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New changes to take place in advising

Mon, 2015-09-14 13:18

By Thomas Fitzgerald

Advising is something that is crucial to the experience of every student’s education, but is every student informed about changes that have been made to the advising process?

Students who are currently enrolled are being assigned a multitude of advisors as they make progress toward graduation. It is important to be able to distinguish the differences they have in order to help you succeed.

Dr. Dan Panici, an associate professor of the communication and media department, outlined the distinct difference that advisors play within a student’s academic career.

Under his role as an Academic advisor, he focuses on both the scheduling of students and other inquiries that students may have within a semester.

“Advising is a component of teaching,” stressed Panici. “Faculty advisors need to focus on being more consistent in order to generate a more transparent advising process. Teaching, scholarships, and services are the three main components of employment for professors, and advising falls into the service component.”

Although not all staff members may specialize in advising, it is still part of their employment that should be fulfilled as passionately and thoroughly as their teaching.

To improve the quality of advising among different departments, there has been an advising committee established at USM where an appointed advisor from each department will meet in order to discuss opinions and changes that have been put in place.

“When we move student services to the first floor of Luther Bonney, it will become sort of a one stop shop for students, where they can get all the help and support they may need in one place,” Said USM President Glen Cummings, who believes providing proper advising for students it an important goal to reach.

Although faculty has been working hard to make advising something more comfortable and accessible for students, there is still a major role that students should also have before meeting an advisor.

“Come in with questions, and actively listen during meetings,” says Panici. “I have to know what students need when they schedule an appointment with me, so students should also ask themselves ‘What do I need to know?’ before coming in.”

One of the more important aspects of  advisors is to keep students on track with adding classes that are relative to their degree. With what seems to be strict options for classes that complete what is needed for a particular degree, students may feel obligated to take what they can in order to obtain their degree. Panici stated that many students may not realize there are alternative options that can be taken just in case the cluster is not formidable to their academic needs.

“If a student looks through the pre-assigned option of clusters, and does not see something that is of interest, they can instead complete three courses of the two-hundred level that are not related to their field of study,” said Panici. “If that is still not satisfactory, any student in pursuit of a minor or a second major can qualify with that.”

All of these alternatives to the thematic cluster offer students a variety of choices on how to pursue the future of their academic career based on what their standing is.

“Building a personal relationship with students is very important to the process,” continued Panici “because if they meet with me and are uncertain about what they want to gain from our meeting, it can be difficult.”

Students who feel uninformed about the process of advising are highly recommended to make an appointment with their faculty advisor, and to discuss the options that are best fit for their academic career.

If students are finding that they are struggling with the advising process, and the potential changes that have been made to their program, there are many different tips offered from surveyed academic advisors that USM has made available through their website.

Student enrollment down -6.8 percent since last fall

Mon, 2015-09-14 13:17

By Zachary Searles/News Editor

Enrollment has been down at USM over the past few years with a 13 percent drop since 2010. Last fall, there were 8,428 students that enrolled at USM, which is a 5.5 percent drop from the year before, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

This past July, it looked like USM would be following the same trend with enrollment being down around 13 percent from what was anticipated when creating the budget for the upcoming school year.

USM isn’t the only university that has been hurt by enrollment numbers. According to the Education Advisory Board, 59 percent of public universities in the nation missed their enrollment target for the 2013-2014 school year.

Christopher Quint, Executive director of Public Affairs, and President Glenn Cummings, explained that enrollment has been seeing an uptick since July. The numbers are still down, but now they are only down 6.5 percent from the original projections.

Quint did point out that those numbers are based on snapshots in time and no final numbers will be in until the middle of October, so he does expect them to change.

Since enrollment is still down though, USM is looking at a $2.5 million dollar shortfall in the budget that will have to be accounted for somehow.

Buster Neel, USM Chief Financial Officer, said in an interview with the Portland Press Herald that USM won’t have to cut anymore programs in order to fill the gap.

Instead, USM will dip into some of its savings and delay facility upgrades to make up the shortfall.

According to the Portland Press Herald, President Cummings said that his first priority is to rebuild trust with students and faculty following the cuts that had already been made.

Last year, USM launched an ad campaign to help combat these low enrollment numbers, but Quint said that they can’t know for sure if the campaign has any direct correlation between the rise in enrollment from down 13 percent to down just 6.5 percent.

But Quint believes that the campaign did achieve some other things, “What that ad campaign did that is hard to measure, but that we know, both on anecdotal and we know from metrics that we see from online marketing, is that it increased the awareness in a positive way about USM.”

The ad campaign was financed through savings in the budget that resulted from cuts in faculty and staff retrenchments last fall. These cuts are apart of the 51 faculty positions and five academic programs that have been cut in the past year.

The point of the campaign was to showcase that USM had $1 million dollars in scholarships to give out. The money was disbursed amongst transfer students, new students and students who were already at USM.

