Office of the President

Monday Missive (Nov. 30, 2020)

Dear USM Community,

As we enter the final month of 2020, many among us are tentatively and hopefully peering ahead to a safer, more unified, and more prosperous 2021. Announcements of COVID-19 vaccines yielding successful trials may be harbingers of brighter times ahead. Given the impact of the pandemic, particularly on the most vulnerable among us, such sunlight on the horizon is welcome.

Here at USM, our in-person semester ended last Wednesday as scheduled, and our transition to remote learning for the fall term is underway. We concluded the tail end of the in-person segment with only three active cases — a truly exceptional achievement given the tenacious nature of the virus and the rapidly escalating infection rates nationwide. Given what we learned this semester, I believe we will enter 2021 better prepared for the challenges ahead and more confident in Husky Nation's ability to unite for our common safety and well-being.

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

1. While most of our students were able to enjoy Thanksgiving at home this year, we had 10 in quarantine who remained on campus through the holiday break. I want to thank these students for their patience and resilience. Thanks also go out to the graduate student care managers who supported the quarantined students. And to the faculty and staff who generously gave of their time and baking prowess, thank you for preparing homemade treats for our campus-bound students during this challenging time.

2. Please note that our Office of Student Engagement and Leadership is sponsoring “Racism is a Virus,” an informative presentation that delves into racism in the age of COVID-19, from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight. Created by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine for students and educators alike, the Zoom-based webinar will provide us with an opportunity to discuss issues that are important to our community. Students, this is a Passport Approved event, so your participation enters you into a raffle drawing for some terrific prizes.

3. At a time when we are working to be anti-racists, I wish to thank Professor of English Eve Raimon and the students in her Slavery and Public History class. They are working to understand Maine’s history by examining the state's shipping industry and its complicity in the pre-Civil War slave trade. Their exploration is part of The Atlantic Black Box Project, a crowd-sourced initiative that empowers communities throughout New England to research and begin reckoning with the region’s role in the global slave trade and the broader economy of enslavement. It’s led by Meadow Dibble and includes the work of a USM double alumna Kate McMahon ’09 and ’12, who now serves as a specialist with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History & Culture and its Center for the Study of Global Slavery. Learn more about the project in this USM News story.

4. Please join me in congratulating Rebecca Schroeder DNP, MPH, PMHNP for her insight on the timely issue of nurse practitioners and telemental health services during the pandemic. Dr. Schroeder, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing, authored an article on the subject that was recently published in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association and as a blog entry in the scholarly SAGE Perspectives Blog.

5. Kudos to USM Media Studies majors Hunter Mahon and Cullen McIntyre for receiving the 2020–21 Maine Association of Broadcasters Award. Funded by the Maine Association of Broadcasters, the scholarships are awarded annually to high-achieving USM Media Studies majors who intend to pursue careers in broadcasting and communications after graduation. Recipients at USM are selected through a process of nomination and voting by Communications and Media Studies faculty. Please see this USM News story to learn more about Hunter and Cullen and their accomplishments at USM.

6. Please remember that tomorrow, Dec. 1, is GivingTuesday, a global generosity movement that encourages people to do good in their communities. What I love about this day is it focuses on unleashing the power of people. Here at USM, the Promise Scholars program unleashes the power of people by pairing scholarship aid with the kind of academic and community supports that help students graduate in four years with little to no debt. As part of GivingTuesday, I encourage you to make a contribution to the Promise Scholarship fund if you feel you are able. With a goal of 100 donors by 11:59 p.m. EST Dec. 1, every contribution counts. Thank you for considering joining in to strengthen this critically important Scholarship that benefits more and more of our students each year. Make sure to check out the various USM social media pages, including @usouthernmainealumni on Instagram, to join in the GivingTuesday movement and support the USM Promise Scholarship fund.

7. If you’re craving stellar student music performances this holiday season, don’t miss the 2020 School of Music Virtual Scholarship Gala at 6 p.m. this Friday, Dec. 4. This year’s event features pieces recorded in Corthell Hall during a challenging but inspiring semester. Ticket proceeds benefit our Music Talent Scholarship Fund. And if you’re looking to double the impact of your generosity, the Bob Crewe Foundation has offered a $10,000 match for gifts and pledges to the Music Talent Scholarship Fund and the School of Music Emergency Fund this year.

8. An important reminder to faculty and staff to complete your annual compliance training as required by the University of Maine System. I recently carved out some time to do this and found the modules provided a helpful refresher or new details that were highly informative. If you haven’t yet completed the required annual training, please see this issue of HR&U@USM for information on how to access and complete the web-based modules. Managers, please work with your teams to make sure everyone completes the training.

9) Students, please take note of these important #usmprotips to support your success at USM:

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

On a personal note, the slightly milder schedule of the holiday week allowed me to watch two impressive and engaging movie series that seem worth passing on. Both “Unorthodox” and “The Queen's Gambit” feature masterful performances by their female leads. The latter series depicts the inner dynamics of the 1960s male-dominated, international chess world from the perspective of a uniquely brilliant, if personally troubled, young woman. The former production brings to the screen the real-life story of producer Deborah Feldman's "scandalous rejection" of her ultra-Orthodox Hasidic upbringing. Both are sensitively done and insightful.

May your week be full of learning, connections, and growing optimism.