Board Reviews Nursing Expansion Plans, Approves UMPI Agriculture Science and Agribusiness Program, and Receives Strong Bond Rating Report
Nursing workforce needs and planned investments in Nursing and Allied Health Spaces
at UMPI are pending voter approval of Question 4, the University Workforce Bond
New Agriculture program seeks to expand enrollment to meet workforce need for highly qualified agriculture and agribusiness professionals
Rating Agency Affirms University AA- Rating and Stable Outlook
PRESQUE ISLE, MAINE — The University of Maine System Board of Trustees approved the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s new Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Agribusiness program today at its meeting on the UMPI campus. The newly approved program is a modification and expansion of the Sustainable Agriculture Concentration within the Environmental Science Program with an objective of becoming a regional center of accessible agriculture education.
The program will serve students and working professionals by educating them in current agricultural practices and support the development and adoption of research-based approaches to improving operations in collaboration with regional agribusinesses and institutions.
The program will train traditional students and members of the agriculture community in theory, lab settings, fields, and a soon-to-be-constructed teaching and research greenhouse on the UMPI campus. The program will collaborate closely with the agriculture industry partners, the University of Maine, and others to meet workforce needs and support existing and developing agricultural sectors with research and training.
“We are highly interested in advancing farm practices and agricultural jobs in Aroostook County,” said Noah Winslow of Irving Farms Marketing, of Caribou. “High quality research and education helps those engaged in food production and agribusiness work smarter and make better decisions. It also fosters an environment for science-based agricultural economic development for our region and beyond. The new Agricultural Science and Agribusiness degree program at the University of Maine at Presque Isle is a strategic next step forward for the partnership between our local university and Maine’s food and fiber industries.”
“I came to the University at Maine at Presque Isle for an education that I could bring back to my family farm after graduation,” said Cody Theriault, an UMPI Senior from St. Agatha, Maine who plans to graduate in the Spring of 2019 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science and Sustainability with a Sustainable Agriculture Concentration. “My education has prepared me to buy and sustainably operate a farm of my own. With our new four-year degree program in Agriculture and Agribusiness UMPI will continue to be a resource into the future for my family farm.”
As part of his education Theriault conducted research to develop strategies that can help reduce the spread and prevalence of bacterial soft rot disease in tubers (potatoes) during storage. This issue directly impacts the livelihood of farmers. Reducing soft rot will increase the productivity and profitability of their farming operations. The soft rot research required Cody to learn and utilize microbiological and molecular biology techniques which gave him first-hand experience at applying science to help solve real-world issues faced by his family business and other Aroostook County farms. He presented his research findings at the 45th annual Maine Biological and Medical Sciences Symposium in Bar Harbor last April.
Board Reviews UMFK / UMPI Contributions to University Nursing Workforce Plan
The expansion of the University of Maine at Fort Kent BSN nursing program into Presque Isle in the Fall of 2018 is part of a University of Maine System plan to double nursing enrollment through program expansion, innovation, and investment. Currently offered in temporary space that is shared with other academic programs, the nursing simulation lab and classrooms are slated to move into updated, permanent space pending voter approval of Question 4, the University Workforce Bond, this November.
The University Workforce Bond contains more than $12 million in investment to support nursing education expansion across the State.
The Board heard from two of UMPI’s new nursing students with ties to the Presque Isle region that would have prevented attendance in a different four-year nursing program.
Monica Scoville is a mother of three young children, including a one-year-old, who is returning to the workforce with plans to get a nursing degree and become a midwife. She and her family have recently settled in Woodland, Maine.
“If UMPI did not start a nursing program I would not be pursuing a degree as I am not able to travel to Fort Kent,” said Monica Scoville, a new nursing student at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. “The timing is perfect and I am very grateful. I enjoy the teachers and my colleagues, there are a lot of us, and I have already done my first job shadow with Cary Medical Center.”
Alysha Decker lives in Mars Hill and graduated from high school last spring. She helps provide care at home for her disabled father and works nights at the Caribou Veterans Home. Alysha plans to work in nursing in Aroostook County after graduation.
“I applied to the Fort Kent nursing program but knowing that I had to live on campus and leave home where I help take care of my disabled father, I could not enroll,” said Alysha Decker, a nursing student at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. “I have had a responsibility for contributing to his care for 18 years and I could not give it up. When I heard about the UMPI program I couldn’t believe it. My parents are resting easy and I am able to pursue my dream of nursing while still having my heart at home. I hope more students get the same opportunity I have.”
The Board also heard from an official of Cary Medical Center in Caribou who shared that 70% of the Cary Medical Center’s 172 registered nurses received their nursing education from institutions in Aroostook County.
“Over the course of my 38 years with Cary Medical Center we have always worked to acquire highly qualified nurses to care for our patients. The work has never been this hard and we know it will get even tougher as a wave of nurses across the state move into retirement.” said Bill Flagg, Director of Community Relations and Development for Cary Medical Center in Caribou, Maine. “The University plan to double nursing enrollment and expand nursing programs into high-need communities is going to be part of solving Maine’s nursing workforce crisis. We need to do all we can to support the implementation.”
“Most of our local nurses are educated locally. Expanding UMFK’s Bachelors of Science in Nursing to Presque Isle will produce more license-eligible nurses from Aroostook County who will come to work for us at Cary Medical Center and for other providers from throughout Northern Maine.”
University leaders updated the Board on nursing enrollment in Presque Isle that has exceeded expectations and is poised for additional growth.
“Our collaboration with UMPI was started to address access challenges for our students in the Presque Isle region. In just our first semester we are exceeding our enrollment expectations and are already facing overcrowding in the temporary simulation space we set up at in Presque Isle.” said Erin Soucy, Dean of Undergraduate Nursing at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
Ben Shaw, Chief Business Officer at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, spoke about planned facility investments and upgrades to nursing and health science facilities that would address the crowding issues in nursing pending voter approval of Question 4, the University Workforce Bond, in November. Improvements would include critical infrastructure improvements at campus facilities that support allied and health science programs and an overall increase in space dedicated to nursing and other health related programs to support enrollment growth.
S&P Global Ratings Affirms University of Maine System AA- long-term rating and stable outlook
Chancellor James H. Page shared the findings from S&P Global Ratings on the University System financial standing. The agency assesses the UMS financial profile as very strong reflecting healthy financial management policies, sound financial performance, healthy financial resources, and low debt and contingent liabilities.
According to the analysis, the stable outlook reflects the view that recent improvement in freshman enrollment, continuing system focus on realizing cost efficiencies and ongoing operations and limited capital support from the state should support the current rating over the next two years. The stable outlook also assumes the retarding effect of any additional debt issuance on financial operating performance may be mitigated in part by anticipated stronger available resources from ongoing cost saving initiatives and limited state capital support.