The sign at the entrance to the University of Maine at Augusta campus on Civic Center Drive. Officials tasked with finding a new president for the university have pledged more transparency in the process. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — The newly selected 14-member search committee tasked with finding a president for the University of Maine at Augusta is “fully committed” to transparency after a search earlier this year went wrong, its leader said.  

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta. File photo

Roger Katz, an Augusta lawyer, former mayor and trustee of the University of Maine System, will spearhead the search committee that was revealed this week and features representatives chosen by faculty, students and other UMA community members.  

“We have had two meetings now, and we have all made a commitment the process will be open and transparent,” Katz told the Kennebec Journal. “There is also a commitment for me as the chair and also anyone as our consultant that any relevant information we learn about a candidate will be shared with everyone.” 

Katz is referring to the new guidelines in place for the search after the previous search for president of the Augusta-based university ended in a payout of nearly $600,000 over the next three years to Michael Laliberte. Laliberte, who was hired in April, withdrew from the role after it was revealed he received two votes of no confidence from his former university and the chancellor and members of that search committee knew but did not widely share this information. 

This time, there is a new search committee and a new search firm to help lead the process, but UMA faculty members said they remain hesitant. 

The UMaine System chose to use ZRG Partners, based out of New Jersey, for the search. The state university system has not yet finalized its contract with the executive search firm, and the cost of the arrangement was not available Thursday.


For the previous search, the university system paid $70,000 to work with Storbeck Search. 

ZRG Partners has experience with searches in higher education, health care and other consumer-related fields. Ann Yates from the search firm will help the university, which has campuses in both Augusta and Bangor, find candidates.

In its pledge to be more transparent, the committee will hold two listening sessions next week starting Monday in Bangor and Tuesday in Augusta. At these meetings, the committee will take feedback from UMA faculty, staff, students and members of the community about what they would like to see in a president. The sessions will be held in person and online over Zoom. 

After the listening sessions, the committee will compile the feedback into a job description at its Dec. 19 meeting, which is also open to the public online.  

Katz said UMA is unique in its distanced approach to online learning and by having multiple campuses, and the committee wants to make sure it can find a president who can reflect that. 

“With UMA’s distanced learning, in Bangor, or the other campus centers in general, in the greater-Augusta area, you cannot go into a business or a shop or a dental office without running into someone who graduated from UMA,” Katz said. “They might not have had that opportunity otherwise.” 


University of Maine at Augusta faculty members said they can’t help but feel wary as the new search starts again.

“In terms of the presidential search, the Faculty Senate is cautiously optimistic. We’ve been assured of transparency by the board of trustee chair (Trish Riley) and the search committee chair (Katz),” said Cindy Dean, UMA Faculty Senate president.

UMA English professor Lisa Botshon said she felt similarly to Dean, adding that she is nervous going into a new search but realizes that it has to be done.

“I am somewhat ambivalent about the new presidential search as the last one demonstrated how little respect the UMS administration has for UMA. The deception on the part of the chancellor and others was quite dispiriting. This said, we do need a president, and so I might be hopeful that this time the search will be conducted above board. Too, I hope we find a leader who is truly excited by and qualified to direct our mission to serve the people of Maine,” Botshon said.

Katz said he is “excited” to head the search, as his father helped found the University of Maine at Augusta in the 1960s. 

“I have fond memories with my dad’s involvement with founding the university, so it makes this project even more special to me,” Katz said. 

Members of the search committee, in addition to Katz, are: trustees Patrick Flood and Beth Dobson; UMA professors Patrick Cheek, Wendy St. Pierre and Tim Surrette; students Heidi Toner and Jennifer Christensen; UMA faculty members BJ Kitchin and Heidi Reinhard; UMA Associate Provost Brenda McAleer; UMA Board of Visitors Chair Richard Thompson; Rosa Redonnett and Rowena Clucky from the chancellor’s office; and UMA Director of Human Resources Kristine Albert.

UMA, which enrolls 5,688 students, is the third-largest university in the system.

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