UMF Students Experience Spiritual Renewal after a Fall Retreat

UMF Students Experience Spiritual Renewal after a Fall Retreat

By Haiyu Zheng – Contributing Writer


Seven UMF InterVarsity Christian Fellowship members were refreshed both physically and spiritually after a three-day fall retreat in Toah Nipi Retreat and Training Center in New Hampshire. Including students from 13 other campuses in Northern New England, there were over 100 students attending this fall conference.

Students attending the UMF InterVarsity in fall conference. (Back row, l to r: Haiyu Zheng, Darci Goslin, Jacob Marcoux, Ben Daly-LaBelle, Abdi Hassan, Lillian Hunt) (front row, l to r: Armando Jaku, Yamah Dolo and Lindsay Marcoux)
Photo Courtesy of Jacob Marcoux

   For Christians, a retreat is a quintessential time away from daily activities which distract them from going deeper in their faith and spending time getting reacquainted with God. Combined with conferences and activities, it offers people a quiet place to find peace and experience renewal.

   The woods outside and the woody décor inside, along with little lights hanging on the wall, created a relaxing atmosphere. In the biggest meeting room of Toah Nipi Hebron, students from different cultural backgrounds converged to worship God in one voice and pray earnestly for each other as a community. Their faith affirmed the beauty of the unity beyond all ethnicity in Christ.  

   With the theme of “Hope and Healing in a Broken world: Find a way forward,” powerful testimonies and sermons were shared by different speakers, followed by small group discussions and prayer time. The reflection gave students encouragement and inspiration, leaving them with a new perspective in their walk with Christ.

   UMF freshman Lillian Hunt found strength and hope in other people’s stories.“It made me feel like more comforted to know that I’m not alone and there are a bunch of people going through what I’m going through,” she said.

   Annie Ahn, a sophomore from Colby College noted that the “silent time” with God was another indispensable part of this retreat.

   “I really enjoyed the silent time when I spent an hour and a half away from the noise just concentrating on reflecting on God and talking to Him individually.” Taking a sip of coffee, Ahn smiled, the overflowing joy in her heart written all over her face.

   Ahn was not the only person who felt reenergized during the silent time. Toah Nipi provides students numerous areas to sit, wander and pray. Scattering in different directions, some students chose to stay in their room reading the Bible, some sat at the picnic table outside praying while enjoying an incredible view of surrounding hills, and some lay on the grass meditating in the pleasant fall weather.

   In addition to the spiritual growth, recreation including sports, boating and board games also provided students with chances to make friends across schools and get to know people from their own schools better.

   Jake Marcoux, the leader of UMF InterVarsity group, expressed his willingness to include everyone in the group no matter what background they come from.

   “We have to relate to people in the group differently, to be intuitive and think about what they are thinking about, such as someone who came from International settings or someone who’s not a believer, ”said Marcoux.

   InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is an interdenominational, evangelical Christian campus ministry founded in 1941, working with students and faculty on U.S. college and university campuses. Retreats and mission trips are held all year round.

   There will be a Serve-Up trip intended to help with the recovery effort in places that were affected by the hurricane during spring break next year. More information can be found on InterVarsity website at:

My First Corn Maze Experience: Wicked Fun!

My First Corn Maze Experience: Wicked Fun!

By Haiyu Zheng -Contributing Writer


   When the view of ten acres of cornfield finally came into sight as we drove, my friends and I started feeling thrilled about heading out to the field with excitement and an adrenaline rush.

   I was a little bit overwhelmed when standing in front of the massive landscape with piles of brown plants filled with ripening ears of corn. Looking up at these huge rippling stalks, I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, they are wicked tall.” This was my first experience of seeing a corn maze in person. It reminded me of the crop circle that I saw in a documentary when I was in China, before I came to UMF.

   That Sunday afternoon, instead of dying while doing my homework, I decided to have an adventure at the corn maze at the Sandy River Farm on Farmington Falls Road with UMF senior Elina Shapiro, and Chinese instructor Hui Shao.

