Office of Public Affairs

Erika Lamarre honored as Husky Hero

Our newest Husky Hero is Erika Lamarre, director of Community Standards and Mediation.

Student Jordyn Waible applauded Lamarre’s optimism and work ethic. 

“Erika never stops short when it comes to protecting students on campus,” Waible said. “Through this whole ordeal, she persevered and still continues to make sure conduct is being followed in classes and on campus, for the students still living there.”

Lamarre is currently working as a USM staff member while learning as a student in the University of Maine School of Law.

“Erika is the epitome of the University of Southern Maine slogan: Student-Focused Every Day,” Waible said.  “She understands both worlds. As a staffer, Erika is always thinking of the student body first and foremost, and she wants everyone to have a safe and reliable school experience. As a student, she also understands some of the struggles that college students face.”


Students Kahla Jusell, of Cape Cod, Mass., and Summer Becker of Topsham, Maine, were honored as Husky Heroes. Both are seniors who are working in the Portland campus’ Sullivan Gymnasium, where Preble Street is hosting a wellness shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

“Seeing the expressions on people’s faces coming into this huge, roomy shelter with a cot that’s raised off the floor … they’re so grateful. It really brought me to tears,” Jusell said. “I’m really proud to be a USM student right now. I’m proud that USM is being part of the solution.”

The temporary shelter in Sullivan currently serves about 50 people, spread out across the gym at CDC-recommended distance of no less than six feet. Jusell and Becker were profiled in a story on the USM website. Both are scheduled to earn bachelor’s degrees in Social Work in May.

“I’m proud to see USM students on the front lines of helping some of our region’s most vulnerable people during this public health crisis,” said USM President Glenn Cummings. “Kahla and Summer admirably represent the values and the best practices of USM’s School of Social Work as they make a difference in the lives of people experiencing homelessness. They have our deepest thanks.”

“I feel the need to do this work because if I don’t, there might not be somebody else who will,” Becker said. “Some of the clients I’m working with now I’ve been helping since I first met them last August. I would feel terribly guilty about leaving them when they need help the most.” 

Tadd Stone, Sodexo Area General Manager for the University of Maine System, was honored as a Husky Hero.

Nancy Griffin, USM’s chief operating officer, applauded Stone for his work ethic and his support of students and community members.

“Tadd and his staff have been coming to campus and cooking meals for the students living on campus, for our critical staff who are needed on campus daily and for the individuals with homelessness residing in the Sullivan Gym Shelter,” said Nancy Griffin, USM’s chief operating officer. “They are providing three meals a day for the residents of the shelter and the staff at the shelter have mentioned how good the food has been and how much everyone is enjoying the meals. 

“Tadd is a strong, quiet and collaborative leader,” Griffin said. “He always gives 150%. He is supporting our students, staff and community guests daily during this pandemic.  We owe Tadd and Sodexo a great deal of gratitude.”

If you would like to nominate a Husky Hero, please email me at

 Karin Pires, our registrar and director of Registration & Scheduling Services, was honored as a Husky Hero.

Pires has been “unwavering” in her dedication to the student-focused everyday mission of USM, said Jamie Austin, the assistant director of Registration & Scheduling Services.

“In addition to proactively planning for reduced staffing in our office and helping us all manage the transition to working remotely, Karin has always had the best of intentions in this process,” Austin said. “Every morning our team checks in for about an hour to discuss updates and our daily projects, and Karin is always on top of updating us on the constant changes we are facing. She has been so involved in making sure students are receiving the best and most accurate communications and always has our community in mind.

“In addition to making sure the USM community is operating to the best of our ability, she is helping her three kids adjust to remote learning,” Austin said. “We are all facing challenges and adjustments, but Karin is really helping our community stay on track as much as possible.”

And she did it all while finishing her requirements at USM to earn her doctorate in Public Policy with a Concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy. 

Well done!

Members of the Computing Services Department honored as Husky Heroes.

They have been going above and beyond to aid students, faculty and staff. Susie Bock, Coordinator of Special Collections in the USM Libraries, said was rescued by the staff as she worked from home.

“Malware made my personal computer unusable,” said Bock, who eventually managed to fix her computer and set up another with help from Computer Services staff. When they were done with complicated fixes, they followed up and found a long term fix.

“I lost a minimal amount of work time only because they was there when I needed help,” she said. “That is admirable. On top of that, every Computer Services staff member was knowledgeable, polite, friendly, and calm. The computer is our only work avenue, and losing it caused frustration and stress. The staff was reassuring, and got me past those horrible feelings. The University is fortunate to have such wonderful computer staff, particularly now.”

David Lewis, the coordinator of Student Activities on the Gorham campus, is honored as a Husky Hero.

