By Katie Harris, Free Press staff
The campus buses that travel daily between Portland and Gorham may not be in service after the beginning of 2018, according to university officials. In two years’ time, the university plans to switch to the Portland METRO bus system in order to transport students between the two campus locations.
Buster Neel, Interim Chief Business Officer, explained that he has spoken with officials from the city of Portland, as well as conversed with Greater Portland Metro (METRO) regarding the possibility of METRO provide transportation between the two campuses. Though they are still in negotiation, the university is soon to determine if and when the new plan will go into effect.
“We have been approached by the city and they have been trying to work with USM and METRO for a while now,” Neel stated. He continued by explaining that, If the decision to switch to METRO is implemented, the current USM bus service will still be the same for the next year and a half before the contract expires at the end of 2017.
USM senior and media studies major Nick Fournier explained that he uses the buses that travel between campus locations to commute to class. He said that as long as the cost of travel remains the same, the change over to METRO transportation sounds like a positive change for the university. As a dorm student on the Gorham campus, however, he believes that METRO wouldn’t further benefit students because the two campus locations are the only locations he needs to be.
“I don’t think using the Metro would be more beneficial to me as a student in Gorham, simply because I only need to travel between the two campus locations,” he stated. “However, if they were looking to do more stops via the METRO service, like in Westbrook, it could be beneficial to commuter students not in Gorham or Portland.”
Fournier believes that, because the university buses are larger than the seating METRO provides, there may be an issue with seating and space for students. Regardless of the new change, he stated that the university needs to keep in mind that space could be an issue if the university plans to just place students on buses already filled with Portland locals.
Currently, USM funds the costs of transportation via a tuition fee. This extra cost to students, whether or not they take advantage of it, allows students to be brought back and forth to and from Gorham. The fee included in each student’s tuition ranges from $55 to $110 dollars depending on credit hours. Regardless of whether or not students take advantage of this service, they are billed for the cost.
The current bus service between campus locations allows student to commute to Gorham and Portland. The current Portland METRO bus system requires all passengers to pay $1.50 or purchase a bus pass. If USM was to use METRO as the main mode of transportation for their students, individuals affiliated with USM will be given a bus card. Whether or not this card will be included in tuition fees is still being discussed among university officials.
President Glenn Cummings believes that it’s a great idea for the students and will benefit the university as well. He stated in a recent interview that he is very excited for the potential of the new bus program, which could open up a wider range of travel locations among university students who may not have any other mode of transportation.
By Julie Pike, Free Press Staff
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” What should be stressed in this definition is that every individual has mental health.
“Everybody has mental health, everybody struggles and everybody needs help sometimes,” stated Hilarie Fotter, a graduate assistant at USM’s Health and Counseling Services.
Fotter provided several stats about mental illnesses: “Approximately one in five youth and young adults experience a mental health condition. Seventy-five percent of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by the age 24.”
The pressures in college can be challenging for students, with the stress of schoolwork, the stress of relationships and of adulthood. College is often a test of an individual’s mental health.
According to Robert Small, Director of Counseling for Health and Counseling Services at USM, the most prevalent conditions college students have are anxiety and depression.
“Everybody experiences sadness, fear and anxiety,” he stated. “Everybody has to go through all of the challenges of life. We have to accept that we are all human.”
Health and Counseling Services sees approximately 650 students each school year. Currently there are 8,506 students enrolled at USM. Yet, only six to seven percent of the study body utilizes the resources that USM offers.
The stigma of mental health is a big factor that prevents students from getting help with mental health conditions.
“When experiencing mental illness, people often think that they are weak or that there is something wrong with them,” Small said, “people stigmatize themselves as well as others.”
“We as humans like to pride ourselves as being in control of things,” Fotter stated. “It’s hard for us to say that it’s okay when we’re not in control and we judge ourselves on that.”
Small stated that 20 percent of students across the country in college have a diagnosable mental health condition. Although mental health conditions can greatly impact college students, he believes that mental health is an issue for a whole society and that it is important that everyone is accepting of others.
Several factors lead to a stigma with mental health, including the influence of media, individual beliefs and prejudices.
“There is a strong negative opinion of mental disorders in the media,” said Fotter. “We see things like mental illness portrayed very over the top.”
USM Health and Counseling has several programs working to destigmatize mental illness.
The Wellness Resource Centers (also known as The Wells), which are located on the Portland and Gorham campus are focused on helping students develop and increase their awareness of the many aspects of wellness, including mental health.
The Recovery Oriented Campus Center (ROCC) in Portland helps build peer support, and creates a supportive community for students recovering from substance use and other mental health conditions.
The USM Cares program, which Fotter oversees, is a mental health awareness and suicide prevention program on campus.
