I’ll begin this month’s update with a couple of reflections on the recent visit to UMaine by Chancellor Pattenaude, Board of Trustees Chair Wishcamper and board members Medd, Baker and Mitchell. I was proud of our community’s response to the opportunity to provide input relative to the University of Maine System’s New Challenges, New Directions initiative. Our faculty and students — in particular — effectively communicated important perspectives on UMaine’s quality, value and unique role within the System. I was proud of the constructive nature of the comments, and I am convinced, based on feedback from those System officials, that the messages resonated with them as they work toward final approval of an implementation plan later this month. Collectively, and with the help of our Board of Visitors and other advocates, we have effectively made the case for maintaining a strong land grant university even during these difficult circumstances and I am hopeful that the long-term plan will include an appropriate appreciation for the invaluable role that UMaine and its people will play in determining our state’s future.
We do find ourselves in challenging and turbulent times, but I remain proud of this university and all that we are accomplishing. Even as we work to make our case with the System, we have a group of faculty members and administrators working to make recommendations relative to UMaine’s academic enterprise, specifically in the face of budget challenges that won’t be addressed by System reorganization. At the same time, we are looking at all the other aspects of this university with the same goal — planning ways to appropriately deal with the new financial realities while maintaining focus on serving our students and state, both now and in the future. We can not shrink from our responsibilities or be paralyzed by the daunting challenges. There is plenty of evidence that UMaine is continuing — because of its extraordinary faculty and staff — to have a meaningful impact, and I’m pleased to share some examples with you as we begin the month of November.
One highlight of recent weeks was certainly the William S. Cohen Lecture presented by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Oct. 23. Former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen, who also participated in that event, has done UMaine a great service by donating his papers to Fogler Library, by establishing the William S. Cohen Center for International Policy and Commerce and by creating this lecture series. We had a great turnout for Mr. Holder’s interesting lecture and it was certainly nice to be able to once again use the Collins Center for the Arts as the venue. Events like this help UMaine create important connections with the communities around us, and they provide good opportunities for our students.
We were also pleased when Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that UMaine is one of three universities around the U.S. to receive $8 million for offshore wind power R&D initiatives, further reinforcing UMaine’s leadership role in this important field. Prof. Habib Dagher and his colleagues in UMaine’s AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center, working with Assistant Vice President for Research Jake Ward and others, are at the forefront of this work in a national context. UMaine’s prominence was reaffirmed just a couple of days after that grant announcement when Congress approved an additional appropriation for related work here at this university.
Congratulations also go to Prof. George Criner, graduate student Hugh Stevens and others in the UMaine School of Economics on a $1.8 million U.S. Dept. of Commerce grant to create a “Knowledge Transfer Alliance” in Maine. This initiative will create a business assistance network that will have a statewide impact by tapping the expertise of UMaine faculty members, staff members and students. This is an exciting initiative that can make a big difference for businesses, especially those in distress because of current economic conditions.
Along similar lines, UMaine as recently announced as one of the first institutions to receive an international research partnership award intended to link U.S. scientists and engineers with similar professionals in Ireland. The UMaine project involves UMaine School of Marine Science professors Laurie Connell and Rosemary Smith working on a collaborative effort to deal with algal toxins that are causing human health issues in certain coastal regions. Project collaborators are based at Queens University Belfast in Northern Ireland and NOAA in South Carolina.
I was delighted to travel to Belfast (Maine!) early last month, to participate in the celebration of the expanded Hutchinson Center. The new wing, funded by private contributions and money borrowed against future tuition revenues, effectively doubles the useful space at the Hutchinson Center, which has become incredibly important to UMaine and the people of mid-coast Maine during its first few years of existence. The new wing features space for laboratory sciences, art and new media — all of which expand educational opportunities for people who live in the Belfast area and depend on UMaine to provide access to higher education. Congratulations to Hutchinson Center Director Sue McCullough, Division of Lifelong Learning Dean Bob White, Judy Collier from UMaine development and all the others involved in making the Hutchinson Center such a success and bringing the expansion to reality.
Our recent Homecoming Weekend helped reinforce the wonderful asset UMaine has in its loyal alumni population. We renewed many acquaintances during Homecoming, and developed new connections with many more. We’ve made good progress in recent months in creating more broad-based communications with our alumni population, in an effort to get more alumni engaged with their alma mater. I’m encouraged by the progress and I think that traditional events like Homecoming are critical to keeping alums connected with the university, and I congratulate Todd Saucier, Chris Corro and everybody else in the UMaine Alumni Association for all they do to make events like Homecoming and Reunion meaningful and successful.
Speaking of alumni, I was pleased to note that the UMaine College of Business, Public Policy and Health hosted UMaine graduate Lawrence Bender for its Maine Business School convocation event recently. A 1979 graduate, Lawrence is an Academy Award-winning film producer whose credits include “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Pulp Fiction.” He has only been back to UMaine three times since graduation, but twice in the past few months. We’re proud of his accomplishments and we’re pleased that he is engaged in our community.
