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January 7, 2019
On the record

UNE's James Herbert keen to take team-based health education 'to the next level'

Photo / Jim Neuger
Photo / Jim Neuger
James Herbert succeeded Danielle N. Ripich as president of University of New England in July 2017. He spent 15 years at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

James Herbert succeeded Danielle N. Ripich as president of University of New England in July 2017. He spent 15 years at Drexel University in Philadelphia, most recently as executive vice provost and dean of the graduate college. His educational background is in clinical psychology.

Herbert travels between campuses in Portland and Biddeford. He sat down for an interview with Mainebiz at his Biddeford office, followed by a brief chat, in French, and campus tour. Following is an edited version, in English.

Mainebiz: Eighteen months into the job, what grade do you give yourself?

James Herbert: That's a hard question! If I'm being totally honest, and trying not to be either falsely humble or narcissistic, let's say an A-minus. I think I'm doing pretty good, but I would never give myself a perfect grade.

MB: What tops your 2019 to-do list?

JH: We just finished the strategic plan [for 2018-2023], which I'm very proud of — not only because of the result, but the process we took to get there was very inclusive and transparent. We started it in earnest the day I got here and completed it at the Nov. 3 board meeting, so it took a year. That sounds like a long time, but in academia, that's pretty quick. Now we're shifting rapidly into implementation.

MB: What happens next?

JH: We've got a million things we want to do, so the key is prioritizing those things that are either low-hanging fruit, or the things that are most important and going to be the most impactful. It's a long list.

MB: So what are the top priorities?

JH: One is our health program. UNE is known already for its signature interprofessional education and interprofessional practice, which basically means team-based training and care. We now want to take that to the next level.

MB: How do you intend to do that?

JH: Better integrating our physicians, our medical students, into our interprofessional educational efforts is one. Another is expanding and using our state-of-the-art simulation center in Portland, where we can have a whole team of students working on a mannequin [or patient]. We're also looking at developing partnerships with our clinical sites, hospitals and clinics in the state, so that students can go in cohorts and train in an interdisciplinary way.

MB: What are other priorities?

JH: We're looking to expand existing programs and then grow and develop new programs to address critical market needs. Our sweet spot is trying to address the needs in the marketplace, in particular in the state and the region, so we have world-class marine science programs we're looking at expanding. We're also looking to expand our business and entrepreneurship programming. We have some of that now, but we're going to do that in a much bigger and more intentional way with our newly expanded Makerspace. That's where engineers can help any student develop a solution to a problem and create a prototype, and we bring in business students to help with a business and marketing plan. We are hoping to use that as a mechanism for incubating startups.

MB: What strikes you most about this school?

JH: UNE is a gem, it's a combination of this very vibrant and entrepreneurial kind of place, and it's also very supportive in a beautiful setting. Usually you don't find those two things in the same place, but here we've managed to foster both of those and it creates this really interesting community. Yet if you go outside of New England, most people have not heard of UNE. My job as head cheerleader is to go out and tell that story, which is easy because I believe in it.

MB: Do you live on campus?

JH: I live on campus right behind those trees, which is super-convenient. I like to participate in campus life and so I go to sports games, a lot of student events, and every day I meet with student groups. My wife and I also just bought a condo on the peninsula, so that will be our little pied-r-terre in Portland. I'm back and forth between the two campuses all the time.

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