On Nov. 5, the residents of Maine will be asked to vote on several important referendum questions. Question 2 is the bond issue designed to enhance educational and employment opportunities for Maine students and residents. A yes vote on this bond will provide $15.5 million of essential funding to the University of Maine System for renovations and improvements to existing laboratory and classroom facilities statewide. These funds will be specifically dedicated to improving facilities and enhancing equipment vital to the courses taught in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, now collectively known as STEM disciplines.
Included in this bond request is $5.5 million for improvements at the University of Maine, the flagship campus of the University of Maine System. The University of Maine is nationally recognized for the outstanding science education received by students from generations of Maine families for nearly 150 years.
Teaching and laboratory space on the Orono campus dedicated to STEM learning is targeted for renovation. A number of excellent teaching and research spaces have been constructed or renovated from external research funding, donor contributions and limited state bond programs to provide the legacy of excellent science education and research for faculty and students.
However, close to 90 percent of the space located in some of the oldest STEM facilities on campus has not been substantially renovated in approximately 50 years or more, including Little Hall, Neville Hall, Bennett Hall, Barrows Hall, Aubert Hall, Boardman Hall, Crosby Lab and Hitchner Hall that still serve up to 2,200 students annually in the pursuit of their chosen fields of study.
As UMaine welcomes rapidly increasing enrollments in the sciences and engineering, and emerging technological advances, but faces aging mechanical and electrical systems in historic buildings, new funding is absolutely critical to ensure a continuing ability to provide the superb environment of learning and discovery for our students and faculty so characteristic of the University of Maine.
Lastly, the funds received from this bond issue will help ensure the future success of these programs, the continued recruitment and retention of students from across the world, and, ultimately, increases in the state of Maine’s economy.
On behalf of the remarkable faculty, staff and students of the University of Maine, I want to express appreciation and gratitude for the encouragement and support of the citizens of Maine. The future of our university truly depends upon it.
Paul W. Ferguson is president of the University of Maine.