“David has been working hard to keep student groups connected, provide online activities for students and has been the USM point person for the American Red Cross blood drives in Costello on the Gorham campus,” said Nancy Griffin, USM’s chief operating officer. “The blood drives take place every Tuesday and they have seen record numbers of donations in Gorham. There is a real need for blood in Maine. It is because of David's efforts that USM is able to assist with this need. David has been coming to campus to make sure the Red Cross officials have what they need for the blood drives. He is also busy outreaching to students to make sure they are connected to USM.

“He is amazing, we are fortunate to have him on the USM Student Affairs team!” Griffin said.

Members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute are honored as Husky Heroes.

As a USM department, OLLI has stepped forward with a $20,000 donation to the Student Emergency Fund, helping our students through these extraordinary times.

The donation comes in addition to $20,000 of support for five USM student internships to support OLLI's summer programming and a  $20,000 allocation toward partnerships with North Atlantic Institute research or planning projects.

The work has earned the thanks of many, including USM President Glenn Cummings.

“I thank OLLI for the generous contribution and the work to help our students in these trying times,” Cummings said. “The Student Emergency Fund was established to help our most vulnerable students and during this pandemic the fund has served over 50 students with new applications coming in every day.”

Facilities Maintenance Worker Samantha Post is honored as a Husky Hero.

At this time when cleanliness is so important, Post was nominated by members of the ESOL Department and the Office of International Studies, whose offices she cleans.

“Samantha diligently sanitized and cleaned Payson Smith, including our office, as the pandemic emerged,” said the offices in a joint statement.  “She even informed us about the cleaning products she was using. We are so grateful that she kept us all safe and healthy. We miss her cheerful demeanor  and our daily chats now that we are working from home!”

Her work and her demeanor are both valued, said Kristen Case, the assistant director of Custodial Services in Facilities Management.

“Samantha is a dedicated team player who has shown true USM pride consistently providing invaluable service to students, faculty and staff,” Case said. “Primarily based in the Glickman Library,  Sam greets each guest with a smile. We are so happy she chose to join the USM Facilities team!”

Our Admissions Ambaassadors are Husky Heroes

As COVID-19 forced the university to transition online, so did our student ambassadors, who are working with prospective students and their families in an online capacity.  They are answering questions, working in social media, setting up Zoom calls with prospective students and touring campus with them via our Virtual Tour platform.

"Ambassadors serve a vital role in the Office of Admissions, assisting students and their families and providing essential information regarding the student experience,” said Julia Gurney, associate director of Visits & Events. “As active students navigating social distancing in the USM community and the massive shift to remote learning, they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to foster and encourage the incoming class of Huskies. They have been nothing short of flexible, adaptable, responsive, and have embodied every sense of the word, ‘leader.’ I can't thank them enough for all that they are doing to make prospective students feel at home at USM."

The ambassadors are: Emily Colby (Health Science - OT Track), Maddie Stevens (Marketing and Tourism and Hospitality), Alexa Henriksen (Nursing), Ashlyn Tomer (Business general management/marketing), Emily York (Health Science, OT), Brandon Hallee (Leadership and Organizational Studies), Ellen Kester (Nursing), Johnny Kyte (Tourism and Hospitality), Emma Walsh (Communication and Media Studies), Connor Blake (Media Studies), Melissa Pluas (Tourism and Hospitality) and Osarumwense (Sheddy) Agbonsalo (masters in Leadership).

“Our ambassadors have issued further testament to the adaptable, future forward skill sets that are realized as result of their passion for USM, can-do character, and real-world ingenuity,” said Jared Cash, USM’s vice president for Enrollment Management & Marketing. “Thousands of admitted students are looking to these ambassadors for engagement and insights related to one of the most significant decisions in their lives — and our ambassadors are stepping up and delivering!”

Husky Heroes are engineering students Berkeley Elias of Portland and Daniel Madison St Peter of Windham and their professor, Asheesh Lanba.

Together, they prototyped 28 face shields using 3D printers in the university’s Maker Innovation STudio (MIST) on the Portland campus and at the John Mitchell Center (JMC) in Gorham. And those prototypes — produced in less than 36 hours — have been sent to out-of-state healthcare professionals at the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 crisis, where the need is greatest.

The urgency of the need motivated them to work past midnight and before dawn over the past three days, said Lanba, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering. Elias and St Peter managed to keep up with their class assignments and even complete take-home exams while building the prototypes.

Their work was recently profiled on News Center Maine.

Dr. Jeremy Qualls, professor of physics and dean of USM’s College of Science, Technology, and Health, said the partnership is a demonstration of the prototyping capability of the new MIST lab, directed by Dr. So Young Han in the University’s Michael E. Dubyak Center for Digital Science and Innovation.

