UMF Opens New Testing Center

UMF Opens New Testing Center

By Paige Lilly, Contributing Writer

274 Front St. by Sam Shirley

274 Front St. by Sam Shirley

    As the new semester begins, UMF has opened the doors of a new COVID-19 testing center intended for the testing of commuter students, faculty, and staff. 

    Residential students will continue to be tested in Dearborn Gymnasium, while others will be tested at the new center located at 274 Front St. The new testing center will continue to help with social distancing while testing, along with minimizing interactions between residential and commuter students. “You can only do so much [to minimize student interactions] in terms of classes, but I definitely think it’s going to make a huge difference in terms of people’s safety,” said Jessica Howe, the COVID-19 Testing Coordinator.

      Howe believes that with the large volume of students being tested this semester, the new testing center will keep crowds down and allow for better social distancing than Dearborn Gymnasium would alone. “With too many people, you can’t social distance or make a proper line in [Dearborn Lobby],” Howe said. 

     During the fall semester, students, faculty, and staff were randomly selected to get tested in each phase of testing. However, according to an email sent out by Christine Wilson on behalf of the Asymptomatic Testing Team, all students, faculty, and staff who “live on campus, take or teach classes on campus, work on campus, or participate in student athletics” are required to be tested every week this semester in Phase 6 of UMF’s asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. 

     Getting the word out about that has been another challenge Howe and her team have been facing, but signage and frequent emails have been a factor in overcoming this challenge. “We’re encouraging people to set a time to be their designated testing time every week,” Howe said. “We want people to put it on their calendars and then go through and sign up with us.” This is not required, but Howe believes that it is a great way for people to remember to get tested every week. 

    Elena Guarino, a sophomore, is one of the students who has tested at the new testing center. “It was interesting because I had never been to that site on campus before so it was a little tricky trying to figure out where to go,” said Guarino. “There is only one entrance [into the parking lot of the building], which I didn’t realize, so I ended up missing it the first time I drove by.” 

    Troy Johnson, a junior, said he appreciated being able to see the same style of posters that would usually hang on the student center walls in the testing center. “I lived on campus for two years, so being in the student center was a daily occurrence for me,” Johnson said. “Now, I live off campus and because of [COVID-19], I don’t really go [to the student center] much.” 

      Howe is also excited about the potential that the testing center has for communication with commuter students. “I’ve been trying to hang posters up similar to what would be seen in the student center in order to connect with students in that way.” Her main goal is to keep students, faculty, and staff both safe and engaged in their testing experiences.

Need a Job? Look No Further Than FWS

By Chelsea Davis, Contributing Writer

    Full-time students who qualify for federal financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may also qualify for federal work study (FWS), which allows students to get a job on campus while also being able to prioritize classes and coursework. 

    Work study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate students with financial need and allows students to earn money to help pay education expenses. This program encourages community service work and work related to the student’s course of study. “For FWS specifically, the student would have the award as part of their financial aid package since FWS is a need-based financial award contingent on FAFSA information,” said Joseph Toner, Assistant Director of Financial Aid at UMF. “However, having FWS is not a prerequisite to working on campus as students can be hired within the work initiative program or within a department-funded position.” 

    UMF has a wide variety of work study jobs on campus open only to students who qualify for FWS. “We have students working in just about every department on campus, from admissions, to athletics, to the library,” said Toner. “Our student workers literally make our campus go.”

    Troy Johnson, an employee at the Fitness and Recreational Center (FRC), has had a positive experience working as a part of FWS. “I like working in the gym atmosphere,” Johnson said. “I have made new connections working with other students on campus. I would highly recommend federal work study for students in need of a little extra money to help pay off education expenses.”

    The level of commitment that is expected for student employment jobs are just like any job. Supervisors will expect student workers to show up on time, perform quality work, and follow instruction. “As long as you follow what is asked of you and you get everything done on time it is a super easy job and a great experience too,” said Elena Guarino, who works in the library through FWS.

