UMF Establishes Student Exchange Program with Al Akhawayn University in Morocco

By Eryn Finnegan President

UMF Interim President Eric Brown recently visited Al Akhawayn University (AUI) in Ifrane, Morocco, to establish a student exchange program, effective starting the 2019-2020 school year. A public, nonprofit liberal arts college situated in the Middle Atlas mountains, AUI possesses many similar characteristics to UMF.

   Brown pointed to AUI’s population of 2000 students, American-based curriculum and English-speaking opportunities as major reasons for partnering with AUI. Brown also cited AUI’s course catalogue, noting that the way they set up their classes and majors is similar to UMF.

   “Some schools you really need to speak the language, such as [Le Mans University] in France,” Brown said. “Here, any student can get by with ‘survival’ Arabic and be very home at that campus.” AUI has several international students from the U.S., Europe, and Africa.

   Brown expressed interest in creating further student teaching opportunities for Education majors, noting the private K-12 school attached to the university.

   “We’re looking into having Ed majors do their student teaching there if they so choose to,” Brown said. “It’s a pretty unique system; I think the high school is technically on the campus itself, and the K-8 campus is just a ten minute drive away.”

   AUI also has a program called “presidential interns,” focused on graduating students who might be interested in a Fulbright or the Peace Corps. For either a semester or the whole year, they place students in different administrative parts of the school, such as first-year students or working with admissions or curriculum.   

   The city of Ifrane has a market, a downtown with shops and restaurants and nightlife, 10-15 minutes from campus. Brown offered a small smile as he scrolled through photos of his trip on his iPhone, showcasing the colorful tapestries and cloths, tall piles of spices and architecture. Leaving the city and approaching campus, Brown also saw 800-year-old Cedar forests, snow and apes flying through the trees.

   “When people think of North Africa, they tend to think of deserts and camels, but this school is very much like us in geography and climate,” Brown said. “They had snow on the ground, they have a snow and ski team, and the opportunity to do serious skiing in the High Atlas mountains. I’m hoping to entice their students to come ski in Maine.”

   Brown discussed his first trip to Morocco nearly 20 years ago and how this trip led to this new partnership between UMF and AUI.

   “I traveled through Morocco for a summer about 20 years ago, and one of the places I stopped was this (at the time) brand new university, AUI,” Brown said. “Twenty years pass, and we’ve been thinking, where else can we extend opportunities for our students? I thought back to AUI and early this summer, I reached out to the president, Driss Ouaouicha. He agreed there were similarities between our institutions and he invited me to visit and give me a tour of the campus and surrounding area.”

   Brown said that both presidents agreed that the missions of their respective universities are largely the same, embracing liberal arts education and teaching students critical thinking.

   “[UMF’s mission is] supporting the liberal arts in a way that draws the best out of students and professors, through undergraduate research,” Brown said. “A well-rounded, comprehensive education, being able to really think with versatility about a range of issues; that’s at the heart of the liberal arts mission for me.”

   According to their website, AUI’s mission is “educating future citizen-leaders of Morocco and the world through a globally oriented, English -language, liberal arts curriculum based on the American system,” as well as “[enhancing] Morocco and [engaging] the world through leading-edge educational and research programs.”

   Brown also spoke of significant differences, particularly in terms of culture. “There are very few clocks; banks here always show the time, but there, the day is structured around Islamic prayer times,” Brown said. “It doesn’t feel as rushed, as if every minute has to count down to something. It’s more in-tuned with the natural rhythms of the day, sunrise and sunset.”

   “There’s a lot of continuity between our institutions,” Brown said. “If you’re interested in international business or North African cultural studies, a lot of their programs go along well with ours. They contribute to a rich and historic tapestry.”

   “I don’t think we’d find another school in the world so close to our mission and feel,” Brown said.

  Students interested in learning more about Al Akhawayn University can visit their website at

Mary Ryan Pioneers Conscious Consumerism at UMF

Mary Ryan Pioneers Conscious Consumerism at UMF

Mary Ryan, pictured with student worker Brooke Carrier, educates the community about recycling. (Photo by Andrea Swiedom)

Contributing Writer

In the basement of the Education Center, a room is shelved with items for sale that people would commonly call trash– an assortment of leather scraps, salvaged coffee cans, jars of colorful buttons, used spools of Christmas ribbon.  For thirty-eight years, Depot Coordinator Mary Ryan has been collecting reusable items destined for incineration or a landfill for the non-profit organization, Everyone’s Resource Depot (ERD).

   Ryan, who is originally from Wilton, had been teaching high school biology in Massachusetts when ERD was founded in 1979 by UMF faculty.  A year later, Ryan returned home to take some time off from teaching. When she learned about ERD, she was immediately compelled to join the organization.

