New director to expand college access for Oxford Hills residents

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NEW DIRECTOR — Jim Bradley, the new director of the University College Center at Norway and Paris, began setting up his office last week as he takes over the leadership role.

PARIS — Newly appointed University Center Director Jim Bradley says he wants to expand local access to higher education to residents in the Oxford Hills.

“Today’s students are trying to balance family and work commitments, have transportation and time challenges, and need additional student support services. Being able to attend classes locally and/or online provides the flexibility that is needed for these students to earn college degrees,” Bradley told the Advertiser Democrat. “Without this local access, higher education would be out of reach for a large portion of the residents of Maine.”

Bradley was recently promoted to director of University College at Norway/South Paris and at Rumford. As an employee of the University of Maine System for nearly 20 years, first as staff associate for Teacher Education and Student Success at USM-L/A, then as the student services coordinator at University College at Norway/South Paris and as assistant director of University College at Rumford, Bradley brings a wealth of experience to the University College.

The Center is located on Route 26 in Paris on the first floor of the Oxford Hills School District administration offices near the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

Bradley, who earned a master’s degree in adult and higher education from the University of Southern Maine and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine Augusta in liberal studies with minors in human resource management, business administration, and history, replaces Lisa Cooper.

“My role as director, in addition to also providing academic advising, is to help facilitate these experiences in such a way that we ensure that students have – and are also taking advantage of – those opportunities,” he said. “I’m regularly engaging with admissions, advising, faculty, and administration within the University of Maine System to advocate for the needs of our students locally.”

Bradley said the Center is focused on providing local access to quality higher education and engaged learning opportunities.

“This means that we want to ensure that the learning experiences students have at our Center are the same as if they attended the main campus,” he explained. “So faculty engagement, learning support services, internship opportunities, peer support, career development, and networking opportunities are all part of the ‘big picture’ at UC South Paris.”

Bradley said he hopes to build on the “great work” of his predecessor in strengthening community partnerships.

“A primary focus in this area is helping local businesses and organizations not only be aware of University College and what we do, but also to help them realize what a tremendous resource we can be for their organizations. For instance, providing local internship opportunities is very important for our students, but it is also extremely beneficial for the hosting organization,” he said.

Another focus, he said, is the University College’s continuing work with adult education departments in the Oxford Hills.

Bradley said University College is currently working to gain approval for area College Transitions (CT) programs to count for college credit.

“Strengthening our partnerships with Adult Education and finding innovative ways to get more community members to take advantage of CT programs will benefit the community, Adult Education, and University College,” he said.

Online education is a tool geared toward students who are academically prepared, self-disciplined and have the technology needed such as high-speed internet, he said.

“The majority of nontraditional adult students struggle in all three areas. Technology and internet access is a particular challenge in the Oxford Hills area. Classes held at the Center have proven time and again to result in higher levels of student success,” Bradley said.

“This is especially true for new students. Attending classes in person and being able to engage with other students and faculty in real time provides the highest quality engaged learning experiences.

“Distance education, whether through the centers and sites spread out across the state or through online education, is critical to the success of the University of Maine System,” he continued.

“Today’s students are trying to balance family and work commitments, have transportation and time challenges, and need additional student support services. Being able to attend classes locally and/or online provides the flexibility that is needed for these students to earn college degrees. Without this local access, higher education would be out of reach for a large portion of the residents of Maine.”

There are currently eight local centers across Maine, University College including the ones in Paris and Rumford that provide students access to more than 100 certificate and degree programs from the University of Maine System. Students access the resources of campuses while studying online, at their local Center, or pursuing a mix of online and traditional classroom instruction while staying close to home.

Bradley said the Paris Center has a computer lab where a student can virtually complete a degree both through live courses at the Center and online in the computer lab.

To contact Bradley for more information, call University College at Norway/South Paris at 207-743-9322 or email him at james.bradley@maine.edu.

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