    Because FWS is part of the student’s financial aid package and the job is also on campus, students working FWS positions are able to easily prioritize their classes and coursework while also doing their FWS job. “Some things that I do at my job consist of cleaning equipment, checking students in, and I can also work on homework,” Johnson said. 

    With a full-time courseload, Johnson is able to work up to four hours a day three days a week. “Typically these work study jobs have flexible schedules,” said Johnson. 

Utilizing work study is beneficial because working on campus allows students to gain real-life work experience that can help students learn interpersonal communication skills and time management while also earning money to help pay for some of the costs associated with attending college. “Employers love to see student work on a resume,” said Toner. “It shows that the student gained valuable experience while in college, even if the work now is not directly related to your plans for a post-UMF career.”

    To locate the FWS job list and learn about FWS, work initiative, and on-campus jobs, students can email joseph.toner@maine.edu or log into the MyCampus Portal, go to the Student Services pull-down menu, and select Financial Services. Work study positions will start opening up at the end of the spring. Once students find a job on campus they would like to pursue, it is important to reach out to the supervisor of that certain work position, it is best to reach out through email.

 

UMF Rolls Out a New Plan

UMF Rolls Out a New Plan

by Colin Harris, Treasurer

University of Maine at Farmington words on building

UMF is rolling out a new plan with Berkeley Research Group. (Photo courtesy of Sam Shirley)

 

   

    UMF has partnered with Berkeley Research Group (BRG) to work on a new plan concerning the urban mastrangeloniversity’s goals and how they are going to be attained.

     Ryan Mastrangelo, a member of the Strategic Planning Committee and Director of Marketing and Communications at UMF, said in email, “The plan lets people know the school’s purpose, the values (or how staff and students are expected to behave), the context (or what is different about UMF), goals and targets, and how UMF is going to do this (key improvement strategies),”.

    Simplified this means that UMF wants to provide the best possible experience to students and this new plan that is being set in place will help in doing so. 

    “We conducted a national search for a strategic planning firm to work with us,” President Edward Serna said in an email interview. “What impressed us with BRG was their depth of expertise in strategic planning and breadth of experience working in the higher education sector.”

    The Strategic Planning Process has been in the making for quite some time now. “We developed our current strategic plan back in 2014. Think about how much the world has changed since then. Honestly, that plan no longer reflects the realities that we are facing. We needed a new plan that more accurately reflects our current and emerging challenges and opportunities,” Serna said. 

    This new plan is sure to bring questions. Mastrangelo said in an email, “What changes do we want to see in UMF? Should there be an emphasis on certain programs? If so, which ones?” These are the questions that UMF and BRG have teamed up to tackle. 

     The proposed plan will be three to four pages in length. The proposal will describe the goals of the plan and methods that will be used to accomplish them. Hopefully this will answer any questions that may occur throughout the process. 

     “I encourage students to get involved in the Strategic Planning Process—if the final result of our work is to identify the best possible path forward for Farmington, your input will help us get a sense of the key issues and themes, as well as hopes and dreams, that will shape a shared vision for Farmington’s future” said President Serna. 

     Vanessa Charlot, a consultant at BRG said in an email interview, “There’s a place for every voice in the UMF family; whether student, faculty, staff, alumni, or community member.” UMF and BRG place an astronomical value in making sure that the voices of the Farmington community are heard. “Student input is critical to the success of the strategic planning process that is currently underway. The strategic plan will serve as a roadmap for how our university will make decisions for the next five years; and you have a say in that,” said Charlot. “This is an opportunity for you to take ownership of your legacy at UMF and enhance the current and future student experience in a meaningful way,”.

    “For me, a successful strategic planning process will result in a plan that the community feels they own. I want us to be excited about the vision and values we identify as representing our aspirations for our community,” said Serna.

     In short, the strategic plan is going to drastically change students’ lives here at Farmington and we need YOU to help make Farmington more of a home than it already feels like. To contact BRG about changes you’d like to see in your community please email umf.planning.ideas@maine.edu to submit ideas.

