Over a dozen members of the UNE community gathered at Freddy Beach to take the Polar Plunge on Friday, March 22. Ccourtesy photo

BIDDEFORD — On a blustery day in late March, with the wind chill hovering around just 21
degrees, a group of students, faculty and professional staff from the University of New England
braved the cold waters of the Saco River to celebrate a successful 2024 Giving Day, which raised
over $180,000 to support students and research at Maine’s largest private university.

Held on Friday, March 22, this was the fourth Polar Plunge to honor the University’s Giving Day
donors, led by Jonathan Millen, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Funds raised during Giving Day will also support UNE’s Doing Our Part fundraising campaign,
which aims to empower students to make change in their world through advances in health care
education, promotion of scientific research, the creation of new academic programs, and access
to education.

UNE is making strategic, student-centric investments in programs and infrastructure to provide
an unmatched educational experience.

That includes the new Harold and Bibby Alfond Center for Health Sciences, which will house
the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine; the establishment of new, high-demand
undergraduate and graduate programs and majors; expanded scientific research capacity; and
increased scholarships and financial aid for students.

These investments will allow UNE graduates to embark on valuable careers and lives that make
the world a better place — graduates like Sophia Tearman, who is studying the viability of
growing protein-rich sea lettuce in Maine waters for the first time.


“Aquaculture is important because we’re running out of land space to farm. We need to turn
toward the ocean if we want to be able to sustainably keep growing enough food to feed our
growing population,” she said, adding that campaign funding will allow her to create a more
sustainable food source.

The campaign will also allow for the creation of New England’s first interprofessional health
care education hub at UNE’s newly renamed Portland Campus for the Health Sciences, clearing
the way for an enhanced number of health care professionals to care for the state’s changing and underserved populations.

That means students like Olivia McPherson will be able to work as physician assistants in rural,
underserved communities across Maine, just like the one where she grew up.

“I think being able to train in Maine to take care of people from Maine sets me up for what I
want to do in my career,” she said

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