This year's Maine Policy Scholar from the University of Southern Maine is Machias native Erik Squire.
Squire is an English major who plans to become a high school English teacher. As part of the scholar program, he will work with Professor Travis Wagner to research policy challenges to improving Maine students' achievement rates in literacy and math.
The Maine Policy Scholars Program engages students from the University of Maine System in the public policy process. Scholarships are awarded annually to one student from each of the seven University of Maine System campuses to work with a faculty advisor and community mentor to tackle a real-life policy issue facing Maine. Topics may range from local to statewide significance and are expected to be well-defined, subject to research, and of real concern to Maine or a segment of its people.
Scholars meet regularly with their advisors on campus to focus the work, check progress, and get input on their research. Community mentors, who meet throughout the year with the students, are a link to the world off campus and serve as a "reality check" for the scholars' work. At end of the academic year, all Policy Scholars gather to make final presentations and respond to questions from a panel of Maine policy makers.
Squire transferred to USM from Southern Maine Community College, where he was an editor for the school newspaper, president of the SMCC's chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, president of the Student Senate and was named Student of the Year. One of his honor society's community projects was to build a greenhouse at a local elementary school and offer gardening workshops as one approach to help reduce child hunger in Maine.
Historically, one of Maine's most important characteristics is the openness of its public policy process. Legislators, the governor, and local and state agency leaders are accessible and interested in practical solutions to real-life problems. The Maine Policy Scholars program gives students an opportunity to experience that process and make meaningful contributions to our future.
The Maine Policy Scholars Program was conceived by the late Peter Cox to engage students from the University of Maine System in the public policy process. The program is funded by the Maine Community Foundation and administered by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine.