Office of the President

Monday Missive (Dec. 7, 2020)

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

If the sound of perseverance, joy, and optimism during challenging times could be captured in heartwarming beauty, it happened last Friday evening. At its annual Gala, USM's renowned School of Music pierced the darkness of early winter with a series of musical performances that cheered every person in attendance. The student performers exemplified the many reasons why our School of Music epitomizes excellence. Performance after performance lifted spirits, exhibited superb quality, and engaged every listener.

The Vocal Jazz Ensemble's performance of “If I Could Just Hold Out Till Tomorrow,” directed by Taylor O'Donnell, seemed to embody the very essence of the world's hopes and dreams at this hour. Thank you to the SoM for making Husky Nation proud — and strong.

Meanwhile, our remaining residential students experienced the first power outage of the season late Saturday into Sunday afternoon. Thank you to the Student Life team for keeping residents well informed and as warm as possible. While stressful and dangerous, the nor’easter brought the singular beauty of a Maine winter to our community. I hope you can enjoy the visual treat throughout the week.

Let's turn to the accomplishments, events, and activities that shape our lives at USM:

1) I encourage students, faculty, staff, and members of the broader USM community to attend a panel discussion with current and former students sharing their experiences with racial injustices. Naming and Framing Racism will be held via Zoom from 5 to 6 p.m., tomorrow (Tuesday, Dec. 8). To participate, you’ll need to preregister for the Zoom link. Thank you to all involved in organizing this important opportunity to hear insights and issues from students and recent graduates.

2) As you may have heard, we are making some changes at LAC that will consolidate administrative costs, deepen USM’s institutional connection to the Lewiston–Auburn area, and expand the University’s workforce engagement efforts in the region. I would like to begin by thanking Interim Dean Brian Toy for the time, energy, and care he has devoted to LAC over the past three years. He has been a valuable member of USM’s Deans’ Council and Leadership Team, and a trusted and respected leader of the LAC community. We are reviewing options for Dean Toy’s successor at LAC, pending alignment with the System office. LAC’s academic programs will begin reporting to one of the other three academic deans, joining CAHS, CSTH, or CMHS. The transition began this past Wednesday, when all of LAC’s academic program faculty met with Deans Qualls, Tuchinsky, and Williams.

These changes signal USM’s ongoing, strong commitment to LAC and its academic offerings as well as to the Lewiston–Auburn community. Embedding LAC’s academic programs within USM’s existing colleges, under the supervision of Deans Qualls, Tuchinsky, and Williams, ensures USM’s commitment to LAC’s development and growth. LAC’s Senior College and Franco-American Collection are important to USM and will continue to be valued and supported during this next chapter in LAC’s history.

The announcement of these changes is also an opportunity to reiterate our continuing strong desire to relocate LAC to the downtown area, closer to the growing community of new Americans, Lewiston High School, hospitals, and the area’s many businesses. With approximately 65 percent of courses offered online, the people of Maine have greater access than ever to LAC’s academic offerings. Our eventual move to the downtown area will allow USM to more directly support the educational needs of students, employees, and citizens. We continue to consider suitable locations in the downtown area and look forward to increasing access to our programs and our impact on the economic vibrancy of the Lewiston–Auburn community.

3) As we continue our unceasing work to be anti-racists, I’m proud to announce that our newest faculty member in Teacher Education, Dr. Larissa Malone, has been awarded $15,000 from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation under the auspices of their Rapid Response Fund: Educators for Black Lives Grant. The grant is designed to “center Black educators in New England” with the goal of supporting educators “whose practices center on eradicating anti-Blackness.” Her proposal, the Black Maine Educators Collective, is a five-month project (January–May 2021) that will support up to 100 Maine educators’ participation in a webinar speaker series and common read, with the long-term aim of creating a network that provides professional, social, and emotional support for Black educators across Maine.

4) As you may have seen in a recent email from Dr. Libby Bischof, Professor of History and Executive Director of the Osher Map Library, she and Dr. Lance Gibbs, Lecturer in Race and Ethnic Studies and the Gerald E. Talbot Fellow, invite us to mark our calendars for the 5th Annual W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture in Race and Democracy at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 25. This year, Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, will discuss "W.E.B. Du Bois in Our Time: From Reconstruction to #BlackLivesMatter" via Zoom webinar. Dr. Battle-Baptiste's presentation will be free and open to the USM community and to the public. Formal notices for the lecture and the webinar registration link will be shared in January.

In the meantime, Libby and Lance invite interested students, faculty, and staff to join in reading Dr. Battle-Baptiste's 2019 co-edited book, W.E.B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America. They have 50 copies of the book to distribute to interested readers, and they ask that if you sign up for a copy of the book, you also commit to joining them for one lunchtime Zoom discussion in February. Again, for more details, please see Libby’s Dec. 3 email.

5) As I mentioned in my preamble, the School of Music’s Scholarship Gala was a moving showcase of our students’ talent. Thanks to the generosity of many donors and the Crewe Foundation, it was also a highly successful fundraising event. In addition to the $10,000 matching challenge from the Crewe Foundation, alumni, friends, faculty, and staff gave or pledged more than $25,000 to School of Music scholarships — both leading up to and during the Gala. More than 120 people registered for the Gala, providing approximately $6,000 in scholarship support. All contributions supported the Music Talent Scholarship and the School of Music Emergency Scholarship Fund. Thank you to Alan Kaschub, Director of the School of Music, and our marvelous student musicians for a delightful evening. And thank you to everyone who attended, everyone who made a contribution in support of the School of Music, and to Bob Crewe and the Crewe Foundation for generously matching gifts through the $10,000 challenge.

