Graduate, Research, and Teaching Assistants (collectively, “GAs”) make invaluable contributions to the University of Southern Maine. GAs are mentored by faculty or staff to conduct research, project-based work, student services, or teaching assistance that enhances the student’s academic and professional goals–and provides them with crucial financial support. These experienced adult students contribute substantially to the University’s academic, research, and student services goals, which drive learning, enrollment, and workforce development.

Each year we recognize the hard work and excellence of our Graduate, Research, and Teaching Assistants by asking supervisors to nominate those GAs who consistently go above and beyond. From amongst those nominations, two awardees are selected by the Provost’s Office: New GA of the Year and Returning GA of the Year. 

We want to honor supervisors as well, so we give our GAs the opportunity to nominate their dedicated and hard-working faculty and staff mentors. They provide stories of transformational mentorships, valuable research collaborations, professional development opportunities, and express gratitude for supervisors who show flexibility, consistency and guidance.

To honor their contributions to the USM community, the Office of Graduate Studies recognizes all of our nominees and winners at our annual GA & Supervisor Appreciation event. We also award each individual a small gift of appreciation.

A group of 9 people stand in a line, looking at the camera and smiling while they hold award certificates. The University of Southern Maine logo is imposed on the aerial view of Portland which creates the backdrop.
Pictured here are some of our 2022-2023 GA and GA Supervisor of the Year nominees, who were honored at our annual GA & Supervisor Appreciation event on April 12, 2023.

Here are the 2022-2023 award winners!

Tyler DeAngelis, School Psychology (PsyD); Research Assistant Muskie School of Public Service
Supervisor: Dr. Jean Talbot, Research Associate at Rural Health Research Center

As a graduate assistant with the Muskie School, Tyler has worked with a team from the Maine Rural Health Research Center to produce a chartbook exploring how health outcomes and health-related resources are related to poverty status, rurality, and race and ethnicity…Tyler has a unique ability to transform quantitative information into visual images that convey compelling, policy-relevant messages. Yet we were perhaps even more impressed by Tyler’s team-building skills and initiative: In the aftermath of some unexpected staff departures, Tyler worked closely with team leaders to develop plans for keeping the chartbook on track;  wrote user-friendly protocols for chart production; and trained his fellow student employees in their use, successfully supporting their skills acquisition and their motivation to perform at a high level. By consistently maintaining the highest standards of professionalism in his approach to his responsibilities, Tyler has enhanced the quality of our work and our experience of working together. We strongly recommend him for this award.

Bianca Arencio, Adult & Higher Education; Graduate Assistant: ESOL department
Supervisor: Michelle Perry, Program Coordinator in the English for Speakers of Other Languages department

This is the third year that our program has worked with a graduate assistant, and Bianca has continued to exceed our expectations in this role since she began with us in September of 2020. In addition to her assigned duties, Bianca intuitively finds areas of need within our department and creates programming and solutions to make our department run better. She works with classes, small groups, and collaborates with our staff and faculty to develop and facilitate supplementary workshops for our students. She consistently demonstrates leadership and professionalism in her work, supporting our program’s students in a number of ways.

Bianca is a model of the USM core value of being student centered every day and making sure students feel a sense of belonging and connection to our department and USM.She has proven to be a critical asset to our department, and we are so thankful that she has chosen to lend her skills to our program throughout her graduate academic career.

April Davis, Counselor Education
Bianca Arcencio, Adult and Higher Education
Cassie McCaslin, Counselor Education
Christopher Parelius, Policy, Planning, & Management
Davis Thorton, Policy, Planning, & Management
Jessica King, Counselor Education
Julia Dudley, Public Health
Kelsie Gagnon, Counselor Education
Melissa Noftsinger, Counselor Education
Mikaleh McCoy, Counselor Education
Morgan Regnier, Biology
Nadine Bravo, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Skye Siladi, Policy, Planning, & Management
Zachary Leavitt, Cybersecurity

Dr. Lori Sussman, Assistant Professor, Technology & Cybersecurity
(3 Nominations)

I am proud to nominate Dr. Lori Sussman for the GA Supervisor of the Year Nomination 2022-2023. Her exceptional leadership skills, commitment to team success, and dedication to professional development make her an outstanding candidate for this award. Her integrity, empathy, and leadership skills make her a valuable asset to the department of Technology and Cybersecurity at the University of Southern Maine. (Nomination #1)

Dr. Sussman is deeply invested in her students, whether in class or as the faculty advisor for the Cybersecurity Ambassador Program (CAP). She provides every opportunity to help them succeed in schoolwork, in their jobs, and in life. … [S]he is incredibly supportive while also allowing me the autonomy to find the management style that best suits me… I have grown as a student, as an employee, and as a person under Dr. Sussman’s guidance. (Nomination #2)

Dr. Sussman’s commitment to the success of her GAs is unparalleled. She has demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication as a graduate assistant supervisor in the Cybersecurity Ambassadors Program. Her mentorship, guidance, and support have helped to create a positive and supportive environment for graduate assistants to develop their skills, achieve their goals, and thrive in their roles. (Nomination #3)

Alec Lapidus, Literacy, Language, and Culture
Audrey Ames, Orientation & First Year Experience
Cathie Fallona, USM Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation
Andrea Stairs-Davenport, Literacy, Language, and Culture
Elizabeth Goryunova, Leadership & Organizational Studies
Flynn Ross, Teacher Education
Jill Piekut Roy (2 Nominations), Special Collections
Kate Ahrens, Muskie School
Kathleen McGovern, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Melinda Butler, Literacy, Language, and Culture
Rachel Lasley-Rasher, Biology
Samantha Blair, Educational and School Psychology
Susan McWilliams, Academic Affairs

The Office of Graduate Studies would like to thank all of the Graduate Assistants for their hard work and dedication to the University; their supervisors for their continued mentorship and guidance; and Vice Provost, Dr. Dominic Barraclough for his encouragement of our GA program and his careful consideration in selecting our GA of the Year recipients. Congratulations to all, and thank you for your invaluable contributions to our community!