January 14, 2008
The University of Maine System Board of Trustees approved the establishment of a Center for Rural Sustainable Development in northeastern Maine on Sunday evening.
Due to an impending snow storm, the Board took up the approval of the Center on Sunday evening, rather than Monday afternoon. The meeting was held on the University of Maine campus in Orono.
The new Center is expected to play a significant role in ensuring economic growth and vitality in Aroostook and Washington counties.
The Center will be based on the University of Maine at Fort Kent campus, with a director reporting to UMFK’s chief academic officer, in consultation with the chief academic officers at UMPI and UMM. The director will provide leadership and program activities for the Center.
The overall goal of the Center is to be a resource for change that positively impacts the communities in which people live, primarily by providing accurate, timely information to decision makers. The Center is a collaborative effort between the university campuses in Fort Kent, Machias and Presque isle. The collaboration stems from the three campuses’ common roots as institutions of higher learning, located in rural communities. Each institution will contribute to the Center in specific ways, as defined by the needs of the respective communities.
The Center will partner with communities, existing economic development organizations, and individuals, as well as with other entities with the University of Maine System, to improve the regional well-being. This will be accomplished through the development of the local economy; the preservation of identity; healthcare; educational opportunities; and cultural and recreational activities, in an effort to ensure the continued viability of rural communities in the two counties.
It is the understanding of the three-campus constituency that sustainable development entails a holistic approach to the advancement of community well-being.
The Center will provide data to support opportunities that promote economic development and other essential building blocks of a community, and which contribute to the retention and in-migration of people. The Center will partner with related programs throughout the University of Maine System, in terms of research, education and consultation, to promote development in Aroostook and Washington counties.
Each of the three institutions – UMFK, UMPI and UMM – will contribute to the Center in specific ways, as defined by the needs of its community. The common thread among the three is a rural environment and a strong commitment to their local regions.
The conceptual model for the Center for Rural Sustainable Development was adapted from the European Rural Development model. That model creates synergy by embracing five, integrated dimensions (human, economic, environmental, technology and political) for working with rural communities towards sustainable development. Plans for the Center embrace the premise that rural societies evolve and grow as a natural part of their existence.