Office of the President

Monday Missive (Nov. 16, 2020)

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As we enter the final 10 days of our fall semester residential program and in-person classes, let me thank everyone in the USM community for careful adherence to our safety protocols. As cases intensify, both here in Maine and across the nation, our need for caution remains paramount. While our overall infection rate continues to be impressive, with semester-long positivity rates below the state average, case counts in Maine and across the nation are increasing. That’s why our continued vigilance is essential. Our students, faculty, and staff deserve immense credit for their strong, safety-first approach to one of the most serious pandemics in modern history. Let us stay the course.

As part of our efforts to minimize nonessential contact, we have decided, starting today, to suspend Athletics group practices and in-person team activities through Thanksgiving. We will also further limit student-life programming in Lower Brooks, where grab-and-go food pickup remains in effect. Costello Sports Complex in Gorham and the Sullivan Recreation and Fitness Complex in Portland remain open for the campus community to use individually and within the safety protocols already in place.

Suspending Athletics group practices and in-person activities for the next 10 days is one more important step we can take to limit nonessential contact and decrease the chances that students, faculty, and staff will be in quarantine or isolation through Thanksgiving. It’s also in line with the System’s guidance on limiting exposure over the final two weeks.

We have all worked incredibly hard to get this far in the semester together. I want everyone to be able to enjoy a safe, healthy, and well-deserved break on Nov. 25. Especially now, please demonstrate the behaviors outlined in the Healthy Huskies Promise to ensure your safety and the safety of your family and the USM community.

As many of our students prepare to return to their homes for the holidays, USM and the University of Maine System have committed to offering expanded Safe Departure Testing this week to help ensure students can return home knowing their status.

Let's start this week’s Missive with details on our three-day Safe Departure Testing program:

1. In addition to randomly selected non-residential students, faculty, and staff, this week’s Safe Departure Testing will include all residential students and select non-residential students that have been identified by the University of Maine System as having a home address outside of Maine and currently enrolled in a course with an in-person component.

All residential students will test:

  • Monday, Nov. 16, 8 to 11:45 a.m. & 12:30 to 3 p.m., in Costello Field House, Gorham Campus.

Randomly selected commuter students, faculty, and staff will test:

  • Monday, Nov. 16, 8 to 11:45 a.m. & 12:30 to 3 p.m., Costello Field House, Gorham Campus
  • Tuesday. Nov. 17, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Abromson Center, Portland Campus
  • Thursday, Nov. 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Rm 108/109, Lewiston

To find out if you have been randomly selected for testing, check your email to see if you received a message from usmcovidtesting@maine.edu with all the details. For more information on next week’s testing dates, times, and locations, see the Asymptomatic Testing FAQ page. Participants who have tested at any point before with USM are expected to participate again as this is a new round of testing.

2. I’m proud to report that several faculty and staff of our Cutler Institute and School of Nursing joined U.S. CDC and Maine CDC staff in developing a national, pandemic-related epidemiological report for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Last week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), “Multiple COVID-19 Outbreaks Linked to a Wedding Reception in Rural Maine — August 7–September 14, 2020,” is the result of outbreak investigations by Sarah Bly, Megan Kelley, and Craig Rothfuss — all School of Nursing epidemiology staff embedded with the Maine CDC. Dr. Sara Huston, an associate research professor at the Cutler Institute, worked with Dr. Parag Mahale, the lead author and the U.S. CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer assigned to the Maine CDC, to edit and publish the report. This is yet another example of how the expertise of our faculty makes a difference in the lives of Maine people. To learn more, please see this USM News story.

3. Our students’ endeavors and accomplishments continue to be a source of pride and inspiration. This week, I’m pleased to share the details of research being undertaken by Kacey Foerster, an English major with a K–8 pathway who is investigating the cognitive effects of reading to people with Alzheimer’s disease. Kacey’s regular reading sessions at a local memory care facility started with a familial connection. When her grandfather had to forgo independent living due to Alzheimer's, she wanted to honor his love of books by reading short stories and picture books to him during visits. When Dr. Melinda Butler, Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at USM, found out about Kacey’s reading sessions with memory care facility residents, she nominated Kacey to receive funding through USM’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which awards scholarly fellowships so students can design and conduct their own research projects in collaboration with a faculty member. To learn more, please see this USM News story.

