The University of Maine at Farmington has appointed Joseph McDonnell, left, as its two-year interim president. The appointment follows the departure of current President Edward Serna, who will leave the role in July. University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy, right, announced McDonnell’s appointment Tuesday, May 3, at UMF’s Olsen Student Center. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington has appointed Joseph McDonnell as its two-year interim president.

McDonnell’s appointment follows the resignation of current President Edward Serna. Serna is moving on in July to serve as president of his alma mater, Winthrop University in South Carolina.

McDonnell is currently serving as a professor of policy, planning and management in the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. He previously served as USM’s provost and dean of the College of Management and Human Services; and an interim dean of the College of Business at Stony Brook University in New York.

He additionally has “held senior leadership positions in the private sector,” according to a release.

University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy and UMF Board of Visitors Chair Cathy Wimett announced McDonnell’s appointment Tuesday, May 3, at UMF’s Olsen Student Center.

Both Malloy and Wimett stressed McDonnell is up to the task to make UMF “fiscally stable” through the university’s new strategic plan.


Malloy said McDonnell’s experiences have made him “keenly aware of the need to strategically align academic programs to the needs of the 21st century Maine economy.”

“As [McDonnell] continue[s] the ongoing work of our strategic plan, I expect [his] experience in planning management and communication will be critical to UMF’s future,” Wimett said. “The Board of Visitors will continue to support the positive though often difficult endeavors that UMF is pursuing – while at the same time asking many questions to understand more thoroughly what we can do to preserve and strengthen an institution that can again be a thriving force in Farmington, Franklin County and the State of Maine.”

“Joe is in full agreement with the charge that I shared with you to carry out our strategic planning work and lead Farmington forward,” Malloy echoed. “He is also more than up to the task of working with you to make sure Farmington has the strongest possible academic programs to create a foundation for enrollment and financial stability.”

McDonnell then spoke before the UMF community, discussing his “top strength” as a “learner.”

“I’m coming to Farmington with no set plan, but coming to listen, to learn and to help implement your plan,” McDonnell said. “I hope it is going to also be a valuable strength to help this university over the next two years.”

McDonnell stressed the goal to foster financial stability during his speech.


“You see a university that has many small departments, each one of them is short of faculty but as a whole, there’s more than enough,” he said. “We need to think imaginatively about how we organize to build on those strengths.”

“I think the challenge for UMF will also be the story of continuity, but also of change. To not just be the university that we are, but also be the university that we are capable of becoming,” McDonnell concluded. “And so I look forward to working with you so that together, we can put our students and this university on an upward trajectory.”

During the announcement, Malloy discussed the university’s recent elimination of faculty positions at UMF.

UMF recently eliminated nine faculty positions in Humanities and Social Sciences departments, according to UMaine-System Interim Executive Director of Communications Margaret Nagle.

She said the eliminations were due to “budget and enrollment challenges at UMF.” As a result, the UMaine System is looking to “retrench” these faculty members in other positions across the system.

“Unfortunately, some of your colleagues will be leaving this university. I certainly hope that we’ll be able to secure positions for them at other universities within the system,” Malloy said in his speech. “We will work to the highest extent possible to see those individuals stay here in Maine and have a job should one be available to them.


“The system has attempted to be a good partner with this university as it traveled the road that it needed to, with respect to recognizing change had to be made,” he added.

Malloy said that as the university transfers from a system of four credits to three, they hope to increase enrollment from community-college students.

In an interview after the ceremony, Malloy said he hopes McDonnell’s appointment will avoid future need to eliminate more positions.

He also added the decision to offer McDonnell the role for two years was spurred by faculty members. They desired an interim president to finish executing the credit-system transition.

“I think the faculty felt that the idea of having someone get that portion of the job done before someone comes, hopefully to be the long-term president was the right way to go,” Malloy said. “We were too late in the normal process to start a search and draw the audience of applicants that we would have wanted.”

“[The board of trustees] just thought that [McDonnell] brought the right skill set necessary to build on the work that has been executed over the last three years,” Malloy said.

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