Pit Stop #18: University of Maine at Augusta

(Caveat: The day we visited University of Maine at Augusta was not the best for showing off the beautiful campus. It was overcast and most of the leaves had blown and gone home for the winter. So Betty decided to take photos of UMA’s great outdoor sculpture — with the campus in the background. Just so you know we hadn’t gone off our art rocker!)

Who wants to get a degree?

UMA is one of the six public universities that make up the University of Maine System (it’s six rather than seven because Machias is now an embedded part of the University of Maine). UMA is a regional state university with campuses in Augusta and Bangor (added to UMA in 1995), eight centers, and thirty-two sites, mostly inside high schools, providing both baccalaureate and associate degrees for residents of Central Maine.

It’s called The Gate…as in “We are open”

Founded in 1965, UMA enrolls approximately 5,500 students, many of them adult learners. While offering almost fifty different programs, it is noted nationally for its online degree in information and library science that dates back three decades– a distance ed program way ahead its time.

Just good old-fashioned UMA pride

UMA ‘s President Rebecca Wyke is a fellow University of Pennsylvania Ed.D. doctoral grad and hearing about my trip to Maine, she reached out and invited me to visit. I’m thrilled she did, as UMA is like no other institution I’ve visited on my trip.

By the way (and this is no unimportant fact), before coming to UMA Rebecca served for almost a decade as Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration for the entire Maine system. That’s a very big job– perhaps making even the job of a president seem like a slightly more relaxing role. 

UMA ‘s beginning was as an adult extension program, as part of the University of Maine, but it separated from the flagship in the late 1960’s. It entered into the distance learning space very early — in 1989 –offering classes across the state on what they called ITV. Rebecca shared that this legacy continues even today, with some live programming still broadcast on television. Wow.

Now distance learning is everywhere!

We talked about UMA’s aspirations for the future, and this part of the conversation was especially compelling. Residents of Augusta have always hoped that UMA would become a full-blown residential campus. Dr. Wyke suggested this is not in the cards, given the other public university options available, although UMA did just open 84 beds for students in their cohort programs–its first residences ever. She shared that it’s not UMA’s intent to duplicate offerings already provided elsewhere in the state, unless it’s via a new modality that expands access.

University of Maine Augusta has a niche and it is a critical one. Its roots go back to its founding as a place where non-traditional students from across the state (mostly working adults) might access quality programs at a reasonable cost and alter the course of their lives, and the lives of their families.

Always thinking about what is possible

That’s a very special mission for sure, and Dr. Wyke could not be more proud of her faculty, staff and students that are similarly engaged in that mission. Take a listen to our conversation. You’ll enjoy.

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