Planning is underway for a new statewide college of engineering, computing and information science at the University of Maine following a historic investment last year from the Harold Alfond Foundation to grow science and technology education and workforce skills.

The Maine College of Engineering, Computing and Information Science will be led by the University of Maine in Orono and include expanded undergraduate engineering programs there as well as at the University of Southern Maine, graduate engineering programs in Portland and streamlined pathways into the statewide college for all universities in the UMaine System.

The initiative is being funded with $75 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation that is part of a  $240 million gift the foundation announced in October for the system.

On Thursday, 180 leaders in industry and education, including faculty and staff from UMaine, USM and other campuses in the system, met for a virtual vision session as planning for the college gets underway.

“Today is about thinking big and planning for greatness,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy in a statement. “The Harold Alfond Foundation’s commitment to Maine has provided us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to imagine a statewide college with multi-university integration, resources, world-class programs, faculty, students and facilities to shape the future for decades to come.”

The statewide college will build on baseline programs that already exist between the College of Engineering at UMaine, the University of Maine School of Computing and Information Science and the department of engineering at USM. The expanded courses, opportunities and collaboration that come from the new initiative are expected to be in place by the fall of 2022.

“What we will get out of this is really the ability to connect all those pieces together to allow students more options for sharing courses and more collaborative programs that will be up and running in 2022,” said Dana Humphrey, dean of engineering at the University of Maine and a lead organizer for the new statewide college.

The initiative will also allow the university to grow capacity in engineering, computing and information science. There are currently about 2,500 students in the College of Engineering at UMaine, the UMaine School of Computing and Information Science and the department of engineering at USM. Humphrey said the goal is to increase the number of students by about 25 percent in the next three to four years and to double capacity in the next 10 to 12 years.

“This is needed for our state’s economy,” he said. “It’s not just the students in the program who will benefit, it’s the whole state. Engineering and computer and information science create even more good-paying jobs, and that’s what our state needs.”

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