PhD in Public Policy

Laura M. Cyr '20

Career

Laura CyrCurrent position: Director of Strategic Projects, University of Maine System 

Position during PhD studies:  Executive Director, Kennebec Valley Council of Governments 

Laura Cyr is a first-generation student who grew up in Westbrook, Maine, has spent her life living and working in Portland, Lewiston-Auburn, Orono, and has now settled in Vassalboro. Last winter, Laura and her husband Charles bought their home in Vassalboro shortly after Laura accepted the position of Executive Director for the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments. 

Before coming to Central Maine, Laura spent eight years working for the University of Maine System’s Vice Chancellor of Finance & Administration. As a Special Projects Manager, she was responsible for assembling data for system wide projects including the successful bond package for capital improvements passed by referendum last year. 

A life-long believer in the importance of public service, Laura has participated in the Emerge Maine program, is an alum of the Institute for Civic Leadership, and has been active in voter registration and school-based education. While living in Portland, Laura sat on the boards of the Portland Chamber Music Festival and “Speak About It”. 

Laura completed each of her degrees and advanced certificates with the University of Southern Maine. She was one of the first to defend her dissertation in Public Policy via Zoom at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Laura recently returned to the University of Maine System to direct strategic projects for the office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. 

Dissertation

Title:  Bridging the Gap: A Case Study Evaluation of the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit

Abstract:  Student loan debt relief programs vary in intent, implementation, and degrees of success. This creates challenges for policy analysts to evaluate the appropriateness or success of such policies due to their respective strategies, populations, and perceived intent. This research analyzes the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit, one of Maine’s available resources to help reduce the burden of student loan debt. This study examines the intent and impact of the program utilizing qualitative case study evaluation methodology in order to delve deeper into the intentions of the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit program. As a social program, the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit was manifest in response to a priority identified by a concerned group of citizens and brought to light via political mechanisms. I completed a close examination of the characteristics of the single case to develop an understanding of the significant features and components of the phenomenon in order to answer the research questions. Findings were discussed in four parts relating to the major themes that emerged in relation to the initial research questions. The study should be of interest to academics, policymakers, graduates of higher education, workforce development specialists, and practitioners involved with conducting and reviewing qualitative case-based studies.