑Trustees‑approved budget that ends this June. This is due to plain hard work undertaken by cabinet members, deans, directors of centers and institutes, department and school leaders across both universities, and maybe more significantly, our faculty, staff, and students.

The plan in fiscal ’24 was to strategically leverage our reserves as we worked towards long‑term solutions, and we are doing just that.

Campus leaders and others have been engaged in budget hearings and planning discussions over the past several months, looking for ways to reduce operational expenses and to generate new revenues. The Board of Trustees will be reviewing our fiscal year ’25 university budget proposals on March 20th.

To balance our budget, we will need to be judicious in replacement and in new hires. We will need to be creative in looking across the university to figure out what open positions might be reconfigured, and to be able to serve multiple units.

We will need to be careful with spending ‑‑ I know that that’s already happening ‑‑ and continue to look for efficiencies, and ‑‑ I think this is perhaps the most important point ‑‑ we need to hear every creative revenue generation idea possible and be nimble in implementing the most promising of them. We need to grow our enrollment and improve retention.

UMaine has a particular challenge of working to correct decades of deferred maintenance. I want to thank the Chancellor for his leadership and expecting that all of the system campuses step up their spending on deferred maintenance as a part of our budget work.

Our estimate today, given that the average age of buildings on this campus is 53 years ‑‑ pause with that, that’s the previous century when they started ‑‑ is that about one billion dollars will be needed over the next decade. We are working with funders, with the state of Maine, with the federal government to try to build the resources that it will take to make those investments.

In fiscal years ’25 and ’26, the challenges will continue and our efforts will need to move to a depth and breadth that is new to us.

That will include reexamining some of our fundamental assumptions as a university, and developing strategic priorities for what might be a bold transformation for UMaine through a set of widely engaging discussions across our communities that are beginning now with our deans and others. I truly value our growing collaboration with the academic senate that Amanda described.

We will also need to consider possible restructuring options that will both enable more innovation and help resolve some of the structural deficits that have developed organically and with explanation in an university that’s been growing, adding on processes and approaches, and changing emphases over nearly 160 years.

I’m very heartened to see this group of people together in this room, knowing that our conversations on these matters will continue because we care about this place, and we are a community, and we’ll make this work.

We need to be bold and envision a new tomorrow for UMaine and work toward it together.

I’m very pleased that under Vice President for Finance and Administration and CBO…Got all of that, Kelly? She’s got the second longest title around here. I have the longest one.

Under VPFA Sparks’ leadership, we have now convened two new committees, the Presidential Space Advisory Committee and the Budget Advisory Committee. How many of you are on those committees? A few folks here and some online.

We will be making their work public and visible on the president’s web page soon.

Now, I’ll turn to a quick update on enrollment. We were impressed at the breadth of backgrounds and interests of the more than 16,000 first year applicants for the fall of ’24. If you’re out there, potential Black Bears, please know that we are very excited about what we’re seeing.

More than 670 students have committed to join our universities in the fall of ’24. We are working to get our acceptance letters out rapidly. We’re starting our collaborations to welcome the Class of 2028.

For the upcoming fall ’24 term, we are ahead of last year’s undergraduate effort in applications, admitted applicants, and matriculated students. That’s due to a lot of hard work by a lot of people on the campus under the great leadership of Vice President for Enrollment, Kevin Coughlin and his team.

In particular, we are using new approaches, including listening to prospective and current students, much more intentionally about what factors they consider when enrolling in a university and working to be relevant for the future with our programs and offerings.

Thank you to everybody out there who’s interested in or close to someone who’s interested in attending UMaine and UMaine Machias.

We are also committed to helping make sure that students who want to join us have the financial support that they need. We have some very, very sharp people here at UMaine finding a way to do this in light of the challenges with FAFSA.

Members of the UMaine financial services team developed a way to build estimated financial aid packages for our prospective students. We began sending those aid packages directly to students and their families on March 1st.

I will add that we helped to support enrollment managers across the University of Maine system with that work.

I’d really like to note that Simon Ferland, who is UMaine’s Director of Data Systems, was invited to be part of a national task force to create test FAFSA data. Due to his skills and reputation, Simon was chosen as one of only 17 individuals to participate in this task force.

I don’t know if Simon is here. He’s probably busy doing this work, but in any case let’s congratulate Simon.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: Now, let me turn to our Carnegie status as an R1 university, awarded in 2022 as acknowledgement of the growth over many years of UMaine’s research excellence, breadth, and depth. Achieving that status has led to millions of new dollars of delta over where we were headed in research, which benefits the entire university.

