FARMINGTON – University staff, leaders and students, as well as community members, joined in welcoming the University of Maine at Farmington’s next president to the campus Tuesday, at a reception held at Mantor Library.
Edward Serna, currently the interim chancellor at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, will be the 15th president in UMF’s history when he takes over the position on July 1. He will be replacing interim President Eric Brown, who was appointed to that position following the departure of then-President Kathryn Foster in 2018.
University of Maine System Chancellor James Page welcomed Serna, his wife Lauren and his two daughters to the university and the state. He said that Serna’s background at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith made him familiar with of some of the challenges in western Maine.
“There’s work to do. We’re very confident that you’re ready for it,” Page told the crowd. “We’re very confident that Edward is ready and we’re expecting great things.”
Serna was at the UAFS in different leadership capacities since 2015, becoming the 6,600-student school’s interim chancellor last year. His previous experience includes working at the College of Business at Athens State University as an assistant professor, and before that at Science & Engineering Services LLC in Huntsville, Ala., where he was a senior program manager.
While at the University of Arkansas, Serna oversaw the launch of the UFAS Promise program, which sought to recruit and retain students by providing them with fixed tuition and a streamlined pathway to graduation in exchange for their commitment toward making academic progress and adhering to advising guidance. Page said that the successful Promise program at UFAS was in keeping with the traditions and priorities of UMF.
“Dr. Serna shares our commitment to measuring our progress in terms of student and state success,” Page said in a prepared statement. “The Board and I were also impressed by many of the initiatives achieved under Edward’s leadership in Arkansas, noting how well aligned his accomplishments are with the strategic priorities that will guide and expedite educational reform in Maine over the next five years.”
A graduate of Winthrop University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Serna also has Masters in Management Information Systems through Auburn University and Science in Industrial Management through Clemson University. His doctorate is in Higher Education Administration, at the University of Alabama.
Serna made his remarks without the benefit of a prepared speech, joking that the one thing anyone at Tuesday’s event would remember is that he left his tablet on the roof of his car. He said that he was honored and humbled for the opportunity and that his family was excited to move to the area. While he was aware of the school’s 155-year history, Serna said, he hadn’t been able to truly appreciate it until he was able to visit for two days earlier this year.
“This is the kind of community we want to raise our girls at,” Serna said. “This is the kind of community where we can make an impact.”
He pointed to challenges facing UMF and other universities, including questions of enrollment, funding and the perceived value of higher education. One of his priorities, Serna said, was to increase the access of UMF to new markets of students, improving the diversity of the student population. He said he was interested in meeting with staff about both strengths and weaknesses of the university in the coming months.
Serna was also welcomed by the Search Committee Chair, Trustee David MacMahon, who said that the committee had been drawn to Serna as a candidate due to his ability to create relationships, collaborate with different stakeholders and “build consensus around a vision” at his previous positions. Serna was one of four finalists for the UMF position.
Page also thanked Brown, who could not attend Tuesday’s event, for his work over the past year.
“A valued colleague and academic leader, we are grateful for Dr. Brown’s service to the institution and its students,” Page said in a statement.