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University of Maine System Board Endorses Maine Center Plan

University of Maine System Board of Trustees Unanimously Pass Resolution
Endorsing Maine Center Concept and Directing Staged, Multi-Year Implementation

University to seek $15 million in foundation and grant support in Stage 1 to fund program innovations and improve statewide responsiveness to Maine’s business, legal and public policy communities.  After the Stage 1 milestones and performance indicators have been met the Board will consider Stage 2 plans for developing the Maine Center facility in Portland.

EAST MILLINOCKET:  The University of Maine System Board of Trustees unanimously endorsed the concept for the Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies today approving a staged, multi-year implementation of the Maine Center Business Plan.

The initiative would establish the Maine Center as among the most innovative cross-disciplinary institutions in the United States, bringing under one roof graduate programs in law, business and public policy.  The Maine Center is intended to have a transformative impact on the Maine economy –spurring innovation and collaboration, and building new and enhanced opportunities for our students while attracting investment and talent to all areas of Maine.

Stage 1 will be a two plus year effort with established milestones and performance measures to build new faculty and student support capacity, enhance curricula, and further engage Maine’s business, legal and public service communities.   The resolution supports efforts by Chancellor James Page to seek foundation and grant support of $15 million to fund these new initiatives in Stage 1.  The University of Maine System would continue to support the participating academic programs at current levels.

Once the milestones and benchmarks have been met in Stage 1, Stage 2 anticipates consultation with foundation partners, Maine’s professional community, the universities and the Board on the development of a new Maine Center facility in Portland.  The center would house the educational and applied research programs on a scope and scale appropriate to the needs, conditions, opportunities and funds available.   The full text of the proposed resolution on the Board’s agenda reads as follows:

That the Board of Trustees endorses the Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies Business Plan dated October 2016 and directs that it be implemented in a multi-year phased approach as described in the agenda item summary.  The Center’s Plan is subject to Board of Trustees review and revision as milestones are reached.  Further, that the Board of Trustees supports the Chancellor’s efforts to seek assistance for the project from private foundations and other funding sources.

“Maine’s universities are striving to be the state’s best and most responsive partner,” said James H. Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System.  “The Maine Center plan is aspirational, exemplifying our One University commitment to move our state forward with innovative programing and stronger engagement with Maine’s business, legal, and community leaders.”

The Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies Business Plan was developed as part of an 18-month assessment of Maine’s needs for innovative graduate education that included market surveys and extensive engagement with academic, community, and professional leaders across the state.  Led by Maine Center CEO Eliot Cutler, the engagement effort included the establishment of a 100-member advisory board, innovation tables to foster discussion among faculty, and more than 400 meetings and conversations in town halls, board rooms, law offices, judicial buildings, and on college campuses.

“In this time of global connectivity and competition the professional education provided by our public universities must be irrevocably linked to the firms, businesses and organizations that are creating opportunity across our state and building our economy,” said Sam Collins, Chair of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees.

“The generous support the Harold Alfond Foundation provided for concept development, the ingenuity of the Maine Center team, and the contributions of many campus and community stakeholders have provided us with a plan that sets a new standard for professional education collaboration and engagement.  The Board is grateful for all the work that went into the Maine Center business plan and is eager to seize the many opportunities it presents,” continued Collins.

“The University of Maine has been a proud leader in providing the scholarship, training, and job-creating research that is so important to our state’s economy.  That leadership has its beginnings in the talent and dedication of our faculty,” said Susan H. Hunter, President of the University of Maine.  “We welcome this new opportunity to collaborate with our academic partners at the University of Southern Maine and with employers and enterprises across the state to achieve new innovations and engagement in graduate professional education.”

“Our next generation of Maine leaders need the best possible education and training for a changing world. The Maine Center moves us closer to meeting that need,” said Glenn Cummings, President of the University of Southern Maine. “Not only does the Maine Center bring together the three crucial disciplines of law, policy and business, but propels deep collaboration between Maine’s two largest public universities. Our faculty are designated with the clear authority to device and lead curriculum and I am confident in their ability to build a fair, effective and high-quality graduate center for the benefit of Maine.”

“This plan was developed with the input and assistance of faculty, deans and administrators from our universities and hundreds of Maine’s business and public service leaders.” said Eliot Cutler, CEO of the Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies.  “The willingness of so many people inside and outside the university to engage with us shows how necessary everyone recognizes these changes and reforms are for the rebirth and growth of Maine’s economy. By breaking down the walls and silos in graduate programs that already are vanishing from the real world of work, the Maine Center will breed the kinds of collaborative, relationship-building, analytic and communications skills that are increasingly valued by Maine and national employers.”

“The approval of this plan represents a huge step forward for the university system, and for Maine,” said Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “The Center will truly be unique because of its focus on interdisciplinary studies, teaching students to work in the way business is actually conducted. In the Center, the university system will have the competitive edge needed to bring students here to learn and work, contributing to a workforce that is in need of new talent.”

“The University System is doing the right thing with this initiative. It is absolutely critical that Maine offer a strong public service program in its public universities and we need to be preparing future civic administrators for success in the most efficient way possible,” said William Bridgeo, Augusta City Manager.  “By enabling them to learn business and law school concepts while they’re still in school, Muskie students will already have skills that are very important for doing the job well.”

“I’m thrilled that the trustees have approved the next phase of this plan. Maine really needs this,” said Terry Young, General Manager of Hardwood Products Company and Puritan Medical Products Company in Guilford, Maine. “We have a hard time finding enough skilled people in the state today, so I’ve already been working with Eliot’s team on developing new internship opportunities for students to come here to Guilford and learn while working with us at Puritan Medical and Hardwood Products Company. We need creative people with the skills that Eliot has been talking about with us on the advisory board, or we won’t be able to grow as quickly as we can.”

ADDITIONAL BACKROUND

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY:   The resolution approved by the Board does not endorse or commit the University of Maine System to the $150 million capital investment included in the Maine Center financial projections.  Further, neither the university’s state appropriation request approved by the Board in September nor the university’s developing 5-year capital plan include any additional public funding in support of the center initiative.

The resolution passed by the Board supports the Chancellor’s efforts to seek assistance for the project from private foundations and other funding sources.  The university will seek approximately $15 million in external funding.   The universities will also continue to support the business, public policy, and legal professional graduate programs at current funding levels of approximately $3.2 million annually.

MAINE CENTER HISTORY:  The Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies was launched in November of 2014 by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. The center initiative was tasked with developing an entrepreneurial model of multi-disciplinary professional education to help drive statewide economic development.   The Harold Alfond Foundation contributed more than $2 million to the planning process that led to the development of the business plan.  Additional background, including links to prior announcements, can be found here.

BOARD POLICIES ON ESTABLISHING A NEW CENTER (MAJOR UNIT):   Passage of the resolution before the Board of Trustees initiatives a staged planning process that will include campus and community engagement followed by additional Board consideration.  The academic work will be campus-led and on-going.  Final establishment of a university center would include a number of procedures established by Board policy that allow for additional public engagement with the University of Maine System Board of Trustees:

  • Board Policy on Approval of a Center;
  • Board Policy on Approval of Academic Programs; and,
  • Board Policy on Approval of Capital Expenses, Section VIII.