“Our first priority was to meet the needs of students who were potentially having trouble covering the cost of the university,” said Quint.

This scholarship money included half of President Flanagan’s salary that he donated, but Quint pointed out that there were many others that gave donations and some of them were around the same size as Flanagan’s.

“Donors will give a lot to scholarships because that is the most impactful for students. If we can increase our scholarship money, then we’re going to reduce the cost for students,” Quint said.

Reducing the cost for students has been on USM’s radar the past few years, becoming the only school in the country to freeze their tuition for five straight years. This is especially critical now that we live in a time where student loan debt has eclipsed $1 trillion dollars and affects 40 million people in the United States alone, according to CNN.

“No other university system has done that,” Quint said, “That’s a distinction that we have. We can go out there and say with confidence that we, and USM specifically, are one of the most affordable and accessible university in this region.”

USM has also focused on making it affordable for not just in-state students, but out-of-state students as well. According to Quint, an out-of-state student could come to USM, live on campus and see a bill that’s under $20 thousand before financial aid is even factored in.

“It’s important that we, as a public university, remain affordable and accessible to students,” said Quint.

It is still too early to tell if tuition will be frozen for a sixth straight year. Some of the factors that could force USM to raise tuition is the cost of goods and services, enrollment numbers, and staff and faculty contracts, which are still in negotiation as of now.

According to the Portland Press Herald, a survey showed that students at USM felt “lost” and President Cummings wants to add services to make it possible for students, but particularly freshman and sophomores, to feel more engaged in the USM community.

On August 31, the first day classes resumed, the dining services in Gorham served over 2,000 meals, which is the most that USM has ever done in one day. Quint believes that this shows that students are more engaged, so maybe things are looking up for USM.

Quint also anticipates that by the time the final enrollment numbers are in on October 15, capacity for the dorms should be close to 100 percent full, if not completely filled.

“We still have a lot more work to do and a long ways to go, but it’s a good indication early on that changes are happening and they’re positive for the overall university,” said Quint.

In Brief: Your weekly news briefing over local news in Portland

Mon, 2015-09-14 13:16

Maine universities committed to increasing local food on campus

The University of Maine System announced last Monday that it has committed to purchasing 20 percent of food served on its campuses from local producers within the next five years.

The system has released a request for proposals, seeking a company to supply dining hall and other food services at six of the system’s seven campuses.

The request for company  proposals notes that the provider should be able to ensure at least 15 percent of the food be locally purchased in the first year of the contract, increasing by 1 percentage point annually to reach 20 percent by 2020.

That 20 percent equates to about $1.7 million in local food purchases, according to the system, which spends about $8.6 million per year feeding students and staff.

Food is considered local if it is harvested or produced within 175 miles of the campus at which it is served. However, a food provider that does business with any campus may sell food to any of the other seven campuses, according to the system. That definition was developed through discussions with Maine farmers and surveys of 2,500 dining hall customers, according to the system.

“Local food production is part of Maine’s legacy and could be even more important to our state’s future,” UMS board Chairman Sam Collins said to the Bangor Daily News on Monday. “The farmers, fishermen, producers and processors that bring sustainable, local food to our tables are a top priority for university research and spending.”


People gather for overdose victims as Maine death toll increases

People around the state are talking about drug abuse and the increasing number who have died from drug overdoses.

A vigil was organized last Monday, Aug, 31 in Monument Square. Organizers said that previous years had been focused on raising awareness, but that the tone had changed this time around.

“This year it’s much more of a somber mood,” said Brittney Dunham, an organizer with the volunteer-based group  I AM HERE Outreach Team, which focuses on overdose prevention and community education.

USM mourns the loss of Professor John Broida

Mon, 2015-09-14 13:15

By Thomas Fitzgerald, News Intern

The USM community has lost a long time hard working professor with the passing with Dr. John Broida on September 6, 2015.

As an associate professor of psychology, Broida had many achievements here at USM, most notably starting a foundation of technology in the classroom with the introduction of online quizzing in 1995. His plans for improvement to online technology was an asset to help students better prepare themselves for class, as they were required to complete multiple choice questions about upcoming lectures online before attending class.

His dedication as a professor, mentor, and family man were all brought to recognition at the celebration of his life last Saturday at the Wishcamper center where students, peers, and family members gathered to honor his life.

“Having class with Dr. Broida was always a pleasure. Being able to use the technology that he has worked hard to develop shows his true passion for us as students,” said former USM student Erica Brown at his memorial on Saturday. “Whenever I handed in an assignment I knew I would get great feedback in return, which made me a better student.”

“Our hearts and prayers go out to his family, friends, colleagues and students during this difficult time,” was the official statement of the USM president, Glenn Cummings, to the campus community

Although his success in education is very admirable, it was the charming nature of his personality that stood out to many. He had a unique way of humor that helped students feel more comfortable in class.

