By Joseph Arsenault- Editor
UMF welcomes President Kate Foster this year, and with her leadership, noticeable changes are to come. She is erudite in various fields having earned a B.A. in Geography and Environmental Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, a Masters in City Planning from the University of California at Berkeley, and Ph.D. in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University. With her in charge, the university seems to be in great condition for prosperity.
Having a background in urban planning, Dr. Foster said in a recent interview she is sensitive to the feel of an area. Simple changes such as painting of North Dining Hall and sprucing up of Merrill Hall have already been completed, she said, all at a relatively cheap price.
Other changes across campus include: destruction of the old public safety building, a new art studio in Mallet Hall’s basement, alterations to the Creative Writing House conference room, and refurbishment inside of Dearborn Gymnasium, as well as electrical and plumbing updates, and work in residence halls. “We would like to continue the trajectory of change,” Dr. Foster said.
Places across campus Dr. Foster seems to be very interested in refurbishing are the residence halls, science facilities, and sports facilities. “All of these need attention right now and we’re going to get serious about it,” she said.
As a call for student aid in a decision, Dr. Foster said she may create a contest in regards to South Dining Hall and the Snack Shack. She’s seeking advice for an updated look and name.
UMF has been known as a “green campus” and Dr. Foster said there is a “very exciting agenda,” in place regarding sustainability at the campus. Dr. Foster said it is part of a mission that new students know we are a sustainable campus and speakers will be brought to the campus to discuss sustainability. “Sustainability is a value at the campus,” she said.
At an all campus meeting in September she said three initiatives were discussed, one being sustainability and the other two being diversity and wellness. Dr. Foster described all three as being initiatives labeled with the “at sign, as in Diversity@UMF or Sustainability@UMF.” She said all are “values we want to express and the president’s office is supporting all of these.”
Throughout the country enrollment in teacher prep programs has fallen. Dr. Foster said there are goals to turn the trend at this University. One goal she noted is promoting on UMF’s website that UMF currently holds the crown of having the best in-state teacher prep programs.
Teachers of the year in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont were trained in UMF’s teacher prep program. “We know the program is great,” Dr. Foster said.
In efforts to up enrollment next year Dr. Foster said UMF is offering Merit scholarships to attract new students, with “your hard work pays off,” as a tagline. “Applicants in the top 10, 20 and 30 percent of their class are eligible for Merit scholarships of varying levels,” she said.
Dr. Foster is not stopping there. She plans to attract students to UMF by marketing effectively outside of the state. One program idea she has is using the fact that 19 states have a town named Farmington. Her hopes are to attract some students from those towns to gain more visibility for UMF.
Enrollment has shifted slightly in that Dr. Foster said many students are starting at community colleges, but she’s optimistic about future enrollment. “The new normal may be to have smaller first year classes,” she said, only to be raised later by transfer students to help reach the cap of students for the university.
As far as tuition is concerned, Dr. Foster said “we do not foresee a rise in tuition,” and neither does the board of trustees.
Many may know her to be the new President, but with the title comes a seemingly challenging job. Dr. Foster said she is “responsible for delivering the promise of the place.” Her job entails building on campus and off campus relationships, keeping our vision, raising money and she said, keeping UMF engaged in the community.
Sports fall under a category Dr. Foster seems to enjoy as she mentioned being a varsity athlete in college. She said she has attended every game that has fit in her schedule.
Life is not all business for Dr. Foster as she does know how to have a good time. Scott Hall invited her to a hall event and she played pool and danced. She plans on making it to every hall this year probably at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. to exchange stories about how the year is going, and to find out what works for students and what doesn’t. As a message to students she said, “Invite me.”
Outside of her job Dr. Foster enjoys playing golf, bicycling, gardening, reading, taking pictures, dancing, and running.
Dr. Foster said she is “ecstatic” to have the opportunity to hold the title of UMF President.