A reputational boost that is attracting outstanding students and faculty and much, much more. I believe the benefits of being R1 are both tangible and intangible, but what’s most important is that we are an excellent university where our three missions of teaching, research, and engagement are interwoven in ways that benefit our students and our state.

The outstanding quality of our research enterprise does have national and international recognition.

This status, and this conversation, has led to questions from faculty about what it takes to sustain this status and whether it is good for UMaine to do so. We are engaged in thoughtful and frank conversations on this topic. I want to thank Amanda for her leadership and for the senate’s leadership in making that happen.

The American Council on Education is changing the R1 criteria for the next categorization in 2025 in the hopes of building a more transparent and equitable methodology for classifying institutions. If you’re interested in that, there’s a lot on their website about it.

R1 will be now based on different criteria, not the eight that used to count, but in 2025, an R1 will be denoted as a very high research‑spending and doctorate production university, two factors now.

We believe that at UMaine, we are continuing on those two metrics on a positive trajectory for the future thanks to the ongoing great work of our research faculty and staff, as well as our students.

Now to athletics. It says this morning ‑‑ I think actually it might have been last night, but anyway. We asked our athletic director, Jude Killy, about playoffs in Men’s Ice Hockey and Women’s Basketball, and here’s the latest. Again, thank you to the Athletic Department for being here.

First, I’d like…


President Ferrini‑Mundy: Yes, let’s thank them. They’re great.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: First, congratulations to Women’s Basketball for winning the America East Regular Season Championship this past Saturday. What a fantastic game. If we have anybody from the basketball program, let’s stand up here, please. Great.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: Really a great game. The team will host a quarterfinal game tomorrow, Friday, March 8th at 5:00 PM.

In addition, yesterday, March 6th, America East announced that UMaine guard Anne Simon has been named the America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Coach Amy Vachon has earned the America East Coach of the Year honors for the fifth time, which is the most in the East’s history.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: I thought I saw Amy. Is she there? OK. There she is. OK, thank you, and congratulations.

This weekend’s home series for Men’s Ice Hockey ‑‑ and I see Coach Barr and maybe others from hockey, welcome ‑‑ will determine a lot for Hockey East playoffs and the NCAA tournament.

I just want to pause here and say what a wonderful thing it has been to watch this hockey team this season with the kind of excellence and determination that they are showing. I want to thank Coach Barr for his leadership and thank the team for bringing up a level of excitement that we haven’t seen in hockey here for a long time. Thank you, Ben.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: We have clinched a bye ‑‑ and I can’t even believe I say these words like I understand what they mean…


President Ferrini‑Mundy: …but I do, actually. We have clinched a bye in the first round of the Hockey East Tournament and will move on to the quarterfinal, which will be held on March 16th.

To highlight another team, this past fall our Women’s Soccer team won the America East Championship for the first time ever, and named Abby Kraemer as its first All American in program history. Congratulations to soccer.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: I’d like to acknowledge and thank all of the coaches, athletic staff, and student athletes who are joining us today.

As you can already see, we have more than a four‑word answer to “What is the state of the university?” question. The notion of the state of the university could be construed as local, but in fact, the university is located in a state, a region, a nation, and a world that all have their own current states.

Thinking about the state of UMaine with our regional campus, the University of Maine at Machias means also embedding the thinking in what’s going on beyond Orono and Machias.

The events that our state faced this year, most notably the unthinkable tragedy of the Lewiston shootings have affected all of us. Soon after the shootings, UMaine first‑year student Jeremy Collemore, with help from Student Government President Michael Delorge and others, quickly organized a meaningful campus vigil.

UMaine students always take the lead in showing how to come together and how much community matters.

We have a video.

Student 1: We hope to create a platform for our students within the marginalized communities to have a voice, to be able to represent themselves, and to be able to voice their concerns, not only to be a [inaudible 32:27] to student government, but also be [inaudible 32:29] personnel that work within the University of Maine system.

Student 2: What I’ve really been thinking about is how folks have been gathering and more together, different groups coming together.

What I hope and I can’t wait to experience is a continuing mixing of our communities, our cultures, people from all different backgrounds coming to celebrate the things that maybe mean a lot in the celebratory nature, but also during the difficult times so we can lean on each other and build a more connected community.

Student 3: Being in music specifically has kind of given a unique experience in all of this, and the ability to really make an impact on the community in situations like this.

