Office of the President

Monday Missive (Dec. 14, 2020)

Dear USM Community,

I'll start by extending to students my most sincere wishes for a productive and successful finals week. May your preparation, focus, insights, creativity, and brainpower hit their highest levels this week and be matched by a fascination with and reverence for the subject matter in all of your classes. I hope that you can finish strong and be rewarded with a well-deserved break.

And to everyone in our community who celebrates the holidays of this season, I wish you all the best for a joyful Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.

Let me share some updates for this final Monday Missive of the fall semester:

1) USM’s Board of Visitors convened this past Friday morning for its December meeting. The Board received an update on our COVID status, enrollment projections, fiscal conditions, and the excellent progress being made on our forthcoming Career & Student Success Center and Portland Commons Residence Hall. Members responded with thoughtful questions, strong encouragement, and helpful insights. They then reflected on an article shared by Chairperson Luc Nya on high-performing boards and spent almost an hour measuring themselves against this standard. How fortunate our University is to be supported by leaders who seek to add maximum value to our work. We send our collective gratitude and wish them all very happy holidays.

2) This past Tuesday evening, USM Student Senator Amran Osman convened a panel of past and current students to discuss their experiences as students of color within our University. We deeply appreciate their willingness to participate in this discussion. Their stories were, in many ways, heartbreaking in that many of them feel less than fully supported by — and often alienated from — the University community. Their narratives underscore the need for us to continue the work underway by our IDEC members, IDEC Fellows, the new Director of Intercultural Student Engagement Will Johnson, the new Associate Vice President for Equity, Inclusion, and Community Impact Dr. Idella Glenn, and everyone in the USM community.

3) Our congratulations go out to part-time faculty member Reza Jalali for being named Executive Director of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center. As many of us know, Reza coordinated the University’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs from 2006 to 2017 and also oversaw our Multicultural Center. In this Portland Press Herald story, Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center Board Chair Mary Allen Lindemann said, “We could not be more fortunate to have someone with Mr. Jalali’s experience, both personal and professional, take on the leadership of the center as we move forward.” I agree wholeheartedly.

4) I’m thrilled to share that Provost Jeannine Uzzi and USM’s Advising efforts have received national recognition for excellence. The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) honored Provost Uzzi with its Michael C. Holen Pacesetter Award for her “history of supporting student success through excellent teaching, advising, mentorship, and outreach.” The NACADA honor recognizes “executive officers, provosts, and academic or student affairs officers who exemplify a commitment to academic advising and are true advocates for advising, students, and advisors across their institution.” In presenting the award at NACADA’s 2020 virtual conference attended by nearly 2,300 higher education professionals, Dr. Erin Justyna, Director of the Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences at Texas Tech University, said Provost Uzzi’s “understanding, passion, and commitment to academic advising is paramount to her work.” In her acceptance remarks, Provost Uzzi made clear that she received the award and recognition of the University’s success with academic advising on behalf of USM’s academic advising team. “In my time as provost at USM, I have learned to empower people to be creative, to support good ideas when they came across my desk, and to help people implement their good ideas,” she said. “I learned these lessons in ‘provosting,’ in part, from Dr. Beth Higgins, USM’s Director of Academic Advising and the person who nominated me for this award.” I encourage you to learn more about NACADA’s recognition of Provost Uzzi and USM’s Advising efforts in this USM News story.

5) Congratulations to Dr. Michael Hillard, Professor of Economics and Director of our Food Studies program, on the publication of his book, Shredding Paper: The Rise and Fall of Maine's Mighty Paper Industry (2020 ILR/Cornell University Press). Through a retelling of labor relations and worker experiences from the late 19th century through the late 1990s, Dr. Hillard explores the changing U.S. political economy since 1960, how the paper industry shaped and interacted with labor relations, and the rise and decline of an industry that influenced state politics as well as economic, workplace, land-use, and water-use policies. Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys, Ernie's Ark and The One-in-a-Million Boy, had this to say about Shredding Paper: "In this deeply researched, beautifully written account of the paper industry in Maine, Hillard brings our history to sparkling life — a history that should be known not just to Mainers, but to everyone.” For those seeking a preview of the book, you can see pages here. And if you’re moved to purchase the book, please know that Cornell Press is offering a nearly 50 percent discount for its books (with promo code 09GIFT20) that’s good until December 24.

6) Kudos to Dr. Joseph Staples, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, who led a presentation on his team’s work to develop and commercialize a new stereo-microscope and benchtop light at the Maine Innovation Research and Technology Accelerator Demo Day last Tuesday. The device being developed by Dr. Staples’ team combines the capabilities of multiple lighting systems in a single lab device, saving money and space. With support from the University of Maine System Research Reinvestment Fund, four teams of faculty, staff, and students from across the System completed an intensive program to accelerate the development of their research into commercial-ready products. Dr. Staples and his team participated in customer discovery, market analysis, prototype development, and technology evaluation to develop strategies for the commercialization of their stereo-microscope and benchtop light. This is a wonderful example of how research taking place at USM can create economic development opportunities and impact the lives of people in Maine and beyond.