From L to R: Haiyu Zheng, Elina E. Shapiro, and Hui Shao at the Sandy River Corn Maze.
(Photo by Hui Shao)

   Sandy River Farm is a vast fascinating landscape that consists of 600 acres of land in pastures, hayland, and rows of crops as well as approximately 1000 acres of forest land. The corn maze named “Amazing Maize” is held on the field south of the farm. In addition to the maze, the farm also offers a pumpkin patch and a “Cow Train” ride for kids.

   The first thing we noticed was the tower near the entrance of the maze. Visitors could go upstairs on a staircase ascending to the top of a tower to perceive the entire farm.

   Shapiro commented that “the view was as far as you could see and pretty much any direction you looked there was corn.” Surprised, she raised her voice and said, “even behind me I saw corn.”

   After that, we finally started our journey.

   I honestly didn’t know what I expected in the beginning, so I think I made a lot of stupid suggestions.

  “I’ve heard a theory that you can go out very quickly if you chose the same direction every time you have to make a choice,” I said. “Like you just stay to the right side.” I was as confident as a professional.

   After the first few minutes, we found that we were back to the same spot we started from, which meant we didn’t go anywhere.

   This time I changed the strategy. I picked some corn up off the ground and made signs with them. I thought I was pretty smart.

  A few minutes later, I heard Shao’s voice. “Oh, no! I think we’ve been here before!” Yes, we got lost in the circular trails created by these tall plants.

   “What if we cannot find the way out?” Shao asked. Well, this was a good question.

   One of the things that I was hyper-aware of was how confusing it was. After failing so many times, I realized that I was probably not a “puzzle” person so I totally gave up and let my friends lead me to whichever direction they thought fit.  

   We came across several families with distinctive, interesting approaches. Many families enjoyed getting lost in the maze. One family said  quite casually, “we were just wandering.” Another used their Google map to direct their way, and one just enjoyed playing with their kids while they were walking.

   Shapiro suggested taking on the philosophy of wandering instead of being nervous about figuring out which way to go. We all thought that was a good idea, so we ended up following the family using the Google map. (Technology is good.)

   I remember how excited we were when making a significant breakthrough of going through the intermediate part of the maze. As the maze went on, we passed through the paths more easily when we found that there were signs of numbers placing strategically throughout the maze. In another twenty minutes, we found the exit!

   I couldn’t believe we made it! We celebrated our victory by taking a lot of selfies with a werewolf statue at the exit, which was also near the entrance.  

   Before leaving, we had a short tour exploring the other parts of the farm. Walking through a sea of pumpkins of all kinds of shapes, we got on a truck that took us to a place with some animals. I approached a goat and pet his fuzzy head. Embraced by the unexpected natural grace, I forgot all the clutter and clatter of life in this bright, breezy Sunday afternoon. It was an awesome trip.

   There will be a haunted maze going at the end of October. It freaks me out when thinking about encountering creepy clowns or vampires who suddenly pop out of a corner. But for students who have a resilient heart, more information can be found on the Sandy River Farm’s Facebook page.


UMF Students Reveal How They Deal With Stress

By Kelsey Dunn – Contributing Writer

The time has come when UMF students experience stress due to crunched and overlapped deadlines, mountains of homework and hours that seem to just zoom past. Stress can be overwhelming at times and make us want to just scream and give up, but we can’t. Are there ways to relieve stress?

Some UMF students have reported their ways to relieve their stress. Benjamin Cloutier, a junior at UMF, has to juggle his academics with his two jobs.

“I am usually stressed roughly six days a week. Saturdays are what I like to call my stress day off” said Cloutier. “When I become stressed, I go outside and try to take my mind off things.”

Like Cloutier, Elina Shapiro, a UMF senior, also enjoys being outside. Shapiro has a lot on her plate this year between her internship, planning for life after graduation, academics and a social life.

“I play the banjo for an instant stress relief. I also exercise and watch comedy shows” said Shapiro.

