Higher education in Maine is paying attention to the state’s no. 1 industry. On September 17, the University of Southern Maine and Southern Maine Community College signed an agreement that provides a seamless transition for students to move from a two-year to a four-year degree in the field of hospitality and tourism.
“This is an important collaboration for Maine's visitor industry,” said Steve Hewins, vice president of travel products and services at AAA New England. “With SMCC providing the practical hospitality skills and USM the broader educational options, we’ll be graduating well-rounded students capable of helping to advance our industry to a true world-class level.”
Under the agreement, eligible students who complete the associate’s degree in hospitality management at SMCC will be able to apply credits earned toward a bachelor's degree in USM's new tourism and hospitality program, making it possible for students to complete the degree in only two additional years.
The agreement, which goes into effect this fall, is another step toward aligning programs throughout the University of Maine System and Maine Community College System to prepare skilled graduates in areas key to Maine’s economic development.
“This is a great model of how public higher education and the private sector can work together so that more students have opportunities to earn an affordable, high-quality education and support a major industry important to the future of this state,” said USM President Theo Kalikow. “In this economic climate, all of us need to do all we can to make the best use of our intellectual and financial resources.”
The programs, both new to their respective institutions, focus on theory, practice, and innovation in Maine’s leading industry and share common curricular themes of tourism and industry operations and an emphasis on real-world learning. Upon completion of the associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, students will have studied a wide range of issues, including business management, marketing, sustainable tourism and tourism development, nature-based tourism, and event management, and will have completed one or multiple internships in the industry.
“It’s no secret that hospitality and tourism are vital to Maine’s economy,” said SMCC President Ron Cantor. “We congratulate USM on its new program and are proud to link SMCC’s hospitality program with it. Business partners are applauding the entrepreneurial jolt of this collaboration to prepare students for high-demand careers throughout Maine and around the world.”
Top right: USM President Theodora Kalikow and SMCC President Ron Cantor signing the degree transition agreement.
Bottom left: Carolann Ouellette, director of the Maine Office of Tourism, and Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association, two of the various industry representatives present at the signing.