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Athletics team named Husky Heroes

USM is meeting today’s unprecedented challenge with inspiring levels of hard work, courage and compassion. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we will highlight our Husky Heroes and their exceptional work and service to our USM Community.

The newest Husky Heroes are members of the Athletics team. 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.