Dr. Natasha Lekes, an Associate Professor of Psychology, revealed that “students coming to college should expect to experience stress.” Dr. Lekes noticed that many students at UMF work long hours in addition to maintaining a full-time course load. Due to all the responsibilities that students have to endure, it is natural for them to feel overwhelmed. Dr. Lekes noted that many people turn to exercise, meditation, laughing or playing when stressed. She also said that students should seek help when needed.

“Students often wait to seek help and yet there are many people willing and wanting to provide it at UMF, [such as] advisors, mental health counselors, professors and career counselors,” said Dr. Lekes.

Tessa Walsh, a junior at UMF, experiences social anxiety, which along with her schoolwork, triggers her stress. “I get stressed roughly four to five days a week. When I do get stressed, I listen to music, watch TV or I simply switch to a new activity to get my mind off things” said Walsh.

Students are not the only ones who experience stress on campus. “We need stress in our lives!” said Dr. Lekes, who also experiences stress in her daily life.

“You will likely find that the things that make your life worth living also cause you stress,” Dr. Lekes explained. “For me, that’s being a parent, a professor, a wife, a friend. Yet, I wouldn’t want to change my work or family life. Students may find that their relationships, their area of study, their work and being involved in sports brings meaning to their lives, and yet these activities likely also bring stress into their lives,” said Dr. Lekes.

To view UMF’s counseling page go to the following link:


Student Involvement Down? Several Clubs Show Declining Participation This Academic Year

By Andrew Devine, Contributing Writer

It seems that campus has been quiet this year. For the better part of the 2016-2017 school year, it appears that student involvement in campus activities has been on the decline. While some groups have shown success, several clubs, organizations, events, and programs in general have been counting fewer attendees than expected or hoped for.

This trend was first noticed by Flyer staff when it was announced that the Humans versus Zombies (HVZ) game, run by the UMF Table Gaming Club, would be postponed due to low registration of players.

Lukas Kenison, a member of the Table Gaming Club (TGC), shared his perspective after tabling for HVZ registration over the past several weeks. “With the Table Gaming Club it is very much an issue of lack of PR and getting people out here,” said Kenison. “People don’t know what HVZ is so they don’t get involved.”

According to Kenison a game of HVZ requires at least 30 players. With only 11 students signed up, TGC had to temporarily postpone the game. However, following the postponement the club was able to garner enough interest to hold a game last week of about 30 players, according to participant Joseph Needle.

Similarly, a problem has surfaced with the Campus Residence Council (CRC). The student representative group for on-campus residents has had information posted regarding open positions for the various residence halls most of the school year. However, the billings show that there are still a number of open positions in most, if not all, residence halls on campus.

Club president Ben Rodriguez weighed in. “There’s difficulty in recruitment for positions because of students’ awareness of CRC, what the organization is and what it does,” said Rodriguez, adding that he believes misconceptions about the time commitment involved may be a factor.

Rodriguez continued, “It’s also difficult to reach out to people in the second semester of the school year since it’s more difficult to add something new to your routine, such as CRC or a new club. I think most clubs and organizations see that challenge at some point but it makes it worth it to see your group succeed.”

Another organization struggling with low attendance is the Association for Campus Entertainment, also known as ACE. Marisa Getchell, treasurer of ACE, wrote in an online interview, “I’d definitely say that attendance has been down this semester and this year, both in terms of club members and in the campus population coming to events that we host/sponsor.”

Getchell suggested that a supposed change in the commuter population may explain the decline. “I’ve also seen an increase of commuters and people who work outside of campus, so their time here is being divided a lot.”

Cody Smith, president of the Commuter Council, reported that while it’s fairly common that students move off campus after their first or second year, this trend has not increased significantly this year. Getchell’s hypothesis may not be far off, but it seems that the numbers don’t exactly show that there are necessarily more students away from campus.

President of Student Senate Jamie Austin also commented on the apparently declining student involvement patterns. “In a lot of clubs, people are just worn out, not wanting to keep involved. Senate itself had a hard time recruiting people for fundraising and volunteer events.”

However, these trends do not reflect across all campus activities. Certain organizations are finding a greater, or at least steady, number of attendees and participants this school year.

For example, Kenison, also a member of the Computer Club, reported that the membership of that group has been steady.

