Shifting Gears

Hear from University leadership on how they have shifted gears due to the pandemic. The photo above was taken from the Dean of Students Welcome Back to Campus Video. Click here to watch.

Robert Dana
Student Life VP
Most important has been our responsibility to assure the safety of students. That has been job number 1. We needed to also attend to helping students understand what was happening, how to cope, how to stay engaged, and how to get needed services and supports. Asking people to leave campus and to trust that everything was going to work out required openness, transparency, and a huge amount of empathy.

Kimberly Whitehead
President’s Chief of Staff
The UMaine leaders have demonstrated great strength, sensitivity, flexibility, and tenacity. They committed to meeting seven days per week at 8:00 a.m. to work collectively and to make decisions to foster student success in the midst of a very uncertain and challenging situation. And this mode of operation continues as we plan for a safe fall return for our students.

Geremy Chubbuck
Emergency Operations CenterThe university’s Emergency Opera–tions Center was mobilized in February when it became apparent that the virus would impact UMaine. We started with our typical format of meeting in person but quickly gravitated to Zoom. The group organized into three major sections — Operations, Logistics, and Planning. We met as a group and worked every day, including weekends, from activation in February to mid-April. The days have been and continue to be long and weekend work continues as well. Personally, I am dedicating upwards of 60 hours per week to COVID-19 planning work. Unfortunately, our regular job does not go away during this timeframe. My work became even more intensive and will remain so until the fall. This requires a complete focus on the situation and a temporary lifestyle change for me personally due to the time requirements necessary.

Dana Humphrey
Engineering Dean
I was in a meeting on Tuesday, March 10, 2020 when we were discussing students returning from Spring Break after traveling the country and being exposed to COVID-19. I said this made no sense; we should tell them to stay home and teach remotely. All faculty have now taught using remote delivery technologies. Even when we return to “normal” they’ll be able to use these newfound techniques to enhance the learning in their courses.

David Townsend
Faculty Senate Chair
On March 9th I was in NH [for a conference] and headed back to Orono, wondering just how serious this “new coronavirus” epidemic really was. I thought MIT was over-reacting. Then, in a matter of days, [as] I was becoming more convinced and more concerned, I began to argue to the administration that we needed to announce ASAP that students should not return to campus after Spring Break to allow faculty to discuss with their students a plan to finish their courses online, somehow.

Richard Powell
Political Science
We decided early on that many students would have too many varied challenges to simply do live, synchronous sessions via Zoom—lack of internet connectivity, sudden work requirements to compensate for lost family income, etc. I therefore adopted highly interactive asynchronous assignments to provide maximum flexibility for students, and yet preserve academic rigor. At the same time, I built in optional synchronous meetings for students who wanted to take advantage of those opportunities. I was particularly disappointed that our annual Washington, DC May Term leadership course had to be canceled.

Danny Williams
Collins Center for the Arts Executive Director
For the 112 days between March 11 and June 30, the Collins Center for the Arts had an event, rehearsal, or performance scheduled for 91 of those days. Most were canceled and some were postponed. In trying times, the arts community has always played a role of inspiration, perspective, and meaning. And yet, at a time when we need that the most, we must stay home. That feeling of gathering together to share in a common performance experience has to wait.

Faye Gilbert
Executive VP and ProvostUMaine faculty take great pride in the con–nections created with students and between students. The fear and uncertainty over completing the term were challenging and difficult. But, over 98.5% of our students persevered to complete the term — a testament to faculty, students, and staff who all managed this crisis as well as possible. With 20+ planning groups and a Scientific Advisory Board, UMaine has enhanced safety [in preparation for the fall semester]. Many classrooms will allow the recording of lectures for those who cannot attend. Student Life and Academic Affairs are enhancing engagement opportunities for students on campus and at a distance this fall. The key element? The incredible people here. Go Blue.

Ken Ralph
Director of AthleticsWe were in an athletics staff meeting when I got the call from America East that the March 13th women’s basketball tournament championship game (UMaine vs. Stony Brook) was being canceled. A few hours later we were turning our baseball and softball teams around from their spring trips. A few days later the Hockey East playoffs were canceled. It was an agonizing week but ultimately the right call was made. … The postseason cancellations hit hard. You ramp up for an entire season to get to that point and then it is gone. It is a helpless feeling knowing the best thing you can do for your students is to keep them safe but that means they can’t play.

Monique LaRocque
Lifelong Learning Dean
UMaine, through UMaineOnline, has really been able to serve our students. We’ve seen considerable growth in summer enrollments this year compared to last summer. We are fortunate as a university that we already had extensive online options for students in the summer. Our students can make progress towards completing their degrees no matter where they are and it has helped the university maintain important enrollments during a challenging time. In addition, we introduced a new Summer Start Program for incoming first-year students so they can get an early start on their Black Bear experience.

Jeffery Mills
UMaine Foundation CEO
It became clear in early March that many students would suffer financially because of the pandemic’s impact on schools, travel, and jobs. We created the Student Crisis Fund with the hope of raising $75,000. We underestimated the response — thanks to Black Bear alumni and friends, we have now raised over $200,000.

BJ Roach
Career Center Counselor
The Career Center staff have helped students and alumni work through rescinded job and internship offers as well as stalled or canceled hiring processes. We have heard from many alumni who have been furloughed or downsized due to COVID-19. While our method of delivery has changed from in-person to remote, the Career Center has continued to provide all of our services without interruption — resume and cover letter reviews, graduate and professional school counseling, interview coaching and mock interviews, career counseling and coaching, and job and internship search strategy sessions.


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