“He had an interesting way about his humor, and it was not always easy to understand at first. Once you got to know professor Broida you could not help but love his charm, and care for every student in the classroom,” stated Brown

Professor of geography, Lydia Savage, had nothing but inspirational words to say about Broida, stressing how much hard work he put into the protests of budgeting cuts at USM. The most notable of times being a silent protest, where he and others stood with signs as a plan of intimidation while University committee members .

“Members of the University committee were forced to walk through a line of signs to the point where one member looked back and said ‘Do I really have to walk through this?’ And it was so powerful to me because nobody in the protest group was even saying anything.”

Students evacuated after fire in Robie-Andrews

Mon, 2015-09-14 13:15

Last Wednesday, a small fire broke out in Robie-Andrews Residence Hall on the Gorham Campus. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and students were evacuated immediately and allowed back in the building once the situation was assessed to be under control.

With approximately 200 students in the Residence Hall, everyone was able to get out quickly and efficiently, leading to no known injuries. The cause of the fire was determined to have started in a dorm room on the second floor of the building, when senior visual arts major Katie Hubbard’s fan caught fire and left charred black soot covering her room.

“We don’t really know what happened, but I do know I woke up to the sound of an electrical crack,” said Hubbard. “I looked around my room and nothing seemed wrong, but a second later I heard another crack and saw flames engulfing the back of my fan. It was simply a random fire that could happen to anyone.”

According to Hubbard, a firefighter said the fire was caused when something failed mechanically within the fan, but didn’t investigate further because it was melted beyond repair.

“Initially the fire seemed small enough that I could handle the situation and then tell someone,” said Hubbard. “After I picked it up and moved it away from anything flammable, I grabbed a towel and tried to smother the flames. When I realized the fire wasn’t going to go out. I ran and got an RA and tried to alert people.”

Once notified, an alarm went off in Hubbard’s unit of the building and two minutes later the entire building was echoing an alarm. Students rushed outside seeking safety, curious to know what was going on.

Matthew Macdonald, a senior art major, had woken up earlier than normal that morning. As he laid in his bed thinking he had more time to sleep, the building alarm began screeching. After the chaos of evacuating, he realized his friend, Hubbard, had been in the dorm room that caught fire.

“When we were outside, I saw her standing there with worried expression on her face. She told me what happened and how random the event was,” said Macdonald. “I was surprised that it was something that would happen to someone I know, but I’m glad to hear everyone is okay.”

Tourism program takes learning outside the classroom

Mon, 2015-09-14 13:14

By Erica Jones/Contributor

Learning in an environment outside the classroom can be a rewarding experience. Through hands-on practice and observation, many students find that their time in programs such as internships and off-site trips supply valuable knowledge that common college course formats, such as online or in a classroom, cannot offer.

Last May, eighteen students in the Tourism and Hospitality program hosted a cruise to Bermuda. The cruise was a collaborative effort between USM, AAA of Northern New England, and Holland America.

As reported in the Portland Press Herald, the trip was primarily funded by private donations, which allowed students to pay less to embark on the trip. The program was envisioned and headed by the Chair of the Tourism and Hospitality department, Tracy Michaud Stutzman.

The itinerary for the cruise’s four-day stay in Bermuda was selected by interns in the Tourism and Hospitality program, a driven group of students that included USM seniors Jenna Rossnagel and Haylee Munson, who interned with AAA last spring.

“Opportunities like the internship with AAA and the cruise class allowed me to fuel my passion for the tourism industry,” said Munson.

Michaud-Stutzman commented that the cruise allowed students to “apply their knowledge and have an unprecedented learning experience in the ‘real world.’

Last month, USM, Holland America, and AAA of Northern New England hosted a fundraiser luncheon that’s success ensured the cruise program’s continuity for at least one more year, according to the Portland Press Herald.

“This year we are working more closely with locals on Bermuda to create an even more engaged itinerary of the Island,” Michaud-Stutzman explained.

“Also, we really hope to have more than just Tourism and Hospitality students taking the class,” said Michaud-Stutzman.

Students interested in broadening their horizons through travel and incomparable experience should apply for an internship position with AAA or sign up for the class, TAH (Tourism and Hospitality) 307. This year’s cruise departs from Boston on May 21, 2016.

“Being part of this program exposed us to several aspects of the Tourism and Hospitality industry that we can further pursue in the state of Maine,” said Rossnagel on the success of the cruise, “whether that is through a local company or starting our very own company in the future.”

And with Maine being the popular tourist destination that it is, the stability and future of the state’s economy–particularly Portland’s economy–rests in the hands of talented young people like these students.

“Students who travel outside Maine can bring back new ideas and innovation,” said Michaud-Stutzman. “This perspective will benefit Maine and Portland as these students contribute to growing and managing tourism here so that we retain what makes this place so attractive in the first place.”