Mainely Outdoors has also been performing well this year according to staffer Robbie Knowles. “We seem to get more and more people to come out to events even when we don’t anticipate it,” said Knowles in a phone interview. “Even in the winter, we get people who want to hike or cross country-ski, surprisingly.”

What are these clubs that are succeeding doing differently from the organizations struggling with declining membership? What can each group do to encourage a better turn-out? These are questions that returning club leaders might keep in mind over the summer as they gear up for member recruitment next fall.

A Response to “UMF Says Goodbye to Geology”

By Sumaya Hamdi, Contributing Writer

We students in the geology program were angry and highly offended by the article, “UMF Says Goodbye to Geology,” published on April 20th in the most recent issue of the Farmington Flyer.

The comments of the Chair of the Division of Natural Sciences, Dr. Mariella Passarelli, were particularly offensive. She states that, “we evaluate ourselves every seven years, if we did something wrong, we change it.” This statement about the program review process is misleading.

According to Geology Club advisor Dr. David Gibson, the last program review was done in 2010 by Dr. David Westerman of Norwich University. We read the review and found that it has nothing but praise for our geology program. Westerman states that “the geology program very clearly helps the UMF fulfill its mission.” He goes on to say, “small class sizes, combined with caring, outgoing and engaged faculty, result in inspired students who graduate ready to make a positive difference in the world.”

In regard to its size, standards, and quality, Westerman writes, “The geology program at UMF is well within the norm for small educational institutions offering a bona fide degree in geology.” There is nothing in this document to suggest that there was or currently is anything wrong with our geology program.

We have never been informed of the true reason for this amalgamation with environmental science but suspect that it had more to do with economics than a desire to “unify the department.” We ask, would these changes have been made had there not been a recent budget crisis?

Dr. Passarelli needs to realize a few things. Geologists dominate the field of climate science and environmental remediation. Geology graduates work in fields such as geomorphology, glaciology, climatology, hydrogeology, volcanology, seismology, geo-engineering, geophysics, and geochemistry, to name a few. These fields require a geology degree.

While it is true that many geologists are involved in the extraction of resources in the oil and mining industries, it’s important to remember that this is not driven by geologists, but by consumers. Furthermore, renewable energy resources are dependent on rare earth element minerals, the supply of which would not be possible without geologists.

In March, I attended the annual Geological Society of America meeting in Pittsburgh and met many hard-working scientists working to solve a range of geotechnical and environmental problems from acid mine drainage remediation to slope failure. All these scientists were geologists.

A recent report by the American Geosciences Institute indicates that the gap between employment needs and graduates is widening. UMF cannot afford to lose its geology program or weaken its position. It currently is and will continue to be an important science as we face the challenges of the 21st century.

From an admissions perspective, Westerman wrote in his report that geology, being a visual, comprehensible and adventurous science, “could very effectively highlight this program.”

We would like to have a meeting with our Admissions Office to coordinate school visits to our local high schools. Passarelli promised to meet with us in response to a petition presented to her in May 2015; she never has.

We would like to meet with her and have our concerns regarding how the changes to the department will impact future graduate school admissions and employment opportunities addressed.

I would like potential future students of geology to know one thing; studying geology has been the greatest honor of my life thus far, and there is no title I will ever hold as proudly as “geologist.” We will not be giving up easily, for the earth’s sake.

Faithfully United: A Closer Look at the Three Major Religions

Faithfully United: A Closer Look at the Three Major Religions

By C.L. DeLisle, Contributing Writer

(Photo Courtesy of Pinterest)

(Photo Courtesy of Pinterest

Life has a funny way of leaving us with more questions than answers. Throughout history we have always sought explanations to these existential mysteries. Billions of people have turned to religion and a belief in something beyond this world for solutions. Over half the world’s population worships one of the three major religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

These religions are united by one fundamental principle: they worship the same God. Despite the similarities they share, we only ever seem to be reminded of acts of monstrosity that distance people from each other, rather than unite them. When we look beyond the misconceptions, we can start to define ourselves through similarities, rather than differences. To better understand where the common ground lies, I spoke to representatives of the three major religions. Ultimately, one answer became prevalent: we are one.

