Office of the President

Monday Missive (Nov. 15, 2021)

Dear USM Community,

Almost 200 countries convened in Glasgow, Scotland over the past two weeks to forge agreements on a plan to save the planet. Over this past weekend the details of the COP26 (The UN Conference of the Parties) summit emerged from subcommittees and reached the full assembly of delegates. Attendees passed a major agreement which called for a 2022 reconvening of the summit in which each country will define their strategy to "prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperatures." The resolution calls upon wealthy countries to "double" their financial commitment to more vulnerable nations who are already experiencing the more dramatic impacts of climate change.

Not everyone considered the agreement worthy of the urgency of the situation. The agreement urged a "phase down" of coal production while climate activists chanted for a "phase-out". Switzerland's lead diplomat to the assembly described the compromise on coal production as a step backwards: "We are disappointed both about the process and the last minute change. This will not bring us closer to 1.5 (the recommended degree decrease by 2050) but will make it more difficult to reach."

Perhaps more concerning, the assembly left untouched the exact carbon reductions, by each country, necessary to achieve long-term sustainable temperatures. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh alone, over a million climate refugees have left their homes as a result of unprecedented flooding and a third of Greenland's ice cap melted in the past decade. Here in Maine, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute report warming in the Gulf of Maine not seen in millennia. The result has been lobster migrations outward toward the continental shelf and shark migrations upward into the normally more formidable cold waters of the Maine shoreline.

Let's hope extensive work between now and next year's summit will set the stage for further, more specific, progress.

Now onto the progress of our university.

1) I would like to take a moment to thank our nursing students who continue to help vaccinate people against COVID-19. Right now, many of them are working with the newest group able to be vaccinated: kids age 5 to 11. And they aren't alone -- nursing students across the system are  doing this important job. Thank you to all!

2) Please take a few minutes to watch the spectacular concert video created by the USM Chamber Singers under the direction of Nicolás Dosman, Director of Choral Studies. The video portrays the group performing on a catwalk atop Portland Headlight. You can also see the piece about the shoot on News Center Maine’s “207” program.

3) On the Portland Campus, the new Portland Commons and Career & Student Success Center are really taking shape! According to John Souther, Executive Director of Facilities, the foundations for both buildings are mostly complete, and new prefabricated walls and concrete floor panels are being set every day at Portland Commons. (With a 238-ton crane doing the lifting and placing.)  At the Career & Student Success Center, building steel will begin installation over the next two weeks and the loading dock foundation just behind the heat plant will start to take shape. 

4) I invite you to attend the upcoming faculty concert performance on Friday evening, featuring flutist Krysia Tripp and Friends. They’re promising an evening of beautiful music for flute in a solo and chamber setting, she’ll be joined by Martin Perry on piano, Dean Stein on violin and    Mo Nichols on harp. The concert is set to begin at 8 p.m. in Corthell Concert Hall on the Gorham Campus. Tickets are available online.

5) Congratulations go to Ryan Wallace, the director of Maine Center for Business and Economic Research. Chancellor Malloy chose Ryan as his designee on the governor’s Revenue Forecasting Committee. 

6) The USM Food Studies Program and the Campus Food Pantry are collecting new reusable food containers for Maine Recycles Week Food.  Help reduce food waste by donating new food containers, either glass or plastic with lids, beginning Today and lasting until Friday, Nov. 19th.  Drop off your containers to either the Glickman Library, the Department of Economics and Sociology Office, located on the 3rd floor of Payson Smith Hall in Portland, or at one of the Campus Food Pantries, located at 102 Bedford Street in Portland and the UCU Den in Gorham.

7) Thanks go to the Veterans Resource Center and the Career and Employment Hub for gathering a panel of local employers who met last week with our student veterans. The employers talked about how they seek out veterans, that intangibles such as a strong work ethic and skills at working within a team are highly valuable. Read more about the panel in a USM News Story.

8) Congratulations go to two members of the Department of Literacy, Language, and Culture faculty. Kathleen McGovern has been invited to give a lecture on November 18th at UMass Boston for their Applied Linguistics Lecture series, titled: "This is a country of immigrants!": Drama, Identity, and Second Language Pedagogy. Nicole Siffrinn will be giving a lecture series on Nov. 16-17 for the 80th Anniversary of Beijing Foreign Studies University. The lecture series is titled "Conceptualizations of Language Within and Across Research Paradigms.” You both make USM proud.

On a personal note, over the Veterans Day break, I had the opportunity to hike both the Quechee Gorge Trail in Quechee, Vermont and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, Vermont. The merciless rains of the Green Mountains strained my outdoor gear to near-maximum capacity, eventually "wetting me out" after a few hours in the relentless downpour. The growing discomfort diminished little of the awe of the Zeus-like power of the rapids screeching through the deep ravine or the majesty of standing on South Peak overlooking the Woodstock Valley. I think my provincial but romantic belief that Maine hiking remains unmatched, experienced delicate dissolution.

May your week be full of learning, connections and some great adventures.