Since 1999, the Island Fellows program has placed more than 100 energetic and driven college and master's degree graduates in Maine's coastal and year-round island communities to work on critical, community-identified projects. Island Fellowships leave indelible marks on both the individual and the community. After their Fellowship, Alumni continue to use the their training and skills throughout their professional career.
Fellows originate from all over the country, but 59 Fellows have chosen to remain in Maine working as health professionals, educators, scientists, community developers, and policy makers. Nine Alumni still live full time on a Maine island.
“My work on Swan’s Island has helped me in my own personal career path, giving me training and experience in archiving, audio technology, educational programming, meeting facilitation, and nonprofit management. I would not have expected a job to be so thoroughly rewarding—not only providing interest, new challenges, and skill development through my work, but also engaging me in an entire community. I know that I have found a new home, and that I have made connections that will endure long after my service.” – Kate Webber, Swan’s Island Fellow
WHAT WE'VE ACHIEVED
- Fellows have worked more than 300,745 hours in 21 Maine island and coastal communities.
- 59 Island Fellows still live and work in Maine, and 34 of those have stayed in Maine's coastal and remote communities.
- The Island Institute started in 1999 by placing two Fellows. In 2015, year 19 of the program, we placed 9 Fellows.
- The Island Institute collaborated with islands in two other states and continues to use the Fellows program as a model for other community development organizations.
- Fellows end-of-year portfolios with place based tools serve as a valuable resource network for incoming Fellows.
- 52 Fellows Alumni have or are in the process of getting advanced degrees.
- From 2004 to 2010, our capital campaign raised over $4.5 million to endow Island Fellow placements.
- The Island Fellows program won a 2014 Shift Sustainability Award
- The Island Fellows program was featured in the 2014 edition of Transforming Communities Through Service: A Collection of the Most Innovative AmeriCorps State and Volunteer Generation Fund Programs in the United States as one of AmeriCorps innovative education programs.
- In 2014, we celebrated our 15th Anniversary!
“We have loved our Fellow’s enthusiasm; his ‘we can get this done’ outlook on life. Another bonus has been his ability to listen – he knows that sometimes silence is what helps the most. With his help we have come so far on things that we have talked about doing for years, yet never seem to find the time to complete.” - Marion Chioffi, Fellows Site Advisor, Monhegan
In Their Own Words: Alumni Profiles
Megan Wibberly Bailey
Island Fellow 2012-2014, Isle au Haut
Megan found the Island Fellows program through her Graduate School professors at the University of Maine, Orono. “I read a blurb on the Island Institute's website that said "islands are like microcosms of the mainland. All the same problems are present, but they're distilled." I liked the sound of that. I thought if I could live and work in a small community I would be able to see what sorts of problems Mainers face and would be able to think about how I wanted to apply my skills throughout my career. I wanted to make my first step purposefully.”
After her Fellowship ended in 2014, Megan came to work for the Island Institute as a Marine Programs Associate. In 2015 she became an Economist for NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. She says, “Living out on Isle au Haut showed me how important marine resources are to coastal states. I had lived near the coast my entire life, gone out on lobster boats with friends of the family and never realized how complex the fisheries management process is. [On Isle au Haut] I saw first-hand the effect of management actions and I decided I wanted to pursue a career in marine resources to help fishermen continue to make a living on the water.”
The intimate understanding of island life and fishing life is essential to her work. “Part of my job is meeting and talking with fishermen. I can tell that I don’t really earn their respect until I casually mention my two years on Isle au Haut.” She says her Fellowship gave her tangible skills, but also helped her hone the skills that can’t be taught: patience, empathy, and passion.
When she moved to Cape Cod in the summer of 2015 residents there kept telling her how hard the winters are in such a seasonal community. “I have to stop myself from laughing. No offense to people on Cape Cod, it does get quiet and I'm sure the winters can be brutal, but even the smallest town on the Cape is a city compared to Isle au Haut! My husband and I go into Boston a few times a month. And while we love spending the day there, when we come back over the bridge onto the Cape I feel a sense of peace. It's much like the feeling I would get hopping onto the boat and going back to the island after a few days away.” Though she misses so many things about the life and community on Isle au Haut, she says she has made lifelong connections there that she isn’t going to let go any time soon. “Just yesterday I got a card in the mail from one of the young students I met out there. She wrote, “To my Best Friend: When do you think you’ll come and visit?”