Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
As we welcome back residential students today and our entire community for the 2021 Spring semester next week, let me begin this Tuesday edition of the Monday Missive with warm wishes for a new year full of good health, increasing optimism and prosperity, and peace. While unprecedented challenges to that vision abound, reasons for hope also surround us.
On what would have been the 92nd birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., his words and actions continue to be a calling to our greatest principles. As President Barack Obama reminds us, the legacy of MLK exists as perhaps the consummate faith in the potential of our nation:
"If anyone has a right to question whether our democracy was worth redeeming, it was Martin Luther King, Jr.,” he said. “In the face of billy clubs and lynchings, poll taxes and literacy tests, he never gave into violence, never waved a traitorous flag, or gave up on our country."
I asked Dr. Idella Glenn, our Associate Vice President of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Impact, to share her thoughts on Dr. King and yesterday’s celebration. Here’s what she wrote:
As I reflect on the state of our nation today, January 15th, the day that would have been the 92nd birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am reminded of a passage from his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," among my favorite of his many writings:
“In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be … This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
I came across this quote some years ago and it has become my mantra. The quote seems to encapsulate the essence of my work in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space — that we as human beings are connected and interconnected with one another. The “work” is to break down the barriers of systemic racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression that separate us from one another. These systems and structures have created inequities over the past centuries that require attention and intention to dismantle. The pandemic has laid bare these inequities and created an opportunity for us to recommit ourselves to creating the beloved community — one that is based on inclusiveness, justice, and equal opportunity for all.
Thank you, Dr. Glenn, for your inspiration. USM is blessed to be on the journey to the Beloved Community.
Now, we turn to the news and updates from around Husky Nation:
1. Our impressive former Dean of the Lewiston-Auburn Campus and Professor of Leadership and Organizational Studies, Dr. Joyce Gibson, received news on MLK's birthday of her induction into the Maine Women's Hall of Fame for her commitment to access to higher education, racial equity, social justice, and women's rights. As always, Dr. Gibson makes us proud.
2. The news from the System regarding asymptomatic testing is especially welcome. As was announced this past Friday, the System has entered into a partnership with Shield T3, a provider of COVID testing solutions associated with the University of Illinois System, that will provide capacity for approximately 16,000 high-specificity and -sensitivity COVID-19 PCR tests per week. The agreement includes the delivery of a mobile testing laboratory to the University of Maine, where Shield T3 will process non-invasive, saliva-based test results onsite to eliminate the need to ship collected samples to out-of-state laboratories for processing. This new development will reduce result wait times to 24 hours or less.
Starting today here at USM, residential students, student-athletes, ensemble music students, and out-of-state commuters who have relocated to Maine for the spring term will be screened and quarantined until their negative test is confirmed. Residential students and student-athletes will be screened upon arrival to campus. Tomorrow, music ensemble students, select Portland Facilities Maintenance staff, and commuters who opted to test in Portland will be screened. Students required to participate in Phase 4 screening may provide evidence of a negative PCR or Antigen test to be exempted from the required quarantine. All people who are part of these initial rounds of screening have been notified by email. If you have questions, please contact email@example.com.
3. Our early February shift to Phase 6 of Asymptomatic Testing, in which every member of our on-campus communities will be tested weekly, will require significant staffing. As noted in a recent email from VP of Human Resources Natalie Jones, the search is on for current USM employees, students, and community members to serve as Public Health Testing Ambassadors on the Portland and Gorham campuses from February 1 through May 7. For information about the scope of the work, job requirements, work environment, and compensation, please see the recent email.
4. In order to support the Public Health Testing Ambassador Team with the implementation of weekly asymptomatic screening that begins February 1, we are asking all employees to fill out the Work Location Submission Form. We need to understand if you are already working on campus, when you will return to campus, or if you are not planning on returning to campus at all this semester. We also need to know which location would be most convenient for you to be scheduled for testing. If you have questions about the surveying of employee work plans through the Work Location Submission Form, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. I’m delighted to report that since the last Missive just over a month ago, our faculty and staff have received a great deal of digital ink in a variety of media stories that all call attention to USM’s progress and excellence. Here are some highlights:
- Former Chief Operating Officer Nancy Griffin was quoted extensively in the recent Chronicle of Higher Education article “How to Survive the Enrollment Bust.” In this topical story, Nancy speaks to how our student-focused retention efforts are helping the University maintain enrollment in the face of shrinking pools of prospective students.
