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Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 21, 2014
MMA trustees adopt strategic plan for “navigating the future”

Town meets gown at MMA trustees meeting

Castine Town Manager James Goodson, left, and Maine Maritime Academy Chairman of Trustees Robert J. Peacock, after the trustees’ annual meeting on August 8.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

The Maine Maritime Academy Board of Trustees unanimously approved a strategic plan at its annual meeting on August 8, after discussion at an ad hoc committee meeting one day earlier.

The approval comes after more than a year of meetings and analyses of information, including “countless interviews with staff and people throughout the school,” said Earl Ciancette, Chairman of the ad hoc Strategic Plan Committee.

The strategic plan, titled “Navigating the Future,” provides goals and targeted, but abstract, objectives, leaving a tactical plan to be developed by the school’s governance committee.

“Is this a strategic plan or a vision?” asked Board Vice President Robert Somerville.

“It’s all of the above,” said Ciancette. “I think we accomplished what we set out to do. We adopt it and ask the school to push out to support the tactical plans [that] support [the strategic plan].”

However, at the same time the strategic plan was being developed, MMA saw change in its top positions.

“[There is] a significant amount of leadership positions empty and a lot of ones newly filled,” said MMA President Bill Brennan. “A lot has happened in a very short period of time.”

Top administrative positions filled in the last year include Vice President of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean (David Gardner), Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management (Elizabeth True) and Vice President of Operations (Darrell Donahue). Still open are Vice President for Advancement, Director of Human Resources, and Director of Research.

Leadership positions “need to be in place to build the tactical plan,” Brennan said.

The “targeted objectives” outlined in the strategic plan include developing and implementing a campus master plan; generating more revenue both outside of and through tuition and fees; improving the gender balance and exposing students to cultural diversity; marketing MMA through brand recognition and communicating “our value proposition to target markets.” Providing excellence in teaching and scholarship and a “clear path to a successful career” are at the top of the list.

Ciancette advised that the tactical plans and the financial forecast will be “re-vetted every year.”

“[It’s] like paying the water bill,” said Treasurer John “Dugan” Shipway. “That allows the process to have some validity.”

The meeting itself was brief with most comment on a subject not on the agenda, that the August issue of Money Magazine named MMA 12th on its list of “The Best Colleges For Your Money.” It was also the top-rated public college and the fourth in early career earnings ($64,100). It’s average student debt ($32,820) was, by far, the highest compared to most colleges on the list, although its tuition was among the lowest.

Chairman Robert J. Peacock III pointed out that the list was generated by “independent findings of Money Magazine.”

Peacock, who was unanimously re-elected as chairman, welcomed new Castine Town Manager Jimmy Goodson.

“I hope to have a great working relationship with the town, as we have,” he said.

Selectman David Unger congratulated the academy on the recognition by Money Magazine.

“We understand the ratings have something to do with community,” Peacock replied.