A finalist for the presidency of the University of Southern Maine said his experience in top administrative roles at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey as it went through transformative change and challenges makes him a good choice for the job.

“It’s a great fit,” said Harvey Kesselman, provost and executive vice president at Richard Stockton, formerly known as Stockton College..

He is one of three finalists for the job of leading USM, which has been roiled by years of multimillion-dollar deficits, falling enrollment and tuition freezes.

“You need to bring in someone who has confronted these issues and been successful resolving them,” Kesselman said Thursday during a campus visit. “I thought my skills and history and experience would be a good match.”

Kesselman previously served at Stockton College as dean and professor of education, interim vice president for administration and finance, special assistant to the president and vice president for student affairs.

The other finalists for the USM job are Glenn Cummings, interim president of the University of Maine at Augusta and former speaker of the Maine House, and Jose Sartarelli, chief global officer and dean of the business school at West Virginia University.

USM is currently led by David Flanagan, who was appointed to a one-year term in July, replacing Theodora Kalikow, who stepped down after two years as interim president.

The full board of trustees must approve the chancellor’s choice for president. The new leader is expected to take office this summer.

During his visit Thursday, Kesselman said he understood the challenges facing USM, saying Stockton College also faced declining demographics, drops in state funding and pressure to grow. He has also helped some colleges transition to metropolitan university models, where a college is closely tied to the community through research and service work, just as USM is poised to do.

“Look at my background in your needs,” he told a group of faculty members. “These are functional areas I have actually done.”

Richard Stockton College transitioned in September from a college to a comprehensive university after approval by the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education. It plans to change its name to Stockton University.

Were he to be president at USM, he would focus first on retention, Kesselman said.

“It will solve many of your (financial) problems, plus there is a moral imperative to a degree,” he said. “We need to ensure students spending money here stay here. It’s just the right thing to do.”

He would also work on increasing recruitment, particularly of out-of-state students who pay more in tuition, and increase USM’s public-private partnerships.

“You don’t have an easy nut to crack here, but it’s doable,” he said.

Last year, USM cut 50 faculty positions and five academic programs to close a $16 million gap in the school’s $134 million budget for the fiscal year ending in June 2015, prompting bitter protests by students and faculty.

Kesselman serves on the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority and the Educational Testing Service’s Higher Education Advisory Council. He also was recently named to the inaugural board of trustees of the American Council on Education’s newly formed Association of Chief Academic Officers.

Kesselman has a doctorate in higher education administration from Widener University, a private university in Pennsylvania, a master’s degree in student personnel services/counseling from Rowan University in New Jersey and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stockton College.

Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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