As incoming president of the University of Southern Maine, I continue to be inspired by the optimism and encouragement that have characterized my interactions with people when talking about USM and the university’s future.

As USM prepares for this year’s exciting Accepted Student Day on April 10, an event my wife Lynne and I will attend, I wish to offer some thoughts about the future of our institution.

When I visited the three campuses in February as a candidate for the presidency, I outlined an agenda of stability, transparency, collaboration and innovation. These tenets will serve as pillars for our new aspirations. We will emphasize and ensure that all USM stakeholders, both internal (students, faculty and staff) and external (our community, business, nonprofit and government partners) have a role to play and a seat at the table.

To support the USM renaissance, we must learn from the challenges of yesterday, embrace the opportunities of today and prepare for the achievements of tomorrow. We must not allow the difficulties of the past to limit our vision of the future.

USM’s new beginning represents substantial transformation, not a superficial one. Therefore we must provide ourselves time to pursue our goals. But no one will offer our institution casual forbearance. We must begin this work immediately; there is much to be done if we wish to govern our collective destiny.

Allow me to outline two principles that will guide our direction. While these elements should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with USM’s recent history, it is important to acknowledge these concepts as we prepare for the decisive journey ahead.

n First: USM’s objective to become a metropolitan university is a solid one. It represents an intentional direction that is both logical and captivating. One of our important goals in the coming months is to articulate how becoming Maine’s Metropolitan University will strengthen opportunities for our students, our employees, our campuses and our communities. It is through collaboration that we will transform our ideas into action and make our vision of a metropolitan university a positive reality.

n Second: To accomplish this first goal, we must have enrollment stability; it is the foundation for the long-term health and vitality of our, or any other, university. USM has started the initial groundwork for a sustainable enrollment management plan, and I am confident we will see the fruits of our efforts in upcoming semesters.

We have a hardworking admissions team in place for new students, along with capable advisers and counselors for our continuing students. Equally important, both groups are expertly supported by USM’s dedicated faculty and staff. In the coming months, we will finalize a comprehensive plan for consistent enrollment.

To help frame our thinking and planning, we should consider the results of the 2014 nationwide survey “Great Jobs, Great Lives,” undertaken by Gallup and Purdue University. In particular, the study assessed college graduates’ financial well-being as well as their overall sense of purpose, their social lives, their connection to their community and their physical health.

The report indicates that “if graduates had a professor who cared about them as a person, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, their odds of being engaged at work more than doubled, as did their odds of thriving in their well-being … . Feeling supported and having deep learning experiences means everything when it comes to long-term outcomes for college graduates.”

In this regard, we each have a role to play and a responsibility for USM’s success. When we strive to make meaningful and supportive connections with our students, we reinforce the principles of our shared vision.

To make the most productive use of the opportunities that present themselves to us, we will require everyone’s best thinking and highest energy levels. Most importantly, we must work together to help USM reach its fullest potential. Our students and our community are counting on us.

 


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