President Brown discusses UMF’s “Behind the Scenes”

President Brown discusses UMF’s “Behind the Scenes”

By Elina Shapiro Staff Reporter

President Eric Brown recently spoke at the All Campus Meeting about UMF’s current financial position and future goals. Lincoln Auditorium roared with laughter as Brown started talking humorously about his transition to President from Provost.

   Brown talked about plans to increase enrollment, including collaborating with other

UMaine campuses on different programs and courses, sending professors to local high schools to promote UMF and expanding the early college and graduate school programs.

Eric Brown is very involved in his first semester as Interim President. (Photo courtesy of UMF)

   Brown mentioned that UMF is down 40 in-state students and noted the competition with other UMaine schools. “We work together, we’re part of the same system, but there is competition there. We are looking at a lot of the same students,” said Brown in an interview.

   The percentage of UMF students who continue after their first year (71%) has gone down recently, but other UMaine schools are having similar problems.

   “Our retention rates have dipped a bit but they’re probably still the highest in the system, actually,” said Brown. “Relative to the other campuses, we’re doing well. We exist on such a fine line that a few students here or a few students there have a big impact on retention.”

   Brown has plans to increase UMF’s retention rate. “I would love to see a shift of our FYS classes, our first year seminars, to our first semester and give our students a really dynamic experience in that class, which would mean changing some of the ways that the course is designed,” said Brown.

   UMF is also working on a system in which students can get help when they first start having problems. “One thing that we’ve been testing out this fall is finding out earlier about students who are struggling in a class and sending an early report,” said Brown. “We are trying to really get to those students sooner to find out what their situation is and provide resources.”

   Though Brown mentioned some financial concerns throughout the talk, he also discussed areas of growth. “I go into it energetically, full speed,” said Brown. “We have a lot of exciting opportunities with new leadership in Honors, Experiential Education, with the kick-off of our New Commons Project, with movement around project-based learning and reimagining first year seminars and first semester experience.”

   Patti Bailie, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education, felt encouraged by Brown’s words. “I was very impressed with Eric,” said Bailie. “I thought that he did a really good job of communicating both the challenges that we’re now faced with and the opportunities for future endeavors.”

   At the end of his talk, Brown emphasized the importance to vote “yes” on the Bond on November 6th. 8.5 million dollars of this bond goes directly to Franklin County and could go to renovating the Student Center, the Mantor Library, residence halls, and Sweatt-Winter, the childcare center on campus.

   Bailie strongly agrees that people need to vote for the bond. “[The bond] has got to pass!” said Bailie almost jumping out of her chair. “If you don’t vote for anything else, go and vote for the bond. Tell your families!”

   Callie Bates, a junior Elementary Education major, thought the talk gave her a new perspective. “I think it’s important to understand what’s going on at the school, even logistically,” said Bates. “But where I am going into education I think it’s important to consider that not only from a student view but also from a teacher view – what will I expect when I am in the education system, as a professional educator, how it will look financially behind the scenes. I thought the perspective there would be a helpful thing.”

   Students and faculty will receive emails indicating when the next All Campus Meeting will be and they can also check the website: where such events will be listed.

Peace in the Park Brings Students, Faculty, Community Members Together

Peace in the Park Brings Students, Faculty, Community Members Together

By Elina Shapiro, Contributing Writer

Recently, on a brisk Friday afternoon, roughly seventy-five people, including UMF students, faculty and their kids, as well as community members, stood together in solidarity celebrating diversity and inclusion in UMF’s event Peace in the Park.

   Following anti-Semitic vandalism in Abbott Park a few weeks ago, UMF student 

Mana Abdi and professors Maybury and Linda Beck organized a day where students wore purple in advocacy of inclusion of everyone. “Peace in the Park was an outgrowth of ‘Wear Purple Wednesday,’” said Maybury. Peace in the Park was held in the area that the vandalism took place.

   The gathering began at Abbott Park with attendants sipping their hot chocolate and greeting each other with warm and caring smiles. Karol Maybury, professor of Psychology, introduced UMF student speaker Mana Abdi, who was followed by President Foster’s speech about diversity, inclusion and connection.

President Foster delivers a speech on the importance of diversity. (Photo by Haiyu Zheng)

   “There is a reason we called this group the ‘Diversity and Inclusion Action Team;’for diversity without inclusion offers simply a few of every category and ‘ism’ atomized and disengaged without community or meaning,” said Foster. “Diversity with inclusion form the makings of a strong community, but without action – the third word in the name – we risk falling short of what could be.”

   On November 5th, the Diversity and Inclusion Action Team, which is made up of students, faculty and staff, 

had its first meeting. Maybury, who is also chair of the committee, was very encouraged by the team. “I’ve never been on a committee like this, where the energy is just so positive and just motivated to affirm our values as ‘UMFers’,” Maybury said.

   During this meeting, someone suggested that UMF have a celebration of diversity, and thus, Pea

ce in the Park was born. Maybury said people worked fast to get pins made with #coexistumf, posters created; even the school mascot was involved. “Chompers is a very peace-loving beaver, so Chompers says he’s ‘all over this’ and wants to affirm his peace-loving heart,” said Maybury.

