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Updated: August 9, 2021 Women to Watch

Women to Watch: At Husson University, Marie Hansen is training students for jobs of the future

Fred Field “Having a strong understanding of technology is becoming an essential skill for all students,” said Marie Hansen, dean of Husson’s College of Business

Spearheading plans for a new College of Business building at Bangor’s Husson University, Marie Hansen had a vision.

The dean of the College of Business and of the New England School of Communications sought to create a space that would facilitate synergy between students, faculty, business and technology.

“Synergy” sums up Hansen’s mantra. Arriving at Husson in 2003 with extensive educational and legal experience, the Bangor native leads educational partnerships between companies and Husson, recruits local leaders to share insights, donates expertise to the community, assists the professional development of fellow employees, promotes new and existing degrees for an educated workforce, and works with high schools to form business programs with Husson.

The $17.5 million College of Business building, opening in August, is a pivotal moment. Housing the schools of accounting; business and management; hospitality; sport and tourism management; legal studies; and technology and innovation, the centerpiece will be the new iEX (interactive experience) Center and the creation of a new XR (extended reality) degree program, using cutting-edge resources designed for real-world problem-solving in a fast-growing field.

The goal? Enhance regional economic development by training students for jobs of the future.

Mainebiz: Collaboration is important to you. Why?

Marie Hansen: I work with students, but I also work with faculty and other professionals to grow their strengths, their scholarship, their interactions. I have the opportunity to reach out to businesses and look at how to make Maine a strong economic environment and how to help businesses grow. My method for doing that is to use the strengths of everyone on my team to deliver leadership and training to business.

MB: How do you develop partnerships?

MH: One example is Jackson Laboratory. They’re a long-time partner. We went to them and developed customized education and degree programs. We have interns from our student population go there, which helps their recruitment. That partnership evolves with their needs.

MB: You seem like a natural convener of people. Do you view yourself that way?

MH: I do. That’s what I enjoy most — bringing different players to the table and asking queisotns.

MB: What’s the latest question you and your team are exploring?

MH: We’re launching the iEX center. Our students will be able to create virtual reality simulations that help solve problems. For example, students studying criminal justice can create a mock crime scene in a simulated environment.

MB: How does this capability help the larger community?

MH: We’ll be looking for problems from the community that our students can get involved in. For example, we can create a simulation that trains people in customer service. We want our students to learn skills that are practical and that they are prepared to take into the workforce. And we want the community and employers to come to us for help if they need it.

MB: How unusual is virtual reality capability as an academic tool?

MH: This virtual reality set-up is definitely unique for New England. Other places teach virtual reality, but often through film schools or IT programs. The uniqueness for us is the fact that students are creating solutions, as opposed to just operating the equipment. They’re not just using a program that someone else wrote; they can write the program. This can be important for a variety of careers.

MB: How did it become apparent to you that Husson and the community would benefit from this type of facility?

MH: It’s important to be on the cutting edge of technology and really prepare our students for the jobs that don’t yet exist. Twelve years ago, social media marketing wasn’t a job. Five year ago, drone operator was not a job. UX, or user experience, was not a job: Today, it’s one of the top tech jobs. What guides us is, “Where are people going?” For me, that’s the fun. What’s out there? Where can this take us?

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