After the tragedies in Lewiston, the marching band completely redid our show the day before the performance. Before our concert for singers the following week, we had orange ribbons on all of our concert attire. Just really being able to support the community in a unique way has been great.

President Ferrini‑Mundy: Maine also experienced some devastating effects of our changing climate. The coastal flooding was dangerous and damaging for our state in January, with high tides, heavy rains, and strong gusts of wind hitting Maine’s coastline, leaving coastal regions like Machias vulnerable to flooding.

The Downeast Coastal Conservancy and Maine Coast Heritage Trust, working together with volunteers from among the University of Maine at Machias community, took height measurements during the highest tide in February and plan to do so again this month. Again, gathering information that is meant to help with our coastal resilience.

This community is incredible in terms of its commitment.

Zooming out a bit from Maine, our university is increasingly globally engaged. Orlina Boteva, director of UMaine’s Office of International Programs, reports that this year, we had all‑time highs on international statistics.

There are 563 enrolled international students from 86 countries here with us. Additionally, OIP is supporting 27 refugee students representing 12 countries of origin. We are a global community and greatly richer for it.

Zooming out even further, there is a total solar eclipse coming that will be visible from Maine on April 8th, 2024. UMaine’s Versant Power Astronomy Center is hosting a variety of special programming for the event. Check out all of the great material on their website, and remember to wear glasses if you look at the eclipse.

The “state of a university” phrase conveys sort of a static concept and a point in time, despite the fact that we have a past and a future to consider. We have a rich history here, and I just want to point you toward the publication “Becoming Modern. The University of Maine, 1965‑2015” that just came out with a publication date of 2024.

This volume was edited by the late Howard Segal along with Ann Acheson and Deborah Rogers. It’s a compilation of chapters by faculty, staff, and alums of the university. It’s terrific. I recommend it to you.

There’s always more to learn about our history. I just wanted to point this out in case you missed it. UMaine Machias student Desmond Gonzalez, who now writes for “The Maine Campus,” wrote a story of the Lion train in The Maine Campus that was published in February 2024. It’s really great to have these stories showing up.

That eight‑car train passed by the UMaine Machias campus in the late 1800s, carrying ice and lumber from Whitneyville to Machiasport.

UMaine Machias Professor Bernie Vinzani provided great information for Desmond’s article, including that the train was displayed and stored here at UMaine, another connection with UMaine Machias, from 1905 to 1975. Not always on display, sometimes it was in a barn, I gather, but it may be viewable again in the Maine State Museum.

Just like there’s a past, there’s always a future. Where’s the world going? What’s the place of higher education generally, and UMaine, in particular, in not only engaging in and experiencing that change, but indeed in shaping it? I so like the “Define Tomorrow” tagline that serves us well.

As you look at these reports of future trends and mega trends and futuristic outlooks, several themes are in common across them. One is climate change, which shows up on every list.

In last year’s State of the University, Dr. Kirsten Jacobson, from our Department of Philosophy, introduced the work of the UMaine Compass Project. Since then, we’ve been refining the themes that came out of that project and aligning them with other planning efforts here.

One of those themes is sustaining the health of our planet and confronting climate change. We have lots of milestones here at UMaine in this important area. I’ll just give one example, but there could be dozens. I want to recognize the work of UMaine paleoecologist, Dr. Jacquelyn Gill, and her colleagues last fall.

In partnership with the University of Vermont, they brought in a $2.5 million NSF grant to study how alpine plants left behind by glaciers on northeastern US mountaintops about 13,000 years ago, have “endured millennia of extreme seasonal climate changes and several warm periods despite living at the edge of their species range and physiological tolerance in small, isolated population.”

The team is interested in understanding whether these species will survive today’s global warming. Students will be central in the work, including, I understand, creating a podcast titled “Alpine Plant Love Stories,” and a website to bring research to the public. A very strong strength of Professor Gills.

I point this all out as just one example of this university’s engagement and commitment in many things climate, and our recognition that the students who come here and who may wish to come here in the future have a commitment to the planet, and we want to be the place where they can have roles and learn how to be leaders in that work.

We have efforts to diminish our carbon footprint underway through the leadership of the UMaine Facilities Management team. We are moving along well in plans for the University of Maine Energy Center, a new steam plant that can run on biofuels rather than heating oils.

The other theme I wanted to mention is AI, which shows up, again, on all of these global trend lists, usually just as AI on the list. I really like the way Tom Standage characterized it in “The Economist” as AI gets real. Take a second on that. Artificial intelligence.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: According to Deloitte’s “Generative AI and the Future of Work,” “Generative AI is a true disruptive workforce shift, indicative of a future in which work and technology meld in ways previously unthinkable. Moreover, this is the first time a technological revolution of this magnitude has been so widely accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.”

