Glen Cummings, USM President
As we begin a new semester and a new decade, I welcome you back to the University of Southern Maine. I hope you had an enjoyable holiday and treated yourself to some well-deserved relaxation.
This spring will bring us new challenges to be productive, to care for each other and to grow. We’re preparing for extraordinary changes to better serve all students. And we’re looking to build on the growth that our hard work has begun to earn.
Our 2020 began with a banner year for our winter term, with over 1,000 students enrolled in more than 50 courses. It marked a significant increase over last year. And as we begin our spring classes, enrollment continues to be strong.
We are also seeing a transformative change beginning on our Portland campus. Since coming here in 2015, I have talked with many students about their USM experience. They have described to me their desire for a central study-and-relaxation space for all on the Portland campus. Many others have shared with me their difficulty in finding an affordable place to live in Portland, where surging housing prices have squeezed our most financially limited students.
Answering this call, the University of Maine System Board of Trustees has given its preliminary approval to the largest building project in USM’s history. The nearly $100 million construction project will include a career and student center, including a new dining hall, bright common areas and spaces for many student organizations. The project will also include a dormitory with more than 500 beds.
I believe that these changes will enhance the experience for everyone who attends. A new career hub, to be located in the center, will build on our success in connecting students with employers. At the same time, we will create plenty of comfortable space to relax between classes, enjoy a meal or connect with student organizations.
The new dormitory will offer our first residence hall on the Portland campus. It should ease the demand for space in the Gorham residence halls and better serve Portland students, with emphasis on graduate students, those attending the University of Maine School of Law and those in their upper class years.
This semester we will be reaching out to invite students to planning meetings and a variety of ongoing events leading up to the start of construction, which is currently scheduled to begin this spring. The project is scheduled to be complete for the start of the fall 2022 semester.
Another ongoing university-wide discussion will be focused on the issue of race. Provost Uzzi and the Intercultural and Diversity Advisory Council will be organizing a series of forums to discuss Ibram Kendi’s book “How to be an Antiracist,” the USM Common Read. All students, faculty and staff may pick up a free copy of the book at the library on your campus.
With the book as a starting point, we will host listening sessions and discussions about our community and how we can best face issues of discrimination and marginalization. These forums will be a space for us all and an opportunity to build a shared understanding of our community and our university. We hope to directly connect USM with author Ibram Kendi.
In March, the Hussey Leadership Institute at USM will generously bring keynote speaker Carla Harris to Maine. Known for taking on tough leadership issues related to equity and inclusion for women and minorities in business, Harris works as the vice chair, managing director and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley’s global headquarters in New York City. In 2013, Harris was appointed by President Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council. She is the author of two best-selling books, 2009’s “Expect to Win” and 2014’s “Strategize to Win.” She also hosts the podcast “Access & Opportunity: Connecting Capital and Communities,” featuring interviews with women entrepreneurs, minority business owners, venture capitalists and others with a focus on inclusive innovation and opportunity.
Other events will be arise as we proceed through this semester. We hope to announce several extraordinary gifts to the university in the upcoming weeks.
May your entire semester be full of learning and connections.
Dr. Glenn Cummings
President, University of Southern Maine