First off, my congratulations to the UMPI Student Government and its Board of Trustees Representative for organizing this year’s remarkable UMS Student Government Conference: 21st Century Leadership: LEADing with Purpose, held right here at UMPI this past Saturday and Sunday.
Evan Zarkadas (BOT student rep), Matt Payan (President), Adam Weyeneth (VP), Rebecca Dilenback (Treasurer), Dacian Robert (Secretary), along with Senators Sean Miller and Max Bushman, and the Production Chair, Laura Fitzgerald, all contributed to make for a memorable event. Special thanks to the following individuals for their involvement in individual sessions:
Violet Washburn, who advises the SGA, who led an early Saturday morning session on “Building Leaders to Make a Better World”:
Martin Puckett (PI City Manager and member of the UMPI Foundation) and Mike Chasse (PI councilman and Bike, Board and Ski Shop) presented a session on “Strategy and Strategic Thinking”;
Martin Puckett, Deborah Roark (Exec Dir of Development), Bill Flagg (Dir of Community Relations and Development at Cary and an UMPI BOV member), and Harold “Trey” Stewart (our House District 145 representative and Republican Caucus Assistant Leader, or “Whip,” and UMPI BOV member) led a discussion on “Community and Leadership”;
Jim Gerritsen (Wood Prairie Farm) led a great session on the history of potatoes in Aroostook, specifically organic farming, and the challenges organic farmers face today;
Chancellor James Page and Trustees Kelly Martin and Trevor Hustus led a session on Leadership and the Board of Trustees;
and Jason Parent (Exec Dir and CAO of ACAP, UMPI BOV member) closed the event with a talk on “Leading with Vision and Purpose.”
And Evan Zarakadas even managed to ensure that he and I wore exactly the same attire, right down to our “Civility” pin, at the opening session! (see photo)
It was great to see an event in which UMPI students and graduates held an originating role over three years ago have such a successful session up here in the County!
Second, and this follows nicely with UMPI’s leadership roles, in terms of building leaders of the future and providing leadership in education and community engagement today: The BDN reported today on the growth of enrollment within the University of Maine System, the strongest system-wide growth in New England: https://bangordailynews.com/2019/04/15/news/bangor/maines-universities-long-shrinking-have-traded-places-with-community-colleges/
This growth is due in no small part to the work that you have accomplished here at UMPI; indeed, we are both a “microcosm” of the overall System growth and a substantial reason for that growth in and of itself. Our work in developing new programs, attracting learners from Presque Isle to Portland (Oregon!!!!), as well as internationally; our work with Early College in the high schools; with adults and working learners in our YourPace programming; as well as our work in helping our students to graduate on time with the least possible debt in all of New England– all of this contributes to our recent success and helps us to reverse a decade-long slide in enrollments even against the most serious demographic odds in the entire nation.
The sort of work that we all do– as exemplified by this weekend’s Student Government Conference and the individuals from the campus and community who contributed to its success– is what makes ongoing success possible.
But certainly not easy.
When I opened up the the article online, what showed up as an advertisement? A nicely placed announcement of a for-profit university competitor for Maine student enrollments, trumpeting their own technology/cybersecurity programming (online). This only underscores the importance of our work in evolving our institution: both in terms of the programs we offer (including Cybersecurity next year!) and our role in preparing our students as future professionals and *leaders* who will be able to engage a global economy and all its challenges and opportunities. Specifically, a global (and local) economy that is being shaped by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (see https://www.weforum.org/about/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-by-klaus-schwab for more info, which I highly recommend).
As I told the students on Saturday afternoon: “One of the great promises of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is its potential to improve the quality of life for much more of the world’s population–but this can only occur if higher education demonstrates its own capacity to adapt and effectively prepare students to be leaders, not just followers, within this future landscape. And make no mistake, that process is happening right now, as we speak–it’s just a matter of which organizations are making these deliberate evolutionary choices.”