Jim Page will be retiring soon as chancellor of the University of Maine System, where he has done a fantastic job. When Jim took over, the university system statewide was facing many challenges and difficulties — and he has resolved all of them.

I got to know Jim many years ago when he was one of the owners of the Sewall Co. in Old Town. He actually moderated a series of meetings between Roxanne Quimby, who was buying up big chunks of the north woods, and a bunch of us who were unhappy with Roxanne.

Amazingly, over time, I went from being one of Roxanne’s strongest opponents to one of her friends. And Jim got that process started.

Last summer Jim and another friend, Jim Pinfold, drove all the way to Campobello one afternoon to visit with me. That was special.

I recently received from Dan Demeritt, the university system’s director of public affairs, a report on the university’s progress and state leadership which was presented at Jim’s last campus forum with flagship faculty staff. I was particularly impressed to learn that one in every four full-time Maine students have 100% of tuition and fee expenses covered with grants and scholarships.

Jim was quick to commend the university system’s statewide leadership in the service of faculty and staff for all the good things that are happening now. Among the things discussed was a board of trustees declaration of strategic priorities and a strategic plan for research and development.

“The University of Maine has a 150-year legacy of scholarship, Maine-focused research and state service,” said Jim. “Today’s faculty, staff and leadership are building on the flagship’s traditions, creating partnerships, and deploying the institution’s resources and talent in focused support of Maine people and communities. UMaine’s emphasis on discovery and advancing as a 21st-century research university increased expenditures to nearly $130 million last year impacting many economic sectors, preserving culture, and improving community and human health.”

Among the many accomplishments was a 120% rate of growth in the early college enrollment program, where kids in high school can start taking college courses. That program got a recent $3.1 million investment from Gov. Janet Mills, hoping to grow enrollment to 5,000 early college students by 2022.

And it’s very impressive that four-year graduates owe $11,000 less in student loans than their peers who take five years to earn their degree.

UMaine is also investing in innovation and creating new partnerships to build the size and skills of the Maine workforce. The Maine engineering pathways program gives students a chance to start engineering education closer to home. And its nursing outreach in rural Maine initiative is very important, created to prepare local residents for positions in nursing that have to be filled to sustain community access to quality health care.

Out-of-state enrollment has increased 47.5% in the last five years because of the breadth and depth of opportunities at Maine’s flagship and public research university combined with a strong commitment to affordability to attract young talent to Maine. Many of these out-of-state students stay in Maine to begin their careers.

I’m also very pleased that they have successfully revived the University of Maine at Machias, where they have created new opportunities for scholarship, research, discovery, and student and stay focused and service. This is very important to Washington County.

And there is a lengthy list of partnerships between all University of Maine campuses. University of Maine president Joan Ferrini-Mundy noted, “Working with our sister campuses and our education, economic and community partners across the state, we are committed to the creation of an early-childhood to end-of-career continuum of public education that is responsively aligned to Maine’s workforce and community needs. As the state’s public research university, UMaine will also lead efforts to attract investment and expand the state’s research and commercialization capacity to establish an innovation-driven Maine economy for the 21st century.”

This is all very impressive, and I just want to send a very big thank you to Jim Page for all of his good work as University of Maine chancellor.

 

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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