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The University of Maine Launches an Innovative Faculty Leadership Program

The University of Maine is launching an innovative leadership program that will prepare a group of faculty from across the campus to serve as ambassadors to Maine communities and constituents. The Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program will help to strengthen UMaine’s contributions to the state by building a network of faculty leaders who can communicate the importance of UMaine, and build stronger bridges to people and organizations across the state.

The six-month program will provide training in media relationships, interpersonal communication, audience analysis and partnership building. As part of the program, the Faculty Fellows will participate in a state-of-the-art communication and engagement training in conjunction with representatives from Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Combining theater improv techniques with communication training, the experience will help participants communicate about UMaine and their own work with passion and confidence.

Laura Lindenfeld, Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, proposed and designed the program in conjunction with Jake Ward, Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development, and Judy Ryan, Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Administration, in order to create better pathways for making UMaine’s work matter more to the state.

“The program is designed to get faculty members and researchers more connected with Maine communities,” Lindenfeld said. “The Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program will help us bridge boundaries and create stronger connections between our university and the state. We already do so much for the state, but we can do more. Getting a creative, entrepreneurial group of professors together through this program is a remarkable opportunity to increase our ability to help businesses, industries, and citizens. I want this program to help us make a tangible difference, and that is so inspirational and exciting.”

From engineering to marine sciences to art history, the program includes 20 outstanding faculty members who will learn about contemporary issues in Maine. The program will prepare them to make their own research more engaged and relevant to the issues in Maine.

Kathleen Bell, Associate Professor of Economics, was selected to participate in the program. She hopes to gain knowledge, skills, and experiences that will help her advance as a leader, researcher, and community member.

“I adore living in Maine and working at UMaine,” Bell said. “This program really presents me with a unique opportunity to understand the shared histories of Maine and UMaine, and to participate actively in their shared future.”

Ali Abedi, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will also participate in the program and hopes that it can bring about new connections between the state and the university.

“The University of Maine has been playing a pivotal role in Maine’s economy and improving people’s lives for a long period of time, but it is often hard to clearly link the research activities and their impact to the State’s quality of life and show the importance of investing in educating the next generation of students,” Abedi said. “The Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program is a great way for UMaine faculty to get trained in how to communicate their research with Maine’s stakeholders in a language that is clear, concise and to the point.”

Lindenfeld and the UMaine administration will be running monthly training sessions with faculty this spring semester and plan to make the program a cornerstone training initiative at the university. The program, funded in large part from the Office of President Paul Ferguson, clearly aligns with the vision and strategies of the University of Maine’s strategic plan, the Blue Sky Project.

“Part of our job as faculty members at a land and sea grant institution is to create a shared vision with the state and find ways to connect our efforts in research and teaching with the daily lives of Mainers,” Lindenfeld said. “This is a big responsibility that we bear, and my aspiration in designing this program was to help us increase our ability to address the needs of people right here at home. We hope this program is a big step in that direction and are so excited to have launched the Blue Sky Faculty Fellows.”

The Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program will hold its first training session Jan. 14 at UMaine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation.

The Blue Sky Faculty Fellows

Ali Abedi
Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Kathleen Bell
Associate Professor, School of Economics

Amy Blackstone
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology

Mark Brewer
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

Nic Erhardt
Assistant Professor in Management, Maine Business School

Janet Fairman
Associate Research Professor, Center for Research and Education & Maine Education Policy Research Institute

Lee Karp-Boss
Research Assistant Professor, School of Marine Sciences

Jessica Leahy
Associate Professor of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, School of Forest Resources

Rob Lilieholm
E.L. Giddings Associate Professor of Forest Policy, School of Forest Resources

Margo Lukens
Professor, Department of English
Director of Academic Programs, Innovation Engineering

David Neivandt
Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Director of the Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering

Mauricio Pereira da Cunha
Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Rich Powell
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

Jasmine Saros
Associate Director and Professor, Climate Change Institute, and School of Biology and Ecology

Denise Skonberg
Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

Shihfen Tu
Associate Professor, Department of Education and Human Development

Rick Wahle
Research Professor of Marine Sciences

Aaron Weiskittel
Associate Professor of Forest Biometrics and Modeling, and Irving Chair of Forest Ecosystem Management, School of Forest Resources

Justin Wolff
Associate Professor, Department of Art

Gayle Zydlewski
Associate Professor, School of Marine Sciences

Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

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