Glenn Cummings, interim president of the University of Maine at Augusta and former speaker of the Maine House, is one of three finalists for president of the University of Southern Maine, system officials announced Tuesday.

The successful candidate will take the reins at a campus that has been in financial crisis and upheaval for more than a year. Student and faculty protests and walkouts have dogged the administration as it 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.

The second-largest campus in the seven-campus University of Maine System, USM has 8,400 students at three campuses – Portland, Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn.

The other candidates are Harvey Kesselman, provost and executive vice president at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, and Jose Sartarelli, chief global officer and Milan Puskar dean of the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University.

System officials said 80 people had applied for the job, and eight went through in-person interviews last week.

“The talent, diversity, size and enthusiasm of the applicant pool surpassed our expectations,” said system trustee James Erwin, who is heading the search committee. “The search committee has selected strong finalists for the job of leading and transforming USM into a metropolitan university that will make it an indispensable partner to the Portland and Lewiston-Auburn regions.”

Each finalist will have two-day campus visits in early February. The full board of trustees must approve the chancellor’s choice for president, and the new president is expected to take office this summer.

USM is currently led by interim President David Flanagan, who was appointed to a one-year term in July, replacing Theodora Kalikow. Kalikow, a longtime president at the system’s Farmington campus, stepped down after a contentious two years as USM’s interim president during the ongoing financial crisis.

Cummings already has ties to USM, as an assistant professor teaching educational leadership. Before being named interim president of UMaine Augusta in September, he was president and executive director of Good Will-Hinckley and the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Hinckley, one of the first charter schools in the state.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, who served with Cummings in the Legislature, said Cummings had done “terrific things” at UMaine Augusta.

“I think Glenn is a very strong candidate,” Brennan said.

Cummings served under President Barack Obama as a deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education. During his tenure in the Maine House of Representatives, he also chaired the Joint Committee of Education and Cultural Affairs.

He has a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, a master of arts degree in teaching from Brown and a bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan.

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

A former student, Trent Seibert, said Kesselman worked well with faculty, students and community members when Seibert was a student at Stockton College in the 1990s.

“He was quite a success,” said Seibert, who is now an investigative producer for KTRK, a television station in Texas. Kesselman was a mentor to him, he said.

“He has continued to grow the institution. My degree is worth more today because of Dr. Kesselman,” Seibert said.

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, and plans to change its name to Stockton University. The school is located in Galloway.

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.

Sartarelli was a senior-level executive at several multinational pharmaceutical companies before joining West Virginia University in 2010.

Sartarelli said in his application that during his time as dean of the business college at West Virginia University, enrollment has grown to 2,709 students, from 1,452 in 2010, and net assets have increased to $45 million, up from $29 million in 2010. During the same four years, he said the school also had record fundraising of $30 million.

Sartarelli, a native of Brazil who speaks Portuguese and Spanish, has led university efforts to coordinate all international activities in teaching, research and service.

During his tenure the university has increased international student enrollment, established a new center for global business and created student exchange programs with colleges in Germany, China, Israel and Brazil, he said.

Sartarelli was at Johnson & Johnson from 2001-2010, heading pharmaceutical operations in Asia-Pacific, Japan and Latin America. Previous to that he spent four year at Bristol-Myers Squibb as president of the company’s medicines group in Latin America, Puerto Rico and Canada, and six years at Eli Lilly in a variety of roles, including director of Asia Pacific operations.

Sartarelli received a doctorate and master’s degree in business administration from Michigan State University, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the São Paulo School of Business Administration in São Paulo, Brazil.