Welcome Back to the Way it Should Be!

UMPI’s very own President, Ray Rice.

When I was a kid—which was, admittedly, a while ago now—I would always start feeling an anxiety over the end of summer and its carefree, endless afternoons and bike rides and epic AD&D adventures with friends (anyone get that reference?) just before Labor Day.  In fact, somewhat perversely, I would hope for a rainy Labor Day Monday just so I could be stuck inside and watch the Jerry Lewis Telethon for hours on end precisely because it made that final unofficial day of summer last all the longer.  (Thankfully, telethons, like typewriters and rotary phones and Atari gaming consoles, have passed into legend.)

At UMPI, I get anxious for Labor Day now because it usually means that classes (finally) start again for the fall semester.  That’s a different kind of anxiety, I realize, but an equally important one.  And that’s because, although a lot of really important things happen at UMPI over the summer months (and summer is a truly miraculous time of year in the County), Presque Isle just isn’t the same without you all.

For certain, this was a crazy-busy summer here.  It included soccer camps, Upward Bound kids, the Zillman Family Greenhouse under construction (on time!), a whole lot of gardening (did we ever count all the hours it took for William and everyone else to keep the Centennial Garden weeded?), laying down some new asphalt the last couple weeks of August just for fun and endless hours of accreditation paperwork.

But UMPI certainly isn’t a college—with a fully functioning Owl’s Nest and Starbuck’s coffee every morning!—without its students.

And this is a truly great fall.  We’re welcoming more new students to campus than we have in years.  We have a more diverse group of new students than ever, with over 28 percent coming from out of state or other countries (including western Massachusetts, hurrah!).  We have more nursing students coming into our shared BSN with UMFK, new Accountant majors, new Ag Science majors and new Cybersecurity students—and those are just our “new” programs.  We have the biggest group of Elementary Education majors in years, one of our largest group of PTA majors, and large cohorts of Social Work, Psychology, Biology and, of course, Business majors.  And that doesn’t even count our YourPace students in Business Administration, with new degree-completion programs coming this year in Criminal Justice, Professional Communication, Political Science and History, Psychology and Education.  You literally come from around the world and are located around the world.

Nor should I neglect to thank our new scholar-athletes in Cross County, Volleyball, Soccer, Basketball, Golf, Track and Field and Baseball and Softball.  Many of of these sports have some of the biggest rosters we’ve seen in years (e.g., Women’s Soccer, which I hear is making Coach Marston work hard to keep up with them!).

We adopted our slogan “The Way it Should Be” just over two years ago both because we believed it’s what UMPI promises to deliver but also as a challenge to ourselves to keep meeting that promise—and making even better ones.  That’s why we ensure *all* can finish their bachelor degrees in four years or less and that you know, from your first day, not just what classes your need to take but when they’re offered.

We try to give as many qualified Mainers as we can zero tuition and fees as part of our promise to our State to provide an absolutely affordable outstanding education to our citizens.  At the same time, we provide as many academic scholarships to our out-of-state students as we possibly can and try to meet 100 percent of your financial needs.  This is all while improving our programs and getting better national recognition each and every year for those programs: #14 best of all public colleges in our category in the East according to US News and World Report; top 50 (#26) of all Liberal Arts colleges in the entire country according to Washington Monthly; and one of the 50 best colleges in all of the East (no matter its size) in their “Bang for the Buck” Category—which compares the money you are likely to earn after graduation with the money you pay to go here (Harvard is in that top 50, just by way of comparison!).  And that’s all while making sure that our graduates will owe less money upon graduation than any other college in Maine or New England (according to LoanHero.com).

As I said earlier, we constantly try to do better.  That’s why I’m promising you now that we’ll ensure the classes we schedule are the ones you’ll take—and that we won’t cancel any of our classes less than 30 days from the start of a semester (barring exceptional situations, of course).  And if you do have a class cancelled, we’ll ensure you’ll be enrolled in one that counts for equivalent program credit.  I know, both as a teacher and as a student—and as a parent for that matter (!)—how frustrating such last minute changes to a schedule can be.  So that’s one more way we’re making college The Way it Should Be!

Welcome to our new students—welcome back to our veteran UMPI Owls.  And, from all of us here at UMPI, thank you for making Presque Isle your home!

P.S.  If you ever have any thoughts or suggestions, ideas or complaints, you’re always welcome to stop by and see me at my office in Preble Hall or email me at raymond.rice@maine.edu.

Keep the Suggestions Coming!

Ray Rice

I remember when I was first asked to serve as interim vice president of academic affairs back in February 2014, the president at the time let me know that I might be receiving “emails” from Dr. Lowman’s PCJ 215 class.  Actually, the emails were to the president, sent by members of that class as part of a specific communication assignment, but they were going to be forwarded to me if they dealt with academic issues.  One of the very first emails was one about online classes, in fact.  Interestingly, the email wasn’t over the issue of whether we should have more or fewer of them, but about the way communication occurred in such classes and that it wasn’t always the same from one to the next! Continue reading “Keep the Suggestions Coming!”

