BIDDEFORD — Late last week, the University of New England deepened its partnership with two Icelandic universities, signing an agreement with the University of Akureyri and Holar University College at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The agreement details how UNE’s new professional science master’s degree program in Ocean Food Systems will align and collaborate with the Icelandic universities’ master’s in sustainable production and use of marine bio-resources. The partnership will create a unique, international learning environment for students enrolled in both Maine and Iceland.

“UNE, the University of Akureyri and Holar University College are already working toward the shared goal of educating the next generation of leaders in sustainability, and I am incredibly excited to work even more closely with these institutions to give our students a global educational experience,” said UNE President James Herbert, who signed the agreement.

TRAINING SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS

UNE’s professional science master’s program in Ocean Food Systems is the inaugural program of UNE NORTH, The Institute for North Atlantic Studies.

Students will examine the entire value chain of ocean foods in fisheries and aquaculture and their interactions with marine businesses, governance, law, seafood trade and production, management and policy. The program’s goal is to train the next generation of sustainability-minded leaders who will pioneer the sustainable development of North Atlantic/Arctic “farm to fork” and “port to plate” ocean food systems.

The new agreement allows students in UNE’s program to work directly with Icelandic faculty, build international teams with students enrolled in counterpart programs and develop the global competencies needed to be leaders in sustainable food systems.

VISITING PARTNER UNIVERSITIES

In addition, UNE students will travel to Iceland to develop a deeper understanding of the common issues facing our fishing and aquaculture industries and use global classroom technology to engage in lectures and classes at Akureyri and Holar. Icelandic students will visit Maine and engage with UNE faculty in a similar manner.

“After receiving this (professional science) degree, our students will be prepared to not only be internationally capable employees, but also entrepreneurs who can compete on a global stage,” said Barry Costa-Pierce, executive director of UNE NORTH.

In 2016, UNE and the University of Akureyri and Holar University College signed an agreement to develop undergraduate exchange and travel courses. That agreement has allowed several UNE students to spend a semester in Akureyri, immersing themselves in northern Iceland’s unique culture and developing crucial global competency skills.

“Integrated education and cultural experience facilitate global awareness, and we are proud to partner with the University of New England and University of Akureyri in a program on the pressing topic of sustainability, with the focus on aquaculture,” said Erla Björk Örnólfsdóttir, rector of Holar University College.

Other Icelandic educators agreed with that assessment.

“We are very interested in making the University of Akureyri a global center of excellence in education and research in the management and sustainable development of ocean resources,” stated Eyjólfur Guðmundsson, rector of the University of Akureyri. “We are excited to partner with the University of New England and Holar University College on this new international master’s program.”

The Henry L. & Grace Doherty Foundation is also a key partner in the professional science master’s in Ocean Food Systems, committing $400,000 to support students enrolled in the program’s first three cohorts.

“With the generous support of the Henry L. & Grace Doherty Foundation, UNE will be able to jump-start the financial support of the best students from throughout the USA who will be trained in all aspects of modern seafood systems and be able to form lifelong friendships and partnerships with Icelandic students and scholars,” said Costa-Pierce.

UNE’s professional science master’s in Ocean Food Systems is currently accepting applications for its first cohort, which will enroll in the summer of 2019.