New England

The University of Maine leads collaboration within our New England Hub.

The University of Maine is building a system of robust, rural-focused programs supporting small towns and rural schools across the state, and heads up the collaborative network of like-minded advocates and organizations throughout the larger New England region consisting of New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Catharine Biddle, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at UMaine, serves as the New England hub contact.

Founded in Orono in 1865, the University of Maine is the state's land grant, sea grant and space grant university, with a regional campus at the University of Maine at Machias. As Maine's flagship public university, UMaine has a statewide mission of teaching, research and economic development, and community service, and is the state's public research university and a Carnegie R1 top-tier research institution. It attracts students from all 50 states and 81 countries, currently enrolling 12,736 undergraduate and graduate students across it's two campuses.

The University of Maine
The University of Maine - Photo Credit: UMaine

UMaine strives to provide students with opportunities to participate in groundbreaking research with world-class scholars by offering more than 100 degree programs through which students can earn master's, doctoral or professional science master's degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Among these various pathways into the professional work, the university promotes environmental stewardship, with substantial efforts campuswide to conserve energy, recycle and adhere to green building standards in new construction.

The New England Region has long been an exemplar of school-community engagement, excellent rural educators, and place-based education. UMaine's energy around supporting rural schools and communities, along with the institution's existing commitment to sustainability and professional development, are a perfect compliment to the legacy of good work and collaboration in RSC's New England Hub Region. UMaine and RSC are eager to build upon this strong foundation to deepen the network of rural educators and partners in the region.

Biddle is passionate about growing this work regionally, sharing that "I’ve always worked in the space between schools and communities. I started my career in the non-profit sector and have worked in both urban and rural communities. My passion for rural education was ignited by the challenges that my rural students and colleagues faced when I worked for the Nanubhai Education Foundation in rural India. I turned to the research to try to find evidence based practices to support them, and when I didn’t find the answers I was looking for, I decided to become a researcher to ensure that these important communities were not ignored."

A glimpse of rural Maine
A glimpse of rural Maine - Photo Credit: Joe Hennessey

UMaine’s College of Education and Human Development heads up this strong rural focus with a goal of cultivating educational partnerships and practices that sustain healthy and equitable developmental ecologies for rural youth. They have a number of projects and programs that support this focus, including STEM-focused rural education projects, an initiative to train early childhood special educators and other professionals in Maine to serve pre-school aged children with intensive communication needs, a Rural Leadership Program in partnership with the University of Maine at Presque Isle, a growing program in Outdoor Leadership, literacy and social-emotional support programs, accessible hybrid and online graduate programs for educators, and a teacher education program dedicated to geographically diverse placements.

RSC’s New England Hub, which includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, offers an opportunity to deepen collaboration across the region and beyond. Biddle is working to form an advisory board with representatives from each state in order to guide the work of the Hub. This year, she hopes to map the regional landscape for rural education workforce development by connecting with leaders working on these issues across the region: “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate with other RSC Hubs and sharing the incredible work that teachers and leaders across the region are doing to support rural students in New England.”

Joe Hennessey - Dover-Foxcroft, ME

Joe Hennessey

Leading through the Transformative Power of Rural Education

Joe has been a teacher for 10 years, spending the majority of his tenure teaching eleventh and twelfth grades. He places a heavy value on the power of education as an asset to students’ personal growth and career development. Primarily an English teacher, Joe values the unique, one-of-a-kind community and education experience that rural areas, like Piscataquis County, can provide to students.

For him, education is as transformative and liberating as it is noble. Joe shares that one of the most rewarding aspects of education is “to actually experience the awe and the wonderment of being able to communicate with ideas across generations, civilizations, and eons; and to connect with those ideas and understand how that is still personally meaningful and relevant.”