The religious leaders all expressed a similar benefit that is gained through practice. Dr. Jonathan Cohen, a professor of philosophy at UMF, stated, “practicing Judaism helps give me a peace of mind.”

A stone’s throw away from Cohen’s office, Father Paul Dumais of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church elaborated on this. He said, “Religion yields a peace that arises from responding to a very fundamental truth.”

The ambiguous concept of this “truth” would later be explained by Monsignor Henchal of St. Maximillian Church in Scarborough. Henchal, organizer of “Building Bridges Dinner,” which brought together followers of Christianity and Islam, stated that, “Religion tries to get us beyond the superficial components that sometimes dominate our lives.” He continued, “It tries to get us to something greater. Something more beautiful than what we have.”

These religious leaders expressed how responding to this fundamental truth, a reality which is far greater and more beautiful than we can even comprehend, grants a kind of peace of mind to the faithful. Critics of religion, however, argue against this point by asking the question; how can an omnipotent, benevolent, and omniscient God allow so many terrible things to happen? The responses of the religious leaders were once again unanimous.  

“As humans we have a strong desire for free-will, and God gives us that free-will,” said Omar Conteh, the outreach coordinator at the Islamic Center of Maine in Orono. He continued, “How can we then blame God when we see the terrible things that people choose to do with that free-will?”

Father Paul elaborated on this, stating that we must first determine the root of these evils. “We must think about the role of God, but we must also look at our own role and our responsibility in the presence of evils in the world,” he explained.

To understand further where the root of these evils stem from, Monsignor Henchal provided insight. “The line of good and evil doesn’t run between groups of people,” he paused briefly before continuing, “the line of good and evil runs through every human heart.” Before blaming God for the sufferings that we experience, we must first look at our own responsibility for these evils, and how we may be able to overcome them.

Dr. Cohen shared a central idea of Judaism, he stated, “We are partners with God in perfecting this world, and we must do whatever we can with what we have.”

Lastly, Father Paul left us with a message of hope that stems from difficult times. “When we enter into the great mystery,” he continued with a smile, “it’s interesting to see that when something bad happens to us, something good always seems to come out of it.”

My last question sought advice to how we may be able to unite in these challenging times of racial tension and ideological division. Again, their responses reflected a unanimous sentiment.   

“I think the biggest issue is pretending that we don’t have anything in common,” said Conteh. “We live in a world of competing ideas, within that competition we must be able to recognize the vast commonalities we share.”

Cohen shared a similar viewpoint with Conteh, he stated, “we must be able to see ourselves and our own values in another person.”

Monsignor Henchal took this a step further, saying that we actually need each other’s different opinions and beliefs. “There’s an element of truth to everything, but no one has the entire picture.” He continued, “there’s always something that we can learn from each other.”

Father Paul left us with a recipe for acknowledging common ground, while admitting our differences, but always doing it with a deep respect and charity towards each other. Citing Saint Augustine, he stated, “In essential things let there be unity. In doubtful things let there be freedom. In all things let there be charity.”

Travelling to mosques, churches, and temples to create this story, I couldn’t help but notice a striking similarity. No matter the location, children’s colorful art could always be found lining the walls. Artwork that innocently depicted the love that God, Allah, or Yahweh has towards his people and the love that his people have for each other and for him.

Monsignor Henchal explained the cause of his Building Bridges Dinner. Said Henchal, “when people see each other for who they are, we realize that we have a lot of the same concerns. We both have little kids running around, and we interact with them in the same way. We have the same hopes and dreams for the future, for ourselves, and for our children.”

As walls continue to rise and ideological alienation worsens, it is important for us to remember where the answers to our questions lie. The answers to our questions do not lie in a news report, a lecture hall, or through a political leader. The answers to our questions lie within. We must look to each other and realize that we share a common dream for ourselves, for our children, and in the hope for a bright future. When we begin to open our hearts and really explore these existential mysteries, we may finally start to understand –– we already know the answers.

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