The Latest Updates on Travel Courses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Kathleen Perry Contributing Writer

    The May travel courses have been announced, but there is great uncertainty as to whether the students will be able to partake in them or not, due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus.

    This is the time that the global education professor, Linda Beck, usually posts new course offerings for the May Term. This year’s trips were to be offered with locations including Boston, Germany, Nepal, Spain, and Coastal New England, and could have ranged anywhere from four days to two weeks. However, due to the COVID-19 virus, no one knows what the next day will bring. 

    This virus is now classified as a pandemic and there are cases in all 50 states within the U.S. It originated in China, and only now are they beginning to recover as it spreads to the rest of the world. The worst cases as of recent, are in Italy and have led to over 11,591 deaths, according to a New York Times Coronavirus tracking map as of this afternoon. Though this virus puts the elderly, those with diabetes, and individuals with heart problems at the highest risk, anyone can perish due to the severity of this virus’s symptoms.

    If institutions have reopened and are safe by May, students who chose to travel to Boston will be visiting special education schools. They will be learning about how they can use different strategies to make their educational environment as inclusive as possible. This trip will be led by Kate MacLeod and Brian Cavanaugh from May 17-20. 

    As of right now, everyone in the U.S. is being instructed to stay home and avoid all unnecessary travel. Social distancing is another strategy which is being implemented for the people of America, as well as for those in other countries. With these conditions, subject to change, it’s safer for everyone to stay where they are. 

    Before COVID-19 became a pandemic, there was a plan to have an Iceland trip from May 13th, through the 27th. This trip would have been led by Julia Daly and Rachel Hovel and it could have been counted for a general education requirement for a natural science course; it would’ve been entitled Aquatic Ecosystems of Iceland. 

    Hovel said that the course would’ve entailed students collecting “data in streams and rivers to understand the landscape and geological processes that influence biological communities in aquatic ecosystems.” Hovel referred to Iceland as being particularly relevant to Maine, as it has some shared North-Atlantic ecology. 

    Hovel still felt a desire to lead the trip to Iceland, despite what she described as “considerable uncertainty over the status of travel courses right now.” Hovel said, “I do research in the Canadian Arctic, and wish to give students a first-hand experience with Arctic/subArctic ecosystems.” 

    “Being able to experience glaciers, and the brand-new ecosystems that emerge as glaciers recede, is very striking,” Hovel said. “For students, it cements the principles of geology and ecology, and gives them a chance to practice the skills of observation and the scientific process.” Other travel courses give the students a similar learning environment depending on the field, in which they can have real hands-on participation. 

    Another aspect to take into consideration is that borders to many countries are closing, including the Spain border, which would prevent many of these travel courses, regardless of the University’s decision.

Tacos and Taxes with The FinLit Program

Kathleen Perry Contributing Writer

    The UMF Financial Literacy Peer Education Program (FinLit) helps students gain control of their finances through exciting events, including the upcoming Tacos and Taxes. 

    FinLit Coordinator Sarah Hinman said that the event will provide the help of peer educators, all of whom are certified tax preparers, as well as the ability for students to get their taxes filed for free, with a feeling of empowerment and free food. The peer educators will also be working with Hinman and volunteers from United Way. 

    FinLit’s Tacos and Taxes drew in about 30 students last year. Some individuals only needed a small amount of assistance, but the people within the FinLit Program also helped those who had never filed before and were “desperate to take charge of their tax situation,” said Hinman. 

    Taxes and Tacos was designed to provide a more cost-efficient and attractive alternative to the average tax-filing process. FinLit and Hinman recommend coming to this program instead of using another tax preparation service, such as Turbotax or H&R Block because it is free, there is food, and it is empowering. “Money equals power, and being able to handle your finances independently also equals power,” said Hinman.

    The empowerment comes from students being able to have a hand in their tax preparation process, and allows them to be active within it. Being able to file one’s taxes and see the process creates a feeling of pride and confidence. “Tax events are very effective for the people that come,” said intern Caleb Grover.

   Part of what makes the FinLit tax filing experience unique is the peer educators who are there to make the process as easy as possible. “There’s somebody to talk to and we know what we’re talking about,” Grover said with confidence. “If an issue comes up with your taxes, we would be the one to reach out to someone for you–you aren’t on your own.”

    According to a previous article published in The Flyer, the FinLit program was formed last year following a donation of $901,000 from Janet Mills, governor of the state of Maine, to fund the program which was set to be put into place at all public universities in Maine by 2021.

    FinLit helps with more than just taxes throughout UMF. “We provide a safe space for students to come and receive guidance or help on their different financial issues,” Hinman said. “That can range from understanding your bill better, reviewing what you owe for student loans and how much the monthly payment will be.” 

    Tacos and Taxes will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 25 in the Education Center lobby from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Students are encouraged to bring their laptop and their appetite. Students can also visit the FinLit office hours Monday through Friday. To make an appointment, contact them through email or direct message on Instagram. 

    For future updates and opportunities for financial advice follow FinLit on Instagram @umf_finlit or email or

Alpha Phi Omega Is Accepting New Members

Alpha Phi Omega Is Accepting New Members

Kathleen Perry Contributing Writer

   Students looking for community service opportunities and a touch of college Greek life can look no further than Alpha Phi Omega (APO) which strives to create a community focusing on their main principles: “leadership, friendship, and service.” APO, UMF’s co-ed community service organization, is looking to accept new members into their fraternity, and are on the lookout for students who want to meet new people and serve the campus and Farmington area.

   They are a wide-reaching and well respected national organization, that has chapters on many campuses throughout the country including the University of New Hampshire, University of Vermont, and Maine Maritime Academy. APO was established 1991 and has around 500,000 members.

APO Members Kaden Pendleton, Emily Thibodeau, Piper Alexander (Photo courtesy of Madison Vigeant)

   APO President Madison Vigeant and APO Vice President Haley Knowlton, both juniors at UMF, agree that the personal connections they have made through the organization go beyond just doing community service, and they feel as though the group has become like a family. To achieve these bonds, once a week the club holds “fellowship,” for the members to spend quality time together through low pressure activities, such as paint nights, movie nights, or, more recently, a snow tubing trip. 

   The organization also attends conferences out of state. “We’ve gone to Texas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and at the end of this year we are going to Arizona,” says Elizabeth Leclerc, senior and general member of APO.

   One of APO’s most successful events was a bake sale through the United Way in order to benefit victims of the LEAP building explosion in Sept. 2019, taking the life of Captain Michael Bell and affecting the Farmington community. Knowlton said customers would “buy a brownie for fifty cents and hand you a twenty [dollar bill].”

   With many community members pitching in to help, the fundraiser made almost $800. 

   Members of APO join for many reasons. For Vigeant, community service has been a constant in her life for years. “In high school, I was really into community service,” she said. For others, they join to gain skills that will help them in the future. 

   “APO has helped me to expand my horizons in leadership roles, learn more about community service, and has helped me with organization skills,” says Leclerc.

   If students want to get involved with a group that helps out the community, while making lifelong friends, they should attend the first new members meeting on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. in Ricker Addition 217. While being sworn into the group, each new participant will be paired with a mentor based off of a compatibility test. Throughout each person’s time in the club, they must meet up with their mentor at least once a week in order to keep the connection, and to discuss the community service they are doing, of which APO requires 15 hours per semester.

   Vigeant and Knowlton say that if someone is considering joining, they can go to the first meeting and if they don’t like it, they don’t have to stay. “We are very open and friendly and we like meeting new people” says Vigeant.