Bobby Monks and Bonnie Porta’s $1 million gift to the University of Maine Graduate & Professional Center pushes fundraising into final phase to match initial $7.5 million Harold Alfond Foundation challenge grant
A $1 million USDA distance learning and telemedicine grant to the University of Maine System was developed in partnership with each of the universities, Maine Law, the Maine Center, and Northern Light Health to expand rural access to undergraduate and graduate education and health care across 11 rural Maine counties
The University of Maine Graduate & Professional Center has received a $1 million gift from Bobby Monks and Bonnie Porta in support of the Maine Center’s mission to prepare leaders for Maine through interdisciplinary, experiential, and market-driven graduate and professional education. The Maine Center has also partnered in support of a $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to the University of Maine System that will increase distance learning for graduate and professional and undergraduate education, and access to telemedicine across 11 rural Maine counties.
The USDA grant, secured in partnership with all UMS universities, Maine Law, the Maine Center, and Northern Light Health, is being counted toward the matching requirements of the initial $7.5 million challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation in support of the Maine Center. Completion of the initial challenge grant opens the door to the Foundation’s pledge of an additional $55 million in match-obligated commitments for the Maine Center as part of the Harold Alfond Foundation’s $240 million investment in the University of Maine System announced last October.
Located in Portland but serving students and employers statewide, the University of Maine Graduate & Professional Center brings together programs in law, business, policy, and public health to train the workforce of the future and grow Maine’s economy. The Maine Center and its affiliated programs develop cross-disciplinary, experiential, and market-driven programming for graduate students in its focus disciplines, tailored to the evolving needs of Maine’s civic, non-profit, business, and legal communities.
“The complex problems facing the world today — climate change, immigration, poverty, and the super-high pace of technological change — demand complex solutions with deep roots in public policy, the law, and business,” said Bobby Monks of Cape Elizabeth, an entrepreneur, member of the Maine Center Ventures Board of Directors, and a co-chair of the Maine Center campaign. “The Maine Center is where these disciplines will come together and push us further toward solutions, generating an outsized impact on Maine’s economy.”
“Bonnie and I are proud alums of the University of Southern Maine,” continued Monks. “We believe in the transformational power of public higher education and urge others to join us in narrowing the opportunity gap and making sure all bright, ambitious students, including Black, indigenous, and people of color and other vulnerable communities, can find a world of educational and career opportunities right here in Maine.”
“The Maine Center is a force multiplier for higher education’s ability to impact the Maine economy. It catalyzes innovation across disciplines to prepare better qualified Maine leaders, and provides greater educational access and service to learners, employers, and communities,” said James Erwin, chair of the UMS Board of Trustees and a member of the Maine Center Ventures Board of Directors.
“Bobby Monks and Bonnie Porta are key leaders in our work to provide the people of Maine with a world-class, 21st-century system of public higher education. We are extremely grateful for their support,” continued Erwin. “The Board of Trustees commends the collaborative leadership of Maine Center CEO Terry Sutton, Law School Dean Leigh Saufley, Maine Business School Dean Faye Gilbert, and USM School of Management and Human Service Dean Jo Williams for the work they are doing with colleagues across the University of Maine System to bring truly market-based graduate and professional education to public higher education in Maine.”
Rural Access to Health Care and Maine Center Programs Among the Benefits of $1 Million USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant
The University of Maine System has received a $1 million USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine program grant. The 21st Century Connections grant application was the product of collaboration among the Maine Center, all University of Maine System universities, Maine Law, and Northern Light Health. The grant will pay for technology improvements at 42 locations across the state, consisting of a combination of 31 web conferencing and 16 telemedicine service systems, linking hubs in Bangor and Portland to 39 hub and end-user sites in 11 Maine counties.
“The USDA grant provides an opportunity for the University of Maine System to truly transform the way that it engages with Maine’s rural communities; supports rural students, patients, and employers; and expands access to a wide range of educational programs and essential medical services that were previously tethered to urban population centers such as Portland and Bangor,” said Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden in a joint statement. “Most important, it will ensure our rural communities are not left behind amidst this pandemic and will emerge from it stronger.”
“We have proven through COVID that we can learn and work at a distance if we have the infrastructure it takes to stay connected and interactive,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “We built the Maine Center to bring people, ideas, and resources together to solve challenging problems. With the support of the Maine Congressional Delegation, and collaboration among all of our universities and Northern Light Health, we are going to bring world-class leadership education and better health to rural Maine communities.”
Information Technology Services at the University of Maine System will oversee the project. Installation of new technology begins summer 2021 and is expected to be complete by fall 2022.