“We try to bring a message of normality to the idea of mental health, and to help people understand what mental health might look like as well as how to find support for yourself and your friends,” she stated.
Being aware of the stigma of mental health can help students reduce the prevalence of it.
“You need have to awareness of it and a constant initiative to help people accept others who are different” stated Small.
Health and Counseling offers a wide range of services to students experiencing mental health conditions, including a large number of preventative, intervention and recovery services.
“It is important to give a message of hope, healing and recovery,” said Small. “Mental health conditions are treatable. People do get healthier and have fulfilling lives.”
Students Share Their Stories of Mental Illness
Cassidy Webster – Class of 2019
“Mental illness has been a huge part of my life thus far. I have knowingly struggled with depression for about five years now.
Going through school became very difficult to me. More specifically my senior year. I missed an immense amount of school and I did not participate in any extracurricular activities.
I barely spent time with any friends. I spent most of my days laying in bed with a horrible feeling inside of me. It felt like bricks were constantly weighing down on my chest and shoulders. I could find no joy in my life.
That being said, I was aware of my condition and I knew I could not continue on like that.
I had been seeing a counselor for a year or two prior to this depressive episode, so I did not know what was happening to me.
I was mad at myself because I knew what happiness felt like, but I couldn’t find it within myself. I was on medicine for a while, but I did not like it because I didn’t like my body having to rely on a pill every day for happiness that others can find on their own.
Now I am finally in a happy place. I do not take one minute for granted. Although my brain is unpredictable, I have found comfort in taking my medication because I am able to acknowledge that it does regulate my levels of serotonin.
I do not see my counselor as often as I used to, but I know she is there if I need her. I have not needed to utilize any on-campus help, but I do not think mental health is thought of if one has not experienced it.
If I am having a hard time it is easy for me to speak with my professors, but for those who are not able to do that professors are not very understanding. The student may just be seen as one who does not do their work or show up. Even someone that does not care.
I struggle with that outlook. When I was very depressed and I did not attend certain things people would get upset with me and ask why I didn’t care. I do care. I will always care. My brain was just in a bad place.
I am writing this to bring more awareness to this issue. I am normally seen as a very happy person with nothing to complain about. I have a loving family and I am very lucky.
I did not choose this brain, but I have learned how to live with it. I don’t need pity and I don’t need people to feel bad for me, but joking about mental illness, or any illness for that matter, is inappropriate. More people have depression and anxiety now than ever.”
Ashley – Class of 2018
“My experience with mental illness has been with bipolar 2 disorder, ADHD and general anxiety disorder. I also have family members whom these affect.
I have dealt with mental illness most of my life. Being incorrectly diagnosed at 13 with major depressive disorder started my long journey of dealing with mental illness in my everyday life.
Some days/weeks/months/years are better than others, but I’ve dealt with my mental illnesses every day of my life since I can remember.
It impacts everyday tasks that are as simple as getting out of bed or going to class.
There have been days that I’ve stared at my apartment door after getting ready for class or work, and I just cannot get the energy up to open the door and walk out. There are also days where I don’t sleep at all and forget to eat, but get vast amounts of things done.
School has been difficult. I’ve missed a lot of classes because of my ever changing moods, and then when I’m done with a bipolar episode I miss more classes because I have anxiety of going back after I missed classes. It is a never ending cycle.
When doing work, I tend to not be able to focus quite long enough to get an assignment done or I over focus and put way too much time and effort into one class and not enough into my other classes.
Because of this, I can only take two classes a semester without getting overwhelmed. I’ve also been put on academic and financial probation a handful of times over the course of three years.
I’ve lost friends. A lot of them. I’ve hurt a lot of people and I have said and done things I didn’t mean at the time. I have also been reckless and gotten myself into dangerous and life threatening situations, which have ended with myself in the hospital or in the back of a cop car.
I’ve been in two outpatient treatment programs and those have helped a lot. I was lucky enough that I was able to take time off from work and school in order to get the treatment I needed and learn coping methods
I also have a great support system through friends and a few faculty members at USM that have helped me a lot.
I have used health and counseling services three times. It helped me at the time. I wish more students used it, even students who may not have a mental health issue, but are just stressed because college is stressful as it is.
I honestly don’t think mental illness is talked about enough, and when it is, it isn’t talked about in the right forum.
I think a lot of professors (or at least the ones I have dealt with) don’t understand just how life altering a mental illness is for a student. Some don’t even want to hear about it. Others are very supportive. Overall, I don’t think there is enough talk about it.
My message to other students is to speak up, be vocal, don’t let anyone invalidate you or your illness. Not everyone will understand, but those who will are the best people to have by your side.”
David Bruenjes, Class of 2016
“I Am Not My Bipolar Disorder”
I was diagnosed with Bipolar I as a sophomore at USM after a manic episode caused me to withdraw from classes for a year. I’ve been dealing with this mental illness since my late teens. I am now 26.
