UMS Bulletins
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 20, 2004
CONTACT: John Diamond 207-949-4904 (cell) or Rita Sullivan 207-973-3245

UNIVERSITY SYSTEM TRUSTEES APPROVE STRATEGIC PLAN

ORONO – Following more than a year of hearings and revisions, the University of Maine System Board of Trustees Monday approved a long-term Strategic Plan.

Meeting in Orono at the University of Maine, trustees voted unanimously, with one absent member, to approve a significantly modified version of the Plan, which was initially presented in draft form in March. A revised version was issued Sept. 10, following more than 120 hours of public-comment sessions across the State as well as review of hundreds of pages of correspondence.

“The Strategic Plan recognizes that change is necessary, and that maintaining the status quo is not the answer,” said Charles L. Johnson, III, chair of the board. “Today’s vote on the Plan will re-engineer our University System to ensure its value and vitality for the years ahead.”

University System Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal credited the trustees for their work on the Plan. He cited the Board’s statutory responsibility for planning and fiscal management and praised members’ commitment of time and energy.

“The Plan contains good things for Maine’s future,” Westphal said. “Once implemented, the Plan will provide more resources, more educational opportunities, and in time an improved infrastructure that will strengthen the value and benefits of our public universities.”

The principle objectives of the Strategic Plan are to enhance academic quality, reduce administrative costs, and expand partnerships with public and private-sector entities. Maine’s public universities also face a projected $102 million five-year financial structural gap in current and priority operations.

The Plan adopted Monday includes merging the University of Maine at Augusta with the University of Southern Maine; partnering with Maine’s community colleges to coordinate resources and programs; creating a formal agreement involving the universities at Fort Kent, Machias, and Presque Isle to share administrative costs and coordinate programs and services; and to improve public outreach and private fundraising. Once fully implemented in five years, the UMS projects a net cost-reduction of $12 million annually.

James D. Mullen, chair of the Board’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee, presented the Plan to trustees, explaining that the implementation process will be lengthy and will involve a lot of people.

“The Plan does not solve every one of the System’s needs, but it is not intended to do so,” Mullen explained. “It’s a conceptual framework from which, with a great deal of input from others, we will identify and answer the questions that have arisen and will arise.”

State Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron, a member of the Board of Trustees, said that it is essential that all parties work collaboratively to make the Plan successful.

“We have to think creatively about new ways of serving the educational needs of our State,” she said, in expressing her support for the Strategic Plan. Gendron said the Plan advances the State’s interest in creating a “seamless” educational network that includes the PreK-12 system, community colleges, and Maine’s public universities.

The Strategic Plan includes nine strategic directions covering academic quality, administrative structure, cost effectiveness, and entrepreneurial partnerships, and would incorporate the following organizational structure:

  • A central System administration which, working with the Board of Trustees, provides System-wide planning, management, coordination, and oversight, and performs certain “back-office” administrative functions.
  • A land-grant/sea-grant research university with State-wide and national responsibilities, including primary responsibility as Maine’s graduate-level, research, and public service outreach institution. (The University of Maine)
  • A comprehensive, multi-campus, urban university serving the southern and central regions of the State, offering undergraduate programs as well as a focused set of graduate, research, and outreach offerings. (University of Southern Maine, including what currently is the University of Maine at Augusta)
  • Three liberal arts universities, operating as part of a rural consortium; each would have at least one signature academic program and offer undergraduate programs as well as a focused set of graduate offerings. (University of Maine at Fort Kent, University of Maine at Machias, and University of Maine at Presque Isle)
  • A single-campus, public liberal arts college featuring a strong set of teacher-education programs, with focused research and outreach offerings related to its unique role within the University System. (University of Maine at Farmington)
  • A set of 11 academic outreach centers, each affiliated with one of the University System’s institutions, providing Distance Education opportunities on-site and through remote-access technologies.

Implementation is expected to begin in early 2005.

In a related matter, Trustees approved a State budget request for the two-year period beginning July 1, 2005 and concluding June 30, 2007. The request seeks an additional $14.6 million in State funding to continue current levels of academic, research, and public service activities. It also seeks funds for new UMS initiatives, such as $5.5 million for additional student financial aid; $1.4 million to help expand high-demand programs in K-12 teacher education and in nursing; $5.0 million in State research and development funding; and $2.5 million for distance education technology and library services. The request will be submitted this week to Governor Baldacci for consideration as part of his biennial budget proposal to the Legislature.

In other business at Monday’s Board meeting:

  • The Board acknowledged and thanked Matthew C. Rodrigue for his two years of service on the Board. Rodrigue, who graduated from UMaine in 2004, served on the Trustees’ Strategic Planning Steering Committee and played a leadership role in matters pertaining to human resources, labor relations, and student affairs. Rodrigue completes his term in October. Governor Baldacci will nominate a replacement for Rodrigue in the near future.
  • The Board approved a $10.2 fundraising campaign for the Maine Center for the Arts at UMaine.

Established in 1968, the University of Maine System is the State’s largest educational institution, with more than 34,000 students enrolled. It features seven universities – some with multiple campuses – located across the State, as well as 11 University College outreach centers and more than 100 interactive distance education sites.

The UMS Strategic Plan is available at http://www.maine.edu/spp/.

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