Office of Public Affairs

Third Annual “Civic Matters” at USM

A showcase of how students apply what they are learning in the classroom to community projects, the third annual USM “Civic Matters,” will be held from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday, November 18, in USM’s Wishcamper Center, Bedford Street, Portland.  The event is free and open to the public. USM’s Office of Community Service Learning will host this year’s “Civic Matters.”  For more information, visit Civic Matters or call Alicia Sampson, service-learning coordinator for the Office of Community Service Learning, at 207-228-8092 or asampson@usm.maine.edu.

The focus of the 2011 “Civic Matters” is how service learning and civic engagement are essential to the transition of a student from the classroom to the real world. Community service learning is a movement across higher education that combines learning with community service work. Last year, nearly 1,000 USM students reported over 17,000 hours of service.  Showcasing a range of topics such as working to end domestic violence, educating and emphasizing the importance of recycling, biomonitoring heavy metal in the tidal Kennebec River system, or administering health education in the Dominican Republic, students who participate in community service learning activities gain a sense that they can make a difference. They are not only giving back to their community, but also developing professional skills.

2011 “Civic Matters” boasts 20 poster presentations and 4 oral sessions. Benjamin Towne, lecturer and clinical coordinator of USM Athletic Training Education will offer opening remarks on his experience running the only athletic training education program in the country to offer an international service learning course. Mary Tiemann, a faculty consultant for the Maine Campus Compact, will facilitate a conversation about service learning and civic engagement. 

Some poster presentations are the direct result of in-class projects, such as “Maine Wood-Burning Homes: A dual purpose informational website for researchers and citizens.” Four environmental science students investigated the presence of indoor air pollution caused by wood burning stoves, the difference between cord wood, wood pellets and BiobricksÒ and preventative measures families can take to avoid indoor air pollution. Their research resulted in a presentation at the Maine Indoor Air Quality Conference and an informational website with proper wood-burning practices. With future grant funding, the team hopes to take their research to a residential sampling program and further investigate a wider variety of wood fuel combustion products.

Another of the many notable presentations this year is “Working to End Domestic Violence: An Overview of Family Crisis.” This presentation originates from USM psychology major Stephanie Noyes’ internship at the Family Crisis Services. In her oral presentation with Stephanie Edwards, community service coordinator at Family Crisis Services, she will discuss the people they advocate for, their commitment to community programs and community members, as well as FCS’s connection to the USM community. Stephanie will also talk about her role as an intern working on the hotline, her daily activities at the shelter, aspects of case management for residents and how her internship relates to her psychology classes.

Organizers report that in and out of the classroom, civic engagement reinvigorates the public purpose and civic mission of higher education.  “Civic Matters” celebrates community-engaged work across USM that enriches student learning and addresses community-identified needs.