This summer USM President Theo Kalikow announced that she will stay in her post a second year and that she plans to strengthen and solidify the administration of the college before passing the job on to a successor.
Kalikow, who postponed her retirement to succeed Selma Botman as president, was not new to being the president of a public Maine college when she took the job. Before she stepped into her role at USM, the 72 year-old Kalikow had been president at the University of Maine at Farmington for 18 years.
“The students and the people of Maine are paying for this [the school], and we have a responsibility to make it efficient and affordable,” she said.
Kalikow said that the coming year will be a time for concrete actions, rather than theoretical ideas. She hopes to move forward with the help of the President’s Council, a group consisting of Dick Campbell, USM’s Chief Financial Officer, Executive Director of Public Affairs Bob Caswell and other senior USM administrators. She said that it is time for planning that has been done in the past to be put into action, although she admits that she is “still inventing” what those specific actions will be.
Kalikow said that one of her main focuses will be keeping the university relevant in a changing world. “It’s a major crossroads,” she told the Free Press. “The world of higher education can’t stay the same. We have a chance to do a really good job in the remodeling, to be survivable in the long term and to serve the region and the state of Maine.”
The president’s vision of the future for the university has stirred up controversy in the past. At a symposium on education last March, Senior English Major Philip Shelley asked Kalikow what responsibility the academy had to hold the line in defense of non-economic values and she responded, “None” – a response that garnered concern from some students and faculty.
Kalikow’s presidency has also seen discussions of the integration of MOOCs and a greater focus on Prior Learning Assessments of life experience for college credit. Kalikow said that she is confident that USM will still be around in ten years.
“I want to hand this over to the next president with a good plan,” Kalikow said.
“We have not enough boots on the ground, and we have too many people administering to each other. I want to make this a [more] student-centered institution.”
Kalikow declined to comment on personnel issues, but admitted that in this process of streamlining, the job of one senior level official, former Chief of Student Affairs Officer Craig Hutchinson, has been eliminated over the course of the summer, for which she expressed regret. However, she said she is confident that she is working for the long-term good of the school.