Interim UAFS chancellor hired to lead university in Maine

by Tina Alvey Dale (tdale@talkbusiness.net) 689 views 

University of Arkansas at Fort Smith interim chancellor Dr. Edward Serna reacts during his announcement as president of the University of Maine at Farmington. His last day at UAFS will be June 30. (Image from the University of Maine at Farmington)

University of Arkansas at Fort Smith interim chancellor Dr. Edward Serna has been named president of the University of Maine at Farmington. His last day at UAFS will be June 30.

Serna, then UAFS chief of staff and vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, was named interim chancellor when former UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul Beran left the position to serve as executive director and CEO of the South Dakota Higher Education Board of Regents. Beran had been at UAFS for 12 years. His last day as chancellor was Aug. 31, 2018.

Dr. Donald Bobbitt, president of the UA System, announced April 16 that he was recommending Dr. Terisa Riley, senior vice president for student affairs and university administration at Texas A&M University at Kingsville. The UA Board of Trustees must accept the recommendation. The board meets Wednesday and Thursday (May 22-23) at the University of Arkansans at Little Rock. The recommendation is not specifically noted on the agenda.

In his new role, Serna will serve as the executive officer of the University of Maine at Farmington and “will be responsible for all aspects of operations within the approved mission of the institution,” a UAFS news release said. “He will be charged with developing and implementing a strategic vision for the university, strengthening and continuing the quality of education, and leading the campus in the process of budget development and resource building.”

Established in 1864, the University of Maine at Farmington is Maine’s first public institution of higher education. It has approximately 1,900 students. UAFS has 5,840 students and 914 faculty. The town of Farmington has around 8,000 residents.

A reception for Serna and his wife, Lauren, will be held 3 to 5 p.m. June 5 in the Reynolds Room of the Pendergraft Campus Center at UAFS. Lauren Serna, associate director of development with the UAFS Foundation, also will leave the university.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Serna has been named the next president of the University of Maine at Farmington,” Bobbitt said. “Dr. Serna has provided wonderful service to the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith over the past four years in a variety of roles, culminating in his appointment as interim chancellor. I know he will bring the same level of energy and enthusiasm to his new position that he provided to the UA System during his time at UAFS.”

In his year as interim chancellor, Serna oversaw the implementation of three new academic programs, an associate degree program in unmanned aerial systems, an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program and the university’s second master’s degree program — a master’s degree in education. He also implemented initiatives to increase access to existing degree programs through the Associates to Bachelor’s (A to B) Program, which partners regional two-year programs with bachelor’s degree programs at UAFS to create a seamless transition to a 4-year degree, and the Adult Degree Completion Program, which enables working adults to return to college with the advantage of flexible course offerings and credit for prior work and learning experience, the release said.

“The faculty and staff of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith have done incredible work this year, and I am immensely thankful to them for their support of an aggressive year of change for this institution,” said Serna. “I am proud to see such a vibrant and empowered university that is poised for success under Dr. Terisa Riley’s leadership.”

Serna hopes the community and university remember his time at UAFS as a time of “redefining the role of interim,” he said, specifically noting the pace of change this past year and new programs like UAFS Promise, the Adult Degree Completion Program, the UAS Program and the ROAR.

While serving as interim chancellor, Serna also “established the UAFS Promise fixed-tuition program, the first of its kind in the state of Arkansas. Of the 142 first-year students who have already been advised for the coming year, 100% have enrolled in the UAFS Promise,” the news release said.

James Page, chancellor of the University of Maine System, said he and the board were impressed with all Serna had accomplished while at UAFS and believe “his accomplishments are with the strategic priorities that will guide and expedite educational reform in Maine over the next five years.”

“Dr. Edward Serna is an innovative and impactful higher education leader with broad experience leading change in both the private and public sector,” Page said.

Prior to joining UAFS, Serna led the development of analytical strategies at local, state and national levels, having managed strategic planning, program development, external funding, change management, and process reengineering at public universities as well as with international corporations, the U.S. Army and NASA.

Serna entered the higher education sector in 2007 when he began teaching information systems, and has taught varying information systems and leadership courses for the past 12 years.

“UAFS has always been more than a job for me. I love this place. For four-and-a-half years, I came in everyday excited to work with my amazing colleagues to make a difference. UAFS gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream to work in higher education leadership. I will always owe this place for giving me that opportunity,” Serna said.

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