University of Maine at Fort Kent President Richard Cost is among the state's education leaders participating in a visit to France, October 22 through 29.
Cost will join University of Maine System Chancellor Joseph Westphal and University of Southern Maine President Richard Pattenaude as members of a delegation representing the state university system.
The visit will be held concurrently with Governor John Baldacci's trade mission to France, which will involve state lawmakers and business leaders. The pairing of the visits is designed to focus, in a significant way, on Maine's multiple relationships with France and how these relations can increase international study, trade and research opportunities, as well as to support Maine's future economic development and enhance the state's participation in the global marketplace.
In France, the three university leaders will visit with officials at four institutions, located primarily in the Brittany region of the country, and sign agreements between the schools and the University of Maine System.
The institutions include l'Université D'Angers in Angers, l'Université Bretagne Occidentale in Brest, l'Université de Nantes in Nantes and l'Université du Maine in Mans.
The four schools belong to a network of universities in the west of France known as Le Réseau des Universités de l'Ouest Atlantique. The collaborative includes nine public, multi-disciplinary institutions ranging in size from 9,000 to 40,000 students that offer both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
"Our institution was initially founded to serve the needs of the French-speaking people of northernmost Maine, most of whom can trace their roots back to France," said Cost. "Our new mission statement, approved by the UMS Board of Trustees in June, reinforces our commitment to preserving and fostering an appreciation for the Acadian and Franco-American heritage of the area. Given the historic and cultural ties, I am looking forward to discussing the unique partnership opportunities between our institution and the universities we will visit."
The visit by the UMS officials is part of an initiative launched by Chancellor Westphal in January 2005, designed to support and expand a robust network of academic relationships between Maine and France that will enhance the international studies dimension of educational programs and opportunities within the University of Maine System.
Project Maine-France will both incorporate and support current, long-standing relations, as well as new and expanded programs, projects and activities.
In addition to supporting the goals and directions of the UMS strategic plan, Project Maine-France was established to help realize a system-wide vision for international study through partnerships with universities in France.
The project will provide a cost effective means for all campuses to increase their involvement in international programs through a centralized support structure and help students, faculty and others develop linguistic and cultural knowledge and skills through a wide range of opportunities both here and in France.
"UMFK, as is the case with each of the seven campuses in the University of Maine System, is preparing students for global citizenship - for active participation in and contribution to the global community. The delegation's visit will result in enhanced opportunities for all of our campuses. Most importantly, these opportunities will enable students and faculty from this institution to participate easily in programs available anywhere within the University of Maine System. And for students in France interested in studying in the United States, we can offer the comfort of a truly bilingual community," said Cost.