New UNE Online Dean feels right at home

Beth Taylor-Nolan, new dean of UNE Online, poses for a portrait against the trees
Beth Taylor-Nolan, Ed.D., the new dean of UNE Online

Beth Taylor-Nolan, the new dean of UNE Online, has spent her career in higher education, navigating and expanding the ever-changing landscape of continuing education and online learning.

At the University of Vermont (UVM), her alma mater and former employer, Taylor-Nolan wore many hats but focused on enhancing the university experience for a diverse group of undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students.

Much of her administrative, program development, and student advising work centered around increasing access for first-generation college students and part-time, non-traditional students, who often face myriad challenges when pursuing degrees.

Taylor-Nolan’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), which she recently received from UVM, focused on the academic and social experiences of first-generation college students relegated to emergency remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This timely research offers insight into the challenges they faced due to an abrupt shift to technology-enabled education and the opportunities for meaningful university-wide change.

“My dissertation research about emergency remote learning is a very urgent and timely topic for me and my work in online education,” she said. “I always knew I was going to write about virtual learning, but, when the pandemic hit, I knew I needed to focus on marginalized students, such as first-generation college students. They were among the most seriously impacted by limited access to technology, reliance upon university resources, and a disrupted academic and social environment.

Taylor-Nolan’s work highlights the unusual challenges and circumstances faced by these students, outlining how intentionally designed academic resources and student services can better serve these populations in the future. What ultimately stood out throughout her research, she said, was the resilience of these first-generation college students and their determination to be the first in their families to earn bachelor’s degrees.

“Each student faced a unique set of challenges and felt very isolated and disconnected in different ways, yet they all persisted,” she remarked. “I found that amazing.”

This sense of wonder and admiration for students is something Taylor-Nolan carries with her to her new role, and this, paired with her decades of experience in higher education, guides her vision for UNE Online.

“There is huge potential for UNE Online to be the go-to resource for those in Maine, the region, and beyond for those wanting to continue their graduate education and professional development.” Taylor-Nolan said. “The UNE brand is strong and resonates throughout the Northeast and beyond. We want to capitalize on that.”

Additionally, Taylor-Nolan would like to promote partnerships between UNE Online and regional employers by acting responsively to workforce development needs, saying that fostering and maintaining relationships with UNE alumni is an important way to make these connections and engage with key community issues.

From Taylor-Nolan’s perspective, UNE Online is well positioned to expand its course and degree offerings by increasing the opportunity for stackable credentials and finding ways to reach new audiences. One major way to reach new populations is by lowering barriers to access, Taylor-Nolan said.

“The mission of UNE Online is already so strong; and I think by diversifying its educational offerings and students, it will only become stronger,” she stated.

While much of her past year centered on completing her degree and transitioning into her new position, Taylor-Nolan said she does have a few non-work-related hobbies, including dancing, walking her two labs, and spending time with her family. She is also becoming better acquainted with her new home state.

“I lived most of my life in Vermont, but I am very familiar with Maine and came here in the summer growing up, but there is something special and different about living here,” Taylor-Nolan said. “I can hear the ocean when I get out of my car in the evening. I feel like I’ve found a new home in Maine and with UNE Online.”

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