Last week, I had the honor of being chosen as a Margaret Chase Smith Distinguished Maine Policy Fellow. Housed at the University of Maine at Orono, the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center was founded in 1990 and serves to improve and promote the quality of public discourse in Maine through research and engagement.Former Senator Mary Cathcart, who works at the Center, invited me for a day-long tour of UMaine to learn more about the important work they are doing.

The day started with a meeting with UMaine President Paul Ferguson and Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development Jake Ward to discuss the various business and research & development projects at UMaine, as well as an update on other initiatives at the school. I was then joined by Senator Eloise Vitelli for a meeting with Dr. Mary Mahoney-O’Neil, the Assistant Dean of Academic Instruction at the College of Education and Human Development. Dr. Mahoney-O’Neil gave us an overview of the College and their work with other colleges and departments at UMaine for teachers.

Senator Vitelli and I then took a tour of the Innovative Media Research and Commercialization Center (IMRC). Director Owen Smith, told us about the great new media and creative economy work happening at UMaine. The IMRC houses a fabrication studio, electronics lab, and powerful computers for advanced design.

We had lunch with Jake Ward and the Coordinator of the Foster Center for Student Innovation, Jesse Moriarty. We met several students who work at the center, and discussed ways to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across the state.

I then had the opportunity to speak at Professor Darren Ranco’s Environmental Justice Movements in the United States class. We discuss the proposed East-West Highway and both the environmental and economic implications of such a major development, and the pros and cons of various types of energy generation, from natural gas to wind and ocean energy.

Later, I met with Dr. William Ellis of the School of Marine Sciences, to tour their facility and learn about various aquaculture projects they are working on. Aquaculture is a fascinating industry and is sure to play a big role in Maine’s economy in the years to come.

Afterwards, I visited Professor Robin Russel’s Generalist Social Work Practice II class, where we discussed accepting federal funds for healthcare and how the state legislature works through conflict to find compromise in policy. Finally, I finished the day with faculty and staff of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, and was joined by Senators Vitelli and Geoff Gratwick.

It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about our university system’s flagship campus, and I am honored to have been chosen.