Upon granting unified accreditation to the University of Maine System in July 2020, our regional accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), asked us to prepare a self-study in advance of a Fall 2022 visit by a NECHE-appointed evaluation team. Standard One: Mission and Purpose can be found on this page.

Read the full self-study


The University of Maine System (UMS) includes Maine’s flagship research university, a comprehensive regional university in an urban setting, smaller liberal arts universities, and Maine’s only law school. Collectively, they carry out public higher education’s tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service and are an indispensable resource for the state, directly linking the education of its people and the application of research and scholarship to Maine’s civic and economic health and growth.

History and founding of UMS, its universities, and the University of Maine School of Law

The Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 allotted each state 30,000 acres of federal land per member of its congressional delegation. Maine received 210,000 acres whose sale funded an endowment of $118,300 to found the Maine State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. Completed with a 370-acre College farm, the future University of Maine opened its doors to thirteen male students in September 1868.

The College was overseen by a Board of Trustees formed in 1865, with sixteen members representing, by law, Maine’s sixteen counties. In 1897, the Board changed the name of the College to the University of Maine (UM), the new name representing in part the broader course of study that evolved in the university’s first three decades and, significantly, its position as a university for the entire state.

The University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK) was founded in 1878 as the Madawaska Training School for teacher education. It became UMFK in 1970. The University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) was founded in 1903 as the Aroostook State Normal School to provide post-secondary education to residents of central Aroostook County in northern Maine. It became UMPI in 1971. The University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) began as the Western State Normal School in 1864, offering teacher training grounded in the liberal arts. It became UMF in 1971.

The University of Maine at Machias (UMM), now a regional campus of the University of Maine, was founded in 1909 as the Washington State Normal School. It became UMM in 1970. The University of Maine at Augusta (UMA), established in 1965 as a continuing education division of the University of Maine, became an official campus of UM in 1967, just prior to the creation of UMS, and became a university within UMS in 1971.

The University of Southern Maine (USM) was founded as two institutions: the Western State Normal School in Gorham in 1878, and Portland Junior College in 1933. Later incarnations of the two schools merged to become the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham and part of UMS in 1970. The university became USM in 1978.

The University of Maine School of Law (Law School) was founded in 1962.

Mission statements: UMS, its universities, and its Law School

The University of Maine System Board of Trustees (Board), appointed by Maine’s Governor, is UMS’s governing and planning body. Among its core responsibilities is the approval of mission statements and strategic plans for UMS and its universities. Board Policy 301 recognizes that these statements and plans provide a framework for the development of appropriate programs and services.

UMS and university mission statements are subject to review and approval by the Board on a five-year cycle. In consultation with the Chancellor, the Board may call for review and revision of a mission or strategic plan outside of that cycle.

University mission statements are the product of university-wide deliberation led by the President in discussion with the Chancellor, and approval from the university and the Chancellor before Board review and approval at a public Board meeting. Mission statements for UMS and each university are posted on the UMS website.

UMS Board Policy Section 301.1: University of Maine System mission

The University of Maine System unites seven distinctive public universities in the common purposes of providing first-rate higher education at reasonable cost to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Maine. Through its universities, UMS carries out the traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service.

UMS extends its mission as a major resource for the state, linking economic growth, the education of Maine people, and the application of research and scholarship. The Board of Trustees, in consultation with the Chancellor, is the governing and planning body of the University System responsible for developing and maintaining a cohesive structure of public higher education in the state of Maine. As such, the Board has final authority over all matters within its jurisdiction, including all educational, public service, and research policies, as well as all personnel and financial policies. The Board provides leadership on higher education policy within the System and the state, is committed to strengthening the unique characteristics of each university’s mission, and advocates aggressively for adequate resources to support the System and its universities.

UMS Board Policy Section 301.2: University of Maine mission

The University of Maine advances learning and discovery through excellence and innovation in undergraduate and graduate academic programs while addressing the complex challenges and opportunities of the 21st century through research-based knowledge.

Opportunity for all members of the University of Maine community is a cornerstone of our mission. The university welcomes students, research partners and collaborators into an atmosphere that honors the heritage and diversity of our state and nation.

Founded in 1865, the University of Maine is the Land and Sea Grant institution and the flagship campus of the University of Maine System. This vibrant and dynamic university serves the residents of Maine, the nation, and the world through our acclaimed programs in teaching, research, and outreach.

Inspiring and dedicated teaching propels students into new fields of learning and promotes interdisciplinary understanding. Our educational goals are to help students develop their creative abilities, communication, and critical thinking skills, and understanding of traditions in ethics and rationality within the arts, sciences, and professions.

Internationally recognized research, scholarship, and creative activity distinguish the University of Maine as the state’s flagship university, where faculty and students contribute knowledge to issues of local, national, and international significance. As the state’s doctoral-granting institution, research and education are inextricably linked.

Comprehensive outreach, including public service, Cooperative Extension, continuing education, and distance learning, engages learners of all ages in improving their lives and communities. Using research-based knowledge, outreach efforts promote sustainable use of Maine’s abundant natural resources and build intellectual, cultural, and economic capacity throughout Maine and beyond.

Through integrated teaching, research, and outreach, the University of Maine improves the quality of life for people in Maine and around the world, and promotes responsible stewardship of human, natural, and financial resources.

