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UMaine community comes together to talk about the future

On Nov. 7, University of Maine System Chancellor James Page and his leadership team held an open forum with UMaine’s President Joan Ferrini-Mundy to talk about UMaine’s strategic role within the state.

As explained on UMaine’s calendar, the goal of the forum was to “discuss current and emerging issues for the University of Maine System and encourage a dialog with the audience regarding this campus’ role in best meeting the needs of the State of Maine.”

This is one of several forums this year at UMaine and UMaine at Machias, individual universities that entered into a formal partnership in 2016 to share administrators and other resources.

“Behind every question is a statement,” Page said. “What you’re hearing is what’s on their minds, what are their priorities, what’s of concern to them, and that kind of back and forth is critical.”

After opening remarks from Chancellor Page, where he commented on the recent wins for UMaine in the midterm election as well as successes in student retention and graduation rates, President Ferrini-Mundy gave an introduction to the forum.

Then the floor was opened to the audience for questions, many of which focused on where UMaine is headed in the next two to four years.

“I attended today’s forum to really hear what the chancellor’s thoughts were on the future direction of UMaine,” Assistant Director of Operations and Reporting for Financial Aid Simon Ferland said, “as well as the thoughts on the passing of Question 4 and how that was going to play in terms of our future endeavors.”

Ferland was not the only one with the recent midterm election on his mind.

“Everyone is pleased and grateful that the higher education bond successfully passed, and the forum gave us a chance to highlight that success,” President Ferrini-Mundy said.

Chancellor Page also commented on the success of the bond vote.

“I think the big piece, and it’s really punctuated by the vote that just happened last night, is that we have really not just turned the corner but we have taken the initial steps of showing how this institution and all our institutions can be engaged and responsive to students and to the people of Maine and that with investment … more opportunities for them, business as communities being healthier, that’s a good payback for them,” Page said.

UMaine’s One University Initiative was also a hot topic of discussion during the afternoon.

The One University Initiative, according to a statement released by UMaine, pertains to all seven UMaine campuses operating as one, fully integrated but with different missions.

“It was really interesting to hear more about the One University Initiative and to see that we are focusing on more collaborations and to hear about some of the collaborations that are at play between our campus as well as the other University of Maine schools,” Ferland said.

Among the attendees of the forum was Alex Pellerin, a first-year student in the higher education master’s program.

“It sounds like they are working on ways to improve retention in Maine, both in terms of the University and people pursuing their professional careers here,” Pellerin said.

Advocating for the importance of this forum, Chancellor Page said that it was a crucial two-way flow of information needed in the discourse around UMaine’s future.

“It’s important for people to hear from me and my office, as to our perspective, and it’s critical that we hear [from them],” Page said.

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