UMaine System Chooses National Science Foundation Leader To Head Orono Campus

Apr 11, 2018

The chief operating officer for the National Science Foundation has been tapped to lead the University of Maine’s flagship campus in Orono. Joan Ferrini-Mundy will become UMaine’s next president on July 1, when current President Susan Hunter steps down from the post she has held for the last four years.

Ferrini-Mundy made her public debut before an audience of students, faculty and the UMaine board of trustees, who gathered at a morning press conference in Orono.

“I can barely wait for July when I will join you full time and when presumably it will be warmer,” she said.

Ferrini-Mundy will also serve as president of the University of Maine at Machias as part of an arrangement reached last year with the Down East campus. She is leaving the National Science Foundation, a federal agency with a nearly $8 billion operating budget that worked with 2,000 institutions last year to support the investigation and discovery of 359,000 researchers, teachers and students.

Ferrini-Mundy said UMaine is home to its own research community, making discoveries that benefit the state, the nation and the world.

“Faculty whose teaching is inspiring new generations to excel and make a difference here in Maine and beyond. Students who are innovators and leaders preparing to change the state and the world through their knowledge, skills and passions. This is an exciting time to join UMaine and UMM and to be a part of shaping the future of this great state and beyond through public higher education,” she said.

Last year, the number of out-of-state students enrolled in the University of Maine system hit an all-time high after university officials stepped up recruiting efforts. Ferrini-Mundy said she is still learning about many of the challenges facing the flagship campus in its efforts to lure more students.

“Enrollment is a very complicated and critical matter for the university,” she said. “I don’t yet at all have all the data and understand the patterns and systems in place here, but certainly will look to understand what our foundation is and how to build from it and how to grow forward. At the same time, it’s a crucial challenge to be sure that the students in the state of Maine also understand the great resources here and see the university as a potential place for them to further their education.”

“I met Joan in 2001 at Michigan State University where we were both faculty in the department of mathematics and she was the director of a center for math and science education,” said Natasha Speer, a leader at UMaine’s Mathematics Education Research Group and a math specialist.

Speer said she had hoped that she and Ferrini-Mundy’s paths would cross again.

“Eventually she moved to NSF and I moved here, and I knew how much she liked getting to visit New England, so I used that to lure her here to give a talk at a conference in 2010,” she said.

Ferrini-Mundy said she liked what she saw and that her new position will allow her to place new emphasis on current and emerging careers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

James Erwin, chair of the UMS Board of Trustees, said the new president’s areas of expertise make her a perfect fit for UMaine.

“We are asking Dr. Ferrini-Mundy as UMaine’s new leader to combine her skills as an executive and collaborator with her passion for mathematics education to help achieve our objective of stronger partnerships among Maine’s public schools and better outcomes for students of all ages and aspirations,” he said.

Ferrini-Mundy said she plans to spend the remainder of the week meeting with faculty, students and community leaders in Orono and Machias.

This story was originally published April 10, 2018 at 10:53 a.m. ET.