Credit: Courtesy of University of Maine System

The interim leader of a 7,000-student public university in Arkansas will be the next president of the University of Maine at Farmington, Maine’s university system announced Tuesday.

Edward Serna, who has served as the interim chancellor of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith for the past year, will assume the leadership post in Farmington on July 1. He replaces Eric Brown, who has been leading the campus for the past year as interim president since the departure of former president Kathryn Foster. He’ll earn a salary of $190,000, according to university system spokesman Dan Demeritt.

A search committee led by University of Maine System Trustee David MacMahon, which included students and professors, chose Serna after a national search. Before becoming interim chancellor at his current Arkansas campus, Serna worked in strategic initiatives and external funding there.

He holds a doctorate of education in higher administration from the University of Alabama.

Serna “shares our commitment to measuring our progress in terms of student and state success,” University of Maine System Chancellor James Page said in a statement announcing Serna’s appointment. “The board [of trustees] and I were also impressed by many of the initiatives achieved under Edward’s leadership in Arkansas, noting how well aligned his accomplishments are with the strategic priorities that will guide and expedite educational reform in Maine over the next five years.”

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At the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, one of Serna’s initiatives was the development of a promise program that focused on student recruitment and retention by offering students fixed tuition throughout their four years.

Serna will join the University of Maine at Farmington as the campus takes steps to address errors it made in handling the cases of two female students who reported being raped — one in 2017 and the other in 2018. Since the Bangor Daily News reported on those two students’ cases in January, Brown, the interim president, announced a series of changes to address safety on campus and the university’s judicial process under the federal law Title IX, which sets out how schools should respond to reports of sexual violence.

Students also confronted campus administrators about the university’s handing of rape cases at a forum soon after the BDN article. Additional female students came forward with reports that they had been assaulted or harassed by a student who was cleared of rape allegations and was able to remain on campus. He was later suspended pending the outcome of a school investigation.

Amy Fortier-Brown, who graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington this spring, said she hopes the new president does his job “in a way that promotes safety on our campus.”

Fortier-Brown said she was encouraged by Brown’s response to the concerns that students raised about safety on campus. She hopes the new president continues that progress.

Brown “was faced with a tremendous challenge, and he has shown integrity and strength through it and has really worked to address the problem,” she said.

In a statement, Serna said he was impressed by the work students have been doing to address safety on campus and the university’s Title IX process.

“The university made important progress this spring with its work to address safety concerns and strengthen its Title IX process,” he said. “The efforts must be ongoing, and I will work closely with any member of the community committed to increasing awareness and providing stronger support for victims of sexual abuse and violence.”