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University of Maine System’s board of trustees adopted on Wednesday a multi-year set of strategic priorities that are intended to continue and expand the One University reform effort over the next three to five years.
The “declaration of strategic priorities” approved unanimously by the board also commits the UMaine System’s seven campuses to continue building efficient and cost-effective public education programs designed to meet the needs of Mainers of all ages as well as help businesses address their workforce challenges.
In addition to adopting the priorities, the board expressed appreciation of Chancellor James H. Page’s seven years leading the UMaine system. Page, 66, announced earlier this week his intention to retire on June 30. A national search for his replacement has begun, with the intention of hiring his replacement in the summer of 2019.
“Jim Page has provided pioneering higher education leadership and student and state-focused public service during his tenure as Chancellor of the University of Maine System,” said James Erwin, chairman of the UMaine System. “Engaging the campuses and university stakeholders in the reform process, Chancellor Page and the presidents were able to solve complex problems and build consensus while never conceding the primacy of the university scholarship and public service mission. ... The reforms and momentum achieved during his tenure position Maine’s public universities for transformational state leadership.”
In stark contrast to the five-year $90 million structural deficit the UMaine System faced when Page became chancellor in March 2012, the trustees’ adoption of strategic priorities rests on a solid foundation resulting from One University reforms already launched.
The strategic priorities adopted on Wednesday are guided by “Maine’s workforce needs, the state’s demographic challenges and the need to meet student and employer expectations for post-secondary education in a rapidly changing marketplace,” according to a news release.
Advancing the strategic priorities over the next three to five years will support existing One University objectives, such as the plans to double nursing and engineering enrollment in response to workforce shortages that could leave thousands of health care, manufacturing, transportation, engineering consulting and utility jobs unfilled over the next 10 years.
The priorities also direct the universities to bring programming and services into alignment with the needs of Maine’s adult learner population and their employers. As part of this effort, the System is a founding member of the MaineSpark coalition which aims to prepare 60% of Mainers with a degree or workforce credential by 2025.
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The trustees acknowledged that the three-to-five-year time frame for those strategic priorities will fall under the tenure of Page’s successor as chancellor. The search for a new chancellor will be led by former board chairman Sam Collins.
“It is essential that Maine provide its communities and citizens with affordable, lifelong access to flexible, relevant 21st Century learning,” said Collins, trustee and chairman of the Chancellor Search Committee. “With great appreciation for the service, leadership and friendship of Dr. James Page we embark on the search for a new leader for the University of Maine System who will help us build on our success and swiftly achieve the public education innovation, alignment and investment we need to address Maine’s workforce and demographic challenges.”