UMaine System graduate center gets boost from Alfond Foundation grant

From the Bangor Daily News, March 10, 2016.

By Nick McCrea

PORTLAND, Maine — The University of Maine System has received a $500,000 grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation to continue its push to bring the system’s graduate programs in law, business and public service under the same roof.

The new gift brings the total provided by the Alfond Foundation toward the initiative to more than $2 million. The latest contribution is meant to fund the “continued strategic development” of the Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies, according to a system news release.

 “This is an exciting vote of confidence in the hard work that the deans and faculty have been doing for nearly a year to bring this important project into being,” said Eliot Cutler, the former Maine gubernatorial candidate hired as the center’s founding CEO. “We have a long way to go, but this grant gives the university system and my office additional assurance that the Alfond Foundation understands the groundbreaking significance of this initiative and the critical contribution it will make to the Maine economy.”

Few details about the center have been made public, but according to a previously published report, Cutler was hired to guide the creation of a center in Portland that will combine the graduate business programs at the University of Maine in Orono and the University of Southern Maine with the University of Maine School of Law. Part of the goal is to form closer ties with the business community and meet the needs of Maine employers.

Cutler and the team behind the planning for the center are expected to deliver a business plan to Chancellor James Page in September.

“These additional funds ensure that their work will continue while the overall plan for the center is considered by our board, by the foundation, and by other potential partners,” Page said.

Cutler’s initial term runs through September 2016, according to the system. His salary is being covered by an earlier grant given to the system by the Harold Alfond Foundation, which gave a total of $1.25 million to fund “early leadership and program development efforts” toward creating the center.

The latest funding would allow Cutler or others involved in the graduate center planning to stay involved during the “bridge term” between when the plan is submitted in September and the system’s trustees decide whether to approve and move forward with the center.

The Alfond Foundation also provided $500,000 for a market study to start the process.