UMaine has a role to play in Maine’s future

Posted Dec. 10, 2010, at 8:14 p.m.

We at the University of Maine look forward to hosting the Norfolk State men’s basketball team for a noon game on Sunday. The game will be played in the University of Maine’s Memorial Gym, better known as “The Pit.” Our players and fans enjoy the occasional game in that historic facility, once considered to provide one of the greatest home-court advantages anywhere in college basketball.

Sunday also marks an important point in time as we continue Memorial Gym’s transition to the future. The $14 million renovation we’re planning is important unto itself, but it also symbolizes the approach we must take, especially during difficult times, to sustain the university’s momentum and build for the future. The key, in my estimation, is public-private partnerships.

Just before Sunday’s tip-off, we will publicly thank Gov. John Baldacci for his indispensable role in helping us bring fundraising for this ambitious renovation close to completion. The governor, a UMaine graduate who has been a steadfast and invaluable ally throughout his career in public service, worked with the Maine Legislature to provide funds to address health and safety issues, along with modifications necessary to create access for those with disabilities. We are raising the rest of the money from friends and supporters, including the Harold Alfond Foundation, Dick and Anne Collins and other donors whose gifts we plan to announce in the near future.

This is a true partnership, a vivid example of what we can accomplish when we work together to address real needs. It exemplifies the spirit of collaboration that is an absolutely essential element of any hope we have for significant progress in our state.

In Maine, we can accomplish a great deal by working together to accomplish shared goals. This spirit of collaboration is obvious around our state. It’s incumbent upon the state’s flagship university to foster those collaborations, and to lead them where appropriate.

UMaine’s faculty is making these collaborations happen in several areas critical to Maine’s future. Teaching, research and outreach examples abound, including work based in UMaine units including the Sustainability Solutions Initiative, the Center for Research in STEM Education, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and others that bring together the intellectual and infrastructure resources of educational institutions all around Maine.

Research centers, such as the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, the Laboratory for Surface Science Technology and the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute are leading the way in fostering industry partnerships that are creating businesses and jobs, all critical to Maine’s future.

Cooperative Extension, the Foster Center for Student Innovation and Maine Sea Grant are among those UMaine units that bring expertise directly to Maine people, Maine businesses and Maine communities, working collaboratively with stakeholders to address immediate, real-world concerns and making lives better all around our state, every day.

We can’t let conditions paralyze us, even though times are obviously tough. As we work at UMaine to build on the progress of recent years, so that we can continue to provide our state with all that it needs and deserves from its state university, we will continue to rely on our partners in state government, in business and industry and in every community around our state.

By doing our share — and then some — and by working to foster collaboration among all of Maine’s assets, we can continue to play an important role in charting the course for Maine’s future.

Robert A. Kennedy is president of the University of Maine.

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