Office of the President

Monday Missive (Nov. 23, 2020)

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Being thankful for the many gifts in our lives correlates to greater levels of happiness, inner peace, and health. According to Harvard professor of psychology Dr. Dan Gilbert's research on human happiness, it also makes you a better friend, partner, colleague, and citizen. Just spend a few minutes with souls possessed by resentment, bitterness, self-absorption, and anger and the attractiveness of grateful people needs no extra promotion.

This week many of us will celebrate — hopefully in safe ways — the blessings of our existence. Our circumstances this year may test our ability to feel grateful. But perhaps, despite all that we are contending with, we have cause for even greater thanks.

As I look at our University, I see students who displayed unprecedented resilience, faculty who showed the highest levels of flexibility and student-focused concern, and staff who demonstrated the best in caring and commitment under difficult conditions. Our alumni and community statewide rallied around us with financial support and goodwill. And we collectively rose to meet highly complex challenges.

For all of these reasons, I am feeling especially thankful this year. I hope you find reasons to feel gratitude and can celebrate Thanksgiving this year with authentic joy.

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

1) Please join me in congratulating Dr. Valerie Fuller, Assistant Professor of Nursing, for receiving the 2021 Advocate State Award for Excellence from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. The AANP honor recognizes an individual in each state who has made a significant contribution toward increasing awareness and recognition of nurse practitioners. Last year, the AANP presented the Advocate State Award for Excellence to U.S. Senator Angus King.

2) Congratulations are also in order for Dr. Brendan McQuade, Assistant Professor of Criminology, for recently earning a pair of prestigious honors for “Pacifying the Homeland: Intelligence Fusion and Mass Supervision,” his book that examines incarceration and the growth of surveillance in the U.S. The American Society on Criminology's Division on Critical Criminology and Social Justice honored McQuade with its Book of the Year Award. He also earned a Paul Sweezy Marxist Sociology Book Award from the Marxist Sociology Blog. 

3) I’m thrilled to report that thanks to a $5,000 donation from Martin’s Point Health Care USM now has a new food pantry location on its Gorham campus, where those in need can pre-order online and pick up their food and supplies in person. Martin’s Point Health Care, a long-time partner with the University, has supported the well-being of USM students in many ways during the pandemic. The $5,000 gift that launched the Gorham Campus Food Pantry was part of a larger $20,000 commitment made earlier in the spring when COVID-19 shut down the USM campus. Martin’s Point also made a gift of $2,500 to support the Senior College at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College (LAC). The money helped purchase IT equipment and support that will enable them to offer their classes to more seniors online as a way to help tackle the senior isolation challenge. Learn more about the impact of the gift from Martin’s Point in this USM News story.

4) I recently had the opportunity to hear from our grateful Promise Scholars about the impact the Promise Scholarship has made in their lives. When Ayden ’22 lost her part-time job due to the pandemic this summer, the Promise Scholarship served as a lifeline, allowing her to continue her classes without falling behind financially. Emmanuel ’22 said the Promise Scholarship is "an investment into my dreams and who I am as an individual." And Colbey ’24, who aspires to become a mental health practitioner, said, "Promise has opened the door for me.” What became clear to me is how the Promise Scholarship has changed the lives of many USM students — and in these challenging times, the Promise Scholarship is more important than ever. Through the $1 million Promise Scholarship Challenge, we have an opportunity to double the impact of our generosity and help to ensure that generations of future USM students experience the life-changing support of the Promise Scholarship and a USM education.

5) While our Safe Departure Testing wrapped up last week, I want everyone to know that asymptomatic testing will continue with the start of the spring 2021 semester. We will begin the spring 2021 term with required Safe Return Testing for key in-person populations in January and continue with mandatory testing of randomly selected students, faculty, and staff. More information about these testing opportunities will be shared in early 2021. In the meantime, students remaining in residence through the rest of this semester and the semester break may continue to receive requests for Asymptomatic Testing directly from usmcovidtesting@maine.edu. For other students as well as faculty and staff, please know that FREE testing is available throughout Maine. See the Keeping Maine Healthy COVID-19 Testing Locations to learn where you can obtain a test. (Scroll down a bit to see the list.)

6) While we're on the subject of our health, please remember that it’s not too late to get your flu shot before the transition to remote learning next week. Just call Health Services (207-780-5411) before going home for the holidays to make an appointment.

7) If you are seeking ways to learn about Wabanaki tribes this month, the November 2020 issue of DownEast Magazine includes a list of books, films, podcasts, and other media to consider in "5 Ways to Recognize Wabanaki Heritage During Native American Heritage Month." 

8) I'm pleased to share that the deadline for The Combined Charitable Appeal for University Employees campaign (CCAUE) has been extended to Friday, Dec. 4. The need has never been more pressing than this year. The pandemic and related job losses have undermined the stability of our families, putting unforeseeable pressures on the economy as well as the physical and mental health of each one of us. I encourage your participation in the 2020 campaign at whatever level you are comfortable with. Please visit the CCAUE website for information on how you can contribute online, including the convenient payroll deduction option.  

9) 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. 11. Please 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.

10) Don't forget that our School of Music has a full schedule of concerts, workshops and recitals coming up, featuring 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.

11) Due to Thanksgiving, the Healthy Huskies Update will take a brief hiatus this week. ICYMI, last week's tips and information about CDC’s advice on the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving, what's next for testing, and how to be more successful on Brightspace & Zoom are still topical. 

On a personal note, I consider Thanksgiving one of my favorite holidays for several reasons. Most notably, it involves eating, which is a particular skill of mine, assuming the food complies with my picky palate, i.e. no dairy or meat. Secondly, it involves no or minimal gift-giving, therefore relieving me of the pressure to shop for things that (mostly) miss the mark. Finally, the holiday focuses on direct human interaction (possibly over Zoom this year) and gratitude. What could be more joyous?

May your week be full of learning, connections, and good food and people.
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