AUGUSTA — University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy has asked Joseph Szakas to be the interim president at the Augusta campus following the departure of President Rebecca Wyke.

Joseph Szakas is recommended to be the University of Maine at Augusta’s interim president as the university starts the nationwide search for a new university president. University of Maine at Augusta

Chancellor Malloy will formally ask the university system’s Board of Trustees to confirm Szakas as UMA’s interim president in a meeting scheduled for Aug. 24.

Szakas has been a part of the UMA community for 10 years and serves as the vice president of academic affairs. Malloy said in his statement to the UMA community, Szakas will not be a candidate to become UMA’s next president, but he expects Szakas not to be a “care-taker president.”

“Status quo is not enough in this time of change in higher education,” Malloy said in his statement. “I’ve asked Joe to think boldly about how UMA can use its unique strengths to move forward in the University of Maine System’s unified accredited system and he should feel emboldened to act to do so in his time in the UMA presidency.”

Wyke stepped down from her role as president of the university in early July to become the chief executive officer at the Maine Public Retirement System. Malloy said after news of Wyke’s resignation that she was a “caring higher educational leader.” She has served as president of the university since 2017 and her official last day is Aug. 27.

Chancellor Malloy has asked Jim Thelen, the vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and chief legal officer, and UMS’s incoming Chief Human Resources Officer Loretta Shields, to work with the University of Maine System and UMA leadership to identify a presidential search committee. The committee will include stakeholders, trustees and university staff, faculty and students who will provide input and define the characteristics they find are important for the new president to have.

The search for a new president has not begun yet, but according to officials within the university, approval for the search will be asked by Malloy at the end of September at a Board of Trustees meeting. Malloy said in his statement by then he expects a committee to be formed.

The process will be maintained openly on a website from the university, and the university will provide updates on the process along the way, the official said.

In the meantime, Szakas will fill both roles as the interim president and the vice president of academic affairs.

“UMA faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the campus (Board of Visitors), will all have strong and independent voices on the committee to ensure we will choose the right person to lead UMA after Joe’s services as interim president concludes,” Malloy said.

University officials expect the process to take at least a year after building an applicant pool, conducting interviews, visits to campus and considering community input, which will be measured through surveys. At the end of the process, Chancellor Malloy will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees.

In his statement, Malloy said he spent time around the UMA campus this summer to ask students and faculty for their input on the role of the interim president. After doing so, he said he is “confident” about his decision in Szakas.

Though Wyke’s last formal day at UMA is on Aug. 27, she is using the last three weeks as vacation time, meaning Szakas is “at the helm” until his board confirmation at the end of the month.


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