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UMaine System chancellor discusses new strategic plan and training students for vital industries

Linda Coan O'Kresik
Bangor Daily News/file
University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy

The University of Maine System is going into its new year with a new strategic plan for the first time in nearly two decades.

The new plan will try to take advantage of "unified accreditation," which will allow students to take courses, for credit, at multiple campuses. The plan also calls for trying to catch up on infrastructure investments that are long overdue. And Chancellor Dannel Malloy says the system will try to create more programs that align with the needs of vital Maine industries, like hospitality.

"With some wonderful partners. You know, we don't normally think of hospitals as hospitality, but the reality is they feed a lot of people. And, obviously hotels, and restaurants and camps and other facilities, and skiing. That's an industry that we need to be playing a larger role, and we will be playing a larger role to support," Malloy says.

Malloy says years of tuition freezes hurt the ability of the system to keep up with rapidly rising costs, especially during the pandemic. But he says the benefits of universal accreditation can help stretch university resources. He also says campuses working together will help.

But Malloy is addressing complaints about past UMaine system policy by saying the campuses will be "equal partners.

The chancellor came under a lot of criticism last year for being too secretive in the search for an Augusta campus president. The man selected turned out to have faced no-confidence votes from faculty at his prior school and the offer to him was withdrawn. In response, the UMaine System trustees last year gave Malloy just a one-year contract extension.

But this year, they extended him for two more years. Malloy concedes he has more work to do to re-build trust. He insists there are successes, but everyone has to be open to new ideas.

"I talked about hospitality a little while ago," Malloy says. "That's being led by somebody on the University of Southern Maine campus. I mean, that person along with representatives of all of our other universities that have something touching on hospitality, are now working together at a level that we've never seen before."

Malloy admits "change is difficult." And he says change driven by economic conditions is probably even more difficult.