Another prominent UMaine alum, renowned innovator Doug Hall, is spending a lot of time in our community this semester, teaching in the Innovation Engineering program and participating in other activities aimed at fostering and promoting innovation at UMaine and statewide. Doug was the keynote speaker at Fogler Library’s recent patent seminar. Several other UMaine staff members and other experts provided patent-related information for an audience of legal professionals, professional patent researchers, inventors and business owners.
I am always proud of the way our community steps up to help address pressing concerns in our society, and I can think of several good examples in recent weeks. UMaine’s Safe Campus Project, led by Carey Nason, hosted a successful “Go Purple Day” in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Members of our community wore purple on that day to promote safe and healthy relationships and to offer those who have suffered the impact of abuse. The annual Take Back the Night March was held that night, really focusing attention on these important issues and showing the UMaine community’s support. In addition, Residence Life Director Tara Loomis and the entire res life staff worked with students in our residence halls on an extensive series of fun events aimed at raising money and awareness for the Champion for the Cure cancer fundraising and awareness activity. In addition, several members of the UMaine faculty and staff have planted a pink tulip garden in front of Fogler Library, to raise funds for cancer research through the Maine Cancer Foundation. These are all wonderful causes, and we can all be proud that people in the UMaine community work so hard to improve the lives of others.
I would like to note a few more recent achievements and interesting developments involving UMaine faculty and staff members.
Professors Stephen Gilson and Liz DePoy, academics of international stature in their field, have been recognized by the American Legacy Foundation for a project that improves accessibility of Web=based tobacco education resources for rural Mainers. Faculty members in UMaine’s Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies, Stephen and Liz have created a Tobacco Access Portal, which translates information for people with lower literacy abilities.
History professor Alex Grab presented a recent lecture on a subject with interesting parallels to current circumstances. Alex discussed “The Politics of Smallpox Vaccination Under Napoleon” as part of the history department fall symposium. Given current issues related to the scarcity of H1N1 vaccine, this is an interesting subject and a clear example of the importance of disciplines like history in helping us understand, in the context of the perspecitves those disciplines provide, the world around us.
Incidentally, Alex’ history faculty colleague Howard Segal recently received a congratulatory certificate for more than two decades as president of UMaine’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Phi Beta Kappa is a real point of distinction for UMaine — in this state, the only other chapters are at Bates, Bowdoin and Colby — and Howard provides outstanding leadership to that important group.
The faculty art exhibit is on display at UMaine’s Lord Hall Gallery through Nov. 13. I hope you will stop by if you have a chance, to appreciate the great talent that exists within that faculty group. The gallery is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays.
UMaine political science professor emeritus Ken Palmer is preparing to give this year’s UMaine College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Maine Heritage Lecture on Thursday Nov. 5 at 4:30 in Wells Conference Center. Ken, who’s a leading expert on politics in our state, will give a talk on “Maine’s Paradoxical Politics.”
UMaine’s beautiful Student Recreation and Fitness Center continues to draw positive attention for its design and architecture. The 20090 American Institute of Architects Design Awards Program recently recognized that facility with Special Mention for Excellence in Architecture.
The UMaine Dept. of Athletics has prepared some special ticket offers for UMaine faculty and staff members, including $5 tickets for the Nov. 14 football game against URI, $69 basketball season tickets, and $10 tickets to select hockey games (Jan. 2, Jan. 9 and Jan. 23). Contact the ticket office at Alfond Arena or 581-BEAR for more information.
Speaking of athletics, I think that it is always important to recognize that UMaine student-athletes play a significant role in our local communities. The athletics department works hard to foster that kind of engagement, and programs like Male Athletes Against Violence create ways for those UMaine students to use their prominence in our communities to bring important messages to young people. Jayne Dyer, a kindergarten teacher at Fruit Street School in Bangor, recently wrote to me to praise the efforts of football player Eric Lee, who visited her class to read the book “Hands Are Not for Hitting.”
“I just wanted you to know what a wonderful job he did,” Jayne wrote. “He is a great role model for these younger children and a good ambassador for the University. His presentation was a credit to the program Male Athletes Against Violence. I see a great future for this young man.”
That is a wonderful tribute to Eric, and it is just one example of the ways in which these students have a positive influence on youngsters and others at UMaine and in the neighboring communities.
In closing this month’s Go Blue! message, I would like to point out how proud I am — once again this year — of all those who work so hard to foster civic engagement in our community and among our students. The UMaine/UVote program is key to these efforts, which are critically important in helping our students, many of whom are newly eligible to vote, appreciate that right and access the kind of information that will make them informed participants in the process. This programming also promotes an appropriate level of mutual respect, where we engage others — whether we agree with their perspectives or not — in a meaningful, civil dialogue as we work to deal with the issues before us. This is a real hallmark of the University of Maine, and it should make us all proud.
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