UM wins approval for new program in global policy

Posted Jan. 14, 2010, at 10:09 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine’s environmental studies courses have strong national reputations, but the university has never had a degree program like the one approved earlier this week by the University of Maine System’s trustees.

This fall UM will start accepting students into a Master of Arts in global policy from UM’s School of Policy and International Affairs. The program will offer a concentration in environmental science, which a UM dean said sets students up for jobs in both the government and private sectors.

“Environmental policy and other kinds of international policy affect us throughout Maine as well as through the rest of the world, and we haven’t been training people to do this,” said Daniel Sandweiss, associate provost for graduate studies. “It takes a particular kind of cultural sensitivity and an understanding of policy and the relevant science or other disciplines and that kind of hybrid program is relatively new in general and new to us completely.”

The program will begin accepting students this fall. There already is one student who has been taking the associated courses in anticipation of the degree program’s approval, the program’s director, Mario Teisl, said, and the first master’s degree could be awarded as soon as December.

The program will not require new funding and is mostly supported by the proceeds from a $2.4 million gift from an anonymous donor.

An interdisciplinary faculty of about 30 members is drawn from UM professors in fields including history, economics, business, international affairs and computer science.

Faculty members in areas such as marine science, climate change, anthropology and earth science will provide expertise in the environmental science concentration.

Sandweiss said UM has offered a dual degree in marine policy and marine science, but that program has more of a regional focus and requires students to complete two degree programs.

The new global policy program has more of a hybrid nature and international emphasis.

“The environmental problems facing people around the world are extremely pressing and increasingly more so, and it’s not something people have been specifically trained for in the past,” Sandweiss said.

Other concentrations such as international commerce, international security and international public health, could be added.

“There will be new concentrations coming forward in the next couple of months now that the degree has been approved,” Sandweiss said.

UM graduates with the global policy degree would be attractive to government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and businesses with global reach.

As baby boomers near retirement age, Teisl said, more and more government workers will be needed to replace retirees.

“I know a lot of government agencies have been talking about that,” he said. “They haven’t been hiring a lot, but they have this big group which is going to be retiring soon. In the private sector there has always been turnover, but businesses which are international definitely want students with international skills.

Sandweiss said a full-time student could complete the degree in two years, but most UM graduate students work in addition to going to school and would therefore likely take more time to complete the program.

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