Fifty years ago I reported for flight duty at NAS Brunswick. It was my first time in Maine, and I have not left since.

UMaine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy has promoted a graduate-level partnership of the engineering programs at the University of Maine, above, and the University of Southern Maine. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel, File

Maine offered everything I hoped for in life: a meaningful career path combined with a superb setting to raise a family.

But I did not arrive here with the full set of professional skills that I would need. For that, I enrolled at nights in the University of Maine’s MBA program, using VA credits to better understand finance, computers, teamwork and management. I was very grateful for that timely and pertinent education, and when asked subsequently to join the adjunct faculty for a year, I did so.

At UMaine today I follow with interest the challenges and controversy faced by system Chancellor Dannel Malloy. Malloy was brought in to bring better discipline, both in terms of curricula and finances, to a fractured system. The board of trustees directed him to unify the system and “articulate a financially sustainable five-year vision for UMS, set clear priorities with measurable outcomes, and identify the primary strategies that will achieve those outcomes.” No small task.

The task is made all the harder due to factions that work to impede substantive action. Malloy does promote just such decisive action: systemwide credit recognition; a graduate-level partnership of the UMaine and University of Southern Maine engineering programs, and ferreting out the weaker programs, or the programs that will not succeed given declining enrollment and changes in workplace needs.

The UMaine System was built for a different era. The recent combination of the UMaine and USM MBA programs has been a rousing success – after being stalled for well over a decade, it took Malloy’s push to make an alliance happen. The chancellor’s mission is much more comprehensive than the rollout of one program, and that’s the rub. Traditional programs and teaching locations have political clout, but they may not afford Maine’s taxpayers or its college students the best return on education dollars. Workforce needs have changed dramatically in a short time. Universities and their governance need to keep pace, or find themselves irrelevant.


Having served multiple terms on another Maine-based university’s board, I appreciate all too well what strong leadership and a supportive governance system provide. Weaker programs are pruned, curricula are constantly being reformed to follow workplace needs and an integrative approach is applied throughout. That integration is critical to students who change disciplines or transfer to other campuses, both in terms of a timely graduation and reduced costs. Simply put, institutions must adapt so as to thrive and go forward.

The path forward was envisioned by the Alfond Foundation when they awarded the UMaine System an unprecedented $240 million grant in October 2020. As cited in a February 2021 UMaine System news release: “$55 million of the grant is directed towards a Maine Graduate and Professional Center in Portland, integrating program development across business, law, public policy, and graduate engineering, computing and information sciences. An additional $75 million was directed towards combining the UM and USM Engineering Schools.” Student success and athletic initiatives made up the rest of the grant initiatives.

Malloy is specifically charged with developing both a five-year vision for the UMaine System and leading the 10-year project that would be responsive to the Alfond grant.

Continuity in senior leadership is critical to the timely success of such efforts, and unfortunately the UMaine System has suffered too-frequent changes to its chancellor and president positions. The UMaine System board of trustees recently considered all aspects of Malloy’s performance to date and, while recognizing a hiring misstep and stylistic problems, unanimously supported a one-year contract extension. The job ahead is much bigger than the term provided. Hopefully the work plan laid out will, in a year’s time, satisfy both the critics and the trustees.

The UMaine System is at an inflection point. A path forward has been laid out, and the resources are in place to effectuate necessary, and long-overdue, change. Let’s support a chancellor who can make it happen, Dan Malloy.

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