USM is also working with a number of other community partners on developing PPE to aid hospitals during the nationwide shortage, said Qualls. Dr. Jim Masi, adjunct professor of engineering at USM, Han and Lanba are collaborating with Arcadia Designworks of Portland on a next-generation design of masks. And Han is coordinating the efforts of USM faculty, the Perloff Foundation, Portland Rotary Club, local community colleges, and local makers to explore emerging prototypes and vet existing models available in the maker community.

“USM faculty and students are actively looking to help the community and offer innovative solutions to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic that’s impacting us in many unexpected ways. Dr. Lanba’s work demonstrates exactly that.” said Qualls. “He and others are exploring PPE designs and utilizing the capabilities of USM’s Maker Innovation STudio (MIST) to develop new prototypes. I’m so pleased that this work that could ultimately save lives around the world has its origins in Maine and at USM.”

"It makes me proud to see Dr. Lanba, Daniel, and Berkeley capitalizing on USM's MIST facilities to put ideas into action” Qualls said. “USM is growing and looking for pioneers like them to solve critical problems and create innovations for tomorrow."

David Roussel, USM’s assistant vice president for Student Affairs, was named a Husky Hero.

Dominic Barraclough, vice provost for Mission and Accreditation, praised Rossel’s work ethic and leadership as USM reacted to COVID-19.

"David has been working overtime, looking after everyone on his team and keeping the student voice front-and-center with leadership as decisions are being made, Barraclough said.  “He has led the transition of the residence halls, health and counseling services, and many on-campus operations. He is also continuing to lead the design and development stage for the new Student Center and Residence Hall."

President Glenn Cummings also applauded Roussel’s work.

"Our USM community has consistently witnessed David's incredible leadership,” Cummings said. “He is a champion of being student-focused everyday.  He has helped me and our colleagues put student needs at the center of our decisions and actions."

Members of our faculty have been named Husky Heroes.

With little time for planning, they have managed to make the transition from classroom teaching to online instruction with exceptional skill, said Joanne Williams, dean of the College of Management and Human Service.

“Our faculty have responded in an amazing way to all the changes in our world,” Williams said. “I have seen incredible dedication and commitment to making sure our classes continue and our students are supported in their academic success.”

Adam Tuchinsky, the dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, also applauded the work of professors.

“In a time of crisis, what we most appreciate is how our faculty teach from a place of love and compassion, and model for students what it means to be resilient and empathetic,” Tuchinsky said.

Jeannine Uzzi, USM’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said she was grateful that so many faculty members have moved quickly to improve their online skills.

"USM's full and part time faculty have said a big YES to helping students finish this semester remotely,” she said. “Two hundred USM faculty have taken additional training in online and distance learning since we ended face-to-face instruction, and they are doing their best every day to address the myriad challenges students are facing. I could not possibly put into words the gratitude I feel right now for USM's faculty."


Members of the Athletics team were named Husky Heroes. All of them — BL Elfring, Bonny Brown Denico, Christina Cracolici, Mike Keller, Kim Turner — have worked extraordinarily will in the wake of COVID-19, Athletics Director Al Bean said.

“BL has continued his amazing work on the compliance side as the issues of Covid-19 have unfolded,” Bean said. “With the NCAA canceling winter championships and spring seasons all together, there has been a flood of guidance and information coming from the NCAA and the conference office. There are many issues and complexities to unravel related to continuing eligibility, granting of an additional semester for some and nuances around graduation and reduced load participation. Couple that with the impact of recent institutional decisions around probation vs good standing and the impact on eligibility caused by USM’s MBA program becoming a UMaine degree and you gain a greater appreciation for this man’s knowledge and expertise in the delicate but critical world of compliance. 

“Bonny Brown Denico has been a rock and has worked directly with all of our outside groups that have been scheduled on our fields and in the field house and in Hill Gym,” Bean said. “She has also worked through our game and contest schedules with our coaches, including her own in field hockey program, and has assisted to move us forward for next year.  She's incredibly committed and has done so many things to help that are not part of her work. You can always count on Bonny.

“Christina Cracolici has helped in developing our messaging that is going out on our website and through social media platforms,” Bean said. “In addition, she has built a new template to help celebrate prospective student-athletes that have committed to attend USM.  Her work in this area has been exceptional.

“Mike Keller has stepped up to help many on staff with requirements for on-line teaching and working with advanced technology and zoom conferences.  Mike is very adept at teaching on-line, understands the world of technology and has been instrumental in working with staff to get them up to speed to be effective with students.  We will meet as a staff weekly via zoom and Mike provided a tutorial for those not familiar.

“Kim Turner is just Kim Turner, tremendous every day,” Bean said.  “She's always there to help students and staff alike and has helped with consistent outreach to students to make sure they are aware of how they can navigate this very challenging situation.  Kim works tirelessly, and she has everyone' confidence and trust, and that's so important at a chaotic time like this. As someone once told me, there's certain people you want in your foxhole during a real crisis.  Without question, I'm glad Kim is in ours.”

