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.”
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.”
Elina Shapiro – Contributing Writer
The IT department at UMF plugged along this summer to upgrade the Wi-Fi in the library and several residence halls.
Students at UMF have been pleased with the improved Wi-Fi in the residence halls. “The new Wi-Fi improvements have definitely been a big improvement here in Stone because last year almost every 10 minutes I’d be kicked off from my computer and not be able to do homework,” Amber Chesley, a UMF Sophomore, and Stone Community Assistant said.
The Wi-Fi now works faster and allows buildings full of students to be able to be online at the same time without trouble.
“We’d always complain about it, ‘Oh, there’s someone else on it, oh there’s this horrible Wi-Fi’. This year it’s so much more efficient,” said Chesley. “There has been a significant decrease in complaints about the Wi-Fi here.”
Kelsey Dunn, a senior, said: “With the new renovations, I am finding speed is quicker, so it’s great that I don’t have to worry about the Wi-Fi shutting down and not starting back up.” Dunn mentioned that registration last year was an issue for some people, so she is hopeful that this year will run more smoothly.
Angel Allen, who works for the University of Maine system as a program manager, said that it was widely known that there were problems with the Wi-Fi.
“In 2015, there was a report written that did an assessment of technology needs throughout the University of Maine System. One of the of the needs that were clearly identified was better internet access, specifically better Wi-Fi access for students,” said Allen.
Residence Life does a student survey every year, and in last year’s survey of students there were a lot of comments about Wi-Fi in a bad way, Allen said. “We’re really hopeful that this year’s survey will show improvement.”
Though IT made progress this summer, there is still more work to do.
“The tentative plans are to do the same upgrade for the Scott residence halls next summer,” said Allen. “We didn’t have the capacity to do it all. We were also doing a lot of upgrades on other campuses throughout the summer.”
Allen hopes to extend these renovations across campus. “I think that the classroom buildings on campus all could certainly use the same sort of upgrades. Those are things that if at any point we come into more funding and have that funding – we’d really like to see every building on campus have that kind of internet wireless access,” said Allen. “There were places in the buildings that didn’t have any Wi-Fi coverage. Every nook and cranny in those buildings should have good coverage.”
There were some challenges while completing these Wi-Fi renovations during the summer because the campus was not empty. “We were coordinating around re-waxing the floors, and painting the rooms, and doing other things in the buildings that needed to be done and we didn’t want to get in their way,” said Allen. However, Allen thought everyone worked really well together to let everything go smoothly. “I would say that the residence life, conferences, and facilities management were great partners in this work with IT.”