As the University of Maine brings its five-year strategic plan (Blue Sky Project, 2012-2017) to a close with its recent assessment (Blue Sky Outcomes, May 2018) and contemplates next steps, now is an opportune time for the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture to chart its own course to advance research, teaching, and service on behalf of Maine’s flagship university and in preparation for future university-level discussions on strategic direction. The Blue Sky vision and guiding principles for UMaine reflect our college ideals well, and the grand challenges and responsibilities encompassed by its Pathway Initiatives remain highly relevant for both UMaine and our college and serve as the institutional foundation for the college’s road map. This vision extends to advancing our success and impact in fundamental and applied scientific inquiry and STEM education in national and international arenas.

The Blue Sky Vision

The University of Maine aspires to be the most distinctly student-centered and community-engaged of the American Research Universities.

Building on our distinctive foundation of innovative teaching and research, we are committed to a dynamic culture that integrates world-class teaching, inquiry and outreach to build a prosperous future for Maine’s citizens. We will invest in signature programs of excellence to foster superb academic and research programs, build strong communities on our campus with our external partners, grow healthy economies and fulfill our mission of responsible public leadership. We will realize our vision through bold, interdisciplinary risk-taking, couple with pragmatic problem solving.

Excerpt from The Blue Sky Project. 2012. Page 2.

This document is designed to inform members of UMaine’s community about the nine initiatives that the college’s leadership will advance over the next five years.  It is an internal document and thus written first and foremost for our use as a planning tool.  In simplest terms it is a transparent task list for the dean.  For future communications with our diverse stakeholders and constituents about our strategic initiatives, we will develop versions of this document crafted to fit specific audiences and purposes.

The nine initiatives and associated objectives were developed through an inclusive, consensus-driven process to identify needs and opportunities for strategic program advancement.  That process is outlined in Appendix B. Listening sessions were held with every academic unit, professional staff, administrative staff, new faculty, academic unit chairs and directors, and the dean’s staff over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year.  We also used these listening sessions to ask faculty and staff to tell us what values motivate and inspire their work.  The college Executive Committee served as the road map development working group and assisted the dean’s staff in distilling the input received and translating it into thematic initiatives and objectives.  We were careful at every step to ensure the plan represents the diverse interests and perspectives on needs and opportunities across our many college disciplines.

Below are the nine initiatives that emerged from our planning process, and these serve as the organization for the remainder of this document.

  1. Achieving excellence in undergraduate student advising and program quality.
  2. Growing our research enterprise in the service of science and Maine.
  3. Enhancing quality and impact of our graduate education programs.
  4. Rising to meet Maine’s health care needs.
  5. Accelerating facility renewal and modernization.
  6. Expanding our private and public fundraising efforts.
  7. Enhancing our culture of excellence: equity, inclusion and diversity.
  8. Communicating our impact to advance our success.
  9. Strengthening our support systems as the foundation for program excellence.

It should come as no surprise that the college’s specific initiatives align in multiple ways with the broader Blue Sky Project Pathways:

Table shows how the roadmap's initiatives correspond with each of the Blue Sky Plan's Pathways


The list of objectives associated with our nine initiatives is impressive.  Our intent was to be complete in documenting the college’s needs and opportunities.  With input from faculty and staff along the way, it will be the dean’s and Executive Committee’s responsibility to integrate programmatic priorities with practical considerations and emerging opportunities to prioritize our work, seek required resources, and maximize progress.  Faculty involvement and leadership will be a hallmark of our change process.   Planning for specific objectives directly impacting student experience and success will include a requirement for appropriate student input.  With a well charted path and forward-looking initiatives in progress, the college will be much better poised to take advantage of opportunities within UMaine and the University of Maine System and with our state, federal partners, as we strengthen and broaden our regional, national, and international profile and impact.


One of the lessons from the recent assessment of the Blue Sky Project (Blue Sky Outcomes. 2018. Page 55) is the importance of clarity in defining strategic goals and benchmarks.  Road map assessment will be a priority with a focus on establishing baseline information, benchmarks, and assessment methods for each objective at the time work is initiated.  The college will monitor and report on overall progress annually and on a five-year time table.  The five-year time period is simply a reasonable period for assessing progress given the nature of these initiatives; it is not a deadline for successfully completing all objectives.  We anticipate presenting progress reports as part of the college’s annual faculty meeting at the conclusion of each academic year.

The values that inspire our work

Like guiding principles, our values serve as guide posts for all that we do.  During our listening sessions, faculty and staff were asked to share what they value about their professional environment and the impact of their work. The following draft statement represents the essence of the comments that were most frequently expressed. The statement below is the point of departure for a future inclusive process to develop a formal statement of values.

We make discoveries and develop tomorrow’s leaders to build a brighter future for our communities and environment. We develop scientists and professionals who will lead our region’s and disciplines’ futures. We cultivate a workplace culture founded in mutual respect to create an environment conducive to collaboration and innovation and model cultural and ethical competence for our students. We have a duty to serve the people of Maine, advance national conversations, and contribute new knowledge through scholarship and engagement to help people sustain our environment, communities, and health.