By Elina Shapiro Staff Reporter
President Eric Brown recently spoke at the All Campus Meeting about UMF’s current financial position and future goals. Lincoln Auditorium roared with laughter as Brown started talking humorously about his transition to President from Provost.
Brown talked about plans to increase enrollment, including collaborating with other
UMaine campuses on different programs and courses, sending professors to local high schools to promote UMF and expanding the early college and graduate school programs.
Brown mentioned that UMF is down 40 in-state students and noted the competition with other UMaine schools. “We work together, we’re part of the same system, but there is competition there. We are looking at a lot of the same students,” said Brown in an interview.
The percentage of UMF students who continue after their first year (71%) has gone down recently, but other UMaine schools are having similar problems.
“Our retention rates have dipped a bit but they’re probably still the highest in the system, actually,” said Brown. “Relative to the other campuses, we’re doing well. We exist on such a fine line that a few students here or a few students there have a big impact on retention.”
Brown has plans to increase UMF’s retention rate. “I would love to see a shift of our FYS classes, our first year seminars, to our first semester and give our students a really dynamic experience in that class, which would mean changing some of the ways that the course is designed,” said Brown.
UMF is also working on a system in which students can get help when they first start having problems. “One thing that we’ve been testing out this fall is finding out earlier about students who are struggling in a class and sending an early report,” said Brown. “We are trying to really get to those students sooner to find out what their situation is and provide resources.”
Though Brown mentioned some financial concerns throughout the talk, he also discussed areas of growth. “I go into it energetically, full speed,” said Brown. “We have a lot of exciting opportunities with new leadership in Honors, Experiential Education, with the kick-off of our New Commons Project, with movement around project-based learning and reimagining first year seminars and first semester experience.”
Patti Bailie, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education, felt encouraged by Brown’s words. “I was very impressed with Eric,” said Bailie. “I thought that he did a really good job of communicating both the challenges that we’re now faced with and the opportunities for future endeavors.”
At the end of his talk, Brown emphasized the importance to vote “yes” on the Bond on November 6th. 8.5 million dollars of this bond goes directly to Franklin County and could go to renovating the Student Center, the Mantor Library, residence halls, and Sweatt-Winter, the childcare center on campus.
Bailie strongly agrees that people need to vote for the bond. “[The bond] has got to pass!” said Bailie almost jumping out of her chair. “If you don’t vote for anything else, go and vote for the bond. Tell your families!”
Callie Bates, a junior Elementary Education major, thought the talk gave her a new perspective. “I think it’s important to understand what’s going on at the school, even logistically,” said Bates. “But where I am going into education I think it’s important to consider that not only from a student view but also from a teacher view – what will I expect when I am in the education system, as a professional educator, how it will look financially behind the scenes. I thought the perspective there would be a helpful thing.”
Students and faculty will receive emails indicating when the next All Campus Meeting will be and they can also check the website: https://www.umf.maine.edu/events/ where such events will be listed.