- In the recent Portland Press Herald article “High school seniors are choosing colleges sight unseen,” Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing Jared Cash discusses trends that USM’s Admissions team has seen among prospective students and their families during the pandemic. As the PPH reports, USM’s admissions outlook is far brighter than many colleges and universities during these challenging times.
- In “‘A lot of people are struggling’: Pandemic adds to challenges facing college students,” Dean of Students Rodney Mondor tells Portland Press Herald readers about USM’s efforts to help students who are facing financial struggles during the pandemic. Chief among those supports is our donor-fueled Student Emergency Fund that has provided more than 230 students with grants averaging $600.
- We continue to be proud of and thankful for our students who are working as emergency responders and essential front-line workers during the pandemic. Earlier this academic year we were able to award $1,000 scholarships to 50 USM students who are serving as emergency responders or essential front-line workers. Some of their stories recently have been celebrated in central and southern Maine media outlets.
- Historian and Executive Director of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education Dr. Libby Bischof shared her insights about John Duncan’s still-image documentation of people and city life in the Bangor Daily News story “Portland photographer’s vintage pictures make people ‘less sad for what they’ve lost.’”
- Assistant Professor of Linguistics Dr. Jeanne Heil provides sage advice to people seeking to learn a new language in the recent Bangor Daily News article “You can learn a new language and actually make it stick.”
- And two faculty members recently shared their perspectives in Maine Voices Op-Ed pieces for the Portland Press Herald. Dr. Vaishali Mamgain, Associate Professor of Economics and Director of the Bertha C. Ball Center for Compassion, explains how observing the physical responses to the attack on the U.S. Capitol can help white people understand how "Black, brown and queer bodies have been barred, mutilated and enchained." And Dr. Joseph McDonnell, Professor of Policy, Planning, and Management, explains how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" offers "a sustained argument that sought to persuade his critics based on shared values rather than the all-too-common approach today of speaking only to those already convinced of one’s position with no attempt to reach out to the opposition."
6. My thanks go out to Director of Veterans Services Lorrie Spaulding and her graduate assistant and MSW candidate, Alison Nolan, for their work to organize and co-host the Student Veteran Success Summit for Professionals last week. The event brought together Maine educational professionals who advise and support military veterans to share knowledge and build a community of stakeholders for ongoing collaboration. Lorrie tells me that Director of Academic Advising Beth Higgins presented on best advising practices, and Alison took a leadership role in the planning and execution of this summit by, among other things, leading an opening-day session, securing the participation of volunteers and student veterans from Maine colleges and universities, moderating a session, and working with student panelists to develop the questions they wanted panelists to address. Thank you to all involved for strengthening the support of student veterans statewide.
7. As the spring semester gets underway next Monday, here are several updates and reminders to help us experience a smooth launch:
- New Campus Locations for Key Student Services
With the closure of the Woodbury Campus Center at the end of the fall semester, several important student service offices have been relocated for the start of the spring semester. The following services have been relocated to the Second Floor of the Abromson Center:
Student Diversity Center, Prayer and Meditation Room, Student Government Association Office, Campus Safety Project, and the Student Affairs Office. These spaces are located behind the University Store. The second floor also features a Zoom Lounge and tables and chairs on the mezzanine overlooking the first floor.
Also, the Campus Food Pantry has relocated to 102 Bedford Street (on the basement level) of the white house occupied by TRiO Services, Promise Scholars, and Veteran’s Upward Bound. For hours and more information, please visit the website or email: email@example.com.
On the Portland Campus, Dining Services will be open for business starting on the first day of classes in the lobby of Luther Bonney Hall, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sodexo will provide new hot meal options, a variety of Simply to Go offerings (salads, sandwiches, cups), freshly brewed coffee, and a variety of snacks and beverages. Sodexo also will feature LTOs (limited time offers) that will change every two weeks. To expedite food pick up, make sure to download and use the Bite App to order your meals ahead of time. Just go to the App Store for iOS or the Google Play Store for Android and type “Bite by Sodexo – Universities” to download the USM Dining Mobile Ordering App. Meals will be provided to residential students on the Gorham Campus beginning on move-in day, and in Brooks Dining Hall and the Husky Hideaway when classes resume.
