At the Direction Package Advisory Board meeting last Friday, there was a lot of discussion around turning USM into a metropolitan university. Ideas were tossed around involving ties with local businesses, independent research projects in the community and the concept of using the city itself as a sort of lab.
And, boy, are we excited. No, really.
Of course, for now these are just ideas, and USM has quite the hole to dig itself out of before this vision can be perfected, but honestly, this is what we’ve been waiting to hear. What we learn in the classroom needs to be put to the test, and what better place to do it than in Portland, Maine?
Portland is growing faster than a lot of people realize. The city has been popping up on more and more national “best of” lists, gaining recognition nationwide. In recent years, Portland has been ranked as America’s sixth best city for young professionals by Forbes, third best city to raise a family by Parenting Magazine and, more recently, the 22nd and 10th best places to live by Men’s Health Magazine and Women’s Health Magazine, respectively.
At USM, there has always been discussion about revitalizing Gorham, and there have been few successful changes made. By changing the focus to Portland, USM will be connecting students to a growing creative, entrepreneurial and innovative culture instead of the small-town atmosphere of Gorham, that for many Maine students is something all too familiar.
At USM, we’ve been asking what we can do to differentiate ourselves from the other universities in the state. The answer is simple –– location, location, location.
The state of Maine is struggling with its aging population, and politicians have been striving to find ways to keep young people in the state. There’s an opportunity for USM to give students a reason to be in Maine and stay in Maine by helping them establish roots in a unique community. At the advisory board meeting Friday, Student Body President Kelsea Dunham told other members that she could go anywhere to get the grades, but it was Portland that kept her here.
Students want an experience, not a class. It’s the experience that students are going to be willing to pay for in the future, and Portland is at the heart of that experience. Let’s start taking steps toward making this metropolitan university model a reality.
Hopefully in the future, the city of Portland will be able to say, “Yes, education is good here.”
Our Opinion is written by the Free Press editorial board.