AUGUSTA — Four candidates have been selected as semifinalists for the role of president of the University of Maine at Augusta and will visit the Augusta and Bangor campuses next week to meet with faculty and students.

Roger Katz, who has been leading the search, said at the beginning of March that “dozens” of people applied for the role and that 12 were selected for semifinalist interviews March 9 and 10. The 12 applicants were then narrowed down by a 14-member search committee that comprised faculty, staff and students, to four candidates who will begin the on-campus visits Monday. 

Katz is on the University of Maine System board of trustees and is a former mayor of Augusta.

“They come from as far away as New Mexico and as nearby as Presque Isle. The four have a wide variety of backgrounds and experience and we are confident any one of them would be a fine leader for this university,” Katz wrote in a news release on Thursday.

The four semifinalists are:

  Jenifer Cushman, chancellor of Penn State Beaver in Monaca, Pennsylvania.


  Roxanne Gonzales-Walker, the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

  Jason King, the chief compliance and ethics officer from the University of Texas System based in Austin.

  Raymond Rice, president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

“Next week will be an opportunity for us to get to know each of the candidates and for them to better understand the opportunities at UMA. Each of them will be meeting separately with different constituencies on both the Augusta and Bangor campuses over a two-day period,” Katz wrote.

The UMA community of faculty, staff and students will have the chance to meet the candidates, ask questions and provide feedback so that there is a “wide variety of exposure” and “as much feedback as possible,” Katz said in an interview. There will be open forums Tuesday through Friday with one candidate each day at Jewett Hall on the Augusta campus and  Zoom options for those who cannot attend in person.

The search committee will then reconvene and present its thoughts to Chancellor Dannel Malloy on April 4, who will make the final hiring decision.


Katz said at the outset that he is committed to having a transparent search after the presidential search last May that has resulted in a payout of $600,000 to Michael Laliberte over several years. Laliberte was hired as president of UMA but stepped down before his contract took effect after he and the search committee faced backlash for not broadly sharing that he had been subject to no-confidence votes at his former university. Faculty at that university had cited concerns over Laliberte’s ability to manage budgets and his enablement of a hostile work environment, among other issues. Because of the concerns raised by that search, the university system added a new rule requiring candidates to disclose if they have been subject to a vote of no confidence in any searches thereafter.  

As of Thursday, Maine’s state university system has paid Laliberte $235,000, according to spokesperson Margaret Nagle.

The names of candidates were announced before their on-campus visits, last year, too.

Gonzales-Walker, from New Mexico, has more than 26 years of experience in higher education and said her main focus is social justice. She currently serves as the provost and vice president of academic affairs at New Mexico Highlands University with the rank of professor and tenure. She will be at Jewett Hall on Tuesday from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Cushman has served as chancellor of Penn State Beaver since 2016 and said she is devoted to small campuses. She will be at Jewett Hall on Wednesday from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Rice has served as president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle since 2016 and came to the university in 1997 as an assistant professor of English. He will be at Jewett Hall on the UMA campus Thursday from noon to 1:30 p.m.


King has a background in law and spent a number of years representing cities and local government. He currently works in the University of Texas System as a chief compliance and ethics officer to help “promote a culture of ethical behavior.” King will be at Jewett Hall on Friday from noon to 1:30 p.m.

The University of Maine System, which worked with Storbeck Search during the previous presidential search, opted not to work with the firm again and instead selected ZRG Partners to lead this year’s search. The system is paying ZRG Partners $68,000. 

ZRG Partners led a series of listening sessions in December for UMA faculty, staff and students to express what they would like to see in their future president, with faculty members noting they would like to see someone who is “an advocate” and a “community organizer” in the role. 

“If we are joined with a like-minded leader, then I think we have an amazing opportunity ahead of us,” said Peter Precourt, an art professor, at December’s listening session.  

Members of the search committee are, in addition to Katz: trustees Patrick Flood and Beth Dobson; UMA professors Patrick Cheek, Wendy St. Pierre and Tim Surrette; students Heidi Toner and Jennifer Christensen; UMA Associate Provost Brenda McAleer; UMA faculty members BJ Kitchin; UMA Board of Visitors Chair Richard Thompson; Administrative Specialist Alexander Carson; UMA community member Dianne Chicoine and UMS Associate Vice Chancellor Rosa Redonnett.

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