By Asha Tompkins, Arts and Culture Editor
President Glenn Cummings was first in his immediate and extended family to receive a four-year degree. He likes to eat a raspberry Sorbetto from Gelato Fiasco. He listens to soulful Irish pop, a combination of U2 and Van Morrison. He is a normal guy with an immense passion for doing his job.
The question is: what exactly does a USM president do?
His day will start with running five to six, relatively slow-paced, 9-minute miles with a few of the USM staff and faculty.
“We’ll go around Back Cove and come around by the law school, and it’s about five miles,” said Cummings. “Or we go out towards Westbrook. I might do a little weightlifting, try to do a few sit-ups to just to kind of wake myself up and then I usually dash off to an early morning meeting at 7:30 a.m.”
It’s not uncommon for Cummings to attend around 11 meetings a day. He might meet with the budget manager and discuss how people might be moving in the right direction, he might have a meeting where he records a video stating that he’ll spray paint his hair blue gold. Whatever his commitments may be, Cummings balances professional activities with personal activities.
“On the weekends, I connect. I have coffee with guy friends of mine on Saturday mornings, which is great,” said Cummings. “In the afternoon, a lot of the times, I’ll either go for a run myself or just read and fall asleep on the couch, which gets my energy back. It’s kind of pathetic, but it works fine.”
He stated that he gets a lot of energy from doing his job. He noticed that he has to sleep more and take it easy on the weekends. For instance, he recently went to a baseball game to support the team that is currently ranked number three in the country.
“It was nice to see our guys play really well and have a relaxing afternoon. Sometimes you’ll find good things at USM that actually feel relaxing,” Cummings said.
Supporting students is one of Cummings’s favorite aspects of his job. He stated that the job of a president is to set a precedent for the university. It may appear that he makes all the decisions and changes, but this is not the case.
“I’m in an ecosystem. I couldn’t say ‘right now, the English department is going to combine with the physics department, and you guys are going to teach physics through narrative.’ That’s not my decision, that’s a faculty decision,” Cummings said.
He said that he can’t change the name of the university, but he can suggest it to the Board of Trustees.
“At the end of the day, I don’t make that decision, I can’t,” Cummings said.
The types of decisions that he can make involve hiring people to create a strong leadership team.
“Most of my decisions are actually defined by a constitution. It’s just like what you see in any political democracy, including our own,” said Cummings. “I think students would be surprised to find out how little control you actually have over the stuff.”
When organizing his day, Cummings stated that he has to make sure the priorities are right. He tries to infuse a message of student-focus at USM.
“When I go in in the morning, I try to say ‘at the end of this day, will students be better off because of this day?’ The student-focus every day really matters to me,” Cummings said. “We want them to succeed. Don’t have the attitude of ‘well, if you don’t belong here you should go someplace else.’”
Cummings wants USM to ask how the university can help students be more successful in every course, every program and every year.
“What I think the president can do is by sending the right message, by giving people the clear direction that our students come first — everything else falls in place from that. That’s the kind of stuff that you can do as a leader, that’s why I write my Monday Missive.”
The purpose of the Monday Missive is to highlight positive things that take place on campus.
“I also try and make myself, in the Monday Missive, be more approachable,” said Cummings. “Some might think ‘oh, the college president is up there on the hill telling everybody what to do,’ but in the Monday Missive, I try to say ‘these are the things that I’ve done this week’ or ‘I’ve noticed’ and try to push other people out there to get recognition.”
He ends his Monday Missives with the section “on a personal note” to highlight things that he has been thinking about and reading.
Cummings believes that a leader should always communicate what’s going on, even difficult things such as the name change.
“Be really transparent, ‘why am I leaning towards this direction and that direction,’” said Cummings. “You’re going to have people say ‘well, that’s not the right thing, I disagree.’ Fine. But at least you’re honest with them and communicate.”
The Monday Missive is an opportunity for him to take an hour and fifteen minutes to write a draft before sending it to Bob Stein, executive director of public affairs and marketing.
“He cleans up all my grammatical mistakes, he makes it more interesting. He tries to make it readable. But it’s my tone and it’s my content in most cases,” Cummings said.
To find his content, Cummings will visit different buildings and talk with students to see who they might feel is doing well at USM.
“That’s why I tend to eat down at Woodbury, trying to be open so people can communicate to me,” said Cummings. “I don’t expect them to always be happy with me, it’s always good for me to hear where there are things that are not good. Sometimes I can’t fix things as fast as they would like, but at least I can hear them.”
Cummings stated that they’ve been working to solve problems with parking and housing. He often receives emails with student complaints about housing.
“As administrators, as staff, as faculty, we have to recognize that students are often the most burdened of anybody here,” said Cummings. “But their intentions are that they want to succeed. So we’re in that business and I think that my job is to make sure everybody is doing the right thing and supporting the right people at the right time.”
“At 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., I’m usually a little tired. I put my feet up on the couch and take my iPhone and try to answer emails, sometimes I even fall asleep to be honest, for about 20 minutes,” said Cummings. “In the evening, I’ll often have a meeting. If I get the chance to go home, my wife and I will have a meal, I’ll read a little bit and just relax, and that feels really good.”
President Cummings said that he loves the USM memes.
“My kids are always sending me those memes, there’s like a meme page,” said Cummings. “They’re like ‘Dad, I don’t know if you want to see some of these,’ and I’m like ‘I always want to see them.’”
“It’s a fascinating job, I feel really blessed,” said Cummings. “For me, rather than thinking ‘I’m in charge,’ I think ‘hey, this is kind of a gift from the universe,’ I’ve got to look at it in a different way.”