   Heather Leet, a UMF sophomore double majoring in Secondary Education and English, and also a part of the “Diversity and Inclusion Action Team,” was pleased with the turnout and is excited about where the team is headed. “I work with kids all summer [during ‘Seeds of Peace’] to figure out how to coexist, how to work together, how to make a better world,” said Leet. “I am really excited to bring that experience in this group, and offer what I can and collaborate with others as best I can.”

   Leet was impressed with how quickly the team was able to set up this event. “This is my second year at UMF, and so I really feel connected to the community now,” said Leet. “That’s another huge reason why I wanted to join this team, because it’s actually contributing to the community and I love being a part of that. Seeing something come from being on that team, so immediately, gives me a really wonderful feeling of optimism, hope, and motivation.”

   Jonathan Cohen, professor of Philosophy at UMF, emphasized that acts of hate are hate no matter what group they’re aimed at. “Even when an incident or a bit of hate is directed at one group, it really affects everyone,” said Cohen. “It’s great when all the groups stick together and realize that we’re all in it together, that we don’t stand separately, we stand together, and the enemy isn’t hatred at one particular group, it’s hate in general, that’s the thing we’re battling.”

   Peace in the Park was concluded by Peter Hardy, a UMF math professor, playing an original song called Trading Places on his guitar, which encouraged people to think about what would happen if people walked in different shoes.

   Check out Facebook and Instagram for the hashtag #coexistumf and see selfies that people took with Chompers as well as photos from the event.

Steve Decker: Custodian of Stone Hall, Every Student’s Friend

Steve Decker: Custodian of Stone Hall, Every Student’s Friend

By Elina Shapiro – Contributing Writer

   As I turn the corner to approach my room in Stone hall, I hear a cheery voice, saying “Howdy! How are you doing?” and suddenly it doesn’t matter that I was soaked in the rain, freezing from the snow, or just did poorly on an assignment. I am excited because that means I am about to talk to Steve Decker, Stone Hall’s custodian.

Steve Decker, beloved Stone custodian
Photo Courtesy of Elina Shapiro

   Decker, always smiling, is great at giving life advice. “He helped me through a tough time last year when I lived in Stone,” said Kelsey Dunn, a senior Early Childhood Education major at UMF. “He told me a personal story that shaped my decision making and made my life more positive.”

   Decker has only worked in Stone, but he spreads enthusiasm around campus. “Last year when I walked up to Stone, he was waving to everyone saying, ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘Have a great day!” said Dunn.

   Students are Decker’s favorite part of his job. “You don’t know what they’re going through. You might say, ‘hey, how are you doing?’ and that’s all they need,” said Decker with compassion in his eyes. “Life’s too short to worry about things, you help where you can.”

   When I transferred to UMF, I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone. Steve made the transition easier because he was a consistent figure in my life who cared about how my tests went, when I was going to see my family next, and how I was doing overall.

   Dunn, also a transfer student, felt similarly. “Having Steve be that friend my first year after transferring was like having someone that I could go to for laughs, someone to get advice and guidance, and someone I could go to if I ever needed,” said Dunn. “To this day, I’m still grateful for all he’s done for me–whether it is stopping me in the hall just to say ‘hi’ or catch up to helping me get my car out of the snow last winter.”

   In addition to making a difference by talking with students, Decker also made the Stone lounge much cozier. He and his wife added blankets, stuffed animals, and photos to make the area look more like inviting and help people who were homesick.

   “He’s very committed,” said Alyssa Higbie, a junior Elementary Education major at UMF. “He’s made this a home, not a dorm.”

   Decker won the “Phil Watts” award twice, once when he first started seven years ago, and again last year. The Phil Watts award is given to UMF custodians based on student votes. Members of the CRC (Campus Residence Council) then tally up the votes. Higbie highlighted that not only Stone Hall residents voted for him, but students all around campus.

   Decker goes above and beyond to help students. Last winter, Higbie’s car was stuck in an ice dam, and within the hour, Decker reported to her that he had shoveled her out.

   “He does everything–snow blows, sands, cleans the stairs, bathrooms, floors, as well as vacuums, takes the trash out–he goes all over the place,” said Dunn with sparkling eyes. “He’ll do any big thing to little thing. He does it because he wants to make the community great.”

   Decker cares about every single person and makes them feel loved. Coming to college is hard, Decker is one of the first reasons I found Farmington and UMF to be another home. Decker not only does his custodian jobs, he is also a wonderful mentor and friend to all students.

   “Steve is a memory that will last forever. His personality, care, hard work, honesty, is something that I aspire to be as a teacher and a person in general,” said Dunn. “Steve is invited to my graduation if he’s not already attending.”

Eric Mina Hypnotizes UMF Students in Mesmerizing Show

By Elina Shapiro – Contributing Writer

   Eric Mina, a life coach and certified hypnotherapist from Scranton, PA, hypnotized ten students at UMF during his show on Friday the 13th.

