Southern Maine Technical College (SMTC) is a two-year institution offering over thirty career-oriented programs. Now in its fifty-first year, SMTC is Maine’s oldest and largest technical college. Fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the school has approximately 1,600 full or part-time students, with an additional 700 students attending non-credit courses.
SMTC is applying its MATE partnership to develop and implement an aquaculture technology program, which will create skilled technicians to serve the burgeoning aquaculture industry in the Northeast. It’s an area in which SMTC students have shown a strong interest.
The Aquaculture Program
The college’s new curriculum will include the addition of aquaculture units into some of SMTC’s existing Applied Marine Biology and Oceanography courses, plus the development of one or two new courses in Aquaculture Technology. “Currently we’re developing units in invertebrate zoology, marine botany, and fishery science,” explains Marine Science Professor Chuck Gregory. “These are being field-tested by senior students now, and are due for completion this summer.” Additionally, Gregory is developing an aquaculture technology course that SMTC hopes to offer as early as the spring of 2000.
"Currently we’re developing units in invertebrate zoology, marine botany, and fishery science"
SMTC intends to augment this new coursework with laboratory and internship experiences for students and faculty. “Our internships are an essential part of the curriculum,” Gregory emphasizes. “We’re constantly working with industry to secure good positions.”
SMTC and the Local Community
SMTC’s nascent aquaculture program enjoys an excellent collaborative relationship with the local business and technology communities. As mentioned above, the college has worked with industry for years to ensure good internships. Additionally, business and technology community leaders have played key roles in recent workshops and as members of a new aquaculture advisory committee.
“We have put a lot of effort into outreach, particularly last summer and fall, when we organized MATE’s first skills workshop for aquaculture technicians,” explains Gregory. (See p. __ for details on the workshop.) Seven industry members spent an afternoon brainstorming about the general competency areas of aquaculture and the specific skills within those areas. “I prefaced my request for their participation by pointing out that it would be better if industry wrote the curriculum, rather than a bunch of academics,” explains Gregory, smiling. “I think they liked that idea.”
Another way in which SMTC’s aquaculture program is working with the business and technology communities is through the program’s newly-established advisory committee. The group met for the first time in June, and a second meeting is planned for August.
The June meeting was organizational. “We brought them up to date on what we have and where we’re going, and asked their opinion on how to get there,” explains Gregory. The aquaculture community includes educators, growers, restaurateurs, municipal and state officials, suppliers, and others; their collective wisdom can be an important asset to this new program. The August meeting is expected to focus more on the specifics of implementation.
"We’re constantly working with industry to secure good positions"
SMTC as a MATE Partner
SMTC was one of the original schools to help develop and submit the national MATE grant to the National Science Foundation. Bob Goode, the Marine Science Department Chair, Assistant to the Academic Dean, and Assistant to the Vice President, was instrumental in getting the campus involved with MATE. “He heard about MATE and knew it was a good thing,” says Gregory.
“We envisioned MATE as providing us with several opportunities to enhance our marine science program: networking, financial opportunities, and student recruitment,” explains Gregory. “We were looking at redirecting our program towards aquaculture, believing it has great potential, so we were glad to discover that MATE had the same vision.”
Likewise, the MATE Center and its partners benefit from their relationship with SMTC. These benefits include involvement from the Northeast, the development and implementation of a state-of-the-art aquaculture curriculum, and a network partner whom they can call on for information and advice.
Gregory sees the future of marine technology being more formalized and focused, and he credits the MATE Center for that. “In the past it’s been rather fragmented and erratic, lacking goals and objectives,” he explains. “MATE is giving the field more formal direction – not only in the area of aquaculture but in all partners’ areas.” He also sees it coming more into the limelight. “Because marine technology was fragmented, it was difficult to promote in a concerted effort – we just spoke of one area, such as aquaculture or ROVs. Now, MATE gives marine technology more of an umbrella. I see the need for marine technicians growing in leaps and bounds in all fields, and it’s great to be in on the ground floor of that growth.”
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