If you have been following our Summer Session series, you know we have been recapping some of our best content from the previous school year. Little did we know that we’d be welcoming a new president to the University of Maine as part of that series, but we were more than happy that she decided to join us for an interview.
While she is new to the position, Dr. Susan Hunter is anything but new to the UMaine System. Starting off as an assistant professor almost 30 years ago, she has worked in about every corner of the Orono campus on her way to the President’s House. In addition, she has spent the last year working as Vice Chancellor for the UMaine system making the transition into leading the state’s flagship university a bit easier. Fill The Steins is happy to sit down with Dr. Hunter and learn about her plans for leading the school, or favorite parts of working in Orono, and how she likes to fill her stein while not on the clock.
Fill The Steins (FTS): First off congratulations on your new position as president of the University of Maine. You’ve gone from an adjunct professor to the higher position at the school over your thirty plus years at Orono. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen at the institution from when you started to now?
President Hunter (PH): I’m honored by the opportunity to serve as the president of the University of Maine for the next two years. In 1986, I joined the UMaine community as a cooperating assistant professor and research assistant professor in the Department of Zoology. When I moved to Orono, I never imagined the wonderful opportunities that would occur over the ensuring 28 years, culminating in the presidency.
FTS: You signed on to lead the University for a two-year term, is there any reason why you didn’t want to leave the term open like previous presidents of the school?
PH: Several years ago, I decided to retire during summer 2016 and I’m going to hold to that plan.
FTS: As part of your news conference introducing you as the next president you mentioned having “street cred” with the UMaine community that should help you with your new role. What are the advantages of having an internal hire as president versus an outsider like we’ve seen in the past?
PH: In my career at UMaine, I have been involved in teaching and research as a faculty member, and have served in multiple areas of administration, including as provost. In addition, through the years I’ve worked with most of UMaine’s dedicated, talented team of administrators on the President’s Cabinet. And most recently, for the last 10 months as a vice chancellor for the University of Maine System, I have gained that important perspective. Now as president, I look forward to continuing collaborations with all the University of Maine System presidents in enhancing our collective mission of education, research and scholarship, and public service.
FTS: Former President Ferguson made the Blue Sky Plan a major emphasis of his time at Orono. What areas of the Blue Sky Plan will you focus on for the next two years and are there any changes you would make to the plan?
PH: Key priorities of focus under the Blue Sky Plan include continued focus on enrollment management to grow and attract more students to the campus. We’ll also focus on implementation of UMaine’s signature and emerging academic and research programs that enhance the national competitiveness of the university, and the research and development efforts that are a key economic driver for the state.
FTS: Funding continues to be a hot topic for the UMaine System as a whole, but the Orono campus has offset budget gaps by bringing in more out-of-state students at higher tuition rates in recent years. Do you see this as a long term goal of the school or simply a stop-gap measure to help during the uncertain budgets pending for the next few years?
PH: Attracting out-of-state students to UMaine has been an ongoing enrollment goal. Maine’s flagship university, with a statewide research and public service mission, and a location in one of the most beautiful states in the country, is attractive to prospective students.
FTS: As mentioned before, you’ve been a part of the UMaine community for 30 years so you know your way around campus pretty well. Where is your favorite hangout at Orono if you have a break between meeting and just want to grab a coffee and relax?
PH: One of my favorite places on campus is the Memorial Union.
FTS: There are lots of great food options in the greater Orono/Old Town area, many that scream UMaine such as Pat’s Pizza. What is your favorite place to grab a bite to eat around town and what would you order?
PH: Pat’s for pizza, Woodman’s for a burger.
FTS: The university has struggled to keep recent alumni engaged with the school after graduation. Homecoming is perhaps the biggest stage for the school to get alumni to come back to the campus and be engaged with events. What do you think the university can do to offer a more appealing climate to encourage young alumni to get involved?
PH: The University of Maine Alumni Association has numerous ways for alumni to get involved — from Homecoming events on campus to virtual participation in the Black Bear Network. I also encourage young alumni to remain involved in their academic areas and consider participation in the Maine Mentor Program, linking students and alumni. Alumni have so much to offer current students.
FTS: Speaking of Homecoming, the official Fill The Steins tailgate will again be in front of the New Balance Field House this October, any chance you will stop by and join us for a burger?
PH: See you there!
FTS: We will get you out of here with the same question we ask all of our guests, when you aren’t on the clock leading the university as president, how do you like to fill your stein?
PH: A blend of lemonade and iced tea, also known as an Arnold Palmer.
We stand and drink a toast to President Hunter on her latest promotion in a long, rich history within the University of Maine System. May she lead our school to a promising future, one full of successes in the classroom, on the field, and in life!
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Bangor Daily News