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July 23, 2020

UNE names endowed business chair, Makerspace chief

UNE President James Herbert in the Makerspace lab at the school's Biddeford campus Photo / Jim Neuger James Herbert, president of the University of New England, in the Makerspace lab on the school's Biddeford campus, photographed in November 2018 during an interview and tour with Mainebiz.

Setting out to advance its role as a regional leader in business education, the University of New England on Wednesday announced its first P.D. Merrill Endowed Chair of Business and a director of the P.D. Merrill Makerspace.

The hires were made possible by a $1.3 million gift last year from the P.D. Merrill Charitable Trust Foundation to honor the legacy of a community business leader who headed UNE's board of trustees during its merger with Westbrook College in 1996. 

"UNE has historically been known for our health sciences programs," and for having Maine's only medical and dental schools, UNE President James Herbert told Mainebiz at the time the gift was announced. "Part of what I've been doing, without losing sight of our core business, is to really expand into other areas."

As UNE's first J.D. Merrill Endowed Chair of Business, John Austin will lead a program housed within the school's College of Arts and Sciences at its Biddeford campus. He took up his new role on July 1. 

A spokeswoman for UNE told Mainebiz on Thursday that several dozen qualified candidates had applied for the position, and UNE did full interviews with four finalists before selecting the top finalist for an offer. The interview process included the search committee, senior leadership faculty staff and students of the business program, as well as a public seminar open to the entire UNE community, she added. 

Austin holds a doctorate in organization studies from Boston College and a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Johns Hopkins University. Since 2017, he has served as a core faculty member of the Human and Organizational Development program within Fielding Graduate University’s School of Leadership Studies. He has served as faculty chair of that program since 2018.

Courtesy / University of New England
John Austin, left, and Justine Bassett

Austin is also an entrepreneur, designing and delivering custom executive development programs, long-term strategy projects and change leadership consulting for corporate, government, and nonprofit organizations through Austin Executive Development in State College, Pa.

“Dr. Austin brings an invaluable balance of experience, leadership, and expertise to the College of Arts and Sciences,” said Jonathan Millen, dean of UNE's College of Arts and Sciences, in a news release. “His innovative ideas and vision for our business programs will resonate widely with both current and prospective students.” 

Justine Bassett to lead Makerspace

On Aug. 1, Justine Basset will take over as director of UNE's P.D. Merrill Makerspace, an innovative laboratory for creation and building that's open to students from all academic disciplines.

UNE said Bassett’s hiring is the next stage in the continued development of its makerspace, which opened in spring of 2016 within the the school's program. Since then, use of the space has been incorporated into several courses within UNE's College of Arts and Sciences  and Westbrook College of Health Professions . 

Bassett is an entrepreneur and business leader with more than a decade of experience as a maker and artist. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Wellesley College and a master of science degree in international business from Georgetown University.

Most recently she served as chief program director at the KID Museum in Bethesda, Md.  Before that she served as  the experience designer at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where she led the design of a new visitor experience, an experiential learning space called Q?rius.

“I am so excited to be working with Justine as the director of the P.D. Merrill Makerspace,” said Michael Sheldon, UNE's associate provost for academic affairs. “Her previous experience, creative and collaborative spirit, and exceptional communication skills uniquely position her to operationalize the vision of elevating the Makerspace to a truly university-level resource for students across UNE.”

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