The University of Maine System has selected Jenifer Cushman to be the next president of the University of Maine at Augusta after the system was forced to restart the search last year.
The selection of Cushman marks the end of a multi-year search for the institution’s next leader — a search that was mired in conflict and sowed distrust for system leadership among faculty, staff and students across the state’s public university system.
Cushman, who is the chancellor of Penn State Beaver, has been the director of international and off-campus study at the College of Wooster in Ohio; dean of international education at Juniata College in Pennsylvania; and the campus dean at Ohio University Zanesville.
Cushman was among four initial finalists named by the renewed search committee in March, including Roxanne Gonzales-Walker, provost and vice president for academic affairs of New Mexico Highlands University; Jason King, chief compliance and ethics officer of the University of Texas System; and Ray Rice, president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
Just a week after finalists were named, Rice withdrew his name from consideration.
“She is devoted to small campuses and the communities they serve. And she is committed to helping students of lesser resources to be successful,” UMaine System chancellor Dannel Malloy said. “We know you will be a great leader of this university and know that you will be successful here.”
Roger Katz, an Augusta native, system trustee and chair of the search committee, said he was pleased Malloy ultimately selected Cushman as the next president of the university.
“Higher education is changing. Our students are changing. The way classes are taught is changing. And the new UMA is uniquely positioned to be a leader in that changing world,” Katz said. “We need a leader here at UMA to help seize that moment, and we’re delighted that the leader is going to be Dr. Jennifer Cushman.”
Cushman said she welcomes those changes in higher education and is excited to helm UMA through those changes.
“I was interested in this position because UMA is the institution of the future. I’m firmly convinced of this,” she said. “I very much look forward to being the next president of the University of Maine at Augusta.”
The University of Maine System was forced to restart its search for the next president of UMA after the selected candidate, Michael Laliberte, withdrew from the job in May 2022.
Laliberte’s withdrawal followed revelations that he had been the subject of votes of no confidence at his previous institution in New York and that those votes were never disclosed to the search committee, even though the committee’s chair and Malloy were aware of them.
In December, the system signed a deal with a new search firm, ZRG Partners LLC, and gave the company close control over how the search plays out and limits the role of the search committee made up of students, faculty members, trustees and community members.
Cushman said in her first few days, weeks and months on the job she will be working to better understand all the communities UMA touches.
“I think universities, especially public universities, owe a lot to the public, and so in my first few days and few months I’ll be getting to know the communities,” she said. “Really the most important thing for me right now is being in the community, both on campus and off campus communities.
Cushman is slated to start in her new role July 1.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Jenifer Cushman’s first name.