We are certainly connected. Another one of these reports ‑‑ the ESPAS report ‑‑ predicts that there will be 125 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2030, compared to 27 billion in 2017. That’s a part of the world in which our universities sit and where we, I believe, can embrace our opportunities.

AI pervades all that we do, and with the introduction of generative AI, not used in this talk, by the way ‑‑ Meredith might have used it to time things ‑‑ into wide public use, the responsibilities, opportunities, and challenges for universities now abound.

Did you know that right here at UMaine, we have in the past years moved broadly into the use and study of AI? In fact, just yesterday in the Senate, there was discussion of generative AI guidelines developed by the UTC Task Force.

Instructional experts in CITL are hosting workshops and sessions and proving resources for faculty to use ChatGPT in their teaching. UMaine AI, established by Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, Kody Varahramyan, has a vision of “…making Maine a world‑class hub for artificial intelligence research, education, and application.”

We are well along. Here at UMaine, we have national and international research leaders working with students on computing ethics, privacy, attack detection, surface contamination, imagery and visualization, virtual reality, forestry, agriculture, 3D printing, and more.

We have faculty investigating the best uses of AI in special education. UMaine associate professor of special education, Sarah Howorth, has been researching how AI can support students with disabilities through AI tools for text language generation and for the benefits it can provide to both students and teachers.

It’s clear that at UMaine, even as we look at the state of the university today, we are looking at the future and helping to shape it.

Finally, the concept…Not really finally, sorry.

The concept of the state of the university needs to be situated in a broad context and needs to illustrate the dynamic nature of the institution over time. Despite the many elements that make a university ‑‑ buildings, athletics fields, and facilities, programs, research funding, and so much more ‑‑ it really all comes down to people who collectively define the state of the university.

That said, I can’t speak about the state of the university without taking note of three extraordinary philanthropic gifts that will support our students in different ways.

The first, as the chancellor has mentioned, is the additional $80 million coming from Maine’s Harold Alfond Foundation to extend the $90 million that they had already provided to complete the UMaine Black Bear Athletic Master Plan. With great thanks to our athletic director, Jude Killy, and all who have been a part of that planning.

The second investment to mention is the $7 million coming to us from New Balance for a new track and field and soccer complex.

The third is a $15.5 million gift from an anonymous UMaine alum to create two new senior faculty roles, one in engineering and one in mathematics. This is the largest single gift from an individual that the UMaine Foundation, another fabulous partner, has ever received.

Just think about that extraordinary act of philanthropy. Think about students who are here now, what might be possible for you someday, and and faculty and staff today who are working with students with no idea how they’re making a difference, how they’re making an impact that might show up decades and decades later.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: I had lunch recently with our…Again, this is your cue. With our undergraduate student government leaders, Michael Delorge and Keegan Tripp. Keegan is vice president of student government. He said something that struck me, and then he showed up today so I’m going to ask him to say it himself again.

Keegan Tripp: I was at a student government conference in Charleston, South Carolina. We were in a little focus group discussing the ways of…what our role is on campus. One of the leaders, I don’t remember their name or where they were from at all, unfortunately.

What they said is that us, as student leaders in our role as student government, is to make sure that students are the first thought and also the last thought. I think that really does ring true, not just for student government, but it should be permeating through all decision makers on this university and any university because, at the end of the day, that is why we’re here. We’re here for students.

Thank you.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: It’s terrific advice, Keegan’s own words. In the people category for us, of course the majority of the people here are students.

Now, let me introduce you to Mariam Diallo from Bamako, Mali. Mariam is a junior at the University of Maine studying marketing, sustainable food systems, and Spanish. She is a 2023 Innovate for Maine Fellow.

Because I’ve had the chance to chat with her, the last time we talked at least, and I’m pretty sure it’s still true, she has great aspirations for how she wants to make a difference as a leader in her country.



Mariam Diallo: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for presenting me.

I am Mariam Diallo. I am an international student from Mali. I’m a third year at the University of Maine studying marketing…Can you hear me?

I’m sorry.

I will start again. I am Mariam Diallo. I’m an international student coming from Mali. Have anyone have an idea where Mali is? Yes!


For those who don’t know, Mali is in West Africa. It’s a beautiful, very large, and very diverse country. I’m very proud of where I’m from.