Safety First

by Malcolm Langner Contributing Writer

    The UMF Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC) is taking measures to ensure a safe gym environment for its members, students, and employees. 

    Alison Thayer, Assistant Director of the FRC, believes that following policy changes during the pandemic start with the employees. “It has been very challenging for our staff to come up with new and creative ways to have PHE [physical education] under the new restrictions and guidelines,” Thayer said. 

    The FRC is now requiring face masks to be worn inside, litming guest numbers, and only allowing PHE students to visit once per week. At all times a professional staff member must be present. The latter of the regulations has prevented the FRC from opening on the weekends, “due to Coronavirus, we have lost three of our five professional employees, so we just haven’t had the manpower to do it,” Thayer said. “We are trying to get the regulations changed. UMF is the only UMaine system to enforce the guidelines. There already isn’t much available to do on the weekends on campus, and we feel like students and community members alike should have the opportunity to be here.” 

    Working at the FRC has changed for the student workers as well. “The biggest change for me is having to wear a mask all of the time and having to stay away from the people who go there,” said Derek Bowen. He is a senior at UMF, and was PHE instructor last semester, now he is completing a student internship. “We all have to be separated now and it’s been awkward getting adjusted to the new environment.” The changes don’t end there, “ So much of the work is done on my own now. On top of that, it’s hard to get a lot of hours because the FRC is closed on the weekends.” 

   Students working as employees at the FRC have experienced increased responsibility as well. In each section of the gym, an employee must be present to spray down and clean the used machines. “It used to be a very laid back place to work, but now we all have added responsibilities and must take precautions with anything that we do,” Bowen added. 

    As for students who regularly go to the FRC, such as Danny Terhune, a catcher for the Beavers baseball team, change has been evident. “I understand why they had to implement certain rules, but some of them really make it harder to get a good workout in,” Terhune said. “Masks make sense, but obviously I would be a lot happier not having to wear one.” Still, Terhune remained positive, “At least the FRC is open this semester, considering how tough things have been this year.”

    Despite the hardships that have come from COVID-19, Thayer and the employees at the FRC are staying positive. “We have gone as far to have outdoor group fitness sessions, which seem to have gotten great responses from those who have attended,” Thayer said. “At this point, all we can do is try and push through as a community.”

Sweatt-Winter Center Copes with Campus Location During Pandemic

by Bella Woodhouse Contributing Writer

    Sweatt-Winter Childcare and Education Center has had to follow state required regulations in order to stay open and safe for the children. 

    The teachers working at Sweatt-Winter are constantly looking for ways to help children understand social distancing. “A teacher came up with what was originally three raccoons apart because they are two feet long but now it is whatever animal you prefer. It was something to help the kids understand 6 feet apart better,” said Julie Farmer, Director of Sweatt-Winter. 

    Yet, physical distancing has been hard for the children at Sweatt-Winter to understand. “The children are following the mask rule very well for such a young age. However, they are having a hard time consistently staying 6 feet away,” said second-year student worker Sierra Pennington. 

    Farmer and the teachers/students at Sweatt-Winter have become more flexible in wearing masks in physical distancing situations. “The kids keep them on for the most part but when they are outside playing they can take them off,” said Farmer. “The students can also ask for a quick mask break if they feel they need one.” 

    The COVID-19 rules and policies for Sweatt-Winter were heavily influenced by the Maine Center for Disease Control guidelines regarding COVID-19. “We don’t force preschool-age kids to wear masks, but anyone above the age of 5 has too,” says Farmer. “Parents aren’t allowed in the building and any other adult [such as workers] has to have their temperature checked before entering. If any student or adult has symptoms they have to have a doctor’s note before coming back.”

    Sweatt-Winter workers have been fully prepared to keep the child care a consistently clean environment for the kids. “I feel safe as a work study student at Sweatt-Winter,” said Pennington. “Workers are constantly cleaning all areas including highly-trafficked areas such as doorknobs, phones, tables, etc. The children are washing their hands multiple times a day as well as the workers.” 