It impacts my ability to work, to be productive and to maintain healthy relationships due to the various symptoms of experiencing mania or depression.
At times it has helped me be intensely interested in a class. However, I’ve also made bad decisions and gotten poor grades when I could have done better. It’s difficult to be consistent throughout the semester and school year. I had to withdraw for three semesters because I was unable to function in class, and I had to accept several F’s when I could have gotten A’s or B’s. This particularly stung during graduation when I realized I could have worn a sash, had my GPA been slightly higher.
Initially I was helped by USM Counseling Services. Medication and exercise, along with other healthy lifestyle choices are what mitigates the symptoms for me, although I am still trying to find the best practices for dealing with my symptoms in my daily life.
I did register with the Disability Services Center but I never really used their services. I think I could have dealt with the situation better in hindsight.
I never disclosed my status to anyone on campus (except for one other student that was also on the bipolar spectrum) for fear of stigma. I didn’t think it would be particularly bad, but I thought it was none of anyone’s business. I think mental illness is stigmatized in general and people are afraid of being in class with people they consider to be “unstable.” I think in general students are becoming more understanding, because they are dealing with it themselves or see their friends suffering from it without any support.
Ultimately you are responsible for your treatment. Don’t feel bad for yourself, because your illness doesn’t define you. You are still you! You just need a plan to stay healthy. That usually involves medication, coupled with therapy, exercise, meditation, healthy eating and sleeping habits, etc. Accept advice but don’t rely on others to “fix you.” During college it’s easy to overindulge in substances to cover up your symptoms and feel better, but eventually you need to reckon with it, which can be scary.
I’m in a much better place now than I was when I began my studies at USM in 2009.
Emma Donnelly – Class of 2019
“I Am Not My Anxiety and Depression”
I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, a form of PTSD, and chronic depression when I was 16 years old during my junior year in high school. I am 19 now and a sophomore in college.
I’ve always had anxious tendencies as long as I can remember. Like I grind my teeth, chew on stuff, tap my foot, my hands shake, I’m constantly stressed out, but I’d say it really started to get tough when I was 15 in April 2013 (my sophomore year of high school). I was in Boston on April 15 for my friend’s birthday and I was a block away from the marathon bombings. That day was obviously really stressful and I just remember the weeks after I felt really different. I was fatigued constantly and I couldn’t concentrate and I just wanted to be in bed all the time. Then it progressively got worse and worse throughout my junior year of high school, like to the point where I couldn’t sit in class because I constantly thought the world was going to come crashing down around me. I wouldn’t go in cars, I was afraid of heights, I honestly never wanted to leave the house. I finally saw my doctor about it and started therapy spring 2014.
I’ve had a lot of issues with the validation of my emotions. The reason I waited so long to get help was because my parents told me I was overreacting and my feelings weren’t real. I would probably be a very different person if I was able to get help immediately. I didn’t even tell my friends that I was in Boston that day and about everything I dealt with emotionally until two years later. I saw a significant drop in my grades in school because I just couldn’t do the work. I didn’t even think I’d get into college because my grades were so poor at that point in my life. I had a boyfriend from winter 2013 to winter 2014, which is when all of this really started, and he was not supportive at all. I’d be visibly upset and all he would ever want from me was sex, and he completely invalidated my feelings, which resulted in a lot of coercive sex. I did not even realize how abusive that relationship was until after we broke up. I self-harmed quite often and only told a few of my friends because I knew my parents would not be helpful. If anything good came out of it it would be that I learned to advocate for myself at a relatively young age.
I’m a very introverted person as it is, but the invalidation of my feelings definitely kept me guarded. I’m still pretty guarded about letting new people in and being vulnerable but I’m more open to talking about my past because I’ve come a long way since then. I’ve learned that self-care is really important and how to be self aware; like knowing when I’m going to go into the “dark place,” as I like to call it, and knowing the steps I need to take to bring myself out of it and feel okay again.
It’s super cliche but I love writing and exercising. I know that’s not what works for everyone but I like getting my thoughts out on paper to make sense of them and get my anxious energy out at the gym. I also love petting dogs. A few weeks ago I was super stressed out and I made my friends go to a dog park with me so I could see dogs (my own dog is in MA which is really sad). Photography is also really relaxing for me, and like I said self-care is super important.
I really love the Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity because it’s such a relaxing environment and everyone who goes there is great. It’s such an inclusive space to talk about anything whether it’s serious or not. Health and Counseling is amazing, too. I have utilized them on more than one occasion. Depression can come and go in waves and although I’m doing much much better, I am definitely not cured. Health and Counseling has done a lot for me during my time here at USM. I’d recommend their services to literally anyone.
