By: Dionne Smith, Community Editor
USM President Glenn Cummings comes from humble beginnings and over time has worked his way to the prestigious position he holds currently. During his presidency he plans to further improve the university, keeping his focus on his nine goals and other areas of interest at USM, such as providing students with the opportunity for real world application of what they learn in the classroom, as well as renovations to the Portland campus.
Cummings was raised in Bath, Maine, coming from a long line of Mainers. While neither of his parents went to college, Cummings and his brother were the first to obtain four year degrees, their grandmother having obtained a two year degree from the Gorham Normal School, which is now the Gorham campus at USM.
Cummings attended the University of Maine at Farmington for two years before transferring to Ohio Wesleyan where he obtained his Bachelor’s of Arts. After graduating, he applied to multiple law schools, thinking that he would be a lawyer. Cummings was admitted into every law school he applied for, but was offered a place in a one year master’s degree program for teaching from Brown University. He accepted the offer and earned his Masters of Art in Teaching. From there, Cummings moved back to Maine where he taught history and economics at Gorham High School.
“I loved it. So I never went to law school, I just loved being an educator,” Cummings said. He then decided to get a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard University. Upon completion, Cummings continued his education, eventually earning his Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.
Through his education, he took note of the way the faculty at the University of Maine in Farmington took an interest in him and his academic success, giving him a lot of guidance. The support that he received gave him the confidence he needed to transfer to Ohio Wesleyan. Years down the line, once Cummings got to Brown University to earn his masters in of Arts in Teaching, his horizons were expanded. His mind became open to new ways of thinking about the world, challenging the way society works and building a stronger sense of social justice. Cummings believes that there are aspects about Brown University that can be seen here at USM. “There are these fantastic professors here at USM who are changing the way students think about life and breaking outside their boxes and normal way of thinking,” Cummings explained.
While teaching at Gorham High School, Cummings invited some USM professors to speak in his classes and was amazed with their critiques of the current economic system. Being inspired by them, he began teaching at USM after getting his masters from Harvard, and completed his doctorate in order to gain a full time job teaching at USM.
Among his academic success, Cummings had the pleasure of meeting former President Barack Obama and working as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S Department of Education in 2010. He was introduced to President Obama during the 2007 primaries when he asked Cummings to introduce him at a rally of 3,000 people. Cummings was asked once again to introduce him during the caucus, which was a crowd of 10,000 people. After President Obama won the election, his team called Cummings asking him if he would like to be considered for a position, which later became the Deputy Assistant Secretary. “In many ways it was the highlight of my political career,” Cummings said.
Cummings plans on sticking to the nine goals that he laid out back in 2015 during his Inaugural Opening Breakfast speech. One of the points that he wishes to focus deeply on is excellence during class that is combined with real world experiences.
“When I say academic excellence, that means that students are learning to think, to be problem solvers, to collaborate with each other, and to show independence both in there completing task, and more importantly, independent thinking,” Cummings said, “Those are the kinds of students we want to produce. I think the best way to produce that is a combination of really great disciplinary text and learning in the classroom combined with doing something important and good in the community.”
Cummings’ future vision includes improvements to the Portland campus. In his plans, he wants to take out the parking lot to remove the look of being only a commuter college, wanting the campus to look more open with more space to walk. He also would like to add dormitories for upperclassmen and graduate students on the Portland campus, a new student center, as well as expressed his interest in having a performing arts center behind Wishcamper.
This year, Cummings wants students to thrive, and understand that the faculty and staff at USM are here for all students who need assistance. “I want the university to be about the students and about supporting what they need and helping them get to their dreams and goals,” Cummings said. “My thing is, if you’re a student, make us be our best.”