A broad perspective on health and bold new course for UNE
The University of New England is at a critical juncture in our evolution. We have made significant progress on multiple strategic initiatives since we launched our strategic plan in 2018. This progress has been especially noteworthy given the stiff headwinds facing higher education in general and New England in particular. These forces will only grow in the coming years, but we are more than up for the challenge. We are ambitious and restless — an institution that is deeply connected to our communities and to the larger world. Look around, and you will find UNE students, faculty, and professional staff in places as diverse as Morocco and Iceland, and in clinics and field sites across our nation’s cities, towns, forests, and oceans. You will see us learning from experiences in communities representing every form of human difference. These cultural, personal, and geographic connections reflect the profound respect and concern that our community holds for the health of our world — its people, its communities, and its physical environment. We combine this concern with a remarkable nimbleness, flexibility, creativity, and sense of urgency to make UNE a powerful source of innovation for a healthier planet. It is within this context that we map out our priorities for the next five years.
The centerpiece of our strategic plan remains an expansive perspective on “health” with our overarching goal to establish UNE among the premier providers of education, expertise, and innovation for sustaining the health of our world’s people, communities, and natural environment.
We are well on our way! Even this short accounting of some of our achievements demonstrates the force that UNE has become:
- We offer an exceptional return on our students’ educational investment. Ninety-five percent of UNE undergraduates start a job or enter a graduate program within one year of receiving their diploma. The Brookings Institute consistently ranks us first among all Maine colleges and universities for our ability to increase students’ career earnings.
- We prepare students to be culturally fluent members of an increasingly global workforce. UNE undergraduates study abroad at more than four times the national average, spending semesters at UNE’s own campus in Tangier, Morocco, as well as at affiliated campuses in Spain, France, and Iceland.
- We are Maine’s leading provider of healthcare professionals. Offering our state’s only medical school and Northern New England’s only dental school, as well as programs in pharmacy, nursing, and a range of other health professions, UNE plays a leading role in meeting the health care needs of underserved communities throughout the Northeast and beyond.
- We are a national leader in interprofessional health care education (IPE). Research clearly demonstrates improved health outcomes when patients are cared for by teams of health care professionals — doctors, nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, social workers, and others working side by side. UNE prepares aspiring health professionals for such collaborations by having them learn and work beside other students representing the full range of health professions.
- We engage in important research and scholarship. The work of UNE researchers has improved breast cancer detection, led to a better understanding of how the Zika virus spreads, demonstrated how dehumanizing speech leads to violence and discrimination, uncovered how psychiatric medications can cause diabetes and bone fractures in children, and even unveiled the secret lives of sharks. Our success is demonstrated by an 800% growth in external funding over the past decade. Importantly, UNE students directly contribute to groundbreaking research and scholarship. Forty-one percent of our undergraduates work with faculty on research projects (compared to a national average of 23%), engaging in scholarship that ranges from understanding the neurobiology of pain to evaluating the impact of climate change on Maine’s coastal environment to understanding how children learn to read.
- We graduate students who possess real-world experience, making them “job ready” on day one. Virtually all UNE students engage in some form of hands-on experiential learning, gaining invaluable disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge and skills through internships, clinical rotations, service learning, and countless other opportunities to apply classroom knowledge in community organizations, businesses, government offices, and many other work settings.
- We are committed to fostering a robust marketplace of ideas. In an era when society has become increasingly divided along partisan ideological lines, we foster an environment in which the hard conversations essential to a true education occur, challenging members of our community to reach beyond their intellectual comfort zones. Our Center for Global Humanities, George and Barbara Bush Distinguished Lecture Series, and President’s Forum, among many other events, offer venues where a diversity of ideas can thrive through robust, civil discourse.
UNE exemplifies the attributes of a contemporary, visionary, comprehensive university. We continue to build on our strong legacy and prestigious array of programs in the health sciences. At the same time, we remain cognizant that creating a healthier planet requires more than talented health professionals. It requires leaders from all disciplines — including the natural and social sciences, humanities and arts, business, and more — to bring their diverse and complementary skills to bear on the most pressing challenges facing our world. With the planned move of our College of Osteopathic Medicine to the UNE Portland Campus for the Health Sciences, we have an unprecedented opportunity to create a one-of-its-kind interprofessional health sciences campus there while creating a new vision for our Biddeford Campus grounded in the liberal arts, sciences, and business disciplines.
As we reflect on our progress to date, there’s a key thread that runs throughout each of the six priorities of our plan: providing transformational learning experiences to our students. In one way or another, directly or indirectly, everything we do touches on this overarching theme. It will be imperative that we keep our eye on this North Star as we turn our attention to the next steps in our strategic work.
We will leverage our foundational strengths to:
- Expand active and collaborative teaching and learning through pedagogical innovation and enhanced technologies;
- Enhance our commitment to experiential learning;
- Create even more opportunities for students, faculty, and professional staff to work together across academic disciplines and professional programs; and
- Adapt and scale up the solutions we find to challenges facing local communities in order to address similar challenges around the globe.
Our broad perspective on health requires us to focus on interactions among individuals, communities, and the environment. Moreover, it demands that we look for solutions to our world’s pressing challenges by drawing knowledge and expertise from many academic disciplines. This means exposing students not only to deep discipline-based knowledge but also to cross-disciplinary connections. We will inculcate in our students habits of mind such as curiosity and a drive for lifelong learning, as well as professional competencies like productive teamwork and communication skills. Armed with this knowledge and these skills, UNE students will be ready to bring the fullest breadth of understanding and expertise to bear on improving the well-being of people, society, and our planet.
Inspired by this vision and guided by this plan, UNE will empower students to anticipate and meet the challenges of this new world and to become active leaders in creating its future.
UNE — for the health of our world.