Maine needs graduate programs that draw people here, programs that challenge our minds and programs that promote Maine’s identity and regional significance.

In the University of Southern Maine’s American and New England Studies program, the state has all of these things. This is not something the state can afford to throw away.

As a graduate of University of Delaware, one of the country’s most distinguished museum studies programs, I was thrilled to learn that I could continue my education in Maine.

There are many graduate programs in my area of study in other states, and I was open to these other opportunities, but because of the strong faculty in American and New England Studies and its location in Portland, I stayed and thrived in the program.

In both the education and policymaking community in Maine, there is ongoing talk of the state’s “brain drain.” Young people leave because there are not enough opportunities here. The American and New England Studies program addresses that problem. Without the program, I would not have stayed in Maine.

Removal of American and New England Studies would dismantle years of work that have added to USM’s stature as a university that offers graduate work and fosters lifelong learning. The program offers a reason for ambitious thinkers to come to Maine and, in my case, to stay in Maine and raise a family here.

I’m currently working with a nonprofit that plans to open a museum of the First Amendment at the Gannett House in Augusta. This project and others of its kind rely upon a well-educated workforce.

Losing American and New England Studies will be devastating not only to the program’s faculty, students and alumni, but more broadly to the state’s identity and ability to maintain the highly educated workforce that must exist to meet Maine’s needs in the 21st century.

Rebecca Lazure

master of arts in American and New England Studies, 2009

Monmouth