Eliot Cutler to lead new professional and graduate center for University of Maine System

Former independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler will lead a new center designed to boost enrollment and strengthen graduate and professional programs in the University of Maine System.

Cutler has been named CEO of the seven-school system's Professional and Graduate Center Initiative, Chancellor James Page said Wednesday. The goal of the new center, which is still being developed, is to allow for collaboration between business and law programs across the system, officials said.

Cutler will be tasked with planning and completing the initiative's development and building public and private partnerships. His term will last until Sept. 30, 2016, and he will receive a $195,000 salary funded entirely by Harold Alfond Foundation, officials said.

Cutler said he hopes to remain with the initiative beyond the initial term. He said the initiative is "all about Maine and enabling Maine to compete better in the world." The initiative will seek to better relate the education the university system provides with Maine's economic needs, he said.

"It's an exciting opportunity in Maine to do something no one else has done. That is going to be better for students, better and more exciting for faculties and make a huge contribution to Maine's economy," he said.

Cutler is a lawyer who served as an adviser on energy policy to President Jimmy Carter. He lost to Republican Gov. Paul LePage in three-person races in 2010 and 2014.