   Ryan associated her interest in reusing from her mother who did a lot of crafts and utilized items around the house rather than going to the store to buy materials.  “So I think that was probably a big part of what interested me, but also just the idea that we just throw so much stuff away,” said Ryan.

   The depot accepts donations and keeps a running list of wanted items posted on the wall and on the depot’s website.  Ryan is currently on the look-out for pom poms, baby food jars and coffee filters, to name a few. Sometimes, Ryan has to reject donations, but she always provides guidance as to how people can recycle what they’ve brought in.  However, when Ryan first started at ERD, Farmington didn’t have a recycling center.

   “There wasn’t anywhere near the emphasis back in 1980 on recycling or reusing.  There was no community recycling then either,” said Ryan. “This has all happened since so, I guess the world was very different in a way.”

   Ryan’s efforts to minimize trash did not stop with ERD.  She set out with a community group to successfully establish Farmington’s recycling center.  “So now we can say to someone who brings us a bag of stuff, ‘now these particular things can go into your recycling.’  They might not really keep track of what they can recycle,” Ryan said while running her hand through a container of buttons.  

   The Depot is a tactile experience as much as a shopping experience with boxes full of felt, wood pieces organized by shape and beads organized by color.  It’s difficult to refrain from impulsively touching everything. While individual donations contribute to the variety of items, so does relationships with local businesses that Ryan and board members have formed over the years.

   WA Mitchell Fine Furniture started donating wood scraps and dowels three years ago and Ryan picks up plastic fish tubs from Moser’s Seafood every month.  Once items make it to the depot, student workers play a huge role in organizing the plethora of donations. Ryan expressed immense gratitude towards her student workers who often organize items in ways she wouldn’t consider and it often helps keep items moving.  

     “I appreciate [student workers]…looking at something with a different eye because you get so used to something, you just accept that that’s the way it’s going to be,” said Ryan.  Keeping items moving is integral to this organization which currently has a storage room stuffed to the brim with items that haven’t sold.

      Ryan said she’d like to see more students utilize the ERD and ask themselves,  “‘what could I use here [at ERD] and do I need that particular item that I was just gonna go to Wal-Mart for, or is there something else here that would work just as well?’”

   The pricing at ERD ranges from five cents to two dollars per individual item so customers can buy the exact amount they need.  There are similar organizations to ERD in Lewiston and Westbrook, but their pricing is based on a yearly membership fee which can pose as a barrier for a person to just walk in and grab what they need for a single project.  Ryan prefers ERD’s open to the public, pay per item set-up. “I just think people think more about what they’re picking up…if they’re paying for it. It’s just human nature.”

     Everyone’s Resource Depot is located in room 009 in the Education Center.  Visit for more information.    


Midterm Election Controversy

Midterm Election Controversy

By Andrea Swiedom Contributing Writer

     On election day, students saw Farmington

Professor Sarah Hardy in her “emergency voter suppression” poncho (Photo by Andrea Swiedom)

community member Bill Crandall, who set up a sign outside of the polls at the Farmington Community Center. Given Crandall’s professional setup, there has been controversy as to whether Crandall was posing as a poll official to intimidate young, first-time voters.

  Crandall was bundled up and prepared for his self-imposed, all-day shift to inform the public about the laws outlined in the last paragraph of the Maine Voting Residence Fact Sheet on the website.  Even the professionally-made sign that displayed these laws had protection against the rain beneath a pop-up tent that faced the direction of High Street rather than the community center’s entrance on Middle Street.      

   Crandall was acting independently by presenting information about the responsibilities that follow registering to vote in Maine which include registering a vehicle within 30 days and potentially being subject to Maine income tax.  Crandall did not include a single quote from the section of the voting fact sheet entitled “Students,” which clarifies the often confusing status of a student’s residency when attending an out-of-state university.

   Students walking from campus often took High Street to get to the polls. For freshman Grace McIntosh and her friends, Crandall was their first impression of the community center when they walked from Mallett Hall.  

   McIntosh attended high school with Crandall’s son. “[I assumed Crandall was] someone who was helping out with the voting process, possibly that he was answering questions on what to do for first-time voters,” McIntosh said through an email.

Bill Crandall’s sign outside the Farmington Community Center (Photo by Andrea Swiedom)

   To mathematics professor Sarah Hardy, the way in which Crandall presented these laws was “a little bit out of context.”  Hardy is no stranger to voting rights activism and petitioned against the 2011 bill to appeal same day voting registration in Maine.  When Hardy learned about Crandall’s sign from a long threaded email sent by concerned community members, her voter suppression alarm bells started ringing.  

   Hardy quickly brushed up on Maine voting laws and then set out with a bright yellow poncho determined to stick out the rest of the stormy day by standing right next to Crandall to ensure students were not intimidated to vote.

