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UMFK and Valley to be partners in project aimed at using Maine's Franco-American communities to create economic development opportunities

December 19, 2003


A visiting University of Maine System Libra professor from France, who is launching a statewide project aimed at involving the Franco-American population of Maine in developing economic and cultural ties between the U.S., France and other French speaking countries, now considers the University of Maine at Fort Kent and St. John Valley community pivotal partners in his work.

Jean Fried, a professor at the University Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France, spent last Wednesday visiting on the UMFK campus and in the St. John Valley meeting with university and community groups and learning about the institution and the region.

He is spending this academic year teaching and working within the state university system. He currently teaches a course on sustainable co-development (international cooperation as an instrument of sustainable development) at the University of Southern Maine and a course on European Union institutions and environmental policy at the University of Maine at Orono.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Fried has been working with U-Maine's Franco-American studies program on a project designed to establish new and stronger ties between Maine and France, as well as other francophone countries.

Fried's study is based on encouraging political and business leaders to work through the cultural and linguistics heritage of the Franco-American population of Maine to facilitate mutually beneficial relationships.

"After visiting here, I have a much better understanding of this unique population of Franco-Americans within the state of Maine. I have made many excellent contacts and am encouraged by what I have seen here in the St. John Valley. I look forward to working closely with the university and the people of this region on this project," said Fried.

His proposed research project will first study the relationships between the economic development and integration, and the culture and language of the Franco-American community in Maine.

Fried's work will examine the impact of the English speaking environment on the Franco-American population, its identity, its language, its behaviors, its ways of thinking and acting with respect to its French origins and identity and the evolution of the French people in France.

"I have already gained an understanding of the challenges faced by this community in my short stay. I look forward to future visits to the St. John Valley to gain an even better understanding," said Fried.

In addition to future visits to the Valley, Fried and a few of his colleagues at the University of Maine, are planning a series of visits to a number of French-speaking colleges and universities in eastern Canada this spring to introduce their project and gain support.

Fried, who has an extensive background in sustainable development, says the project will look at the specific economic evolution and trends of the Franco-American population and their possible relationships to the cultural environment of this population and the stresses imposed on this environment.

The visiting professor was joined by his daughter Deborah.

The two visited with members of the Maine Acadian Heritage Council at the Centre culturelle et historique du Mont Carmel in Lille, as part of a day-long visit to the Valley, hosted by UMFK.

In addition to the Heritage Council, Fried met with the executive board of Le Club Français, toured UMFK's campus, learned about the work of the Acadian Archives, and visited the Maine Winter Sports Center.

He also presented a guest lecture to UMFK's faculty and community members and met with members of the faculty to discuss his ongoing research project on the establishment of an international network of observatories for sustainable development.

Fried has studied in France and the U.S., at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He received his PhD in physics in France, and has been a visiting professor in many universities, including Western Australia in Perth, Brazil in Sao Paolo, Oklahoma State in Stillwater and Arizona State in Tucson.

He is presently an adviser at the ministry of public works, transportation, lodging and tourism in Paris on sustainable co-development. From 1976 to 1996, he was an adviser on water management, sustainable development and international cooperation at the European Commission in Brussels, the executive institution of the European Union.