A longtime college administrator known internationally for his writings on fake science in the mental health field will become the sixth president of the University of New England, school officials said Tuesday.

Dr. James Herbert comes to Maine from Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he is executive vice provost and dean of the Graduate College.

Herbert will replace Danielle Ripich, who is retiring after overseeing a decade of dramatic growth at the school’s campuses in Biddeford and Portland and the opening of a campus in Morocco. Ripich became the fifth president of the private university in July 2006.

During Ripich’s tenure, UNE launched the College of Pharmacy, College of Dental Medicine and the online College of Graduate and Professional Studies. Enrollment more than doubled, growing from 4,000 students to more than 10,000 students today. Her last day at the university will be June 30.

Herbert said he had never applied to a university president position before learning about the opening at UNE. He was inspired to pursue the opportunity after hearing about the growth of the university during Ripich’s tenure and after meeting faculty, staff and students on the Portland and Biddeford campuses.

“They have echoed again and again the pride they take in being part of such an innovative and cutting-edge community,” he said. “With each and every glimmer of pride I’ve seen sparkling in their eyes, and with each warm smile I’ve seen rising to their faces, they have convinced me that UNE is the place for me.”

Herbert said UNE is similar in many ways to Drexel, where he has spent the past 15 years working in a variety of leadership roles. The similarities include embracing a public mission despite the status as a private university, entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to making education accessible to students of all backgrounds, he said.

Herbert said he is excited to oversee the next phase for the university, but he isn’t coming into the position with a predetermined agenda. One of the university’s greatest strengths is its health sciences program and he expects continued investment in the program will be needed to “stay ahead of the curve.”

“At the same time, UNE is so much more than health sciences,” he said. “We have a lot of really great stuff, but there are also areas to grow.”

Herbert also wants to ensure that the university continues to be sensitive to costs. Under Ripich’s watch, tuition costs at UNE grew at a slower rate than the national average, he said. Tuition, fees, room and board at UNE cost about $48,000 a year. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the national average cost at a private college is $61,210.

The next decade will be one of the most challenging yet for higher education, Herbert said.

“As our economy evolves at an unprecedented rate, colleges and universities are subject to increasing competition for students and increasing price sensitivity,” he said. “The students and parents who entrust us to provide a first-rate education expect us to deliver on that promise and they deserve nothing less.”

During a news conference announcing Herbert’s hiring, Ripich praised him for his intelligence and said she is confident he “will look into the future and stay one step ahead of the trends.”

“Upon first meeting James, I was struck by how warm and engaging he is, how acutely intelligent and how forward-thinking,” Ripich said. “I know he will continue to empower our talented faculty and staff to rethink the traditional ways of doing things in their fields.”

Gloria Pinza, a member of the UNE board of trustees and chairwoman of the presidential search committee, said Herbert stood out even in a field of accomplished candidates. He brings with him a broad range of professional experience, including working closely with Drexel’s president to execute strategic and operational initiatives.

“Just as important, James is a delightful person who has demonstrated a tremendous work ethic, a warm and engaging personality and a good sense of humor,” Pinza said.

During his time at Drexel, Herbert was the first dean of the Graduate College, where he oversaw an office that served more than 9,100 graduate students in 230 programs across 14 colleges and schools. He previously served as head of the Department of Psychology and as director of the university’s Ph.D. program in clinical psychology. He also was a professor of psychology.

Herbert, a scholar and clinical psychologist, earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas in Austin and his master’s and doctorate from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. He has published more than 170 pieces and is internationally known for his writing on quackery and pseudoscience in mental health. His recent book on mindfulness and psychological acceptance was endorsed by the Dalai Lama.

Herbert, who grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas, had never been to Maine before visiting UNE. He said he and his wife, Lynn Brandsma, are looking forward to being near the ocean and exploring Maine’s food scene. So far, their experiences in Maine have reminded him of the John Denver song lyrics about coming home to a place you’ve never been, he said.

“It really does feel like that,” he said. “Even though I’m ‘from away’ as you say up here, I’m very much looking forward to making Maine home.”

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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