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Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 9, 2013
MMA trustees lay out strategic plan timeline
Brennan: Increased enrollment “is not going to happen”

Robert J. Peacock II and Robert Somerville chair MMA trustees meeting

Chairman Robert J. Peacock II, at left, led the Maine Maritime Academy board of trustees meeting. At right is vice-chairman Robert Somerville.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

The Board of Trustees of Maine Maritime Academy met on May 3, with standing committees held earlier that day, including the ad hoc strategic plan committee.

President Bill Brennan summarized the strategic plan process, which began before his 2010 appointment but was put on hold in 2011 “due to leadership issues.”

“The fundamental purpose [of the strategic plan] is to identify a means by which to raise revenue,” Brennan said. “The previous answer was to increase the population of students. That is not going to happen.”

The plan will also address gender and ethnic imbalances and curriculum review and changes, Brennan said. “That is what’s going to define MMA’s ability to be successful in the future.”

Trustee William Walsh, chairman of the ad hoc committee, said a consultancy firm to facilitate the plan would be named as early as Monday, May 6, with the forming of an internal strategic plan committee to include community members to follow.

“The strategic plan is a plan in motion now,” said Paul Mercer, assistant to the president for sustainability.

The plan’s timeline includes a first meeting of the committee by the end of May, with a committee report ready for the trustees’ August meeting, a draft in November, and a final report in February 2014, with “implementation shortly thereafter.”

Since 2011, the structure and personnel of the academy’s administration has undergone major revisions, with new director posts created, filled from both within and outside the academy’s ranks.

The Finance Committee debated the board’s investment of MMA’s $26 million endowment fund. The fund was invested with the University of Maine’s investment pool seven years ago, based on the rationale that the UM fund hires outside management with “experience different from a public board,” Brennan explained. “It was a decision you all made here.”

“The world today versus seven years ago is markedly different,” said member Rodney Rodrigue, who questioned the wisdom of 100 percent investment of the endowment in the stock market.

Finance Committee Chairman and board treasurer John “Dugan” Shipway defined the basic question as, “How much risk do we take to provide scholarships for our students?” He said the fund increased 14.2 percent over the last year, but “at one time had lost $4 million.”

“This is the most important decision the board can make,” Rodrigue said.

No change in policy was proposed, but members were encouraged to attend one of the quarterly meetings held for the UM investment fund pool.

The committee also confirmed the academy’s voluntary services contribution to the town of Castine as part of its 2013-14 budget. Last year, MMA gave $90,500 toward the town public safety budget and $35,000 to the town’s debt for improvements to roads and infrastructure.

The Facilities and Property Committee will be renamed the Operations Committee, with the board’s approval, MMA vice president Jeff Loustaunau told members, to reflect the departments now under its umbrella: facilities, IT and human resources.

Loustaunau also introduced the new Human Resources Director, Ginny Altemus, a University of Maine at Orono graduate who comes from western Pennsylvania.

Facilities director Adam Potter said bids for the underground parking for the planned ABS Engineering building will “go out next week.” To date, $9.2 million has been raised for construction of the ABS building, which is estimated to cost $14.5 million.

Potter also updated the board on progress on deferred maintenance and renovations to the Waypoint student café.

“Is deferred maintenance directly related to safety not being worked on due to lack of funds,” while funds are being spent “to make a better eating area?” asked Shipway. “The only answer is ‘no.’ There’s no other acceptable answer.”

Potter said all items related to safety are being addressed. “We have funds.”

He also pointed out that he “can make a 40-year-old boiler safer, but I can’t make it better.”

At their full board meeting, trustees approved conferring associate, bachelor and master’s degrees for 196 students.

Retiring associate professor of ship’s medicine Sarah Hudson, of Castine, was named Emeritus Professor. Engineering professor Laurie Flood, of Castine, was promoted from associate to full professor.

Among the 275 incoming students for 2013-14, 10 percent are females, down from the “traditional” 14 percent, Brennan reported.

Brennan also noted the “wonderful message from the secretary of Adams School,” which included a copy of a letter published in The Castine Patriot from the PTC, thanking the academy and students for its volunteerism with the elementary school.

Trustees welcomed new board members Kathleen Greenleaf and student representative Ryan Armstrong and thanked former student member Tate Wagstaff for his service.

Board Chairman Robert J. Peacock II marked the third year anniversary of Brennan’s tenure. “You’ve done a great job…How you handle adversity tells us a lot about you.”