The Graduate Students OLLI Fellowship was established at the University of Southern Maine in 2021 with a gift from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). The Fellowship provides scholarships of $3000 for the five selected USM graduate students whose research, scholarship or creative activity focuses on environmental or social justice. At the end of the academic year, Fellows will present their research to members of OLLI.

Abdi Awad

Graduate Program: Adult and Higher Education (MS)

Abdi is an individual with a lived history in the justice system, who believes that education is the greasiest equalizer in society when it comes to social injustice. His research and practice focuses on creating pathways for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students to pursue higher education and examining the barriers they face. What makes them successful? What is working and what is not working within the University of Maine system, and what can we learn from other states and globally about how to support this population? His dream is to inspire those from under-privileged communities and help them not only get their high school diploma but understand the significance of a college education and “avoid going through the pain and the struggle that I went through.”

Jennifer Chace

Graduate Program: Public Policy with a Concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy (PhD)

Jennifer moved to Maine 1997 and spent the next many years as a community volunteer and full-time parent of three. Jennifer believes that education systems in a modern democracy must center social justice. In her doctoral research she hopes to “nurture recalibration, transformation, and restructuring for true public social benefit and justice.” Her project, Maine 2050, will engage stakeholders across all Maine counties to achieve four goals: better understand the consensus on the purpose of public education; identify emerging values and challenges for the future of education; develop an integrated cross-sector, time-lined short and long term plan for change; and foster a reinvigorated and engaged citizenry. 

Linda Dolloff

Graduate Program: Adult & Higher Education

Linda Dolloff is a Project Coordinator for Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition. She is the
founder and executive director of Reentry Sisters, a reentry support organization specializing in a
gender-responsive and trauma-informed approach for women, serving Maine and beyond. Linda
serves on the Maine Prison Education Partnership board at UMA and the New England
Commission for the Future of Higher Education in Prison through The Educational Justice
Institute at MIT. She is part of an ACLS grant team for the Freedom & Captivity Curriculum
Project. Based on the F&C initiative, the curricula will be uploaded onto technology used inside
Maine prisons for college courses, discussion groups, and community classes facilitated by
incarcerated people. Linda is a member of the Opportunity Scholars Network, helping formerly
and currently incarcerated students achieve their educational goals. She is a program facilitator
for book and film groups for the Maine Humanities Council. Linda is a DJ for Justice Radio, a
talk show on WMPG about the carceral state.

Sahro Hassan

Graduate Program: Counselor Education

In 2006, Sahro moved to the United States from a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Sahro struggled to cope with her childhood trauma, but she was fortunate to have access to therapy while in college to process her childhood trauma. She learned the importance of mental health while in college, and became a case manager in order to help adolescents and youth struggling with mental illness. As a case manager, Sahro learned that stigmas about mental health within the Somali community can prevent many from feeling safe and receiving treatment. As part of her research, Sahro explores the possibility of providing resources to the Somali community that may assist in improving professional mental health support. “My aim is to create a safe environment where people can explore and examine their trauma. My research aims to alleviate mental health stigmas and break the silence about mental health by providing Somali communities with mental health resources, education, and support.”

Lisa Luken

Graduate Program: PhD Leadership Studies

Lisa Luken is pursuing a Ph.D. in Leadership and Organizational Studies. Her current research projects focus on the role of women leaders in rural economic development, the socio-economic challenges, and resilience of coastal communities in Maine and Greenland, women leaders in the blue economy, and sustainable development in Maine, the North Atlantic, and the Arctic.

After a career in finance that focused largely on developing economic capital, Lisa returned to academia to explore the social sciences, studying the lived experiences of individuals in rural and coastal communities to address critical environmental and social justice issues. Lisa highlights the need to “explore four critical areas of capital that must be considered in conversations about climate change, communities, and the blue economy – social, human, ecological, and economic capital. To make progress in saving our people and the planet, these areas cannot be looked at separately. Instead, stories must be gathered, and the issues must be addressed holistically.”