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Trustees Also Hear Presentations on Research Funding, Biomedical Partnerships,
and Strategic Plan

BANGOR - The University of Maine System Board of Trustees on Monday approved a new program that will provide educational, research, and outreach assistance to Maine's multi-billion dollar tourism industry.

Meeting in Bangor for a storm-abbreviated one-day session, trustees also heard University of Maine System Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal present a report on the productivity and success of university-based research in Maine. Westphal and others also updated trustees on the progress of the System's comprehensive strategic planning initiative as well as a new program that, once fully developed, will establish a graduate school of biomedical sciences at the University of Maine.

“All four initiatives are part of the University System's efforts to strengthen Maine's economy through partnerships, education, research, and public service,” Westphal told trustees. “Working individually and collectively, our universities are addressing both the challenges and the opportunities facing the people of Maine.”

Outlining the tourism initiative, Westphal recommended approval of the Center for Tourism Research and Outreach (CenTRO), a collaborative effort involving the University of Maine (UMaine) and the University of Southern Maine (USM). CenTRO will be responsible for coordinating and enhancing a wide variety of related academic programs offered by Maine's public universities, and will provide a single point of service to academics, policy makers, and the industry for tourism-related research and outreach.

CenTRO will be aided and advised by the Maine Tourism Advisory Committee, a new advisory committee of leaders from within the tourism industry formed to support the University System's initiative. CenTRO will be financed through a combination of funds provided by the State, University System, industry, and grants, with a first-year budget of $310,000. UMaine resource economics professor Kevin Boyle and USM public policy & management professor Charles Colgan will serve as CenTRO's director and associate director, respectively.

“Tourism has become one of Maine's most important industries,” Westphal explained. Citing university-sponsored research, he noted that in 2001 the State of Maine received over $344 million in tourism-related tax revenues, and that the industry in Maine paid workers $2.5 billion in wages.

“We need to integrate the teaching, research, and public service missions of our universities with the tourism industry, just as we have done so successfully with Maine's other natural resource-based industries,” Westphal said.

In other trustee business, Westphal presented a report on university-based State-funded research for the fiscal year covering July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004. Aided by State and voter-approved investment in university-based research, faculty and other university researchers were awarded a record $42.8 million in federally and private-sector funded in research grants and contracts in seven targeted areas of economic growth and potential in Maine: Aquaculture and Marine Sciences; Biotechnologies; Composites and Advanced Materials Technologies; Environmental Technologies; Information Technologies; Advanced Technologies for Forestry and Agriculture; and Precision Manufacturing.

“Our faculty and other university-based researchers generated four dollars in outside investment for every one dollar of seed money that the State provided through the Maine Economic Improvement Fund,” Westphal explained. “In addition, our researchers attracted more than $40 million in other sources of federal and privately funded research grants and service contracts. Those funds are used to create and support jobs, purchase local goods and services, and help create new and expanded economic opportunities.”

Trustees also received a status report on the University System's Strategic Planning Initiative. Vice Chancellor Elsa Nunez presented a multi-stage implementation planning proposal, which features direct involvement of faculty, students, and administrators. The purpose of the plan is to increase the quality, accessibility, focus, and administrative cost-efficiency of Maine's public universities. Implementation is scheduled to begin later this year.

In addition, the Board received a preliminary report on the proposed establishment of the University of Maine Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. According to Westphal, the new program would serve as the organizational framework for the further development of research and doctoral-level education in biomedical science and associated academic and scientific fields. As explained by UMaine's interim president, Robert A. Kennedy, the new graduate school initially would be comprised of faculty and scientists from UMaine, The Jackson Laboratory, Maine Medical Center Research Institute, and Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory. USM faculty would also be involved as part of this initiative, Kennedy said.

“Together we will be nationally competitive to attract and create the human capital that is absolutely essential to the growth of [biomedical research] in this state,” Kennedy explained.

The Board is expected to vote in September on a formal request to approve the program, Westphal explained.

In other action, trustees approved the nomination of UMaine student Brandon Libby of Brewer as a non-voting student representative to the Board of Trustees; approved a proposal to lease space on Portland's Commercial Street for the University of Maine School of Law Technology Law Center; discussed honorary-degree nominations; adopted revisions to the University of Maine at Machias Mission Statement to more accurately reflect its role as a resource for Downeast Maine; and approved the nomination of Joyce Rumery as Dean of Libraries for UMaine.

Established in 1968, the University of Maine System is the state's largest educational entity, with more than 34,300 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. For more information, log onto