"In the wake of the disappointing reality that our scholar-athletes were dealt by losing their Spring season, it was inspiring to witness these steadfast leaders rise to this occasion and to support our teams and greater community,” said Jared Cash, vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing.  “True character is clearly revealed in times of adversity, and I have been inspired by the leadership of this division."

Members of the Residence Life team named Husky Heroes.

When leadership made the decision was made to send most residential students home, the Residential Life team — Director Christina Lowery, Assistant Director Erica Leighton, RDs Kelley Brague, Roland Brassard, Chris Broere, Orlando Hernandez, Katie Yeaton-Hromoda and office staff Shannon Rooney and Shelby Martin — were at the forefront of communication, logistics, and student care.

“They answered questions, consoled students who were leaving behind their friends and communities, problem solved with residents who needed to remain on campus for a variety of reasons and they did so with compassion and the good humor they could muster in the face of long hours and a stressful situation,” said Sarah Holmes, the assistant dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator.

David E. Roussel, the interim vice president for Student Affairs, also applauded the work of the team.

"The entire Residential Life team worked together to make sure that every residential student had a plan and a safe place to live for the next few months,” Roussel said. “I'm very proud of the team for their great work and most importantly for the care and concern they had for every student during this difficult time."

Suheir Alaskari, a student employment specialist in the Career & Employment Hub, named Husky Hero

Suheir has been communicating with hundreds of student employees and supervisors about their Corona-19-related concerns and challenges, said Alex Carrier Hitchcox, the Hub’s employer relationship manager.

“Many students depend on their federal work-study jobs in order to remain enrolled in classes,” Hitchcox said. “As soon as the residence halls closed, and every day since, Suheir has been nothing short of student-focused by prioritizing communication and coordination among partners within Human Resources and Student Financial Services to make sure students can get the answers they need. Suheir truly cares about being responsive and equitable in her work while honoring the integrity of each student with respect and care.”

Jeanne Paquette, vice president, Corporate and Workforce Engagement, praised the work of Suheir and everyone at the Hub.

“Suheir has been tirelessly working very hard to support our student workers, Paquette said.  “In addition, she has created systems, and processes that help supervisors that oversee our students.  She helps connect students with our great team at the Career and Employment Hub which drives home the fact that student employment is critical for ongoing career preparation.”

Rucha Modak, Damien Michaud and Michael Matis, learning designers from the Center for Technology Enhanced Learning, named Husky Heroes

This team has been part of USM’s efforts to transition instruction from the classroom to online as a result of COVID-19.

“This is the single team upon whom I and the university relied most to make a quick transition to fully online classes possible," Provost Jeannine Uzzi said. "They have all worked tirelessly for the past two weeks to get us to this day, and they remain poised to troubleshoot over the next few weeks. I’m not sure what we would have done (or would do) without them!”

Each has worked nights and weekends to ensure that courses are accessible online and faculty are trained, to the best of their ability, to provide remote instruction to all of our students via zoom and various other modalities, said Justin Marston, USM’s coordinator of Accelerated Online Programs.

“I am astounded, as I sit back and listen to the discussion, at the ability of the three learning designers to quickly and effectively, research, develop and implement new processes to better the university community in such a short amount of time,” Marston said.


Facilities Manager Brett Hallett named Husky Hero.

“Brett is a dedicated member of the Facilities Management team,” said Nancy Griffin, USM’s Chief Operations Officer. “Since we have been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, he has been coming to work in the very early hours of the morning to clean our facilities — especially the Sullivan Gym and the Glickman Library. Brett asks the custodians whom he supervises to clean each building “as if 50 people with the coronavirus have just walked through the building.”

“Brett has gone above and beyond to make sure our buildings are clean and we are safe,” Griffin said. “We owe him, and all members of the FM staff, a great debt of gratitude for the extra time and focus they are putting in their jobs.”


President Cummings names first Husky Hero — Lisa Belanger

Our first Husky Hero is Lisa Belanger, USM’s director of Health Service.

“Lisa has been extraordinary,” said Glenn Cummings, USM’s President. “She has managed to inform and educate leadership and our emergency response team, even as her office prepared for its own response to the pandemic.”

Dean of Student Rodney Mondor also praised Belanger.

“Lisa is one of the most compassionate people out there,” Mondor said. “She has run point for any and all medical related to COVID-19 since it began. When we had our first potential case and a student needed to be isolated until test results returned, Lisa led the team to support the student until a space was available in the President's House. She provided guidance on how to set up the space and worked with all the departments to get it done. She stayed calm and professional with the student and family members throughout the process. She even went back in to clear and wash all the linens, so the space would be ready if it were needed again.”

Please join us in thanking Lisa Belanger for her tireless work.

If you would like to nominate a Husky Hero, please email me at Also, on Mondays we will aim to highlight the exceptional members of our community who are working to serve USM in this challenging time.