The decision by the University of Southern Maine to eliminate the American and New England Studies program fails to take into account the true cost and benefits of the program, and impact that the students and graduates have had. The ANES program grew out of a strong, community-voiced need for a well-educated workforce in the humanities. It is probably the most “metropolitan” of all programs at USM – closely connected with local schools, non-profits, historical societies and museums – giving its students real-life learning experiences and boosting the region’s economy and quality of life. Since 1987, the ANES program has trained participants for jobs in the educational, creative and tourism economies of southern Maine.
Graduates of the ANES program teach middle and high school students. They play important roles in the heritage and museum segment of our region’s economy. It would be difficult for anyone to find a local historical society, art museum or heritage site that has not employed or been influenced in some way by ANES: its interns, researchers and graduates contribute to this important segment of southern Maine’s economy. A 2002 study of the tourism market in Maine found that tourists consider historical sites and museums to be an important part of Maine’s lure and important to their visits to Maine. In a region where tourism is a vital industry, directly and indirectly generating over $8.8 billion in statewide revenues and supporting thousands of jobs, to remove the only training program in the region for these heritage workers seems foolish, if not unfathomable.
Mary Drymon DeRose