December 26, 2003
With 2004 upon us, the University of Maine at Fort Kent is looking ahead to what will become the most definitive year in its recent history, as the campus ends its 125th anniversary, opens two new buildings, delves into an intensive self study in preparation for an accreditation review in 2005, and joins the community of Fort Kent in having the eyes of the world on it during the fast approaching Biathlon World Cup.
"The coming year will be a defining period of time for the future of the UMFK campus community," said President Richard Cost. "It will be a year of reflection and celebration as we conclude our 125th anniversary and hold official opening events for both our new residence hall and the new Acadian Archives facility."
"At the same time, it will be a year of self-assessment and strategic planning for our future. The entire campus will participate in an intensive 18-month self study required for accreditation and we will wind up our own strategic plan revision and participate in creating a similar plan for the entire U-Maine System. I believe the outcome will be a much clearer sense of who we are, how we evaluate and improve our ability to deliver education, and how we fulfill an important role within the U-Maine System," said Cost.
UMFK's own strategic plan is being drafted by a committee of university faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members. The group has been working for nearly a year, and according to Cost has developed a clear sense of the campus community.
"What is emerging from our strategic planning is a mission focused upon our place as a rural institution preparing people for careers and lives in rural communities like ours. Our unique social and historic role as a center of Acadian and Franco-American culture, and finally a distinctive role related to our proximity to the beautiful Northern Maine wilderness," said Cost.
The campus community will not have much time to settle in to the New Year before activity gets underway.
On January 9, the university will participate in a professional development day focused on kicking off the self-study that will form the basis of the re-accreditation review in 2005.
Visitors from the New England Association of Schools and College staff and other experts in related fields will participate with the steering committee, chapter chairs and others who will contribute to the process efforts.
"Increasingly, self studies are challenged to develop and analyze data to substantiate levels of success in meeting institutional and educational goals. The process of assessment is becoming far more evidence-based," said Cost. "Visitors will want to see what data we utilize to evaluate success, and how we have used our findings to improve what we do."
NEASC is the nation's oldest regional accrediting association whose mission is the establishment and maintenance of high standards for all levels of education, from pre-K to the doctoral level.
The association serves 1,866 public and independent schools, colleges and universities in the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont and 114 American/International schools around the globe.
NEASC accredits 258 degree-granting colleges, universities and other post-secondary institutions in New England.
Accreditation involves a voluntary, peer review process, which relies on a 12- to 18-month self-study process undertaken by schools and colleges in regular review cycles. UMFK's last accreditation review was in 1985.
Commission standards are high and focus on virtually every aspect of a school or higher education institution's operation.
Ongoing events planned to commemorate the institution's 125th anniversary resume on Monday, January 12, when the university hosts a free community adult ski night at Lonesome Pine Trails. More than twenty events will follow before the celebration concludes at commencement exercises in May.
On February 21, President Cost will host a community open house to coincide with the annual Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Race, which will mark the first of two major events in Fort Kent during the winter season.
The 2004 Biathlon World Cup, which begins a week later, promises to be an event like one that has never been seen in Maine before, and UMFK will be greatly involved in the preparation and execution of the sporting and cultural activities.
Construction crews are working overtime to ensure the living quarters for the biathletes in the new 150-bed UMFK residence hall are complete in time for the competition. The university has committed to opening one wing of the facility to serve as an "athlete's village" during the World Cup and the use of its dining facility for the residents.
In addition to lodging, the campus will also serve as the host location for a number of World Cup festival cultural events, including the Banff Film Festival and several performing artists.
Nadeau Hall will serve as the off-site competition headquarters for the week. In addition to hosting the team captain meetings and volunteer accreditation office, the UMFK building will include space with computer access for media covering the event.
The university will also host the closing gala party for 500 people in the SportsCenter.
Within two months of the World Cup, construction on the new Acadian Archives building is expected to be complete and an opening ceremony will be planned.
The two-story Acadian Archives building is being constructed as a connector building between Powell Hall and Blake Library. It will greatly increase the amount of space on campus for the Archives.
The project was made possible by Maine voters who passed a $36.7 million higher education bond in November 2001, which included $3.2 million for UMFK to purchase technology for Nadeau Hall, to renovate Cyr Hall, and to build the new Acadian Archives facility.
When complete, the building will include a conference room, reading room, work room, Archives reference desk, a bank of computers, research materials stacks, and Archives personnel space on the first floor. The second story will consist of a collections area, accessioning room, and administrative offices for university information resources personnel.
The additional space and much improved quarters will be a stark contrast to the current Acadian Archives.
The facility is housed in a cramped 733 square foot space on the second floor of the Blake Library. Bursting at the seams, the current facility is not handicapped accessible, and includes a climate controlled collections storage facility, an audio-visual lab, visitor's area/reading room, an accessioning work area, two small offices, and 78 additional feet of locked reference shelves.
UMFK will also celebrate the opening of the new residence hall facility, when the entire building is completed by mid-summer.
The new three-story residence hall's 150 beds will more than double the existing on-campus student housing available at UMFK.
Incorporated into the design will be a number of suite-style arrangements, and air conditioning in part of the building to accommodate for expanded summer programming at the university.
"The overall appearance of this new building is really exciting," said Cost. "We knew we liked the design on paper, but as it is taking shape it is clear this facility will be a wonderful addition to our community."
Currently, the university is home to two residence halls with space for 125 students.
The dormitory is the first project on a University of Maine System campus to be design-built, meaning the architect and engineer proposal was presented to the university in a single package.
UMFK currently has an enrollment of 820 full and part-time students, 155 of which reside in one of the two campus residence halls.
President Cost has set a goal for the campus to reach 1,000 full-time students, as long as the campus can grow its faculty and facilities to serve that population as effectively as the campus has in the past.
The upcoming year will also see the addition of a new sculpture erected on the campus grounds this spring.
The artwork, which is funded by the "percent for art" set aside from the construction of both Nadeau Hall and the new Acadian Archives facility, will provide a focal point in the center of the beautiful campus quad.