Holiday Celebrations and Thanks

Ray Rice

My strongest memories of the holiday season, like many people’s, are ones of traditions or their interruptions.  My brother and I looked forward to Christmas Eve service, held in a gigantic Cathedral-like Congregationalist church built of brick and stone with a steeple more like a Gothic tower than a New England spire, as much for the fact that it signaled presents would soon be opened as it was the one time a year we could hold a lit candle and not get in trouble.  Years later, when I attended that same service, this time as an adult with my own family, it was almost as if I were returned to childhood, to my son’s age, only with a forward-looking memory leap-frogging through time, past high school and college and my first teaching jobs and marriage and a family of my own in which I now became my own parent, nervously allowing my son to hold and light a candle against the darkness of that great, vaulted ceiling. Continue reading “Holiday Celebrations and Thanks”

Model Leaders

Ray Rice

There has been so much written about the midterm election cycle that we are just concluding (but that is still underway in several states, including our own), that I hesitate to say much more about it.  But I do want to focus on some very important positive results from this election process, regardless of how you may feel about specific outcomes of individual races and issues.  Continue reading “Model Leaders”

How to Support Your Local College!

Ray Rice

Under Question 4 in the Nov. 6 election, the University of Maine at Presque Isle would receive $4.5 million, all of which is specifically designated for expanding or developing programs that meet our state and nation’s workforce needs and provide you with competitive jobs and salaries for years to come.  These infrastructure improvements will include major renovations in both Wieden and Folsom halls, adding classroom, lab and clinical spaces that will increase our enrollments in the Nursing program we’re partnering with UMFK to bring to UMPI, as well as our Medical Lab Technology, Physical Therapist Assistant and Exercise Science programs. In addition, this funding will complement plans already in motion for the construction of the research-grade Zillman Family Greenhouse, a cornerstone of our new Agricultural Science program.  All of this will allow us to double the number of students we can enroll in these and future programs. Continue reading “How to Support Your Local College!”

Welcome to the Way it Should Be!

     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 2018-2019 academic year.

     This is a particularly exciting time to be an Owl (hoot hoot!).  Last year, we continued our streak of greater and greater recognition from national organizations for our academic excellence and affordability.  We jumped up several spots in U.S. News & World Report’s top regional public schools ranking (to lucky #13 in all of the North!).  We’ve been ranked in Forbes’ “best value” list, received multiple “Best Value School Awards” and just this summer were noted as the most affordable college in all of Maine and New England (public or private) by Student Loan Hero (https://studentloanhero.com/featured/ranking-most-affordable-colleges-in-northeast/ ).  It’s particularly gratifying to be recognized for your value—which to my mind is always a combination of academic excellence and cost, particularly what students have to pay back in loans when their undergraduate careers are over.  That’s why such recognition is so important, as it shows that we truly are being successful in putting our students’ futures first. Continue reading “Welcome to the Way it Should Be!”

Celebrating Work Well Done

     I always look forward to the annual Spring Awards Ceremony here at UMPI, not only because it allows us to celebrate the accomplishments of some of the University of Maine at Presque’s Isle most distinguished and dedicated students, but because it allows us to highlight what is best about UMPI: our collective ability to provide a superior education for people who have the dedication and incentive to take advantage of it.  Academic excellence —curricular as well as co-curricular—is the heart of a university; and, as a university, we are here first and foremost to help students learn as much as they can and as well as they can.  Since 1903, this institution, under evolving names and structures, has dedicated itself not only to meeting the needs of the students and communities it serves, but to help its students succeed when that path to success may itself be a challenge.  Continue reading “Celebrating Work Well Done”

Why I Love NCAA Division III at UMPI

     It’s just about March Madness time, which reminds me of the years I spent as a grad student at UConn, waiting to see what seed the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams would receive.  Back in the ‘90s, the household names were Ray Allen (nearly 2,000 points) and Travis Knight under Coach Calhoun; and Rebecca Lobo (more than 100 colleges tried to recruit her!), Jennifer Rizzotti (point guard for their first national championship!) and Nykesha Sales (Defensive Player of the Year in 97-98) playing for the remarkable Coach Auriemma.  It was never crazier (not always in a good way) at UConn than during the month of March…and probably never more exciting. Continue reading “Why I Love NCAA Division III at UMPI”

Creative Destruction and Higher Ed

    One of my favorite things about teaching has always been learning, which can mean investigating new modes of instruction, or getting advice from friends and colleagues or the good old-fashioned reading of new books.  Since becoming first a provost and then president, I’ve been reading a good number of those books, mostly about higher education and management and business models.  So not always the greatest of page-turners! Continue reading “Creative Destruction and Higher Ed”

Rice’s Ruminations Why Teaching Isn’t a 9-5 Job at UMPI and Why That’s a Very Good Thing!

     I’ve been thinking a great deal over the past several weeks about what I am thankful about for having worked at UMPI for over 20 years now in several different roles—professor, provost, now president.  And as I was thinking about what to write for this end-of-the-semester issue, I looked through columns I had written for the University Times many years ago (I wrote a column for several years that I called “Notes from a Mad English Professor,” thinking that I was quite witty at the time—oh well…).  And one I found is worth reprinting in part because it was about what it was like to teach at UMPI—and why teaching here was at times different from other institutions and why that was a very good thing.  Reading it over again this afternoon, some 15 years later (!), reminds me of how important, how challenging and how rewarding teaching is at UMPI.  And how much I admire the faculty here at UMPI who, day in and day out, do even more than I recorded all those years ago… Continue reading “Rice’s Ruminations Why Teaching Isn’t a 9-5 Job at UMPI and Why That’s a Very Good Thing!”