Office of the President

Monday Missive (Oct. 26, 2020)

Dear USM Community,

Halloween will round out our week this coming Saturday. Exploring the darker terrain of the human psyche, the event’s traditional scary figures tend to play on threats to our safety, gruesome ends, and a haunting afterlife. In normal times, leaning into such displays can be fun, and even healthy, given the tendency of our species to avoid confronting mortal fears. Laughter following shrieks and gasps is especially good for the soul.

This year, the usual frights may pale in comparison to our present circumstances. But perhaps like the laughter and relief that follow a Halloween scare done right, our world brings us periods of dark and light. Both have meaning and purpose in our development. Maybe Halloween this Saturday will be an opportunity to acknowledge exactly that: life brings us both challenges and joys. Together, we get stronger from both.

For my part, this week's look at the accomplishments, events, and activities that shape our lives at USM is a treat.

Let me share a few items.

1. Last Wednesday night the Osher Map Library presented the inaugural John DiMatteo Lecture in the name of an impressively thoughtful and giving man. The first DiMatteo Lecture and the first event in the Fall Lecture Series "Visualizing the Holocaust" featured Dr. Anne Knowles, McBride Professor of History at the University of Maine and Co-Founder of the Holocaust Geographies Collaborative. The lecture featured dynamic, creative maps and other visualizations from the Collaborative, whose interdisciplinary work has helped inspire the "spatial turn" in Holocaust Studies. My thanks to Dr. Libby Bischof, Professor of History and Director of the Osher Map Library, for leading the event.

2. I’m delighted to report that one of our USM Foundation Board members, Dajuan Eubanks, President of the Maine Red Claws, joined Dave Hoffman, the Boston Celtics’ Vice President of Community Engagement, for the Portland Chamber of Commerce’s first Kegs & Issues of the 2020–21 season. Their presentation focused on how the Celtics (owners of the Maine Red Claws) and the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation have launched a multi-focus commitment to addressing racial injustice and social inequities in the Greater Boston area. Dajuan and Dave discussed this collaborative effort — known as Boston Celtics United for Social Justice — as well as their 6 Social Justice Pillars.

3. As political ads, messages, and signage are hard to miss these days, I suspect that the upcoming election is top of mind for many of us. To help us understand the election and the nature of our democracy and politics (now and moving forward), U.S. Senator Angus King will join us for a nonpartisan webinar discussion to be moderated by Rebecca Gibbons, Assistant Professor of Political Science, at 2 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13. In addition to serving as Maine’s Independent senator and former governor, King was a visiting fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and has served as a distinguished lecturer at Bowdoin since 2004. Information on how to log in to this special webinar event for USM students, faculty, and staff is forthcoming. For now, please save the date and plan to participate.

4. For students seeking an earlier opportunity to consider the 2020 election with faculty, I encourage you to participate in the one-credit pop-up course “The Election of 2020: The Long View,” featuring a series of “open-classroom” discussions with Rebecca Gibbons, Associate Professor of Economics Rachel Bouvier, Assistant Professor of Economics Mike Cauvel, and Assistant Professor of Criminology Brendan McQuade. For more information and Zoom links to the discussions, please contact Dean Adam Tuchinsky or Professor Gibbons.

My deepest thanks go out to Dean Tuchinsky and Professor Gibbons for organizing the webinar with Senator King and for organizing the timely pop-up course.

5. And, speaking of the upcoming election and the importance of participating in our democracy, if you’re still seeking information about voter registration and polling places in our area, please see the Dean of Students’ online resource.

6. Please join me in congratulating Professor of Environmental Science and Policy Robert Sanford on the recent publication of River Voices: Perspectives on the Presumpscot, a book he co-edited that includes chapters by a raft of USM faculty collaborators. Described by publisher North Country Press as “a celebration of a river (and) a vision of stewardship and caring, with chapter topics ranging from geology to Native American history to fighting for fish passage,” the book features cover art and illustrations by Professor of Art Michael Shaughnessy. To learn more about River Voices and the USM faculty contributors, please see this USM News story.

7. Central to the work of our Office of Public Affairs is introducing prospective students and their parents to our current students and their many accomplishments. If you’re in need of inspiration on this gray late-October day, I encourage you to watch this video of Student Body President Hannah Qiu shot by Public Affairs’ multimedia producer Zach Boyce to learn why she loves USM.

8. ICYM the NewsCenter story, you can follow USM graduate Angie Dubois '20 around the country as she helps create a series of environmentalism-focused documentaries with TerraTrek. You may recall that Angie was a member of the Huskies' women's cross country and track & field programs, a William B. Wise Scholar-Athlete, a 2019–2020 recipient of the Maine Association of Broadcasters' award, and a member of several LEC Championship teams at USM. 

9. Some important reminders for students about upcoming events:

  • At 6 p.m. today, the Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Council Student Fellows invite you to join a student-only Zoom forum to discuss what you may be struggling with during these challenging times. This forum is meant to be a safe, judgment-free space for students to connect openly and without pressure. Join via this Zoom link.

  • At 3 p.m. this Friday, Dean of Students Rodney Mondor and Professor of History Libby Bischof invite you to join them for Resilience During COVID-19: The Student Experience, a panel discussion with six USM students who will share how they manage their responsibilities, stay motivated, and overcome obstacles while going to college during a global pandemic. Please preregister for the Zoom-based webinar, which is an approved USM Passport event.

  • USM’s Career & Employment Hub continues to offer invaluable career exploration programs. Be sure you’re well positioned for success this summer and beyond by taking advantage of the job and internship opportunities that only the Career & Employment Hub can provide

  • And please keep in mind that registration for Winter Session classes 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.

10. As you may have read in the most recent Healthy Huskies Update, asymptomatic testing continues this week. If you are a student enrolled in a course at USM that has an in-person component or an employee whose work involves time on campus, you may have been randomly selected to participate in asymptomatic COVID-19 testing today in Gorham, this Tuesday in Portland, and this Thursday at LAC. To find out if you have been randomly selected for testing, check your email to see if you received a message from with all the details. Please note, flu shots will also be available at Gorham and Portland COVID testing events. For general information on this week’s testing dates, times, and locations, please see the Asymptomatic Testing FAQ page.

11. Friends and family of Jesse Harvey have organized The Recovery Oriented Campus Center (ROCC) Scholarship to support USM students who identify as being in recovery and to honor the late teacher, advocate, leader, and tireless community health trailblazer who devoted his life to caring for the most marginalized people in society. I encourage you to learn more about the effort to raise $25,000 for The ROCC Scholarship at USM and how to give.

12. And, finally, on Wednesday of this week we will be presenting our USM revised budget to the UMS Board of Trustees.

On a personal note, I recently delivered a presentation on American higher education policy over the past generation to MEREDA, the Maine Real Estate and Development Association. During this lecture to several hundred MEREDA members, my cat, Gus, decided to join me. Although he reliably prefers to sit on my lap as I work in my home office, Gus decided this important presentation merited his full viewing. So, mid-discussion, he leaped onto my shoulders and refused to move. What’s more, his tail would occasionally rise up behind my head, giving me the appearance of having a furry antenna — to better broadcast my messages to the group. Every academic who takes themselves too seriously at times needs such a humbling gift from their furry friends.

May your week be full of learning, connections, and humility.