Last week, Prof. Fred Carstensen participated in the external evaluation of the School of Economics at the University of Maine. The U.S.Department of Agricultural assembled the four member team, drawing on faculty from Boston University, Washington State University, Clark University, and UConn. The team reviewed voluminous written materials, including an extensive self-study, and then spent two and half days in intensive interviews with all administrators who engaged with the SOE in any capacity as well as the senior administrators of the University. Friday morning the team delivered an oral summary of their draft report to the Provost and Vice Presidents, the Dean and Associate Deans, and the School faculty.
The School of Economics at the University of Maine, in the team’s judgement, is a remarkably highly productive department, engaged in a remarkably wide array of scholarship, with a very strong record in external funding. The most notable were the three-year $1.8 million EDA grant to support a Knowledge Transfer Initiative, aimed to helping small and medium size businesses resolve critical challenges from technical production and design issues to marketing and personnel questions, and the five-year $20 million NSF grant (largest in University history) to support a comprehensive, state-wide Sustainable Communities initiative. In both grants, SOE faculty have leading roles. The School, with only seventeen faculty, supports a vigorous and nationally recognized Master’s program and participates in two multi-disciplinary doctoral programs. Notably, each faculty member negotiates the distribution of their time between research and teaching; the merit evaluation then follows from that contracted work load. Thus teaching varies from 3-3 loads down to 1-0, and, because of the balanced treatment of teaching and research, the SOE faculty enjoyed high morale and collegiality. And senior administrators look to SOE as a model for other departments and schools.
Members of the evaluation team all planned to bring elements of the SOE model back to their home universities.