Danielle N. Ripich Commons as seen by drone

Celebrating a Year of Resilience and Innovation

The following is a message from UNE President James Herbert

UNE President James Herbert

Dear UNE Community,

As the spring semester draws to a close, it’s an auspicious time for us all to pause for a moment to reflect on and celebrate the significant milestones and achievements of this academic year. Together, our community has continued to navigate a global pandemic while advancing several vital University initiatives. While it hasn’t been easy, I am grateful for the dedication and resilience demonstrated by our community, and I am so proud of how much we’ve been able to accomplish together, even when circumstances were not ideal.

Our students demonstrated great maturity in their resolve to keep one another safe, ensuring that our classrooms stayed open and continued to provide a place for the outstanding hands-on, in-person learning that is a hallmark of our University. Our faculty, in turn, continued to provide the exceptional educational experiences UNE is known for, enhanced by their extraordinary research and scholarship accomplishments, and offered impactful experiential learning opportunities for our students. And our professional staff and administration worked tirelessly, oftentimes “behind the scenes,” not only to keep the University on track but to lay the necessary foundation to carry UNE to new destinations outlined in our strategic plan.

It would be impossible for me to list all of our amazing accomplishments of the past year, and I know that for many of us, our work continues into the summer, but I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a few examples of what we have advanced together on behalf of UNE.

Student Success

COM students react to their residency placements at Match Day 2022.

Our students excelled in the classroom, in the lab, in athletics, and in various clubs and organizations. To name just a few examples, our nursing students once again led the state in first-time pass rates for B.S.N. degree licensing exams, graduating medical students were matched to residencies of their choice at a rate of more than 99%, graduating dental students achieved a 98% first-time pass rate on the inaugural Integrated National Board Dental Examination, four Marine program alumni landed jobs with the Global Seafood Alliance, and a Biochemistry major received the Goldwater Scholarship.

It’s clear that our students have proven their readiness to make a significant impact in the larger world.

Our students have also shone brightly in various demonstrations of creative and out-of-the-box thinking. Our Shaw Innovation Fellows, for example, have excelled in using design thinking and innovation to address real-world problems. Five students and one alum, representing three business startups, advanced to the televised round of the Greenlight Maine Collegiate Challenge. And our dedication to innovation led to the launch of our inaugural Innovation Celebration event series this spring, which showcased research, collaboration, and entrepreneurship from several disciplines across the University.

Patrick Schena (Business, ’21) and Jessica Minieri (Neuroscience, ’23) prepare their product Goalivation, which has advanced to the next round of Greenlight Maine.

No re-cap of this past academic year would be complete without mentioning our talented student-athletes. In the fall, our field hockey, women’s cross country, and women’s rugby teams all took second place in the CCC Championships. In the winter season, both men’s and women’s hockey teams made it to the conference championship, with the men winning the conference and advancing all the way to the national semi-final in Lake Placid, New York, while our dance team took second place nationally in the division III jazz competition. Our newest varsity sport, women’s outdoor track and field, is having a terrific season and has already seen three student-athletes hit the qualifying times for the NCAA regional meet. Shining their winning spirit in the classroom as well, 70% of Nor’easter student-athletes (a total of 336 students) were honored for National Student-Athlete Day in April for earning a 3.0 GPA or better. 

UNE Men's ice hockey team after winning the CCC Championship
UNE Women's rugby team competes
UNE women's dance team poses for a photo
UNE Women's cross country team members run on the grass
UNE women's field hockey team handles the ball

Commitment to Academic Programming

We continue to make progress on plans to build a new, state-of-the-art facility to relocate the College of Osteopathic Medicine to Portland. We expect to break ground on the new building, to be named the Harold and Bibby Alfond Center for Health Sciences, in late summer or fall of 2022. The expansion of our programming and the creation of a truly unique comprehensive and interprofessional health professions campus will be an enormous boon to the University in many ways, as well as to Maine’s economy and health care systems.

Rendering of new COM building

We have already made progress on developing other new academic programs. In addition to launching new majors in Special Education and Criminology as well as a new Computer Science minor, we recently adopted a new undergraduate curricular framework that will provide more flexibility to students to craft unique pathways through their studies at UNE. This new curricular model will better support our undergraduate students in preparing for whatever lies ahead of them — be it entrance into the job market or a continuation of their studies. It will also ensure greater ease for students who navigate between majors, supporting their progression and timely graduation.

We enhanced graduate programming, launching northern New England’s only Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) anesthesia degree, and received approval to expand enrollments in the College of Dental Medicine (CDM). We re-branded our online college to UNE Online/College of Professional Studies and increased outreach to Maine’s workforce through establishing a Director of Business Development for the college.

A Nurse Anesthesia student practices in UNE's Interprofessional Simulation and Innovation Center.

Living Our Values

The past year has also demonstrated UNE’s dedication to sustainability and equity and other values that underpin our mission. In the fall, we were granted observer status by the UN for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (better known as COP26), which was held in Glasgow, Scotland, thereby becoming the only Maine institution to be awarded this status. In the spring, hundreds of UNE students, faculty, and professional staff joined more than 300 colleges and universities across the globe for the Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice. We also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Title IX with our Champions of Equality event, featuring Olympian Angela Ruggiero as the keynote speaker and including a panel of prominent women figures in New England sports.

Our students also gave back to their communities, assembling hundreds of harm reduction kits for released inmates, for example. They spoke up about matters that were important to them, hosting a suicide prevention awareness walk and fundraiser, and they undertook important and meaningful endeavors, such as the COM students’ hosting of events to commemorate Black History Month, in an effort to make UNE an even better place.

UNE President James Herbert talks with a student in front of her artwork at ArtCOM
Flags for COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland
Students walk at the Out of the Darkness March
Panelists Carey, Thelin, Davis, and Ruggiero
Rev. Lennox Yearwood addresses students as keynote speaker of UNE's One-Night Teach-In on Climate and Justice

A Look Forward and Final Thoughts

As I think ahead to next fall, I am excited at the thought of reaping the benefits of several initiatives that coalesced late in this academic year or that will come to fruition over the coming weeks. I hope to soon announce our new associate provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the search for our new provost is also expected to conclude soon. I also look forward to joining more faculty and professional staff in the coming year for the newly launched Breakfast with the President series so that we can share ideas of how to improve the experience of living, studying, teaching, and working at UNE.

When UNE receives public recognition, such as being named to The Princeton Review’s Best Colleges list for the seventh consecutive year or being ranked by Zippia as the number one college in Maine for getting a job for the fourth consecutive year, these are not just empty tributes. Your contributions make UNE worthy of such praise. With the spring semester complete and the excitement of Commencement building, I hope you will find time to reflect on this past academic year and congratulate yourselves on the part that you played in creating a stellar year in the history of our institution.


James D. Herbert