In the circles of people I associate with, I haven’t experienced any stigma. Everyone I talk to is very supportive of self-care and just doing what’s best for you. Mental illness is so so so common that everyone I know either has a mental illness or is super close with someone who has one. USM is pretty inclusive in my personal opinion.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you need help. Your feelings are ALWAYS valid, and at USM you’re never alone. There are so many resources available on and off campus. The sooner you reach out and talk to someone, the better you’ll feel.
By Julie Pike, Free Press staff
In the next few years a new graduate school will be added to the city of Portland, bringing together the University of Maine System’s graduate programs from different schools under one roof. However, the exact location of the school is still up for debate.
The plan for the new Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies (MCGPS) is currently in its final stages of drafting.
The school combines the University of Maine School of Law, the University of Maine and the USM MBA programs and the Muskie School of Public Service.
Eliot Cutler, the former Independent gubernatorial candidate, is at the head of the plan for the new graduate school, working with his own team, as well as faculty from each school. Businesses in the Portland area are also included in the plans for the MCGPS.
“We have an advisory board of 109 members, from businesses of legal and public service committees that are very active and supportive,” Cutler stated.
As explained on the MCCPS’ official website:
“The Center will feature highly integrated curricula, close engagement with the Maine legal, business and entrepreneurial communities and new degree and certificate offerings.”
“The school will give graduate students the opportunity to take a wider range of courses,” Cutler also stated.
While the MCGPS will be located in Portland, Cutler and USM’s President Cummings have differing opinions on exactly where in Portland. Cummings is in support of having the graduate school be located on the USM Portland campus. He believes there would be several benefits to having the graduate school on campus, such as being close to Interstate 295, having access to campus parking and other resources the USM Portland campus offers.
“Everything would be centrally located, which would be good for the success of the students in the graduate programs,” Cummings said.
Cutler proposed the idea of having the center located in the Old Port or along the peninsula in Portland.
“Locations on the peninsula have certain advantages, being closer to City Hall and businesses in downtown Portland, to name a few,” Cutler stated.
Cummings believes that it would create excessive costs to house MCGPS in downtown Portland. He proposes that having the building on USM’s Portland campus would eliminate the need to buy or rent property downtown.
“The land on the USM’s campus would essentially be free to build the school on, but there’s a limit to what you can do to generate revenues on this location,” Cutler added.
Cummings also pointed out that eighty percent of graduate studies students come from the UMS system, and having the graduate school on campus would provide an easy transition for them.
“Having the Maine Center on campus would allow a natural flow from undergraduate to graduate studies for students,” Cummings said. “Students would continue to be close to all the academic and social resources the university offers.”
The debate over the location of MCGPS is ongoing. Cummings stated that
everything was still at the committee levels of discussion.
Cutler added that it is too early to decide on a final location for the school.
“Getting into a discussion now about the location is premature, and doesn’t include the opinion of those who are going to pay for the center,” Cutler stated.
Among those who will fund the center is the Alfond Foundation, which has already contributed two million dollars to the planning of the school.
In late October, Cutler and his team will be meeting with the Alfond Foundation. They will present the plan that he, the committee for the MCGPS, including President Cummings, and other USM faculty have created.
At the meeting Cutler will ask the Alfond Foundation for a substantial financial commitment to creating the center. If the Alfond Foundation agrees, Cutler and his team will continue to reach out to other investors, both in state and nationally, to raise the rest of the funds for the school.
Cutler states that the input of these investors will have a big impact on the decision of the location of the MCGPS.
“When you set out to raise millions of dollars from investors, you’ve got to give your investors a say in where the building goes,” Cutler said. “They have a voice, and to deny them that voice in this decision would be a big mistake.”
The exact location of the MCGPS will not be decided on until the plans for the school have become more definite and have reached funding goals.
“We have to show that the school can be financially self-supported and sustainable,” Cutler added, “and that’s what we’ve set out to do.”
Regardless of its location, the MCPGS will be important for the state of Maine and University of Maine System.
On Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 1:43 PM, wrote:
> Where: Orono
> When: Nov 02, 2016 0500
> Expected Duration: 2hrs
> Scope: 3rd and 4th floors of Chadbourn Hall
> We will be moving connections from our old equipment to the
> recently installed new equipment and then pulling the old equipment.
> Networkmaine Contact Info during the window for this work:
> NOC 561-3587
> Local/Campus Contact Info during this window of work:
> NONE / Unknown at this time
When: Nov 02, 2016 0500
Expected Duration: 2hrs
Scope: 3rd and 4th floors of Chadbourn Hall
We will be moving connections from our old equipment to the recently installed new equipment and then pulling the old equipment.
Networkmaine Contact Info:
Local/Campus Contact Info during this window of work:
NONE / Unknown at this time