UMS Bulletins
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 10, 2004
CONTACT: John Diamond 207-973-3224 or Rita Sullivan 207-973-3245


Plan Focuses on Enhancing Quality, Building Partnerships, and Accountability

BANGOR – University of Maine System Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal presented the UMS Strategic Plan today at a news conference at the System Office in Bangor. Westphal was joined by Trustee Margaret A. Weston, who serves on the Board of Trustees Steering Committee for Strategic Planning.

[Editor’s Note: Transcripts are available of Chancellor Westphal’s(pdf) and Trustee Weston’s(pdf) remarks from today’s news conference.]

Westphal said the plan emphasizes five key characteristics: enhancing quality; improving focus; creating new opportunities; building partnerships; and ensuring accountability.

“The plan is ambitious and, in our opinion, visionary,” Westphal said. “It talks about the University System’s condition, potential, and importance to the future of our state.

“The plan articulates the need for new ways of approaching our mission,” Westphal continued. “It also calls for much broader public and private-sector commitment to our universities and to the hundreds of thousands of people they serve” through teaching, research, and public service outreach.

The Strategic Plan, which was approved by the Steering Committee at its September 7 meeting, will be presented to the full Board of Trustees for consideration at its September 19-20 meeting in Orono. Once the Plan is approved, a second phase of planning will begin to define the necessary implementation steps. Implementation will begin after Chancellor Westphal briefs the Legislature in early 2005.

"The committee’s report is the result of more than a year’s worth of work and an open, inclusive process, explained Weston. "Since releasing that plan, we spent five months listening to faculty, staff, students, and interested citizens tell us what they thought of the plan, and how it could be improved.

"The trustees and the chancellor conducted over 120 hours of campus-based meetings and public forums to collect those opinions,” she continued. "We received hundreds of pages of feedback through email and other forms of correspondence. The chancellor and others worked with faculty leaders to hold a two-day summit at which faculty reviewed and offered suggested revisions to the key strategies in the plan.

"In all, we spent over five months listening to thoughts about ways to improve the plan. We appreciate receiving that input and incorporated many of the recommendations. The plan being released today is better because of it," Weston said.

The principle objectives of the Strategic Plan are to enhance academic quality and improve cost-management in order to address the economic realities confronting Maine’s public universities, which face a projected $102 million financial structural gap over the next five years.

The Strategic Plan includes nine strategic directions covering academic quality, administrative structure, cost effectiveness, and entrepreneurial partnerships:

  1. Strive for quality across the System through rigorous academic program planning, strengthened student services, and program realignment.
  2. Build and sustain a high-quality and well-supported faculty and staff System-wide.
  3. Improve and expand the System’s Distance Education infrastructure and academic programs.
  4. Expand and enhance the System’s library resources in ways that benefit the research and resource needs of both its universities and the public.
  5. Strengthen and expand university-based research activity and capacity to enhance Maine’s economy.
  6. Establish institutional and individual performance measures to ensure prudent stewardship and public accountability.
  7. Consolidate certain business and administrative functions across the System to achieve cost-savings and increased efficiencies while maintaining “front-line” customer services at the individual university level.
  8. Adopt changes in organizational structure (see below) that will clarify missions, improve academic and administrative responsiveness, and better serve the University System’s many constituencies.
  9. Develop a coordinated and collaborative approach to university advancement and advocacy to improve the appeal, reputation, financial resources, identity, and constituent support for Maine’s public universities.

Organizational Structure
Under the Strategic Plan, the University System 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.

The Strategic Planning Process, led by the Board of Trustees and the Chancellor, has been a collaborative process that formally began in September 2003. Based on input received during facilitated conversations at each of the System’s seven universities, a Draft Strategic Plan was released on March 26, 2004. A three-month public comment period followed, including more than 120 hours of meeting and public forums, with additional feedback gathered at a System-wide “faculty summit” in July.

Members of the Strategic Planning Task Force – composed of the Steering Committee and university presidents – and members of the University System senior staff evaluated and discussed the feedback received, and revisions of the Draft Plan were presented to, and approved by, the full Board of Trustees at a day-long meeting on August 23.

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