- New Zoom Lounge Locations
USM has designated several spaces on all three campuses for socially distanced group study, individual quiet study, and Zoom/online course participation. Please see this updated list of Zoom lounges and study spaces for the spring semester — and don’t forget to stay socially distanced and bring headphones for use in these spaces.
- Safe Zone Training Sessions Announced
For those wishing to be Safe Zone Project volunteers in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and queer students, staff, and faculty, please note that four Zoom-based orientation sessions have been scheduled. For all the details, please see the recent email from Assistant Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Sarah Holmes.
- Mindful Mondays Resume
Academic Advisor and Nationally Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) Katie Tomer will continue to offer Mindful Mondays from 4:45 to 5:15 p.m. every Monday, excluding university holidays. This ongoing Zoom-baed program is open to all students, faculty, and staff. Participants are invited to learn and practice evidence-based breathing and meditation techniques that have been shown to lower stress levels and increase well-being. Join Mindful Mondays through this Zoom link.
- Please review the System's face-covering guide
Now is a good time to revisit USM’s and the University of Maine System’s policies on face coverings. Prior to the start of the spring semester, please take a moment to refamiliarize yourself with face coverings that are acceptable for use on campus.
8) Students, please take note of these important #usmprotips to support your success at USM:
- If you need last-minute assistance with your spring schedule, USM's Advising Team is offering all-day virtual "drop-in" appointments from Jan. 19–29. To connect with a professional advisor, visit the Advising Team website and look for the blue and orange boxes to either request a meeting with an advisor or more immediately connect with an advisor through the virtual front desk from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Please note: If you’re interested in switching a fall semester grade from a letter grade to pass–fail, the deadline for requesting the change is Thursday, Jan. 28. Learn more about the simple, three-step process for requesting a change to pass–fail grading.
- SEAL (Student Engagement And Leadership) has a full slate of activities lined up for residential students who are quarantining after their asymptomatic test on move-in day. Some activities involve the use of downloaded apps (like Netflixparty.com, Disney Plus, or Kahoot), some require a gaming console (like Playstation, XBOX, or Nintendo Switch), and some involve the grab-and-go pick up of supplies and materials from Lower Brooks. See each day's activities on the SEAL website.
- Whether you're in quarantine or at home this week, check out the new Hired Huskies Podcast, courtesy of USM's Career Hub. Offering glimpses into the work lives of USM alumni and insider tips for reaching your own career goals, the Hired Huskies Podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and WMPG.org/90.9 FM.
- If you need a refresher on what all the different course modalities mean, please see this online guide to the various course modalities so you will know how your courses will be conducted and what’s expected of you.
- Speaking of course modalities, there's a good chance that Zoom and Brightspace could feature prominently in your academic experience this coming semester. USM’s Academic Gains Through Improved Learning Effectiveness (AGILE) program offers several resources to help you be a more successful learner on Brightspace and Zoom. Find out how to submit an assignment, engage in a discussion and take quizzes on Brightspace in the Student’s Guide to Brightspace video series. And the Learning with Zoom video series is just as full of pro tips.
USM’s Counseling Team has developed a preliminary — and growing — schedule of workshops and groups for the spring semester. The Counseling Team will email students, faculty, and staff during the first week of classes with an updated list of workshops and groups that includes new additions. Remember: workshops are FREE to all enrolled students.
9. With sadness, I’ll close this week’s Missive with news that Dr. Helen Greenwood, a 27-year member of the faculty, provost, and dean of Lewiston-Auburn College, has passed away. For details on Helen’s remarkable life and career, please see this obituary in the Register-Herald of Beckley, W.Va.
On a personal note, for the holiday I received Marilyn Robsinison's fourth book of her series on the fictional Boughton family. Titled Jack for the wayward son of Minister Boughton, the book depicts the complex inner psyche of perhaps the series’ least noble, yet most sympathetic and engaging character. It carefully and skillfully touches the realms of structural racism, alcoholism, and the ever-present tension of predestination and self-determination in Robinson's novels. Never an author of action-filled thrillers, the book is exceptional as a narrative of the quiet threads that drive our inner and outer lives.
May your week be a blend of rest and preparation for the semester ahead. We look forward to "seeing" you, digitally or in-person.