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UMPI’s Kasandra Foster serves as 2015 Maine Policy Scholar

As part of the Maine Community Foundation’s Maine Policy Scholars Program, students from campuses throughout the University of Maine System are pursuing a year-long program of applied research in the area of Maine public policy during the 2014-2015 academic year.

At the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Kasandra Foster, a senior Business Administration major with an Accounting minor, is researching the economic struggles of dairy farmers in Maine and what can be done to help them. Foster will be recommending strategies that may help to open up more markets and create a stronger support system for the state’s dairy industry.

“When I went to last year’s Maine Policy Scholars graduation, I noticed the presenters who seemed to be the most engaged in their projects did something that meant a lot to them, so that’s what I wanted to do,” Foster said. “I grew up on a dairy farm outside of Augusta, and my grandfather just sold his farm—partly because of health and partly because he couldn’t do it anymore—and I just thought this particular area could use some attention.”

As part of her research, Foster looked at what resources are available to dairy farmers and where the Legislature has impacted the industry. She also traveled across the state, visiting the biggest dairy farm in Maine as well as many smaller farms to see what is working well and identifying areas that need improvement.

Foster will produce a final report in the form of a memo to the Governor or appropriate policymaker, which outlines the issue, the data available, and recommended policy solutions. On May 1, she will present the report in the form of a briefing to a panel of policymakers at the Buchannan Alumni House at the University of Maine in Orono.

“If someone hears my recommendations and something good comes out of it, or maybe if my idea spurs another idea, that would be great,” Foster said.

During the course of the academic year, Maine Policy Scholars work with a faculty advisor, in Foster’s case, Dr. Allen Salo, Associate Professor of Psychology. Other 2014-2015 scholars include Kari Beaulieu, University of Southern Maine; Victoria Boone, University of Maine at Machias; Alexandra Courtney, University of Maine; Travis Powers, University of Maine at Fort Kent; Andrew Radford, University of Maine at Augusta; and Charles Young, University of Maine at Farmington.

This year, the Maine Policy Scholars traveled to Washington, D.C., for an opportunity to tour the nation’s landmarks and meet with both Senator Angus King and Senator Susan Collins as well as experts in their areas of research. Foster was able to meet with a lobbyist with more than four decades of service to the Northeast Dairy Council.

“This program was a wonderful opportunity,” Foster said. “Just the fact that I’ve been able to meet amazing people and network, on a state and national level, will stay with me for a lifetime.”

The Maine Policy Scholars Program was conceived by the late Peter Cox and funded by many donors as a means of engaging students in the University of Maine System in the public policy process. The program is managed by the Maine Community Foundation with input from an advisory committee.

The Maine Community Foundation works with donors and other partners to improve the quality of life for all Maine people. For more information, visit www.mainecf.org.