7) To mark the five-year anniversary of international governments signing on to the Paris Agreement, I am pleased to report that USM has joined more than 1,000 businesses, organizations, municipalities, and universities in committing to a national mobilization for a clean energy economy and refocusing their own operations in pursuit of climate action. The “America Is All In” statement, to which USM is a signatory, was delivered to United Nations officials and global heads of state at the Climate Ambition Summit hosted by the United Kingdom this past weekend. Learn more about the "America Is All In" statement and USM's climate action efforts in this USM News story.

8) Please join me in thanking Androscoggin Bank for their generous contribution of $25,000 to USM’s Promise Scholars program. The gift will help provide USM Promise Scholars with the financial resources and academic supports they need to graduate in four years with little or no debt. What's more, Androscoggin Bank's contribution will be matched dollar-for-dollar as part of a $1,000,000 matching gift challenge that is in effect through the end of December. The success of the campaign will enable USM to endow the Promise Scholarship in perpetuity and support up to 100 scholars every year, approximately 25 in each class, with personalized scholarship awards. My deepest thanks go out to Neil Kiely, President and CEO of Androscoggin Bank, for this vital investment in the success of our Promise Scholars. Please see this USM News story to learn more about Androscoggin Bank’s generosity and the impact of their gift.

9) Students, please take note of these important #usmprotips to support your success at USM:

USM protips banner

  • As you register for spring semester courses, please keep in mind that taking 15 credits a semester or 30 credits per year will help you graduate in 4 years, thereby reducing your debt and increasing your earnings. The key is to take 30 credits per year — so if you cannot swing 15 credits each semester, take advantage of USM’s Summer and Winter sessions to make up the difference. 

  • As you review the course offerings for Winter Session and Spring Semester, you'll probably see different designations about how the courses are being taught during the pandemic. To help you understand the different course modalities, USM's Advising Team has developed the guide below. Be sure you carefully read the course descriptions in MaineStreet and know how the courses you are interested in are being taught. 


Asynchronous Online  (Dates and times on MaineStreet will be listed at “TBA.”)  100 percent of course instruction is online (Brightspace), with no specific meeting times required and no expectation that enrolled students will come to campus. Asynchronous is not self-paced, and students will be responsible for meeting assignment deadlines as determined by the course instructor.   Synchronous “Online Live”  If a course is listed on MaineStreet as “online live,” it will be taught online via Zoom at specific times during the week. Students will be required to be present on Zoom at the specified times. The days and times the course meets each week will be listed on MaineStreet.  Blended  Blended courses can be listed as any combination of asynchronous online, synchronous “online live,” and/or face-to-face in-person instruction. The number of required in-person or online-live sections may differ for each blended course. Specific dates for these meetings should be listed on MaineStreet within the course notes and/or in the syllabus provided by the course instructor.   Face-to-Face  Face-to-Face courses consist of required in-person instruction on campus at specific days and times that are listed on MaineStreet. Courses that are fully face-to-face or blended with an in-person component will have COVID-19 safety protocols in place that include physical distancing, sanitation measures, and required face-coverings for all students, faculty, and staff.

Asynchronous Online (Dates and times on MaineStreet will be listed at “TBA.”)
With Asynchronous Online classes, 100 percent of course instruction is online (Brightspace), with no specific meeting times required and no expectation that enrolled students will come to campus. Asynchronous is not self-paced; students will be responsible for meeting assignment deadlines as determined by the course instructor.

Synchronous “Online Live”
If a course is listed on MaineStreet as “online live,” it will be taught online via Zoom at specific times during the week. Students will be required to be present on Zoom at the specified times. The days and times the course meets each week will be listed on MaineStreet.

Blended
Blended courses can be listed as any combination of asynchronous online, synchronous “online live,” and/or face-to-face in-person instruction. The number of required in-person or online-live sections may differ for each blended course. Specific dates for these meetings should be listed on MaineStreet within the course notes and/or in the syllabus provided by the course instructor.

Face-to-Face
Face-to-Face courses consist of required in-person instruction on campus at specific days and times that are listed on MaineStreet. Courses that are fully face-to-face or blended with an in-person component will have COVID-19 safety protocols in place that include physical distancing, sanitation measures, and required face-coverings for all students, faculty, and staff.

  • Students who are planning to take courses next fall are strongly encouraged to complete the FAFSA by Jan. 15. Since some federal financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, you can maximize your chance of receiving the best possible financial aid package by completing your FAFSA before January 15. Learn more about the benefits of completing your FAFSA early.

  • Registration for Winter Session at USM is open now through Monday, Dec. 21. Taking one or more Winter Session classes at USM is a great way to pursue your interests and stay on track to graduate in four years. Learn more about the courses offered and how to register.

  • Be advised that incomplete course grades from spring and summer must be completed by the end of this semester or the grade becomes an F. Please contact your course professor for guidance on resolving incompletes.

  • If you’re concerned about a grade you earned this semester and/or are thinking about asking for a late change to pass/fail grading, please know that there’s a process for appealing a grade — and it isn’t difficult.

On a personal note, yesterday morning a friend of mine let me know that he had been sober for exactly three years following a long history of alcohol abuse. His son, who was with him, shared with me how amazing it was "to have my father back.” Seldom in my life have I seen such a transformation. It brought joy — and a few tears — to all of us. What could be a more powerful message for the holiday season: hope arising from personal and spiritual transformation. Far better than anything that can be wrapped in paper.

May your week be full of learning, connection, a terrific end to the semester, and the gift of transformation.
g