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Jennifer "Niffy" Allen and Ian Allen, 2018 Featured Graduates

Niffy and Ian Allen

Jennifer “Niffy” Allen will graduate with a master’s degree in Adult and Higher Education. She enrolled for the challenge of completing a graduate program rather than preparing for a job change. Allen works for the University of Southern Maine. She serves as the assistant coordinator of recreation and fitness with the Sullivan Recreation and Fitness complex on the Portland Campus. She’s been working at USM steadily since her graduation from Springfield College in 1986. “I had been out of school for almost 30 years at that point so it’s been an adventure,” she said. “I’d always wanted to get a master’s degree. The kids were both in college. I didn’t really think about different jobs because I like what I’m doing. Rather, I thought it was something that would relate to what I do.” She will march at Commencement alongside her son, Ian. “Having experienced USM as an employee, student and parent of a student has given me an appreciation of so many aspects of USM.”

Ian Allen will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. The ceremony will end a five-year run as the University of Southern Maine’s Husky mascot, “Champ.” Allen dressed in the familiar gray and white dog suit and attended countless athletic and social events at all three USM campuses, he said. He had a rocky start, though. "The first time I put on the costume, I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know where the USM students were in the gym. No one had the heart to tell me for 20 minutes thatI was cheering for Plymouth State, the in-conference rivals." He learned quickly. “It opened so many doors in terms of getting to know the university in terms of faculty, clubs, organizations, departments, and the students,” he said. Of course, he was already familiar with the university when he enrolled. His mother, Jennifer “Niffy” Allen, works on the Portland Campus. “I decided to could come here where I’d known people for years.” After graduation, he hopes to work in higher education. Meanwhile, he plans to work towards his black belt in the martial art of Jukado and continue his training towards an audition for the TV fitness competition, American Ninja Warrior.

USM Public Affairs/ Photo and video by Alan Bennett/ Interview by Daniel Hartill