Welcome! I’m Holly Parker, Director of UNE North at the University of New England.

Our blog is meant to be a place of genuine dialogue – where we can share our ideas, inspirations and actions toward building resilient communities, healthy environments and thriving economies here in Maine and throughout the North Atlantic.

Why do we do this challenging work?
How do we build successful partnerships that propel us forward together? What can we learn from each other as leaders for a more sustainable future?

I want to tackle the third question first.

Despite the voyeuristic quality of video conferencing into a colleague’s home office, I cannot help but feel the distance. Yes, I can see your personal library proudly displayed behind you. And yes, you can see UNE North’s furry interns Clementine and Sally who have quickly learned the art of the feline Zoom bomb. Yet, distance still looms large.

I met Dr. David Heaney on Zoom in the first month of the Covid lockdown,
and somehow, from his couch in his home in Ullapool, Scotland, David Heaney erased that distance.

I originally connected with David to discuss his participation in a breakout session for the Arctic Circle Assembly. David had been referred to me as an internationally recognized expert in rural health throughout the Northern Periphery. When I presented the session concept – Digital Health in the Rural North – he agreed without hesitation. He had “known” me for 20 minutes.

I would like to think that I am just that persuasive. The reality is that David exuded a curiosity and passion that made saying “yes” easy. Our “business” out of the way, our conversation continued. I went through three cups of coffee – our dialogue ranging from shared economic challenges across the Scottish highlands and rural Maine, to demographic similarities between our regions, to Covid-19 policy responses, to mild football hooliganism. Before we signed off, he had asked me to consider a role for UNE North in a Covid-19 response project he was developing for the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme of the EU. How could I say no?

Many conversations followed. Plans were hatched. Coffee consumed. Stories shared. I met the growing Covid 19 project team. David was a magnetic leader who attracted the curious, the passionate and the empathetic. Too often in research spaces ego can get in the way of deep partnerships. Not so on David’s team. Economists, public health experts, public policy scholars, and clinicians flocked to the project from Finland, Denmark, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Canada. The Basecamp platform he set up to build the team buzzed with the exchange of data, questions and ideas. Despite lockdown and the physical distance, we all felt a deep connection to the work through his leadership.

David Heaney passed away suddenly on July 16th. There was no doubt that the work should continue, but we understandably floundered. What we have discovered since his passing is that David built a deeply resilient team. We all came to the project due in large part to his leadership. But David attracted those like him – those driven by passion and curiosity, who saw the world as something to explore and understand together. We got back to work.

The NP-A Covid 19 Response Project now has five active thematic projects examining the clinical, technological, economic, social and community impacts and responses throughout the vast NP-A region. The CORE Project, of which UNE North is an Associate Partner, will collate the projects’ findings into a single report that will not only share key findings, but make policy and research recommendations to move our collaborations forward. This is the important interdisciplinary and transnational work David envisioned. But to me, as a leader, even more vital, is the example David set in building the team to realize that vision. And that is an example I intend to follow.

Who are the leaders that inspire you? How has their leadership practice impacted yours? And how can we continue to learn from each other not just in what we do, but in how we do it?

We welcome you to submit your own thoughts via comment below or in a blog post of your own. Contact Jane Page at to join the conversation. Onward!