6) Congratulations to Dr. Tracy Michaud, Assistant Professor of Tourism & Hospitality, for her extraordinary work to deepen USM’s ties with the Arctic and help create new educational opportunities for USM students in this dynamic part of the world. With Tracy's efforts, USM has joined the Arctic Education Alliance, a new partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Penn State University, the University of Greenland, and the U.S. Department of State that will build vocational education programs that support training in sustainable tourism, hospitality, and land and fisheries management in Greenland. Learn more in this USM News story

7) ICYMI, I encourage you to check out NewsCenter’s coverage of the work that Dr. Asheesh Lanba, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and his students are doing in the MIST lab that’s part of Michael E. Dubyak Center for Digital Science and Innovation. At the request of the Portland Rotary Club, Dr. Lanba and his students used 3D printers to prototype a fully functioning prosthetic arm that operates in high-humidity climates and can be made for under $120. The Portland Rotary Club plans to donate the prosthetics to amputees in the Dominican Republic and India. This is a marvelous example of the research experience that undergraduates get to undertake with USM faculty — and how that work makes a real-world impact.

8) Moving from theory to practice and finding learning opportunities within the communities of our region have long been hallmarks of a USM education. A recent and impactful example can be found in the research conducted by students in CON 356/Concepts in Community Health, taught by Dr. Judy Bradberry, a part-time faculty member in our School of Nursing. Under Judy’s guidance, the students developed “Voices of the Islands,” a web-based multimedia presentation that features interviews with islanders on how the pandemic is affecting their communities, economy, transportation, tourism, vulnerable populations, public health, and quality of life. As the website is available now through January 1, I encourage you to take a look at this beautiful curation of research that illuminates issues small island communities are facing.

9) Please join me in congratulating Mike Bendzela, a Pushcart Prize-winning part-time instructor in USM’s Department of English, on the publication of Metazoan Variations, a work of environmental literature at the nexus of science and art. Exploring, as one reader put it, "the intimate lives of fauna (and flora), wild and domestic," Mike’s book is the natural outcome of his work as a writer, teacher, and farmer and was in part informed by courses he has taken with USM science faculty. Learn more about Metazoan Variations at The Raw Art Review.

10) Please join me in thanking first-year criminology major Dami Caldwell and Sodexo for $500 that has come to the USM Campus Food Pantry. Dami is one of 30 college students nationwide randomly selected to receive $500 from dining services provider Sodexo as part of its “Spread The Joy Sweepstakes.” Featured at more than 600 Sodexo-managed colleges and universities across the country, the program offers college students the opportunity to contribute $500 in their name to a campus food pantry or a local hunger-related charity. Winners also receive a $100 VISA gift card to spend any way they choose. When Dami learned she would be given $500 to donate to a local effort that helps overcome food insecurity, her mind was made up in an instant. “As soon as I knew it was an option, there was no hesitation about choosing the USM Campus Food Pantry to help those in need,” she said. Learn more in this USM News story.

11) This past Tuesday, USM student-athletes received the third and final installment of the fall 2020 Pack Chat series of career development talks with USM Career Hub staff and alumni. Following the first two sessions led by the Career Hub’s Jill Williams and Michelle Drucker on resume and cover letter development, interviewing, networking, and marketing of skills, USM student-athletes met virtually with Fred Knight ’17, Senior Systems Engineer at General Dynamics; Renée Heath Towne ’04,’10, Maine Medical Center Cardiothoracic Unit Progressive Care Nurse; and April Cohen ’04, Realtor with the Cohen Team with the Bean Group. Each of the three former Husky standouts shared insights on how their experiences as USM student-athletes helped them develop transferable skills that positioned them for success before and after graduation. Many thanks to Samantha Norris, head coach of women’s basketball coach and SAAC Advisor, for coordinating the fall 2020 Pack Chats, the Career Hub staff, and Fred, Renée, and April for sharing their wisdom with our student-athletes.

12) I call everyone’s attention to Greater Portland Metro’s two public meetings on proposed route changes tomorrow (Tuesday, Dec. 8) via Zoom. Greater Portland Metro is proposing a new bi-directional circulator bus route that would replace the current Route 1 and Route 8 service on the peninsula. Additional recommended route changes — affecting Routes 2, 4, 5, 7, and the Husky Line — will also be presented at the meetings. Greater Portland Metro’s goal is to create a route that makes traveling around the peninsula easier and provides more frequent and faster service. Registration is required to attend tomorrow’s meeting, and language support and accommodations are available by request through registration. Register for the 10 to 11 a.m. meeting and the 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. meeting. The meetings will be streamed live on the Greater Portland Council of Governments’ Facebook page. Here are shareable Facebook events for the 10 a.m. meeting and the 5:30 p.m. meeting.

13) 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. 

Course Modalities Infographic

  • 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.

  • The last day to drop a full semester course for a grade of W (for Withdrawal) has been extended to this Friday, Dec. 11Please see this email from the Office of Registration and Scheduling Services for information about how to drop a full semester course for a W. Since there may be implications regarding your financial aid eligibility, please consult with your financial aid counselor when considering dropping a course for a W.

  • 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, for those interested in a very approachable, brilliantly explained, lecture on multi-universes, black holes, quantum entanglement, string theory, and, yes, even an explanation as to why our existence might be a full-blown hologram, Columbia University's professor of physics Brian Greene captures the highlights exquisitely. Check out his lecture titled, "The Nature of Space and Time." I predict that you will emerge with a sense of wonder at the marvelous construction of our existence.

May your week be full of learning, connections, and mind-blowing lectures.