UMS Board Policy Section 301.3: University of Southern Maine mission

The University of Southern Maine, northern New England’s outstanding public, regional, comprehensive university, is dedicated to providing students with a high quality, accessible, affordable education. Through its undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, USM faculty members educate future leaders in the liberal arts and sciences, engineering and technology, health and social services, education, business, law and public service.

Distinguished for their teaching, research, scholarly publication and creative activity, the faculty are committed to fostering a spirit of critical inquiry and civic participation. USM embraces academic freedom for students, faculty, and staff, and advocates diversity in all aspects of its campus life and academic work. It supports sustainable development, environmental stewardship, and community involvement. As a center for discovery, scholarship and creativity, USM provides resources for the state, the nation, and the world.

UMS Board Policy Section 301.4: University of Maine at Augusta mission

UMA transforms the lives of students of every age and background across the state of Maine and beyond through access to high-quality distance and on-site education, excellent student support and civic engagement, and innovative professional and liberal arts programs.

UMS Board Policy Section 301.5: University of Maine at Farmington mission

As a premier teacher education and public liberal arts college for the state of Maine, the University of Maine at Farmington prepares students for engaged citizenship, enriching professional careers, and an enduring love of learning.

UMS Board Policy Section 301.6: University of Maine at Fort Kent mission

UMFK will nurture and engage a diversity of learners and aspiring professionals in Maine’s rural communities and beyond through affordable, technologically-enhanced and professionally-focused education programs.

UMS Board Policy Section 301.7: University of Maine at Machias mission

Through our Environmental Liberal Arts core, distinctive baccalaureate programs, and student-centered community, the University of Maine at Machias creates enriching educational opportunities that prepare graduates for professional success and lifelong engagement with the world. UMM embodies an active community of diverse learners who share a commitment to exploration, leadership, collaboration, and interdisciplinary problem solving. Inspired by our unique coastal location, UMM’s creative energy, applied research, and community engagement enhance the social, cultural, economic, and natural environments of the state of Maine.

UMS Board Policy Section 301.8: University of Maine at Presque Isle mission

Our success is built on an ethic of care: We inspire learners from near and far, of all ages and career stages, and support their personal journeys toward the future they seek. We value our team members and ensure they have the right tools, technology, and resources to provide learners with educational experiences they will draw upon for the rest of their lives. We serve our community and strive to engage all in activities that strengthen and sustain a rich and rewarding life. Every day, in every way, it’s about excellence for everyone.

University of Maine School of Law draft mission statement

The following is a draft mission statement for the Law School. It has not been brought forward for review and approval by the UMS Board of Trustees.

Maine Law is an institutional public servant committed to providing an accessible and affordable student-focused program of legal education and achieving the highest standards of ethical behavior.


“The University of Maine System” has, in the past, served as a synonym for the governance structure, including the Board, the Chancellor, and the UMS office. Under unified accreditation, however, it increasingly connotes the faculty, Presidents, administrators, and staff of the seven universities and Law School collaborating with the Board, the Chancellor and his senior staff, and one another. Continued success in implementing unified accreditation requires that each of the universities and the Law School plays a unique and essential role consistent with its mission.

Opportunities for refining and advancing these missions include:

  • using the tool of unified accreditation to increase access and improve outcomes for students academically, socially/emotionally, and with respect to post-graduate success.
  • strengthening coordination and communication among the universities, Law School, and System office while reducing internal competition, particularly around recruitment.
  • identifying and implementing the educational efficiencies to be achieved through our unified environment and operating model.

An example drawn from one of the three areas above: the universities have made demonstrable progress in communicating with prospective and admitted students. For the summer/fall 2021 admission cycle, the universities accelerated their traditional timelines for review of applications and admissions decisions, sending letters to accepted students an average of several weeks to several months earlier in the year than in prior cycles.

Across UMS, this change produced 7,237 matriculations by the start of the fall 2021 term, up from 5,718 at the same point in fall 2020 (a 26.6% increase).

Relatedly, every UMS university agreed to stop recruiting students who had applied to more than one of our universities as soon as those students accepted an offer from any one of our universities. This change reduced wasted effort by staff and potentially confusing messaging to incoming students.


UMS will continue to use unified accreditation to advance strategic initiatives serving students and the state. The self study process and UMS strategic planning effort, in tandem with ongoing UMS and university-level initiatives addressing student success, DEI, research, infrastructure, and other priorities, will sharpen and strengthen the missions of UMS, its universities, and its Law School.

Beginning in Fall 2023, a new UMS strategic plan will guide mission-specific activity, including university strategic plans, research planning, infrastructure and capital planning, budgeting and resource allocation, and economic and workforce development planning.

In addition, the plan will help us prioritize and respond to action items emerging from the Commission’s review of our October 2022 comprehensive evaluation. The five-year direction for UMS shared by NECHE will be consonant with and embedded in our strategic values, goals, action steps, and assessments.

Following completion of the UMS strategic plan, and in consultation with the Chancellor, the Law School will bring forward its proposed mission statement for review and approval by the Board.

Data and tables for Standard One: Mission and Purpose are available in the campus Data First Forms linked below.

Back to 2022 UMS NECHE Self Study