On behalf of the University of Maine at Presque Isle, it is my great pleasure to welcome all of you–new and returning students, community members, faculty and staff (old and new!)–to the start of the 2017-2018 academic year.
This is a particularly exciting time to be an Owl (hoot hoot!). Just this past year alone, we received kudos from national organizations for our academic and programmatic excellence, from appearing in “U.S. News and World Report’s” top regional public schools in the northeast, to ranking in “Forbes” magazine’s “best value” list. We also received a Best Value School Award, recognition for providing students with among the lowest debt upon graduation of any schools in the Northeast, outstanding service to our veterans through the Yellow Ribbon program, and exemplary ranking for several of our accredited programs, including Education, Medical Laboratory Technician, Social Work and Athletic Training.
Hundreds of new faces are joining us this year, both in person and on-line, in our university classrooms as well as our early college courses in high schools across Aroostook County and beyond. We’re also welcoming new staff and faculty to the UMPI Owl family to teach, mentor and support our students. We have many new initiatives starting up to better guide students’ professional and academic achievement. These include our Campus to Career Program, directed by Nicole Fournier (firstname.lastname@example.org), that through EPortfolio, experiential learning, advising and career preparation assists students in actively developing the post-college outcomes that they desire. We are increasing our focus on transformational experiences such as internships in all of all majors and increased academic support services and programming. We are also emphasizing clearly articulated learning goals for each course you take in every program, so that you know what you need to know and when you need to know it. Finally, we’re starting our “Finish in 4” initiative, to help ensure that all students know their personal pathways, from their first day on campus to their last, to finishing their degree in four years or less.
As of this September, I’ve spent 20 years at UMPI and filled more roles than I can sometimes keep track of—from professor to advisor to chair to vice president to provost and now president. Much has changed over the course of those years. Frankly, we’ve learned a lot as an institution, and there are many things that I believe we do better now than we did back in 1997.
But much at UMPI—especially our values as an institution—have remained consistent. Faculty knew then, as they do now, that college students who connect both inside and outside the classroom are more likely to achieve a higher degree of success in both their professional and personal lives. UMPI then, as now, strove to provide outstanding opportunities to challenge you intellectually and expand your cultural and cognitive comfort zone in preparation for the world that follows. In addition, co-curricular experiences and hands-on learning—from internships and study abroad programs to research opportunities and experiential learning, to conferences and distinguished lectures—were recognized as critical to student success.
In the past several years, UMPI began the process of transforming itself beyond a state university that provided northern Mainers with an excellent education. It began its journey as a nationally recognized leader in education which, simply put, was determined to guarantee that all of its students, regardless of their major, would be ready for professional or graduate careers. It was determined that all students, regardless of discipline, would be guaranteed to have mastered all of the skills and knowledge necessary for success in today’s world. We call this “personalized education,” in which you, as students, have multiple opportunities and venues to show your mastery of subject matter, receive the support you need to achieve that mastery and are provided a guaranteed pathway to complete your undergraduate degree in four years (or less!). And over these past four years, UMPI has received more and more recognition from around the country. And we’ve only begun this particular phase of our journey!
One more thing that hasn’t changed: success in college remains a partnership between the university and you, its students. For our faculty and dedicated staff members are only as effective as the relationships that they develop with you and that you, in turn, develop with them. As president, I am often asked what advice I have to offer new students. Much of it seems like “common sense”: (1) Go to class. (2) Get involved, inside and outside your classes. (3) Get to know and make friends with people ahead of you in your program. (4) Learn how to balance and prioritize. (5) Ask for help early and as often as necessary. But some may seem less so. Such as: (1) Don’t be afraid of mistakes but rather learn from them. (2) Keep in touch with family and old friends, as they are the ones who often know you best and can keep you grounded as you face new challenges. And (3) get to understand how college “works,” identifying both strengths and weaknesses for you. Perhaps most important of all: push yourself outside of your comfort zone, as that’s often when the most powerful learning happens. UMPI’s personalized education is designed to give you the opportunity to take risks, to not have to get everything right that first time out, but rather to develop your skills and abilities over time. That’s all because, since we started doing this work back in 1903, we’ve learned a few things ourselves. Like guaranteeing that you’ll end your journey with us prepared for what comes next…no matter where and how that journey began.