I’m in third year at the University of Maine studying marketing and I have a minor in sustainable food system and in Spanish.

It’s a very intriguing mix, I know, and I have I’ve had a lot of thought like switching major or deciding. Ultimately today I can say I’m very proud of the decision that I’ve made switching those majors. I would like to talk first, tell you a story, share a little story of how I have decided to invest myself in sustainability.

When I was 11 years old middle school, first year, I hated going to school. I really did not like it. I could tell you there was not a soul who liked going to the school. Not the academic. The school was fine. It was the neighbors. The neighbors were called the mountains of trash and there’s nothing more accurate to describe it to.

To dress your picture. There are open field welcoming about 200,000 to 700,000‑meter cube of trash accumulating from the TV’s from years. If we disregard then sanitary conditions, the high risk of infection, the horrible smell, I can tell that.

The worst would happen around 10:00 to 12:00 PM‑ish, when we’re at school, they would burn those waste of food, plastic, clothes, metal, producing a very thick and highly toxic smoke. Sometimes it would be very hard to see the behind of the scene past 15 feet.

Because of that, many of students, because we are very young, elementary to middle school students, a lot of my friends and students, unfortunately, have respiratory diseases, mostly asthma, because of that.

Growing up with that experience has just teach me how it is important to develop awareness in sustainable agriculture and agriculture sustainability in all domain, matter of fact, because that’s how we can elevate a better and future for this earth, not only this earth, but for the societies.

To that, I would like to present…Sorry. I would to talk about a point of view that I grew through these years. Through my experiences, and one of them being an Innovate for Maine student, I really have understood that it is important to combine, in my perspective, to combine the sustainability and in business.

Because as you notice when there is the process from idea, to innovation, to a sustainable plan that on the long term can run. in the business side of things there has been difficulties elongated the lifetime of businesses.

As the statistics shows, 50 percent and more of businesses struggle to pass and fail through their five first year. Which is a big problem because there’s not a problem of ideas or innovation, that’s not a problem. I feel like that’s somewhere we can address it.

I’m glad to say through my experience last summer with the Innovate for Maine program fellow, it was an amazing experience that I had. Not only I was able to understand the full process of creation of innovation and how to set that in place, but I was able to gather amazing skill in leadership, in decision making, in marketing, in management.

Not even that I’m related to it, computer science even, through the program, through my fellow student, and through mainly my company that I work with ‑‑ Wildwood Oyster. Today, I can say that one of the goals that I’m fighting for would be to improve the creation of business, to improve how we see innovation, and how that can greatly impact our communities.

That’s why I have decided to take the risk, take the bet, and major in marketing business. I choose marketing because it’s something that I really like. It’s just passion, and I feel like it has brought in me to discover more sides of the world, actually, because it just brought in your experience to the communities, to everybody, the culture, and I feel like that’s something that should be highlighted.

We all should be highlighted in how we go through, and I feel like everyone here, not present, everybody on this earth, coming up, deserves to have a better place on this earth. Thank you so much.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: Thank you so very much. A second theme that we’re using from the UMaine 2025 work is advancing research and teaching for tomorrow’s innovators. Actually, as I listened to Mariam, I think all of these ideas come together so well as our students tell us about what their experience is.

We can do all the planning and connecting that we want, but it’s the students who make it happen for themselves by choosing and engaging in such exciting ways. There are lots of examples here too as we look at faculty who construct their own instructional plans to involve students in the fundamentals of discovery.

They generate questions, learn how to reframe messy challenges and wicked problems. They learn how to create new things, understand our world, and more. The Research Learning Experience Program led by Provost Vollen as part of the Alfond funded Student Success and Retention activity is a chance for our first year students to experience research, leading them then to later experiences in programs like the Innovate for Maine Fellows and others to be very grounded in the practice of learning to be innovators from the day they walk in the door.

Let’s hear from them.


[background music]

Jasper Makowski: My name is Jasper Makowski. I’m a second year student here at the University of Maine. I’m currently studying microbiology.

Eleanor Carrollton: I’m Eleanor Carrollton. I grew up in I grew up in Bath, Maine. I went to Morris High School.

Jasper: I grew up in Dover Foxcroft, Maine, which is about an hour north of here. I didn’t really think of even about college until I was later in high school. I applied to a bunch of different schools and I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go.

My high school biology teacher got me set up for the tour in this building. He showed me around, showed me all the labs, showed me what research, what gets done here. That’s what really swayed my opinion was seeing the changes that are going on here. What people are able to accomplish and stuff.

