University of Arkansas – Fort Smith interim chancellor Dr. Edward Serna will depart the university to assume the role of president of the University of Maine at Farmington. His last day at UAFS will be June 30, 2019.
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. 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.
The University of Maine at Farmington is Maine’s first public institution of higher education. Established in 1864, it currently serves approximately 1,900 students.
A reception will take place from 3-5 p.m. June 5 to honor Dr. Serna and his wife Lauren, who will also be departing the university from her role as associate director of development with the UAFS Foundation.
Before his appointment as interim chancellor by the University of Arkansas System president and board of trustees, Dr. Serna served as chief of staff and vice chancellor for strategic initiatives at UAFS. He championed a transformative approach to higher education leadership, setting the university on a course to become a leader in student success, retention and data-driven innovation, reimagining the role of interim leadership.
“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.”
“The time I’ve spent at UAFS has been much more than a job, and my family and I have grown to love this campus and the people who make it so special. Though our time in Fort Smith is coming to a close, this community will always feel like home to our family and will be in our hearts as we begin a new journey in Maine. I owe this university a debt of gratitude for enabling me to pursue my dream of working as a leader in higher education, and it is because of all I have learned here that I am able to continue that work at a new level,” said Serna
"I am thrilled that Dr. Serna has been named the next president of the University of Maine at Farmington,” said Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System. "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 the 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.”
“I would be remiss if I did not also thank Lauren Serna, associate director of development with the UAFS foundation, for her wonderful contributions to UAFS. We will miss both of them but wish them much success in this next phase of their lives."
In his year as interim chancellor, Serna has overseen the implementation of three new academic programs: an associate degree program in unmanned aerial systems, an accelerated BSN program and the university’s second graduate degree program, a master’s in education. Further, he has implemented initiatives to increase access to existing degree programs through the Associate 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 four-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.
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 percent have enrolled in the UAFS Promise.
Serna has also championed increased support to student success initiatives including the establishment of the R.O.A.R. First-Year Advising Center, the revitalization of new student orientation through the MANE Event First-Year Orientation, and retention committees which have used data-informed strategy and intrusive advising systems to track, assist and preemptively counsel students who may be at risk.
The UAFS Foundation has supported initiatives to meet gap-year needs, support degree completion, fund textbook purchases and assist students facing emergency situations.
Under Serna’s leadership UAFS has also expanded its marketing reach to target veteran and active duty military populations through a nation-wide recruiting campaign and launched a new brand campaign informed by social listening data, showcasing the campus and community’s pride in its university.
Serna's appointment was made public at a press conference and celebration at the University of Maine at Farmington Tuesday afternoon.
“Dr. Edward Serna is an innovative and impactful higher education leader with broad experience leading change in both the private and public sector,” said James Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System. “Dr. Serna shares our commitment to measuring our progress in terms of student and state success. The Board and I were also impressed by many of the initiatives achieved under Edward’s leadership in Arkansas, noting how well aligned his accomplishments are with the strategic priorities that will guide and expedite educational reform in Maine over the next five years."
“The business and community leaders who serve on the UMF Board of Visitors support and advocate for the institution and advise is leaders. We are united in our love of lifelong learning and appreciation for the outstanding liberal arts education UMF provides. Dr. Serna brings an impressive resume and a true commitment to higher education and relationship building to Farmington," said David Levesque, Chair of the University of Maine at Farmington Board of Visitors. "It is a pleasure to welcome our new president and his family to the community. We look forward to engaging in and supporting his work.”
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.
Prior to his career in higher education, he 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.