UMaine System prepares for education summit

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LEWISTON — The University of Maine System has scheduled a daylong education summit for Tuesday, April 6, at its flagship Orono campus.

About 5,000 invitations were sent to leaders across the state’s public and private sectors: chambers of commerce, schools, legislators, media companies and big employers such as Bath Iron Works and Unum.

The goal is to make Maine’s public universities as relevant as possible to the state’s needs.

“It will be a day of aggressive listening,” Chancellor Richard Pattenaude said Wednesday.

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The summit is titled “Advancing Maine: Aligning Academic Programs to Meet Future Workforce Needs.”

The schedule calls for almost eight hours of discussion and speeches, including a welcome by Gov. John Baldacci and remarks by Maine Development Foundation President Laurie Lachance and John Dorrer, the director of the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information. Doug Hall, an innovation speaker and creator of Eureka! Ranch, will also address the group.

However, comments from audience members across the state will be particularly important, Pattenaude said.

Seven UMaine System campuses and satellites are scheduled to be linked via video teleconferencing to the main site at Orono’s Wells Conference Center. Live audio will also be streamed on the conference’s Web site, www.advancing.maine.edu.

“It’s a conversation,” Pattenaude said. “We’re trying to be a greater asset to the state of Maine.”

The summit comes at a time when the school system is undergoing painful changes. Revenue shortfalls have led to system-wide reductions, a boost in the student-teacher ratio and tuition increases.

Pattenaude hopes to run the schools with the flexibility and responsiveness of a thriving business, he said. “We are preparing ourselves to be healthier.”

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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