Eleanor: Research experiences were the reason that I chose UMaine. That I wanted more than anything to be able to positively impact people’s lives while adding to new knowledge, because I’m so passionate about learning more about the world around us. I knew that UMaine was the best place for me to be able to have that experience.

Jasper: You come into school, deer in headlights, no idea what’s happening, and you’re thrown into a whole new world, expected to change, expected to adapt. You come out on the other side a better learner, a better thinker, a better analyzer of not just what you’re studying but the world around you.

Eleanor: I think that’s one of the biggest things people gain from an RLE experience, is they learn to let go of perfectionism and face failure. Failure can be such a transformative experience, that it’s so important for our growth and learning how to continue benefiting ourselves, even if we face challenges along the way.

Jasper: The second or third day I was here, I asked Dr. Malloy a question. I was like, “What happens if you do this?” She goes, “I don’t know. Figure it out.” I got to come in here and do research about my own question three days into being a college student.

That opened the door for all of these research opportunities that I’ve been presented with so far. I really like Maine and I really like rural Maine. I’m definitely leaning family medicine or emergency medicine, something that’s needed in small‑town Maine.

Eleanor: I really would not be where I am today without The Alley. That being able to have this strong supporting group of both peers, mentors, professors. Obviously, there’s still so much growth left that I can do, but that’s part of what makes life interesting, is knowing that there’s always more that we can do.

Jasper: Every day, I’m reinforced that I made the right decision of where to go to school.

[media playback ends]

President Ferrini‑Mundy: OK.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: We’re proud to offer these research experience initiatives and opportunities to engage students the moment they step foot onto the campus, and then to expand access to our nationally acclaimed research and scholarship initiatives for undergraduate and graduate students.

Just a couple of highlights here. Last year, UMaine received its first‑ever Center of Biomedical Research Excellence, or COBRE, Award, an $11.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, led by Clarissa Henry, a professor of biological sciences in the School of Biology and Ecology, together with her outstanding team.

Which by the way you can probably find video and photos of when they took the field to be recognized at UMaine football game last fall. That will position our university as a training hub and academic leader for the biomedical research industry.

The Maine Business School and Graduate School of Business have a number of interesting projects ‑‑ I’ll just single out Build a Better Maine 2023 ‑‑ for emerging business leaders from some of the state’s most prominent organizations.

Gavin Robinson, who is Vice President of Community Relations for Bangor Savings was excited about the program, and quoting him, “The leadership skills we are learning in Build a Better Maine contribute not just to the growth of our company but to Maine overall,” he said to News Center Maine in an interview.

Again, we have a breadth of activity here, and I can only highlight pieces, but I know that you’re well aware.

The third guiding theme that we are promoting from UMaine campus is growing a thriving and inclusive community of learners. That really is a way of being for this university. A major piece of our work in inclusion is including our campus at Machias, the University of Maine at Machias.

I’m very pleased that Xander LaComb, a junior from UMaine Machias from Norway, Maine, who is studying creative arts, is with us to talk about his experience.


Xander LaComb: Thank you so much for that lovely introduction. My name is Xander LaComb. I’m a citizen of the Penobscot Nation. I study creative writing with minors in English and zoology. Through the [indecipherable 57:23] combination of studies, I found myself in nation science communications, specifically working with native youth.

In my freshman year, I was invited to apply for the then‑new Kinap Mentorship Program, which has involved everything from assisting with the Wabanaki Voices series at UMM, to going out to after‑school programs, to putting together a physical Native American student lounge space.

Not only have I gained countless skills directly from this program, it’s given me connections with other organizations such as Wabanaki Youth in Science and the Aquaculture Research Institute here at Orono, which continues to build upon my interests. Now I get to do fun stuff like drop [indecipherable 58:01] and to play with animals in touch tanks.

Just as an aside, I cannot be more grateful for the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with through these organizations. I have my own little section over there cheering me on…


Xander: …and even the people who are not able to attend in person today sent me such lovely messages and are probably watching right now online, and I just want to think of a short thank you to them for the time and care they’ve put into not only my education, but everyone else I have the opportunity to work with.

As for what I’m currently working on now, I’m continuing to work with the Aquaculture Research Institute, returning to the AquEOUS fellowship as a student mentor to help further support students in the program, as well as continue on my previous projects.

With these connections, with the Keynote Mentorship Program, we are also working on setting up touch tanks, both at Sabaic Elementary and at UMM in the native student lounge. We’re hoping to give students of all ages the opportunities to learn husbandry of these animals, as well as how to educate others.

