Buttressing the university’s commitment to address Maine’s STEM workforce needs, University of Southern Maine (USM) President Glenn Cummings announced on Oct. 24 a $1 million gift from Michael Dubyak to establish a Center for Digital Science and Innovation.
“With this incredibly generous gift to USM, Mike Dubyak is helping us move forward swiftly with initiatives to prepare more students for careers in STEM fields,” said Cummings. “We know that over 5,000 Maine STEM jobs will be created in the next 5-6 years and we need to make sure there are Maine graduates ready to fill those jobs.”
To honor and thank Michael Dubyak for his gift and his longtime commitment to the STEM fields, the University plans to name the new center the Michael E. Dubyak Center for Digital Science and Innovation. To be located on two floors of USM’s Portland Science Building, the center will be devoted to undergraduate and graduate programs in computer science and technology including data analytics, cyber security, computer programming and mathematics.
The Michael E. Dubyak Center for Digital Science & Innovation will also integrate USM’s expanded computer science and technology programs with area workplaces in an exciting and unprecedented approach. Employers will actually be invited to have space in the new state-of-the-art Center to work directly with STEM majors whom they ultimately hope to recruit for critical positions. Numerous other opportunities and options for workplace/student interaction will also be available through the new Center, including K-12 programs.
The current Chair and former President and CEO of WEX, Michael Dubyak has a rich legacy of community service and advocacy in the areas of education and workforce development in Maine. He served as the first Chair of Educate Maine, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing educational attainment within the Maine workforce, which also managed Project>Login, a collective impact initiative that Mike was a founder in creating. This pioneering program that provides resources for educators as well as students and adults who are interested in entering the computing and IT field has significantly increased the number of graduates in computer science and information science in the University of Maine System.
Michael Dubyak also has a strong and longtime connection with USM, including past service on the USM Foundation Board and as the Chair of USM’s Board of Visitors.
“At the heart of WEX’s value proposition lies technology capabilities and solutions. Throughout my career and even in my retirement I continue to realize that the education pipeline, starting in early childhood, continuing into K-12, and in Higher Education must be optimized and synergized to enable Maine to compete for good paying jobs across the spectrum and retain its knowledge workers,” said Dubyak. “ My gift to USM will integrate both the K-12 and Higher Education portions of the pipeline with a STEM emphasis. I especially like the ability of WEX to contribute and participate in some of the experiential programs and for Project>Login’s vast experience in computer science education to play a role in the K-12 and Higher Education integrative programs.”
As a first step in launching the new center’s efforts, $500,000 of Michael Dubyak’s gift will be used to launch next summer an annual month-long intensive “Step-up to STEM” program. Designed for incoming first-year USM students planning to major in STEM fields, the program will focus on the skills these students will need to successfully complete their prerequisites and graduate in four years.
As part of the Step-up to STEM program, USM will also engage with Educate Maine, Project>Login and workforce partners like WEX to create job shadow and other opportunities for its incoming students.
Said WEX CEO Melissa Smith, “The University of Southern Maine is an important educational partner in helping us to fill critical positions with highly skilled graduates. We host USM interns, we hire USM graduates and we simply need more of them coming through the pipeline. WEX’s Chairman, Mike Dubyak, has been a consistent champion of educational enhancement and workforce development in Maine and we look forward to working with USM’s Step-up to Stem program and other future initiatives launched by the Michael E. Dubyak Center for Digital Science and Innovation.
In subsequent years, USM also plans to work with public school educators to expand the Step-up to STEM program to better prepare middle and high school students for future success in STEM fields.
Said Cummings, “If we do this right, Mike’s transformative gift will help us meet employer demand by strengthening USM’s K-16 pathway to a STEM degree.”
In closing, Cummings added, “I hope Mike Dubyak’s tremendous generosity and personal leadership in STEM sets an example for all of us. We’re hoping his gift inspires and attracts other generous donors to help us raise up to $2 million to accomplish planned Science Building renovations necessary to make the new center what we truly need it to be.
“And as we ask Maine voters to support the Question 4 workforce bond on November 6, we all have an opportunity to match Mike’s generosity by collectively investing in STEM education, Maine’s economic growth, and great jobs for our children.”
Question 4 is a public-private partnership, requiring outside contributions to match bond funding. If Question 4 passes, gifts like Michael Dubyak’s would be part of that match.
The announcement was covered by WGME, WMTW and WCSH TV stations. The latter also featured an interview with Michael Dubyak and President Cummings on the program “207.” Stories also ran in the Portland Preess Herald and MaineBiz.