PORTLAND University of Maine System Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal on Thursday asked Maines school guidance counselors to be active partners in helping students and parents recognize the quality, value, and breadth of opportunities available through Maines public universities.
Westphals remarks were part of his keynote address at a two-day annual conference of the Maine School Counselor Association (MESCA) 2004.
Noting that about three-quarters of the 200 conference attendees said they had earned at least one degree from a University of Maine System school, Westphal sought their participation in the Systems planned advocacy and outreach campaign. The initiative, which is part of the Systems recently approved strategic plan, will establish new approaches to raising the profile and appeal of Maines public universities as top options for higher education.
Our objective is to increase both the number and the percent of Maines high school graduates who stay in Maine for their university or college education, Westphal said. Maines communities and economy suffer when young people pursue school or jobs out of state. The students lose out on the quality and value that our public universities offer, while our communities and our economy suffer from the loss of that brain power and potential.
We are deeply committed to advancing and strengthening the ways we reach out to students and their families to help them realize and appreciate what we have to offer, Westphal added. We need you as our active partners in this endeavor.
Westphal also reminded attendees of the University Systems initiative known as the Public Education Partnership, which he spoke about during his remarks at the organizations 2003 conference.
This Public Education Partnership commits us to offering and extending our services to our public schools, to preschools, and to related government agencies such as the Department of Education, he explained. It is intended to expand the universitys role as a resource for Maines teachers, Maine schools, and Maines education leaders, especially in the areas of teacher preparation and professional development.
In addition, the partnership plan is intended to broaden and amplify the public discussion of education policies and strategies. Working together, the partners in this endeavor will strengthen public education in ways that, over time, will increase college aspirations, preparedness, and achievement.
This is a top priority of the University of Maine System, he added. We have invested over $250,000 in this initiative and are working with others, including Education Commissioner [Susan] Gendron, to identify other sources of financial support to accelerate our pace.
Westphal and Gendron also are working with Maine Community College System president John Fitzsimmons to develop a seamless education network in Maine, spanning pre-Kindergarten through college. The three education leaders are part of a 21-member task force appointed by Governor John Baldacci to develop the plan.
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System is the States largest educational entity, with more than 34,000 students enrolled. It features seven universities some with multiple campuses located across the State, as well as 11 University College outreach centers and more than 100 interactive distance education sites.