Jenifer Cushman has been named the new president of the University of Maine at Augusta. She will start July 1. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Jenifer Cushman is the next president of the University of Maine at Augusta. 

Chancellor Dannel Malloy announced the decision Wednesday during a ceremony at the Augusta campus following a five-month national search officials were forced to launch after a botched search the previous year. 

Cushman will start July 1. She is currently the chancellor of Penn State Beaver, a small campus that is part of Pennsylvania’s state university system.

“She is devoted to small campuses and the diversity they serve and helping students with lesser resources in the institutions that she has served in currently and in the past, and that is certainly one of the missions of this university,” Malloy said.

The announcement comes just more than a year after Michael Laliberte stepped down shortly after accepting the role. His hiring prompted widespread backlash against Malloy and the search committee for not sharing that Laliberte had received no-confidence votes at his former university over concerns about his ability to manage budgets and his creation of a hostile work environment, among other issues.

An internal review of the search found that officials had violated university policy by not discussing the negative information with the system’s human resources department. It also resulted in a settlement whereby UMaine agreed to pay Laliberte $235,000 annually until 2024, including the difference if a new job pays him less than that.


When officials were ordered to restart the presidential search, trustee and search committee chair Roger Katz pledged the new search would be more transparent

On Wednesday, the Farber Fourm in Jewett Hall was filled as Malloy introduced Cushman, and 101 people tuned into the livestream on Zoom.

Jenifer Cushman addresses the crowd after she was announced as the new University of Maine at Augusta president Wednesday in Jewett Hall in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Cushman said she was drawn specifically to the University of Maine at Augusta’s use of technology to serve students across the state.

About 70% of UMA students attend school online.

“The University of Maine at Augusta already has a great foundation for the 21st century,” she told the Kennebec Journal. “We all know technology is changing and that’s how we do things. The fact that UMA has a history of using technology in its access for students across the state, that is everything and something you can really build off of.”

University leaders applauded her humor and willingness to serve the community.


Katz mentioned Cushman spent two days on campus, including a trip to the UMA campus in Ellsworth, where she met with students and faculty “from dawn to dusk.”

“We got to see her energy, her ideas and her passion for higher education and its ability to change people’s lives,” Katz said.

Jennifer Cushman listens Wednesday as Chancellor Dannel Malloy announces that she is the new University of Maine at Augusta president. Malloy announced the hiring decision during an on-campus ceremony in Jewett Hall in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennbec Journal

Cushman has been chancellor of Penn State Beaver, which enrolls about 700 students, since 2016.

She started as an associate professor of German and Russian at the University of Minnesota Morris and has also worked as campus dean at Ohio University at Zanesville. Cushman said in her biography for her candidacy she has expertise in small campuses and she has helped her campuses secure a number of grants.

Cushman told the press after the introduction ceremony that she and her husband, Matt Dingo, started to think of their next steps after their youngest child, Jakob Dingo, graduated from high school about a year ago. She knew she wanted to work at a university that had “steps towards the future.”

Her husband and children, who also include a daughter, Halina Dingo, and her partner, Zoltan Nemetch, were in attendance for the announcement. Cushman and her husband plan to move from Pennsylvania to Augusta in the coming months. The University of Maine at Augusta does not have an on-campus president suite like many universities, including the University of Southern Maine.


The university system has not yet finalized Cushman’s contract or salary.

The search began in October when the university formed a new committee and hired a different executive search firm to help guide the process. The university worked with ZRG Partners for the latest search and paid the company $68,000.

UMA announced the four finalists at the end of March and the search committee presented feedback about the candidates in early April to Malloy, who made the final decision.  

The current president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Raymond Rice, dropped out as a candidate at the end of March, stating his desire to stay in his current role.  

“With the three candidates, I’m confident that UMA will find an excellent future leader,” he said March 30 in an email to the newspaper.

The other finalists were Roxanne Gonzales-Walker, the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Jason King, the chief compliance and ethics officer from the University of Texas System based in Austin.


Jenifer Cushman speaks Wednesday after she was announced as the new University of Maine at Augusta president in Jewett Hall in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Meanwhile, Laliberte has not found a new job and will be paid for another year starting July 1 if he is still without an employer. 

“Dr. Laliberte continues to diligently fulfill his responsibilities under the agreement, including providing detailed regular reports of his efforts. UMS has made the payments that it is responsible for up to this point. Beginning (July 1), if Dr. Laliberte has not commenced other employment, UMS will begin paying him a monthly prorated portion of the annual salary figure. These payments will continue through the end of the agreed-upon period or until he finds other employment, whichever comes first,” said University of Maine System spokesperson, Tory Ryden.

The presidential announcement comes days after reporting indicated that staff at University of Maine at Augusta had raised concerns over the recent hiring of another senior administrator, Dean of Students Jennifer Davis. Staff members asserted that Davis was “favored unjustly” and that complaints and feedback about her and the search process were not reviewed properly by university administrators. The university has denied the claims.

The University of Maine at Augusta is the third-largest school in the state university system and enrolls about 4,500 students.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.