Statewide Network of Interconnected Education and Public Health Engagement Hubs: Among the 42 upgrade sites in the 21st Century Connections grant are 26 web conference-enabled classrooms, expanding the statewide reach of the Maine Center’s existing smart classrooms in Portland and Orono to campuses and learning centers across the state. The campus-based upgrades at UMS universities will also improve educational access and opportunities to engage students studying at a distance with educational content in real time. More specifically, the grant will:
- Facilitate statewide access to graduate programming and executive education coordinated through the Maine Center, such as the MaineMBA through the Maine Business School at UMaine, the Master’s in Public Health from the Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine (USM Muskie School), and Maine Law’s Certificate in Compliance through a network of 26 web conference classrooms;
- Provide leadership and career-focused students in rural communities with live, interactive opportunities to learn and build impactful peer relationships across regions of the state;
- Create a vibrant and collaborative network of academics, clinicians, employers, policymakers, and learners working together to raise educational attainment, improve public health policy and clinical training, expand access to justice, support workforce development and revitalize rural communities;
- Strengthen the delivery and connections of rural health teaching, research, and collaboration across University of Maine System universities. Contributing programs will include UMaine School of Nursing and Maine Rural Health Research Center and Public Health program at USM’s Muskie School; and
- Expand telemedicine training for new health care professionals with two new student telemedicine and remote patient monitoring systems at the UMaine School of Nursing that will include equipment such as mobile cardiac monitors, bluetooth-enabled blood pressure monitors, smartphone dermatoscopes, and smartphone otoscopes.
Also receiving USDA funding is the Maine School of Science and Math in Limestone, which will use its $924,630 award to expand access for students at 21 schools in Aroostook County to STEM teaching and learning, including through early college courses offered by the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Through early college programs offered at UMPI and other UMS universities, Maine students enroll in free courses that allow them to earn high school and college credit at the same time, raising their postsecondary aspirations and achievement, and decreasing student debt.
“Rural regions of our state need access to impactful graduate and professional education to attract new, good paying jobs and grow existing industries in a more competitive, interconnected world,” said UMPI President Ray Rice. “We are building on the outstanding pre-K through baccalaureate degree educational assets we have in place in the County to make sure career-focused learners have the skills and connections they need to provide global leadership for rural employers and communities.”
Delivering Rural Health and Telemedicine: Maine is the oldest and most rural state in the nation. Telehealth provides access to health care for vulnerable Mainers who live in rural areas, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The University of Maine School of Nursing will work in collaboration with health partners from Northern Light Health, Penobscot Community Health Centers, Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital, and Phoenix Direct Care to enhance telehealth academic training for BSN, MSN, and nurse practitioner students.
Healthcare partners will receive telehealth equipment to enhance and expand their telehealthcare capacity, bringing increased access to Mainers in 11 of 16 Maine counties.
Using USDA funds, the University of Maine System will build out HIPAA-compliant telemedicine exam and provider rooms at Northern Light Primary Care in Clinton, Pittsfield, Newport; and Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle, Northern Light Mayo Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth and Northern Light Inland Hospital in Waterville.
Patient monitoring equipment, including portable smart scales, cardiac and blood pressure monitors, and web conferencing technology, will also be installed at Penobscot Community Health Center at Belfast, Winterport, Brewer, Old Town and Bangor, as well as Phoenix Direct Care in Caribou and the UMaine School of Nursing. These devices will allow vulnerable patients to be monitored at home, expand specialty care into rural regions, and connect university nursing, social work and occupational therapy students with current providers, including to develop best practices in telehealth delivery.
“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we need to be ready and able to provide health care in new and unique ways, and telemedicine is now the price of admission. These investments will not only improve our patients’ access to care, but the quality of their care,” explained Dr. Robert Schlager, vice president and senior physician executive at Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital and Northern Light Inland Hospital.
Expanding Legal Services in Rural Maine: The technology investments will also improve access to justice in rural Maine, especially important given more than 80% of practicing lawyers are located in just four of Maine’s 16 counties. Building on its successful Rural Lawyer Project and its Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, the University of Maine School of Law plans to use the technology to place more of its students in underserved rural areas to participate in externships, and provide free legal aid and technical assistance. Maine Law will also provide expanded continuing legal education and training to lawyers and non-lawyers.
“Personal interactions with legal experts and providers are fundamental to our justice system and our capacity to support a system of dynamic and fair access to justice,” said Maine Law Dean Leigh Saufley. “Cutting-edge technology allows that personal connection to occur at a distance, expanding access and reducing costs. At Maine Law, we are committed to serving all of Maine and will leverage technology-enabled classrooms to deliver professional legal services and inspire a new generation of lawyers to practice law in our rural Maine communities.”