EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The University of Maine System Board of Trustees unanimously approved the first step in a multi-year plan for the creation of the Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies Sunday.

"I think you're going to see a greater collaboration within the system to deliver on our statewide mission of a one university,” board chair Samuel Collins said.

The board met at the Katahdin Region Higher Education Center in East Millinocket where they discussed the risk of such a large project, one that would eventually lead to the construction of a facility in Portland. The center would bring together graduate programs in law, business and policy.

"On a big initiative like this, we have to make sure that even though the centerpiece may be in Portland — the way we're discussing it right now — that the services being provided have to be for business communities and students all through the state,” Chancellor James Page said.

One former UMaine student and Calais resident had concerns about what it would mean for the northern part of the state.

"It seems to me that a better way to address the faltering rural economy would be to build a center in rural northern Maine to begin with,” Melody Green said.

Board members said it is part of a mission to bring university resources together across the state, to produce strong and talented individuals for Maine's workforce and communities.

"It is not all just about the building," Collins said. "It is about laying the groundwork, laying the instruction and laying the technology down which is part of the initial investment so that we can deliver on a statewide promise."

The first stage of the plan will work to lay that groundwork over at least the next two years. In that time, work will be done to improve curriculum, enhance technology and raise funds.

Fifteen million dollars, in the form of grants and foundation support, will be necessary to complete the requirements on the first phase.

"I don't see in the beginning stages as being very risky,” Collins said, joining many on the board who were comforted by the careful layout of stages for the plan.

Once the first step is complete, the board in conjunction with a nu will seek to move forward with the construction of the facility to house the program.

"We as one university have to serve the entire state,” Page said.

The total cost is estimated to be about $150 million.