Most excitingly, with Waze, we’re working with professors at UMM to incorporate indigenous knowledge into our Science Bridge program. That is a two‑week program for freshman STEM students at UMM to gain new skills and tools that they need to succeed.

This new version of the program will hopefully not only be more appealing to native students, but also nonnative students up to be conscious of the world they’re working in.

Thank you so much for your time.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: Thank you Xander. Very exciting work. You know our relationship with UMaine Machias ‑ and welcome to people who came down from Machias, thank you ‑‑ is unique in the University of Maine system and possibly within systems nationwide.

That relationship is also constantly evolving with commitment to honoring the uniqueness of each institution, maintaining UMaine Machias standing as one of Maine’s seven public universities, and sharing the assets and resources that each institution brings to this partnership to enable a very broad set of options and experiences.

In next year’s State of the University talk, I’d like to be able to report ‑‑ sorry Provost, just thought of this ‑‑ to be able to report a robust and ongoing set of exchanges we’re more faculty, staff, and students from each site are visiting and intentionally gauging the other in a programmatic effort that I think we’re ready to put in place now with UMaine Machias, so stay tuned.

For both institutions, and in line with what public higher education institutions are undertaking, we are expanding our efforts in enrollment to broaden the learner audiences that we serve. Our universities depend upon diversity. Diversity of ideas, cultures, experiences, points of view, and background.

As the public flagship, we have a responsibility to be accessible and relevant for a wide audience. We have great work underway, and here are some examples. I’d like to introduce BJ Marshall, via video, who is the Associate Registrar at UMaine Machias.

BJ is a key member of the UMaine Machias Office of Student Records. From her office on the Machias campus, BJ has led the detailed and time consuming work of bringing the academic catalogs for our two institutions together. An incredible step toward inclusion and partnership.

She’s dedicated the last three years to creating a seamless fall 2024 registration process for students on both of our campuses. With that, BJ.

BJ Marshall: Thank you, President Ferrini‑Mundy, for giving us the opportunity to talk about the status of the academic alignment between UMaine and UMaine Machias. We are very happy to report that after years of hard work, we will be in one catalog beginning in the ’24, ’25 academic year.

Working with a very cross functional team at both the campus and system level, that included faculty members, student records, student financials, student success, admissions, IT, I’m sure I’m forgetting other key players, but everyone was, and still is, important in this process.

UMaine Machias students will enroll through UMS05 beginning in the fall 2024 semester. When the schedule is viewable later today, it will include courses offered at both campuses. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but this is a big moment in the alignment process.

Thank you again for allowing us to highlight the status of this initiative.

President Ferrini‑Mundy: Thank you BJ, we can applaud that.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: Did you know that there are about 280,000 people in the state of Maine with college credits who did not complete their four year degree? UMaine and other system campuses are taking leadership in that area.

UMaine and UMaine Machias have proudly partnered with UMaine Fort Kent with system funding that we’re grateful for to offer a new adult degree completion program called Finish Strong, led by Hannah Carter, Associate Provost for Online and Continuing Education.

We’ll offer higher ed opportunities to a wide range of learners with focus on new mainers, and provide adults with the education they need to make a better life for themselves and their families. This is but one example of our broadening of our thinking of who our student audiences are.

Members of our community remind us all in so many ways of how we can be active in fostering inclusion. During this year’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration breakfast supported by the Greater Bangor Area Branch NAACP, we gathered to commemorate and remember and focused on an opportunity to further strengthen our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice.

Many, many people from UMaine were there and a lot of them are in the audience today as well. Keynote speaker, Dr. Judith Josiah-Martin from the University of Maine School of Social Work made some comments that really stuck with me and I just thought I would include them here.

She said, you came here today to check off, I did my civil rights thing for the year, check. I’m calling you on that. That’s tokenism. If you’re going to make the legacy of Dr. King work, you’ve got to join something, you’ve got to say something, and you’ve got to do something.

All of us need to take that to heart. You’ve got to join something, say something, and do something to really embody our commitment at the University of Maine and UMaine at Machias to inclusion, to growing a thriving and inclusive community of learners.

I’m proud to now introduce professor and director of the school of social work, Sandy Butler who was recently named the 2024 distinguished Maine professor. Sandy is an outstanding and inspiring educator who has been with the University of Maine for 33 years.

Her research interests and tireless advocacy throughout her work in equity and justice have improved the wellbeing of our community and of our state. Sandy?


