Trustee and head of the University of Maine at Augusta presidential search committee Roger Katz listens to faculty Tuesday during a meeting at the Augusta campus. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — An “advocate,” “community organizer” and someone who is “passionate about social justice” these are the leading descriptions faculty members at the University of Maine at Augusta are using to characterize their ideal campus president.

About a dozen faculty members at UMA’s Augusta campus shared their hopes Tuesday during a listening session with several members of the new presidential search committee. Faculty said they want not only more transparency with the hiring process following the failed search earlier this year, but also for the group to find another “beloved” leader.  

Search committee members and University of Maine System trustees Patrick Flood, left, and Roger Katz listen to faculty Tuesday during a meeting at the University of Maine at Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I know there is hesitancy from faculty and staff on what the process will be, but we want to make sure we are not putting the past behind us,” said Cindy Dean, the faculty senate president who is an associate professor of education. “That’s why we are here today.” 

The new search committee held listening sessions Monday in Bangor and Tuesday in Augusta for students, staff and faculty members as a way to enhance the transparency of the search. The sessions were monitored by Ann Yates from ZRG Partners LLC, the firm helping the university with the search. Yates said the group will use feedback from the listening sessions to come up with a new job description for the UMA president. 

The University of Maine System, which finalized its contract with ZRG Partners Monday, will pay the group $68,000. For the previous search, the university system paid $70,000 to work with Storbeck Search

Among the characteristics the faculty described, the main quality that stood out is someone who can be an “advocate” for the faculty and UMA’s distanced approach to learning and the students UMA serves. They said their ideal leader would be a “community organizer” who is focused on growing UMA’s community and academics. 


The University of Maine at Augusta is known for its distanced style of learning, which faculty members pointed out the university had been doing well before it became more prevalent after COVID-19 forced universities across the country to operate online. Faculty members called UMA an “innovative option” for that very reason, along with other areas they lead in such as a Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival which attracts poets and listeners from throughout the state and country. 

Assistant Professor of Psychology Patrick Cheek speaks Tuesday during a presidential search committee listening session at the University of Maine at Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We need an advocate who understands … who we are, what we are trying to do, and stands up for us and with us,” said Lisa Botshon, a UMA English professor. 

The Augusta-based university, which also has a campus in Bangor, is the third largest in the system, enrolling 5,688 students.

The previous candidate for UMA president, Michael Laliberte, was hired in April and withdrew from the role after it was revealed he received two votes of no confidence from his former university and that the chancellor and members of that search committee knew but did not widely share this information.  

The situation ended with a payout of nearly $600,000 over the next three years to Laliberte on top of the payment to Storbeck. 

For the new search, the university system’s contract with ZRG Partners includes a fixed fee of $64,500, plus $2,000 to advertise the job posting and a proposed $1,500 for background checks which could vary in cost but average at $500 per candidate for the final three candidates chosen. 


The contract promises ZRG Partners will assist with the search in all areas, including by advising the search committee and facilitating the process and interviews. It also includes an obligation that the organization “be forthcoming” and provide complete information on all candidates to the search committee. 

Ann Yates from ZRG Partners LLC, the firm helping the University of Maine at Augusta with the search, talks to faculty members on the screen Tuesday as she coordinates a mostly online listening session at the university. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The search committee aims to identify candidates by early March and make an offer to the finalist by late March. If a candidate is not chosen by then, the contract with ZRG Partners will expire Nov. 24, 2023, but can be extended if needed. If the candidate is terminated from their job within the first year, ZRG will find a replacement at no additional cost to the university system. 

Yates said at Tuesday’s meeting the group hopes to post a job description online by the end of December. The next UMA presidential search committee meeting will take place Dec. 19.

Members of the UMA faculty said they are less concerned about the degrees candidates have and more concerned about how they can serve the community and what they can bring based on experience in the community and collaborating in past work.

“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.

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