    Before they even step inside, workers have to check for possible symptoms before beginning their day, “Workers have to follow more safety precautions, such as required temperature checks before entering, sanitizing and handwashing more often, and wearing gloves to serve any food to the kids,” Farmer said.

   However, there still were some safety concerns, parents were worried about the influx of people coming on to campus when the university opened. Now that a few weeks have gone by, “Those feelings have also settled down,” said Farmer. “UMF and Sweatt-Winter are doing what we can to keep students safe and healthy.” 

Community Members Supply Food for Monmouth and Winthrop Students in Need During Pandemic

Abbie Hunt Contributing Writer

    Since the closing of all schools due to COVID-19 members of the Monmouth community have been stepping up to provide food for the RSU 2 school district students in Monmouth and Winthrop, Maine.

    Norm Thombs, director of Camp Mechuwana, a United Methodist Camp in Winthrop, jumped on the opportunity to help feed students in the community. Thombs is also one of the Monmouth Academy track coaches, and he and two other Monmouth track coaches, Tom Menendez, and Molly Menice helped pass out student meals.

    Together, Monday through Saturday they stand outside the Town Office in Monmouth for an hour and a half, giving breakfast and lunch to anyone in need. In addition to passing out food, the three have also been traveling to Winthrop to pass out meals to Winthrop students on Mondays and Wednesdays.

    Many students are desperate and in need of meals during this time. In one day alone they had given out 462 meals. Thombs’s plan is to continue giving out student meals as long as necessary.

    When the schools closed, RSU 2 superintendent announced that food would not be provided for kids. When Thombs heard this, he wanted to create a pandemic feeding center at Camp Mechuwana to help the community. Within two days the camp was set up to be a food distribution center. In the beginning local schools helped Thombs, Menendez and Menice, “The first week some of the school workers from RSU 2 helped out in the kitchen,” he said. However, as the closings continued, the schools were no longer able to help, leaving the three to operate alone. The Winthrop school system had also begun struggling to find help, and asked if Camp Mechuwana would be able to provide food for their students.

    Before lunchtime every day, both Thombs and Menendez travel to the camp to prepare and pick up food. A few students who had graduated from Monmouth Academy work in the camp kitchen to help prepare the meals. “[They] make all the meals and Tom and I back in the vans and load meals into them.” he said. Yet, Thombs wants as few people as possible in the kitchen due to the virus. 

    After passing out meals the group travels back to Monmouth to begin passing out meals at the town office. Whatever leftover food they have, which is normally not much, they take back to the camp and put in a cooler.

    The food to make the meals is being supplied by companies such as NorthCenter Food Company and Dennis Food and Supply. These companies supply restaurants and cafeterias. People from the community have been generously donating paper bags, sandwich bags, and food containers. “People have been sending us donations because not all our costs are covered,” Thombs said. “People have been really great.”

    Standing outside every day, often in the cold and rain, can be difficult, but Menendez said he is happy to help. “It puts a smile on their face,” he said. “At least the kids get a lunch and a breakfast.” The meals are helping meet the needs of people in the community.  

    Thombs, Menendez and Menice are experiencing added benefits as well. They are able to say hello to students, and meet new people in the community. “Some kids are so polite and so helpful when they come by with their parents,” Menendez said. “It makes you feel good.” One child who routinely goes to get lunch surprised him “There’s this one little kid who came down over the hill and asked if he could make me a picture,” Menendez said. “He came back about twenty minutes later with a picture”, Menendez now keeps the picture on his fridge.

    The food provided is mainly for students who are unable to have breakfast and lunch because of school closures, yet they will not deny anyone from the community who needs a meal. “We’ll give them an extra meal if we know the family is in need,” Menendez said. There are elderly people who may be in need, or college students who have come home from school and may not be able to afford food. “If they need it, we’ll give it to them,” Menendez said.