Sandy Butler: Thank you President Ferrini‑Mundy. I have been asked to weigh in on the concept of inclusion and to consider what factors contribute to students thriving here at the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias.

This led me to think of my own college experience nearly 50 years ago. I was a white, professional class, 18‑year‑old attending a predominantly white private college. My parents paid my tuition. I thrived. I felt included. I had found my people.

I worked as a waitress some portion of those four years, but only for spending money. They were not long hours. They did not distract me from my studies or from my fun. Over my 33 years teaching at the school of social work here at UMaine, most of my students have not fit that profile.

While the large majority have been white at this predominantly white institution, many have been first generation students. Most have had to work while going to school to help pay for their education. Many have had family responsibilities as parents or caregivers of parents. Some have been black, indigenous, and people of color.

Some have been neurodivergent. Some have had mental or physical challenges. A good number have identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning. How do we make sure all these students feel included? How can we assure that they thrive in their UMaine experience?

I surely don’t have the answers, but I can reflect on strategies I’ve used in my own teaching over the years and some recent changes I’ve made in my approaches. I’ve become more aware of the all‑encompassing, culture of white supremacy in the United States.

My thoughts are constrained by my experience, which has been limited to teaching social work and largely graduate students in classes of just 20 to 30 students, both in person and online. I’ve not taught large lectures to hundreds of first year students, nor popular gen ed classes with students from multiple majors.

I don’t know how to run a lab, direct a theater production, or carry out a field course in forestry. Those formats would all require different approaches. From my personal teaching experience, I offer some thoughts on inclusion that I’ve gained at different points in my career at UMaine. I will stick to three points, the magic number in teaching of what people can retain.

First is providing lots of feedback. As an introvert and a less than scintillating lecturer, I knew from my first day of teaching that this would be my fallback method of connecting with students and letting them know that they are seen by and important to me.

Developing a dialog with students through comments on their work, whether written or in meetings, builds the student instructor relationship, which I believe contributes to inclusion. Admittedly, the approach for doing this is in truly large classes will be different, but I still think it’s vital and possible.

Second is to be encouraging. I think this approach took some time for me. As a young teacher, I tended to be more critical. Particularly around writing. With time, I’ve learned how important it is to build on strengths and to make that more of a focus.

Encouragement and praise foster a desire and confidence to engage in the learning process, and ultimately contributes to a student thriving in their educational journey. Finally, and much more recently, as I’ve joined my social work faculty colleagues in learning more about anti‑racist teaching, and with guidance from Karen Pelletreau from the Center for Innovation, Teaching, and Learning, I’ve become aware that the focus on the written word over oral communication is one component of white supremacy.

In my teaching these past three plus decades, the written word has been paramount from what I’ve assigned articles and books to what I’ve expected from students, papers, and written reactions. Late in my career, I’ve been mixing it up a bit more, offering more audio and video sources and increasing options for non‑written assignments.

I think over the years, my focus on excellent writing has left some fine and diverse students feeling excluded and thus less likely to thrive. In conclusion, a thriving community of student learning depends on staff and faculty also feeling supported, included, and with resources to do their jobs.

There is no question we are in challenging times. The difficult budgetary decisions currently being made at the University of Maine and at Machias will affect how well we can attain this laudatory and well shared goal that students feel included and empowered as they pursue their academic dreams and degrees. hank you.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: Thank you so much, Sandy. In summary, I think I’m OK with what I said in passing to the question that I mentioned at the beginning. Yes, the state of the university is good. It is.

We face challenges in budget, enrollment, and in aging campus. We can do better in protecting our planet, integrating research and teaching, and striving for well‑being and inclusivity. We don’t agree on everything here. Hard to believe, I know, in a university.

I’ve illustrated, I hope, that we have the capabilities, commitments, and compassion to move the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias into a future that honors our past, acknowledges our leadership for Maine, the nation, and beyond, and we can always think students first and students last. All of this is for them.

I hope, after hearing what you’ve heard today, you can also understand why I’m optimistic. The state of the university is strong and will only grow stronger through connection, caring, commitment, and convergence.

I’d like to thank you for your attention today. I’d like to thank all of the people who helped put this together. Particularly ‑‑ I don’t see him now ‑‑ but to single out Ron Lisnet and his team, who were working with video until quite late last night.

Thank you all very, very much. Wishing you the best for the day today. Again, I appreciate your coming today. Thank you.


President Ferrini‑Mundy: We’ve never learned this very well. We don’t have a very good dismissal process here. You’re excused. Thank you for being here.