The Mitchell Institute Higher Education Professional of the Year Award

The Mitchell Institute Higher Education Professional of the Year Award recognizes higher education professionals whose extraordinary service to students supports the Institute’s mission of helping young people from Maine to pursue, afford, and achieve a college education.

“These are the advisors, coaches, career counselors, and members of admission, financial-aid, and student-life staffs, who are boots-on-the-ground and working longer than normal work weeks to lift up and support Maine students,” said Mitchell Institute President and CEO Jared Cash.

In partnership with Educate Maine, which manages and administers the Maine Teacher of the Year program with the Maine Department of Education, the Mitchell Institute Higher Education Professional of the Year Award will be announced at large at the annual Educate Maine Symposium, held this year on Friday, December 8, at Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.


Candidates for the Mitchell Institute Higher Education Professional of the Year must have 10+ years of service to the field of higher education in Maine and represent higher education professional staff that support student enrollment, growth, and success, such as personnel in Academic Advising; Admissions; Athletics and/or Recreation; the Bursar’s Office; Career Services; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Financial-Aid; Orientation; the Registrar’s Office; Residential Life; Student Life; and other student-facing departments on college campuses.

Nominations for the Mitchell Institute Higher Education Professional of the Year will close at midnight on September 15, 2023.

Ron Milliken, the longest-serving director of financial aid at a Maine college or university in recent memory, retired from a 47-year career at the University of Maine at Farmington in early September 2022. During his leadership at UMF, Milliken developed and piloted the highly successful Peer-to-Peer Financial Literacy Program, which trains students to provide other students with personal financial education and help with navigating financial decisions.

Milliken launched the innovative program at UMF in 2013, and the University of Maine System invested $1.3 million to expand the financial literacy program statewide in 2017. As part of the five-year expansion, trained peer financial educators at each of the University of Maine System campuses assist systemwide students with financial issues such as accessing financial aid, managing consumer debt, borrowing wisely and saving money. In the later years of the program’s growth, Financial Literacy Peer Educators provided outreach and training to middle and high school students in Maine.

For his work to increase financial literacy among young people statewide, the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) presented Milliken and the financial literacy program with its 2019 Education at Work for Maine Award.

Milliken’s service to the profession includes leadership positions within the Maine Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA), which honored him with the Candace Johnson Vinette Award for Distinguished Service in 1991. The honor is given periodically to an individual who has made “special contributions of energy, spirit and dedication to increase access to higher education for the citizens of Maine and who has, by example, inspired others to greater professionalism in the financial aid community.”

He also has served on FAME’s Educators for Maine Committee and was nominated to the MELMAC Education Foundation’s board of directors in 2009.

Milliken is a 1975 graduate of the University of Maine at Farmington, which presented him with its Lifetime Achievement award in 2016.

See the full story on Milliken being named the Mitchell Institute’s inaugural Higher Education Professional of the Year.