A heartfelt welcome to all at the start of this new semester, one that sees a great many new initiatives and programs, as well as a continuation of the outstanding work we’ve all been doing in terms of ongoing efforts and campaigns. I must admit that seldom—if ever—have I felt the level of engagement and excitement, all throughout the summer and right through our super-revamped orientation week. It’s a great start to what will certainly prove to be a special academic year, so my thanks to all who worked so hard these last weeks and months to make this all possible. It’s impossible for me to capture everything that has occurred and that we’re looking forward to—but let me offer you some high points!
1. It is nothing less than awesome to see that first Nursing class here at UMPI, signaling one of our great partnerships with UMFK. Here are the happy 20 members sitting in on their very first session!
2. Congratulations to Jason Johnston and all the faculty—and community supporters—involved who made possible the Agricultural Science and Agribusiness program here at UMPI—starting this fall with at least 8 students enrolled (and that’s just from word of mouth!). A great new program that has been over 100 years in the making and that will be absolutely vital to the long term health of Aroostook County agriculture for many generations to come!
3. On a related note, we are immensely pleased to announce the establishment of the Dr. Robert Vinton Akeley Chair of Agricultural Science and Agribusiness, made possible by a remarkable endowment of $1 million from Mrs. Mary Barton Akeley Smith, in honor of her father, Dr. Robert Akeley, and in memory of her husband, Rodney Smith. A native of Presque Isle, Dr. Akeley was associated with the Federal Program of Potato Investigations as early as 1932, including conducting the Potato Breeding Program at the Aroostook Farm in Presque Isle. In 1956, he was transferred to Maryland as leader of the National Potato Breeding Program. Akeley was directly or indirectly responsible for the release of numerous new potato varieties, including but not limited to Boone, Cherokee, Delus, Early Gem, Kennebec, Merrimack, Pungo, Plymouth, Saco, and others. His work in potato breeding received international recognition, and he authored more than eighty publications. Much more information and celebration of this incredible gift in the coming weeks!
4. My special thanks to all of those who made possible this past week’s Orientation, as well as all the planning and organizing behind it. As I said earlier, I can’t remember experiencing such an energizing week, from the leadership provided by Vanessa Pearson, the activities planned by Violet Washburn, the residence hall organization by Don Gibson and his staff, as well as the great food provided by Sodexo, and all of the time dedicated by those working in all of our offices—from Financial Aid, to Safety and Security, to Facilities—as well as all of the staff and faculty and volunteers that made it possible. A great week and fantastic success all around!
5. It was wonderful to be present for our very first home athletic event of the year this past Saturday—the Women’s Cross Country meet—and to watch our athletes come in first, second, and fourth, as well as covering six out of the top ten finishing spots, to win their first meet of the season and kick off Fall Athletics in tremendous fashion! Here’s first place runner Valentine Degiovanni coming across the finish line at 22:36, making it look effortless.
6. As I noted in an earlier campus-wide email, November’s ballot lists the University of Maine System’s bond request as Question 4. If this passes, over 7 million dollars will be earmarked for higher education here in Aroostook County, with 4.5 million specifically for UMPI. This is a once in a generation opportunity for our campus and the people of Aroostook County, funding the expansion of multiple allied health programs here at UMPI (including MLT, PTA, Exercise Science, the new BSN, and additional new health care programming), the transformation of underutilized existing classroom space into state-of-the-art labs and clinical areas, and better opportunities for our graduates to work and stay here in Aroostook County.
7. YourPace—or the program formally known as CBE, as I like to call it (!)—continues to engage more and more working men and women across Maine and the United States, incorporating Business Administration programming, as well as (very soon), Education, Accounting, and other majors. My thanks to the entire YourPace team—located in Normal Hall, so stop by and say hello—for their indefatigable energy and dedication.
8. The Board of Trustees of the University of Maine System visits our campus on September 16 and 17, with a public presentation by UMPI faculty and Board of Visitors members around 3:00 PM Sunday. Please feel free to drop by and support the presentation of our work in Agricultural Science, Nursing, and our YourPace programming!
9. Enrollments. All throughout the year, you’ve heard my updates about The Way It Should Be campaign and our “Free for Four” and “For Maine Families” tuition initiatives. We have also been making substantial headway in developing further Early College partnerships with local school districts as well as those much farther afield (such as The Hyde School in Brunswick). My thanks to David Murray, who is leading our efforts in this area and spends nearly as much time traveling and meeting with high school faculty and parents as he does in his office! All of these efforts are paying off, as our most recent numbers show us with a 4.3% increase in total headcount compared to start of classes last year, a 5.1% increase in total credit hours, and a 5.1% increase in total FTE. All of that is *before* our dual enrollments come in and while our YourPace enrollments continue apace (ha ha). I’m not by nature competitive about such things (!), but let’s just say a lot of people are talking about the work we’re doing. So, again, remarkable efforts from a remarkable group of individuals all year—and summer—long, who have labored to enroll new students, returning students, first time and adult learners, by showing all the reasons why college at UMPI truly is The Way It Should Be.
10. Finally, and not just to get to “10,” my special thanks to the entire crew in Admissions. Perhaps no one was presented with more challenges and more changes this past year in a remarkably compressed amount of time—and no one has responded with more smashing success. Trish, Bethany, Jon, Nancy, joined now by Jennifer—along with their exceptional student ambassadors and staff members—make possible all the work the rest of us love to do.
11. Ok, one last giant thanks and recognition—and this is for the entire Facilities crew, for the fantastic work they did all summer long. From building decks (!) to new lab space, from laying asphalt to dropping tile, from the great work in the (new and improved) Owl’s Nest, to the incredible looking grounds, to the soccer field (and that was a “mission impossible,” getting that ready in time!), to making our buildings and grounds look fantastic, day in and day out, no one is more remarkable.