   By the time Hardy arrived around 4 p.m., emails had already been sent out to faculty and students describing the sign as “misleading.”  Despite Hardy’s presence at the polls and campus emails, the sign did cause at least one student to feel unraveled according to the president of UMF’s College Democrats Club, Jeffrey Willey, who spent election day in the student center reminding students how and where to vote.  

   Willey said, “One girl came up to me, she was like, pretty shaken…because she had convinced her friend to vote that morning and to go and register.” Willey explained that after she learned about the laws Crandall was presenting them, she was worried “that she had convinced her friend to break the law and that he was gonna go to jail and something serious like that.”

   Crandall is willing to articulate his motives to The Farmington Flyer after he meets with interim president Eric Brown. Crandall said he feels like the situation was “blown out of proportion.”  

   Meanwhile, several community and faculty members feel as though Crandall’s efforts on election day were targeted towards deterring students from casting a ballot.  As Hardy put it, with a stone-cold straight face, “Don’t mess with my students.”

UMF Graduate Coaches “Fit Girls” Program

UMF Graduate Coaches “Fit Girls” Program

By Evan Gorr Contributing Writer

Catherine Dennis, 2017 UMF graduate and second year teacher at Cascade Brook School (CBS) in Farmington, co-coaches a reading and running program called Fit Girls, a community

Fit Girls is a club that inspires young girls to lead a healthy life. (Photo courtesy of Evan Gorr)

based program for girls in grades fourth through sixth in the Mount Blue District.

   Dennis is one of four coaches who helps inspire 45 kids participating in Fit Girls at CBS. The program aims to provide examples of healthy habits for the girls as they tackle the struggles of growing up in today’s society.

   “Girls in the age group we work with are in an increasingly vulnerable position,” said Dennis. “They are exposed to so many stereotypes and false images portrayed by people on social media.” Body image, healthy eating, and positive relationships are important topics that coaches discuss with the girls during their meetings.

   Deb Aseltine, the director of Fit Girls, believes that the program creates wonderful opportunities and strengthens the community. “There is an opportunity for the girls to express their individuality while creating healthier attitudes,” said Aseltine. “These healthier attitudes with the girls and their families fosters a healthy community.”  

   The coaches help the girls practice their healthy habits by meeting every Thursday to participate in physical activity and discuss different topics. “We always provide a healthy snack when we meet in the cafeteria,” said Dennis. “And we also read a short  passage that provides a positive message or lesson that incorporates one of our goals.”

   The second portion of each meeting includes a run outside. The coaches figured out a quarter mile loop around the perimeter of the school for everyone to run. Dennis, an avid runner, was proud of the girls for their efforts. “We worked our way up over six weeks to be able to run 35 minutes continuously,” said Dennis. “It got cold and even rained during the last couple of weeks, but the girls didn’t seem to mind.”  

   The meeting ends with happy thoughts and stretching inside. “Happy thoughts is an inspirational quote that we give the girls on a little card,” said Dennis.

       Another large part of the program is providing the girls with role models who are not involved in their familial life. “I think girls this age are more likely to respond to role models that aren’t immediate family, so it is very important to me to be that role model,” said Dennis.

   Sylvia Brooks, a 2016 UMF graduate and 3rd year teacher at CBS, sees the positive impact of Fit Girls regarding confidence and leadership in her classroom. “It gives the girls an opportunity to become leaders to younger participants,” said Brooks. “It also gives them the confidence to do something athletic without the social pressure of having boys around.”

    In addition to encouraging healthy habits, Dennis believes that the program can play a role in strengthening her bonds with all those who participate. “I love spending time outside of the classroom with these kids,” said Dennis. “It allows us to build a stronger relationship and helps the girls become more comfortable with talking to me in school.”

   Fit Girls recently hosted their end of season 5K race on October 20th. The course ran along Wilson Lake, and there were over 70 participants. “It was a great event,” said Dennis. “The superintendent was there and another runner dressed up as a snap pea.” Dennis ran with one of the participants at the end to cross the finish line together, showing just how joyous her experience with the program has been.


Fit Girls began seven years ago at Academy Hill School in Wilton, and has since expanded to include the whole district. The program runs for six weeks throughout the fall ending with a district wide 5K race.

UMF Practical Politics Class Provides Students with an Opportunity to get Involved

By Aislinn Forbes Contributing Writer

Local Maine politics isn’t flashy. Candidates for Maine State Congress don’t have a lot of money, or high profile campaign organizers, or ads with perfect production value. But they do have a lot of say in Mainers’ daily lives.

Mariah Langton has been deeply involved with Jan Collin’s campaign, a Democratic candidate running for State Senate in Farmington’s district. Every week, Langton grabs a clipboard and walks or drives around Franklin County neighborhoods with Collins, knocking on doors and starting conversations with local residents about the elections. Langton has also served as a bridge between the other members of Collins’ campaign and the younger generation.

