Highlighted throughout the 56-page report is an emphasis on economic growth and fiscal sustainability. Attention is also paid to the diverse research conducted in Maine and with a focus on UMaine, specifically on alternative energy resources and environmental management and preservation.
“For the first three months or so I spent a lot of time traveling around and talking and seeing where everyone felt UMaine should go,” Ferguson said over the phone.
Ferguson placed a commitment to expand the growth of the state, in addition to his commitment to develop UMaine.
“The commitment I had coming to Maine was to get to as many people as possible throughout the state and through the UMaine constituencies to hear and listen and understand what everyone’s major priorities, concerns and visions were,” he said.
In chapter 2 of the Blue Sky Project, five pathways are outlined for the next five years and, according to Ferguson, the first one will begin to be instituted as soon as possible.
“In pathway one, we’re restructuring a new division of innovation and economic development that really connects UMaine in a better strategic way with economic development challenge in UMaine, and you will probably see that very soon,” Ferguson said.
The Blue Sky Project would accomplish this by aligning the university’s innovation and community outreach programs with the primary needs of the state. Some of the initiatives include improving the university’s impact on the economic and social fabric of Maine, aligning technology and educational programs with Maine’s economic development needs, preparing UMaine graduates for Maine’s future workplace needs and continuing to identify, promote and invest in key emerging areas, such as biomedical sciences, new media and the arts and humanities.
Along with catalyzing Maine’s revitalization, the other pathways work to ensure Maine’s financial sustainability by promoting spirit, community and collaboration — specifically as UMaine is the state’s only Division I school — strengthening the UMaine undergraduate and graduate student experience and renewing pride and stewardship of place.
Another featured goal of the Blue Sky Project is to increase the growth of Maine’s largest university and plans to do that will result by establishing a new UMaine administrative unit under a new Vice President, focusing on enrollment management, with a broad goal of raising UMaine’s enrollment to 15,000 by 2017.
“We’re not sure what the exact number will be [for enrollment], we’re looking at a bold plan,” Ferguson said.
A Blue Sky Leadership Planning Team was assembled in November of 2011 and they met weekly until April 2012, with approximately 450 individuals partaking in the 30 information gathering sessions.
“We convened the Blue Sky Leadership Team that was a very cross-sectioned diverse group of people that represented each aspect of the constituency, and then we got down to serious business and bringing people together on some of the major themes that we needed to grow and develop at the University of Maine,” Ferguson said. “The end result of the Blue Sky Plan is really a plan everybody owns. Everybody is proud of it; it really will take us to another level.”
But, even with the details of the plan hashed out, Ferguson admitted that the work has only just begun.
“Our challenge now is to implement the plan,” Ferguson said. “But I think we’ve come to a point where it really represents a wonderful distinctive description of what the University of Maine is and also a consensus-based vision on where we should go.”