Originally published in Castine Patriot, March 6, 2014
MMA trustees adopt strategic “process” over plan
Captain Jeff Loustaunau attends his final quarterly trustee meeting on February 21, after 14 years. Up next? A 740-mile canoe trip.
by Anne Berleant
A year-long effort towards creating a strategic plan for the future of Maine Maritime Academy ended with a paradigm shift when the board of trustees met on February 21.
“Originally we thought it would be a plan. Now it’s a process,” MMA President Bill Brennan said in an ad hoc committee the day before.
A one-page list of four goals and a flow chart of the annual budget cycle were unanimously approved with the motion to adopt the strategic planning process.
Less tangible is what Brennan called the “attempt [to] change the culture” of developing plans and budgets.
The college’s administration would be responsible “for the lion’s share of work,” he continued. The role of the board is to set policy and ensure the process is “moving forward.”
Brennan proposed a resolution amending the board bylaws to create a governance committee that, along with assessing the board’s performance and nominating board officers, would have “periodic oversight” of the planning process. The previous nominating committee has been eliminated.
“Culture change has to start at the top,” Brennan said.
Trustees unanimously approved the resolution.
Strategic goals aimed at increasing revenue
Identifying ways to increase revenue was cited by Brennan as the “fundamental purpose” of creating a strategic plan when the trustees met last May.
The four strategic goals are, briefly 1) to provide “the best” educational opportunities for students; 2) to guarantee MMA’s affordability for students and economic sustainability as an institution; 3) to place student satisfaction as central to management philosophy; and 4) use outreach branding and communication strategies to increase MMA’s profile and stature.
“The most important part is that this will be a live document,” said Trustee Earl Cianchette.
Creating “action plans necessary to meet the target of the objectives,” comes next, Brennan said, which should be linked with setting and executing the academy’s budget.
Less revenue should be derived by tuition, he continued. “That’s the stark reality of where we are.”
The anticipated student population for 2014 is 950—with no “exact control mechanism to bring it down to” the 860 named as the “ideal population” by an enrollment management study. Brennan said the administration “is working towards that.”
Stewardship needed for schooner Bowdoin
Eric Jurgensen, captain of the Bowdoin, told trustees that the historic vessel needs maintenance and stewardship, at a total estimated cost of $3 to $5 million.
“Unless we raise [that amount], we’ll have to get rid of it,” said Finance Committee Chairman John “Dugan” Shipway.
However, Chairman Robert J. Peacock III called the schooner “a great recruiting tool…It generates some great interest in the academy and the town…It’s also very costly, but it’s worth it.”
The Bowdoin, which turns 100 years old in 2021, was rebuilt in 1984; Jurgensen estimated 10 percent of the original schooner remains. “A lot of money” was spent on “making sure this is still the Bowdoin,” he said.
Designed by William Hand and built by Hodgdon Brothers Shipyard in East Boothbay in 1921 as an Arctic exploring vessel, the Bowdoin made 26 voyages to the Arctic between 1921 and 1954 and served on the U.S. Navy Greenland patrol during World War II.
Maine Maritime Academy purchased the vessel in 1988 for its small vessel operation and sail training programs. It is also Maine’s official state vessel and participates in local and regional events.
The first phase of repairs, estimated at $500,000, is replacing deck planks and assessing and addressing repairs that can only be identified “while the deck is off,” Jurgensen said. “There are parts that are 90 years old and parts that are 30 years [old].”
A “small” fundraising campaign has been launched, according to Eleanor Willmann, Vice President for Advancement.
“This is an extraordinary historic vessel,” said Brennan. “We have a responsibility to ensure it is protected.”
In other business,Commandant and Vice President for Enrollment Captain Jeff Loustaunau will retire in May.
“In the 14 years…I’ve got to see the care Jeff has for all the students,” said Peacock. “You came to this job with your heart.”
Loustaunau’s immediate post-retirement plans include a 740-mile canoe trip.
“We’ll get you a couple of seat cushions,” Cianchette said.
Finally, trustees approved a resolution granting $50,000 to the town of Castine for improvement of its water distribution service and $35,000 towards capital improvements of infrastructure, the third year of an agreed five-year payments.