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Dr. Robert Neely to lead Academic Transformation for One University Initiative

Accomplished academic leader appointed Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs to drive efforts to expand access to all Maine learners and enhance a statewide, strategic portfolio of programs that serves critical state needs

ORONO, MAINE — University of Maine System Chancellor James H. Page announced today that Dr. Robert Neely has been appointed the new Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the University of Maine System.  The appointment of Dr. Neely marks the successful conclusion of a national search for an academic leader to expand access to public higher education to Maine learners of all ages, backgrounds, and locations and to collaboratively increase the capacity of Maine’s public universities to serve critical state needs as part of the Academic Transformation occurring under the One University Initiative.

Dr. Neely comes to Maine’s universities having devoted his career to public higher education as a biology professor, researcher, department chair, and an academic leader with seventeen years of experience navigating change in positions of increasing responsibility.  For the last five years Dr. Neely has served as the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Texas Woman’s University, a public institution with three distinct campuses, more than 15,000 students, and nearly 140 undergraduate, masters, and doctoral programs.

Earning high marks in TWU faculty surveys for excellence in leadership, integrity, and professional ethics, Dr. Neely has successfully guided strategic change initiatives across a multi-campus university recognized by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2013 as the 2nd fastest-growing public doctoral university in the United States.

“Working as one, Maine’s universities have achieved national leadership around affordability, expanded access to our programs, and improved fiscal stability and our capacity to serve,” said James H. Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System.  “In Dr. Robert Neely our search committee identified a proven academic leader with the experience and approach needed to transform our academic programs into a truly statewide, strategically aligned portfolio.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees I welcome Dr. Neely to our university leadership team and express our collective appreciation to President Linda Schott, President Glenn Cummings and the search committee for a successful, campus-engaged effort to identify a new Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs,” concluded Chancellor Page.

The search process and essential duties for a new Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs align with the One University Academic Transformation Initiative, characterized as “the most comprehensive change initiative ever attempted in state higher education,” by Dr. Ellen Chaffe, a nationally-renowned expert in higher education leadership and governance.

Under Dr. Neely’s leadership Maine’s public universities will work collaboratively to expand access to learners of all ages, backgrounds, and locations while developing a strategic portfolio of academic programs that increases the capacity of public higher education to serve critical state needs and attract attention, resources, and talent to Maine.

“Creating new opportunities for academic collaboration among colleagues and across campuses will increase the capacity of Maine’s public universities to inspire students and serve the state,” said Dr. Robert Neely, incoming Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the University of Maine System.

“As an academic leader with a track record of navigating faculty-engaged change across multiple campuses, I am grateful for the opportunity to join Maine’s public university leadership team.  Through honest analysis, constant planning, communication, and adherence to governance structures, I know we can build the trust and consensus it takes to develop a multi-campus academic portfolio that best serves our students and the state,” concluded Dr. Neely.

“Our national search for a Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs coincided with a faculty-led collaboration between USM and UMF to establish a fast-track, dual-campus pathway to a Masters Degree in social work,” said Glenn Cummings, President of the University of Southern Maine and a member of the VCAA Search Committee. “Dr. Neely’s commitment to faculty engagement and empowerment can help make the USM-UMF example of academic leadership a standard approach to overcoming challenges and seizing opportunities across our campuses.”

“An accomplished scholar in biology, Dr. Neely understands that good data are needed to drive discussion, develop consensus, and create programs that create strategic opportunity for an institution and its students,” said Jeffrey Hecker, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Maine and a member of the VCAA Search Committee.

“Dr. Neely also brings experience in working with first generation college students and a proven ability to improve student success and retention, both of which are well suited for a leadership role in public higher education in Maine.  On behalf of my colleagues on the search committee and in academic leadership across our campuses, it is a pleasure to welcome Vice Chancellor Neely to our team,” concluded Provost Hecker.

Under Chancellor Page’s One University Initiative Maine has become the only state in the country to achieve a five-year reduction in the real cost of public higher education while increasing investments in financial aid and improving the fiscal standing of Maine’s universities.   The emphasis on service to Maine and its students as one university has helped increase admissions activity while expanding early college access, credit transfer, and collaboration among the campuses.

Dr. Neely Photo