Office of the President

Monday Missive (Oct. 5, 2020)

Dear USM Community,

As we begin this week, I suspect that many of us find ourselves frequently checking national media outlets in search of updates on the health of President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump as well as many senators and White House staff members. We wish the President, Mrs. Trump, and others who have tested positive a quick recovery.

Let's start our Missive, then, with a review of where we stand with testing and COVID-19 cases:

1. Here at USM, the number of positive cases dropped to zero late last week, after the Maine CDC released our single confirmed student from isolation. While this good news is cause for a collective sigh of relief, our vigilance and commitment to basic prevention protocols remain essential to keeping everyone within the USM community and our own families safe. Today and tomorrow, sample testing continues on all three USM campuses. If you are selected to participate in these ongoing rounds of testing, please do your part to keep everyone in the pack healthy — especially people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. For details on this week’s testing dates, times, and locations, please see the Asymptomatic Testing FAQ page.

2. As part of his “Keep It Up” tour of the Gorham Campus, Chancellor Dannel Malloy will hold a virtual forum for students, faculty, and staff from 2 to 3 p.m. today. Capacity for this Zoom-based forum will be limited to 1,000 participants. Be sure to RSVP to attend. (The RSVP form will remain open up until 30 minutes before the forum. A Zoom link will be emailed to all registrants.) The Chancellor and UMS have been a strong partner with USM in helping reduce the spread of the virus through testing and the communications of proper protocols. Following some opening summary remarks, the Chancellor will engage the USM community in a Q&A session.

3. I’m pleased to report that more modest financial help is now available for students. The CARES Emergency Fund Faculty and Staff Review Committee will accept and review a third and final round of applications for the approximately $225,000 remaining funds. This direct support is for both undergraduate and graduate students at USM whose educational experience and learning has been negatively impacted. Awards in this final round will range from $100 to $500, with limited exceptions up to $1,000. The application will be live starting at 7 p.m. tonight and will close at the end of business this Wednesday, Oct. 7. The committee will review applications in the order they are received and until funds are exhausted. Eligibilities will be posted in the application form.

4. An important save-the-date reminder to everyone that a week from tomorrow, USM will hold its first University Convocation Day. Please make plans to participate in Indigenous Peoples: Recognizing and Repairing Harms of Colonized Systems from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13. Special thanks go out to several ad hoc committee members for their work to organize this event: Adrienne Benally, Penthea Burns, Joyce Gibson, Idella Glenn, Jeremiah Gould, David Roussel, PJ Singh, Tracy St. Pierre (the group’s convener), and Robin Talbot.

5. Closer on the horizon is the Career Hub’s virtual "Engineering Hiring Event" from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Thursday, Oct. 8. Open to students and alumni, the event is intended for anyone interested in internship or employment opportunities with engineering companies. Instructions for how to participate are available online. You can see the list of participating organizations here.

6. I’m thrilled to report that our TRIO program has earned $2.6 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education to augment its work with students who have a low income, a disability, or are the first in their families to attend college. The first $1.3 million replicates previous grants, which had given TRIO funding to provide personal advising to 140 USM students in a broad range of study areas. The new, additional $1.3 million allows TRIO to advise 120 STEM students at USM. Well-deserved kudos go to Terri Plummer, the director of TRIO College Programs at USM, for writing and landing these grants. During one-on-one visits, advisors help students explore and achieve their academic, career, financial, and personal goals. Students who are pursuing STEM disciplines at USM are encouraged to consider applying for TRIO Student Support Services. Faculty and staff who would like to refer students are encouraged to use this online form.

7. Our Faculty Senate convened at their usual monthly meeting this past Friday afternoon. The Faculty formally approved a proposal to deliver Special Education certification online and deliberate actions related to the USM Common Core. The faculty also showed their true colors of caring and respect for students with a commitment to check-in with students more often in these new, often challenging, conditions.

8. On Sunday, the USM Chorale and Chamber Singers performed their Choral Extravaganza to a deeply appreciative (and duly impressed) audience of more than 150 online listeners and about 40 in-person, socially distanced supporters. The program included pieces from Arnesen, Raminsh, and Donato. It was exceptionally moving, especially in these times. I extend my gratitude and admiration to the singers and director Nicolas Dosman for an uplifting afternoon that ended with a performance of “We Shall Overcome.”

On a personal note, I had mentioned my appreciation a couple of years ago for Per Petterson's novel “Out Stealing Horses,” a Norwegian fictional memoir of the protagonist's loving, yet painful relationship with his elusive father. Since then, a film based on the novel has garnered many positive reviews. I’ll add my voice to the chorus of those singing its praises. It’s a terrific movie, but not likely to lift your spirits. You may want to wait for cheerier times before pressing "Watch" on your favorite streaming channel.

May your week be full of learning, connections, and hopeful news.
We Shall Overcome.
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