4. Last week, I mentioned that USM master’s and doctoral graduate Andrew Dolloff M.S.’95, Ph.D.’15 has been named Maine Superintendent of the Year. I had the privilege of teaching Andrew during his graduate study at USM and am delighted to see him receive the state’s top superintendent honor. To learn more about Andrew and his impressive career of service to Maine students and educators, please see this USM News story

5. Please join me in congratulating the eight new inductees to the USM Athletics Husky Hall of Fame: Darci Holland ’05 (Field Hockey & Softball), Stacy (LeBlanc) Salvo ’06 (Women's Soccer), Ryan Bourque ’07 (Baseball), Melissa (Bellemore) Mayo-Smith ’07 (Women's Track & Field), Colin Reilly ’09 (Men's Soccer), Nicole (Paradis) Pollock ’10 (Women's Basketball), Tyler Jasud ’11 (Men's Cross Country, Track & Field), and Tucker White ’13 (Baseball). The 35th annual Husky Hall of Fame is presented by Army ROTC with additional support from University Credit Union and Saco Bay Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. To learn more about this accomplished group of alumni, please see this USM Athletics story.

6. Please also join me in congratulating Ralph Hendrix ’77, the recipient of the 2020 Clifford O.T. Weiden Award, which honors individuals or local businesses who contribute special talents and time to USM. Since graduating with a degree in Business Administration 43 years ago, Ralph has maintained deep ties with the university, contributing his time and talents as a successful certified public accountant to USM. Hendrix has been an Athletic Development Council leader since its inception, serving on marketing subcommittees, event planning, and using his background in accounting to assist with fundraising. We appreciate his extraordinary support.

7. Our School of Music has a full schedule of concerts, workshops and recitals coming up. I ask you to join me in attending these delightful events virtually. They include the USM Instrumental Ensembles, the Jazz Ensemble, the Composers Showcase, Ed Reichert Musical Theatre Studio Recital, and the Winter Gala. For a full listing and links to register, please visit the School of Music's ticketing site.

8. Don’t forget that Tim Wallace, the New York Times’ Senior Editor for Geography will discuss “Mapping the 2020 Election” at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18. Sponsored by the Osher Map Library, Wallace’s talk will provide a behind-the-scenes look at how the New York Times used maps and geography to help readers understand the political makeup of the country during one of the most complicated election years in recent memory. You can register for the annual Mattson-New York Times Lecture on the Osher Map Library’s Eventbrite page.

9. I’m delighted to report that the Planning Board of the City of Portland unanimously approved the beginning of USM's largest development project in its 142-year history. The approval sets in motion a major construction project on the Portland campus that will feature residential housing, a campus green/quad between Masterton Hall and Woodbury Campus Center, and a new Student Career and Success Center. The project gets underway in early spring 2021. Thank you to all those whose work helped bring this dream to reality.

10. As part of the process of bringing student housing to the Portland Campus, the University is continuing to evaluate the demand for student housing in Gorham as well as Portland. So, students, please take a few minutes to complete this survey before Sunday, November 22, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. As a token of our appreciation for your time, you will be entered into a drawing to win one of two $500 spring semester textbook credits OR one of 20 $50 gift cards to Hannaford, L.L. Bean, and other local vendors. Thank you for sharing your interests regarding USM housing.

11. Student Engagement & Leadership is hosting its annual Fall semester Stress Relief Week through Thursday, Nov. 19. This year, they are changing it up a bit to limit nonessential contact ahead of Thanksgiving. Students seeking ways to de-stress during these challenging times are encouraged to see this list of events scheduled on our Gorham, Portland, and the Lewiston-Auburn campuses.

12. Students, please take note of these important reminders regarding financial aid, course scheduling and registration, and upcoming career events:

  • Students who are planning to take courses next fall are strongly encouraged to complete the FAFSA by January 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 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 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.

On a personal note, I very much recommend watching the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma. This exposé on the hidden matrices of social media reveals the inner world of technology companies in maximizing consumer use of their platforms. One of the interviewees reminds watchers that "If you're not paying for the product, then you ARE the product." The film details how dopamine hits from being validated by like-minded perspectives create "confirmation bias" and affirm our ego and persona. It also weakens our ability to listen to others with whom we might disagree. Not an encouraging theme as our country continues to desperately need healing and understanding, but an essential and timely watch.

May your week be full of learning, connections, and maximum safety precautions.
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