“I’m by far the youngest person on the team,” said Langton. “She really values my opinion.”

Langton is enrolled in UMF’s Practical Politics class, currently taught by James Melcher, which requires students to choose a campaign they would like to work on and dedicate time every week to their chosen campaign.

 “Students can pick whatever campaign they want,” assured Melcher. “I just want my students to play clean, fight hard, and learn something.”

Students aren’t limited to local campaigns; for example some students have contributed to Angus King’s campaign this semester and local candidates are very receptive to student involvement. Some local candidates even seek out Melcher to find out if there are students in the class at the time of their candidacy.  

Candidates, and their representatives, come into the class so students can get an idea of who they might like to work with. Allison Hepler, a History professor at UMF, spoke to the class about her bid to represent district 53 in the Maine House. Hepler was ecstatic to have students involved in her campaign.

 “Not only is it more efficient for me as a candidate,” said Hepler, “but also more fun!”

Langton decided to take the class because of her limited experiences and opportunities in the past. Living in rural Maine made it difficult for her to travel or get accurate information about her local campaigns, especially before she turned 18. The Practical Politics class presented her with the opportunity to learn more and get involved.

“I’ve learned a lot,” said Langton. “But as I learned it, it didn’t feel like a lot.”

 “Most people [that take the class] have never been involved in a campaign before,” said Melcher. But it’s not just about the experience and connections, ethics is also a big part of the class. Melcher wants his students to ask themselves, “What is ethical to do in a campaign?” and “Do I want to run myself?”


    Melcher inherited the class from his predecessor, Jack Quinn. Though Melcher is unsure of what year the class started, he knows it has been around since the early 1980’s at least. Many of the alumni of the class have gone on to professionally manage campaigns and serve in the Maine State Legislature, on both sides of the aisle. Lance Harvell, an alumni of the class, represents the Farmington area in the Maine House of representatives as a republican and has since 2009.


   “I’m proud,” Melcher said fiercely, “that my students are all over the spectrum.”

UMF Plans Annual New York Broadway trip

UMF Plans Annual New York Broadway trip

Kaleigh Warner at the Aladdin show last year.
(Photo Provided by Kaleigh Warner)

By Journey Bubar Contributing Writer

  Every year, the Student Life Office and Weekend Adventures and Excursions club (WAE)  plans a trip to New York City, which includes a choice between two Broadway shows (this year the shows are “Kinky Boots” and “Anastasia”) and time to walk around NYC.

    Warner has worked for WAE for three semesters, and says that the New York trip is one of the biggest and most talked about on campus. “New York is the most popular of the eight events we host every year,” said Kaleigh Warner, a senior. “For only $55, students will get transportation to and from NYC and entry to one Broadway show.”

   Student Life and WAE plan about four trips each semester. “There is a lot of work that goes into planning all of our trips, but New York is double because we take 100 students rather than 50,” said Warner. “I do most of the advertising and connecting with students to get some more excitement for the trips.”

  “We have about 50 tickets per show. 150-200 students show up to get tickets each year and will camp out hours before the event to secure their spots,” said Warner. “Throughout the semester we have students calling, emailing, or coming into our office to ask questions. Then, on the day of ticket sales, the line winds throughout the student center and we sell out in 10 minutes!”

   Warner said that in the past, they have had to waitlist people in case someone pulls out last minute because so many people are interested in the event. “Every year we like to switch up what shows we offer! In the past, we’ve seen “Wicked”, “Phantom of the Opera”, “The Lion King” and “Aladdin”,” said Warner. “Sometimes we bring back tickets for really popular Broadway shows. We like to offer shows that we know will be popular with various students.”

   The bus leaves UMF around 12:00 a.m. Saturday morning and gets back around 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning. “We allow plenty of time for students to wander the big city on their own,” said Warner. “Some students choose to sightsee, eat a slice of [New York] pizza, visit the various museums or art displays, walk around Central Park, or go shopping.”

   The New York trip and many other trips sponsored by Student Life are great opportunities for students to travel and have new experiences at a decent price. “This trip is so affordable for students because it’s also partially paid for by Student Life,” said Warner. “$55 would typically only pay for transportation to New York, which is why it’s so important that students are taking the opportunity for trips we sponsor.”

   Warner concluded by saying that Student Life enjoys getting input and suggestions from students on new or different trips and activities that they would like to see offered. “These trips are for you!” said Warner. “Our trips are affordable and range between $10 and $55 for a day full of fun with new or old friends.”

   Tickets for the New York trip are being sold on Wednesday, October 24th. Doors open at 7 p.m. but be aware students line up hours in advance.

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