   At the start of the show, Mina invited anyone in the audience to come on stage to be hypnotized, to which students responded eagerly. “[Hypnosis is] being in subconscious mind which is highly suggestible,” said Mina. “You inlay suggestions to help people or have fun on stage.”

   Throughout the show, volunteers’ bodies went completely limp, and they believed exactly what they were told. When Mina said he was blue, participants reported that they saw a blue man. They made comments that generated roaring laughter in the audience such as, “You should probably see a doctor!” and “Are your parents blue?”

   When Mina said that he was invisible and carried a shoe across stage, participants screamed in horror, believing that the shoe was floating. When they were told they were dogs, they followed Mina’s orders and rolled over, sat, barked and waited for a treat. When participants were told that an audience member was Channing Tatum, they dangled off the stage trying to shake his hand.

  Although the experiences were dictated by Mina, they felt like reality to those who were hypnotized, even though the students were just on the stage of Nordica Auditorium.

   “The surrounding experience was real; I was really a dog, and I was really a cat, and a dancer, and a model,” said Cody Curtis, a freshman and Visual Arts and Graphic Arts Major with a concentration in Theater at UMF. “It was really weird. I saw the cameras, and it was as if people were coming out with cameras and there were ones coming from above that looked like they were dangling and moving, and I was on stage.”

   Some students found the experience to be similar to dreaming. “I wasn’t actually sleeping, but I felt completely relaxed,” said Sarah Jenkins, a senior and Elementary Education major at UMF. “My eyes were heavy, my breathing changed, that was really weird.”

   Time was distorted in the minds of the hypnotized. “It felt like it happened for maybe five minutes, but it was an hour and a half,” said Jenkins, laughing. Students reported that they knew the audience was there, and they knew what they were doing was strange, but they had no control. “I could see [the audience] but I didn’t care, and usually I totally would have cared,” said Jenkins.

   Mina ended the show by having those who were hypnotized “see” themselves in a film about their future life in which they make better choices and feel more confident about themselves.

   “I became what I want to call myself a ‘Dream Achievement Specialist,’” said Mina. “I want to help people achieve their dreams and goals in their lives and get over their biggest hurdles so they can have the life they’ve always wanted.”

   In addition to leaving the stage with a new life vision in mind, students felt peaceful.

   “It’s very relaxing, you feel wonderful after. Shaky, tingly, but you feel wonderful,” said Curtis. “I felt very relaxed, I felt like I just slept for like a day. But at the same time, I am kind of tired.”

   Mina loves his job as a hypnotherapist because he can do performances on stage, where he feels at home. “What I love about hypnosis on stage is that I get to show [how the mind works] in a very fun and interesting way, it makes people a lot more interested in listening to the information,” said Mina. “I love entertaining and I love inspiring people and seeing that their minds are more powerful than they realize.”



Renovations Make the Tech Commons a Communal Area for Students, Faculty and Staff

By Elina Shapiro – Contributing Writer

UMF’s Technology Commons is being renovated to be more student and faculty friendly; it will now have more office space for staff in the Global Education and internship departments, added classrooms/co-labs and a lounge for students to study and collaborate with each other.

This project is being done in two halves. “We started the construction late spring/early summer, and because of money involved, we’re kind of ‘phasing it.’ So right now we’re going to do the first phase which is the right hand side of the hallway,” said Laurie Gardner, the chief business officer at UMF.

The right hand side, which will include the lounge as well as co-lab space and some offices, should be done within the next month. “Knock on wood, I am hoping, depending on furniture, we should probably see that open mid to late October,” said Gardner.  

Because the left side includes finding a place for the computer lab, that part will take longer to start. “I would love to get that done soon, but we have to re-locate a classroom first. That’s going to take some time to do,” said Gardner. “Worst case scenario, we’re looking at this time next year for it to be open 100%. Best case, we’ll be able to do it quicker.”

The tech commons has been a popular spot on campus for students to do homework and print. “I have been there [to work] on assignments, I’ve gone there for classes, and I’ve gone there just to print out assignments for other classes, so it’s a pretty universal, ‘one stop shop’,” said Bryan Eldridge, a junior Elementary Education major. “I think that it’s a great spot for both students and faculty and I think [the Tech Commons] is very heavily used by everyone on campus.”

Many students utilized the Tech Commons when other places weren’t conducive to studying. “I am wondering when it’s going to be all done,” said Kelsey Dunn, a senior Early Childhood Education major. “It was a place I’d get the majority of my homework done. Having Tech Commons open is a good backup for when the study room [in the residence hall] is occupied and the library is closed.”

The goal of renovating the Technology Commons is to make it a space where all of campus can mingle. The renovations will include the addition of a lounge, more classrooms/co-labs, offices for student advancement as well as offices for global studies.

“[We are] making it a space where students can come and work together and create opportunities for themselves” said Laurie Gardner, the chief business officer at UMF. “We’re going to develop, what I think, will be an exciting area.”