Office of Public Affairs

USM Grads Prove Involvement and Life Experience Are Positive Influences on College Career

Numerous members of USM’s class of 2012 have overcome personal hardships and
illustrated the importance of getting involved during their college career.

The past four years have not been easy for Joanie Grondin of Windham, but that hasn’t stopped her from graduating on time. Grondin is a non-traditional age deaf nursing student with two young children. Before coming to USM, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, but decided to major in a field that she respected and that seemed broad enough for her to find her own niche. Grondin admits her experience with USM has been at times difficult as a deaf student and also as a mother, “but it has been one that’s been positively life changing.” Through her USM nursing education, Grondin says she’s learned skills she never though she would have, and developed qualities that will always stay with her. She has applied for a few medical-surgery nursing positions at hospitals in southern Maine, and also to facilities in Boston that specialize in serving the deaf so she can get the experience of working independently without an interpreter.

Senior Husky Achievement Award winner Christopher MacDonald of Saco didn’t feel “at home” at USM until he started getting involved with campus activities. Throughout his career at USM, he has been involved on campus as a Resident Assistant, a mentor with STRIVE U and the Big Brothers Big Sisters, a participant in Relay for Life, a member of Students in Free Enterprise and as both an Admissions Student Ambassador and a Student Success Peer Advisor—all while maintaining a Dean’s List GPA. MacDonald is graduating with a bachelor’s of science in general management, with a focus in small business and entrepreneurship.

Student commencement speaker Amanda Jennifer Pleau of Portland will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in media studies. Before coming to USM in 2009, Pleau attended Montserrat College of Art and Central Maine Community College. While at USM, she served as an intern in the USM Office of Public Affairs, was a volunteer and intern at Dress for Success Maine, a columnist for USM’s student newspaper, The Free Press, and is currently a board member and volunteer for the Community Television Network in Portland. After graduation, Pleau will be working full-time at Tom’s of Maine in Sanford.

Having spent nine years in Maine’s foster care system and aging out without a permanent family, Dianna Walters brings first-hand experience to the topic of her dissertation project, “Adolescent Well-Being: Supporting Successful Paths to Adulthood for Young People in Foster Care.” Walters says growing up she didn’t stay in one area long enough to be able to claim a hometown, but considers the Lewiston-Auburn area home. Beginning at age 16, she worked closely with the Maine Youth Leadership Advisory Team. She also served as a Foster Youth Intern for Senator John Kerry, raising awareness of critical issues facing foster youth and informing policy on both a state and national level. Walters joined Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative in St. Louis as a policy associate in 2011 and serves as a congressional liaison for the organization. She is earning a master’s in public policy, with Honors, from the USM Muskie School of Public Service. Before joining the Muskie School, Walters earned her associate’s degree in liberal arts from Central Maine Technical College and a bachelor’s degree in social and behavioral sciences from USM. She attended Bangor High and Deering High in Portland, and earned her GED.

Pamela Otunnu Porensky of Scarborough is the recipient of the 2012 Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund (WW-RBF) Fellowships for Aspiring Teachers of Color. Originally from Uganda, Porensky’s award will provide her with $30,000 per year to complete a master’s in education from USM. Porensky will graduate from USM this year with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a concentration in marketing. Porensky is not the first in her family to dedicate her life to public service. Her uncle served in the United Nations and recently ran for president of Uganda. Porensky says she developed her passion for working with youth in 2001 during the U.N. Special Session on Children, and looks forward to serving her community through advocacy and education. She currently works with the NAACP as a volunteer to decrease the achievement gap in local schools.