Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Muskie school attempts reorganization after cuts

Sam Hill | The Free Press

Posted on November 24, 2014 in News
By USM Free Press

By: Annie Quandt

The Muskie School of Public Service recently celebrated it’s 100th anniversary at USM but is going to be faced with setbacks as some of its faculty have been retrenched this semester.

“There won’t be a program anymore to teach these students, due to retrenchment and retirement,” said Carolyn Ball, a member of the Academic Affairs Committee and the Muskie School. , stating that only one professor was left to teach public policy and management at the Muskie School.

Andy Coburn, the associate dean of the Muskie School, who is also a research professor for public health, explained that, on a fundamental level, these cuts have hurt.

“One faculty member has been retrenched, and a tenured-track faculty that’s contract has not been renewed. Many have chosen to retire as a result of the incentive program that the university is offering,” said Coburn. “Losing all these professors that have been here just creates a tremendous sense of loss.

He added that, for students, the circumstances leave some open-ended questions. Students and faculty alike aren’t sure what is going to be offered for degree completion; students want to know how to finish their degrees out.

“What we’re trying to do in the moment at the Muskie School, is align our academic programs more closely with what we think the needs in the community and the state are with the broad area of public service and education,” said Coburn. “We’re trying to do that with the budget realities and resources that we know we will have going forward.”

Coburn noted the limited faculty resources in light of budget cuts as reason for reaching out to research staff and the community to identify academically qualified people who can help with courses the Muskie school might need, or for mentoring to students.

The Muskie School offers graduate programs in public health, public policy and management and community planning and development. There is an undergraduate degree in geography and anthropology.

Ball added that the Muskie School is “a group of graduate programs that are preparing students for civic leadership, that includes assisting with the development of public policy, and to strengthen civic life.”

Carolyn believes that the public policy and management degree is essentially eliminated, despite the many graduates that are out there helping their community.

She listed Amanda Rector, the state economist, Mayor Michael Brennan, the mayor of Portland, Garrett Corbin, the Legislative Advocate for the Maine Municipal Association, and Kenneth Fredette, House Republican Leader all as graduates from the Muskie School. She also stated that at least fifty-six non-profit leaders are graduates as well.

“The Muskie school is a relatively large organization that also has a vibrant portfolio where we’re working in Maine and Portland with projects from social sciences to environment to public health,” said Coburn. “We’re remaining vibrant. It’s really important that students understand that the Muskie School plays an important role and will continue to do so.”

Ball noted that New England has a history of non-partisanship in local government, and that New England has more per-capita town managers than any other in the region.

“This was the only place in Maine to get a degree in public policy and management,” said Ball. “There is not an accredited program in New Hampshire, so this leaves Northern New England without a public service program.”

Coburn also emphasized the lack of other education resources in the area for public service.

“Muskie School is the only public service, public policy program in the University of Maine system,” Coburn reiterated.“Going forward, I think we’ll be offering professional education programs.”

Coburn who has been with the Muskie School for many years, disagrees with the idea of eliminating the public policy and management degree.

“At one time those two degrees were one degree, a track in community planning and development, a track in public management, a track in public policy. I think we’re going back to one degree with different tracks related to specific areas, non-profit management, public policy management, much like we used to offer,” said Coburn. “We will still be teaching public policy as part of the degree we’re offering. We will have a more focused non-profit curriculum as part of that single degree. It may be possible that there may be two degrees, but it really depends on the provost committee.”

Ball added that there has been some discussion about having a degree with some sort of environmental sustainability component, as one way for the school to try to reinvent itself.“But that doesn’t do justice to the state for the public service employees who have multiple responsibilities,” Ball said.

Coburn explained that the provost is convening faculty from the Muskie School, economics and other departments, on what the degree or degrees should look like, given the demand from students.

Ball said there is hope for the future of the Muskie School.“If the provost is willing to support one program for the state, to provide public service education that will prepare students for jobs in non-profits, state government and local government. Right now it doesn’t seem that that is going to occur.”

Both Ball and Coburn emphasized that this is not the end for the Muskie School and does not have to be the downfall; Ball said that students can reach out to their local and elected government officials for help and let them know what’s happening, and Coburn said that while it will be an adjustment, the programs should not and will not be cut. They both emphasized how important public service is to the community and how their graduates have helped and will continue to help in the community.

The outcome of the degree programs for the Muskie School is up to the provost, but Coburn has said the degree programs will still be intact, just possibly in different forms.


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