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ORONO — University of Maine President Robert Kennedy unveiled “UMaine 150,” an eight-point plan that he says “will both improve UMaine and make it more financially sustainable.” Kennedy made the announcement during a Tuesday morning presentation at UMaine’s Collins Center for the Arts.
Some 250 members of the UMaine community attended the presentation, at which Kennedy also announced his recommendations for modifying UMaine’s academic program to adjust to new budget realities. He accepted most of the recommendations advanced by UMaine’s Academic Program Prioritization Working Group (APPWG), a faculty and administration committee that started working late last summer to recommend ways to reduce UMaine’s academic budget by $12.2 million over a three-year period beginning July 1, 2011. The university’s overall budget reduction goal for that time period is projected at $25 million, with the remaining adjustments to come from non-academic budgets.
Kennedy has adopted the following APPWG recommendations:
- Elimination of the Dept. of Public Administration
- Suspension of the German and Latin language majors
- Suspension of the theatre major
- Suspension of the women’s studies major and graduate concentration in that discipline
- Reduction of music master’s degree concentrations from five to two, retaining music education and music performance while eliminating instrumental conducting, choral conducting and collaborative piano
- Downsizing of the Master of Arts in Teaching program
- Downsizing of the Center for Research and Evaluation in the College of Education and Human Development
- Consolidations in the College of Engineering, including the assignment of certain Dept. of Mechanical Engineering teaching responsibilities to faculty members in the School of Engineering Technology
- Elimination of bachelor’s degrees in aquaculture, wood science, forest operations and forest ecosystem science, folding those fields of study into other majors in more cost-effective ways
During his presentation, Kennedy said that UMaine will to continue to provide instruction and opportunity in certain areas where majors will be discontinued, including theatre, women’s studies, German and Latin. At the same time, he said, “We must rededicate ourselves to our core principles and timely priorities.”
Kennedy also announced several changes related to UMaine’s College of Business, Public Policy and Health, currently comprised of the Dept. of Public Administration, part of the School of Economics, the School of Social Work and the Maine Business School. In addition to discontinuing the Dept. of Public Administration, Kennedy has reassigned this college’s economists to a unified School of Economics in the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture. He has also moved the School of Social Work to a new unit that will become a cornerstone of UMaine 150, leaving the Maine Business School as a stand-alone unit administrated by a dean who will report to the UMaine provost, just as college deans do.
This will reduce the number of UMaine colleges from five to four, in addition to its Honors College.
“I believe this structure, which is common at many universities similar to UMaine, will allow for an appropriate focus on business teaching, research and outreach, and will create excellent opportunities for good students for years to come,” he said.
The School of Social Work is slated to become part of a new interdisciplinary Division of Health and Biomedical Sciences, the largest and most ambitious element of UMaine 150.
“(This division) will make an enormous difference for UMaine, capitalizing on core strengths, providing opportunity in areas where there’s job growth and student interest, and creating new research collaborations in important fields, all while using existing resources,” he said.
In addition to the School of Social Work, Kennedy says the division will include the School of Nursing, the Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition, the Dept. of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and the Dept. of Molecular and Biomedical Science. It will be highlighted by connections to faculty and students in areas like biology, chemistry, biological engineering and other units.
He compared it in structure and potential to UMaine’s accalimed School of Marine Sciences.
Kennedy has assigned Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Susan Hunter and College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture Dean Edward Ashworth to fully develop a plan for this division, with their report due by the end of the calendar year.
In addition to creating the Division of Health and Biomedical Sciences, the eight-point UMaine 150 initiative includes a series of moves that Kennedy says will help UMaine save resources and/or increase revenue:
- Development over the next eight months of a structure and implementation plan to create a unified, interdisciplinary program from elements of the Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Dept. of Spatial Information Science and Engineering and the Dept. of Computer Science to lead teaching, research and outreach in emerging computer-related fields
- More formal integration of the university’s unique Innovation Engineering curriculum into the broader academic program through a new management structure that involves the deans of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and the Maine Business School
- Modification of UMaine’s General Education curriculum, the array of core courses required for students in any major; Kennedy encouraged the UMaine faculty to accelerate efforts to “develop a model program that will also save money and simplify the path to a degree for our students” while providing the comprehensive, liberal arts-based education that he called “the hallmark of a university education”
- Formal review, by Vice President for Administration and Finance Janet Waldron, of a series of revenue-enhancement recommendations forwarded by APPWG, with the understanding that those with promise for bringing in more funds will be adopted; initiatives in this category include those related to enrollment, pricing and public-private partnerships
Kennedy also announced plans for “strategic, targeted investments” in three areas that he called a “down payment on UMaine’s future:”
- Hiring lecturers in liberal arts disciplines of high student interest, with the understanding that those professors will be exemplary educators free from research expectations who will also teach in the Honors College, which he called “one of (UMaine’s) greatest success stories of the past decade”
- Scholarship support earmarked for students enrolling in Division of Health and Biomedical Sciences degree programs
- Funding to “accelerate” the development of more online education programming so that UMaine can better respond to emerging student needs for convenient, accessible programs
Kennedy says he plans to fund these investments from some of the state money returned to the university budget by the governor and state legislature for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Those funds, approximately $3 million, were deappropriated during the current fiscal year.
Further details, including the text of Kennedy’s Tuesday address, are available online (umaine.edu/umaine150).