Kirsten Jacobson, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Maine, is connecting her students with members of the community in efforts to promote the humanities among residents of various ages.
In 2009, Jacobson created the service-learning program Philosophy Across the Ages to supplement her teaching while serving the public. The outreach program brings UMaine undergraduates together with high school students and retirement community members through discussions of philosophy texts.
Program participants join voluntarily and share a “desire to discuss serious questions of philosophy and examine how they are relevant to everyday life,” Jacobson says.
The project gives Jacobson’s students the opportunity to lead a class discussion, connects local high school students with a university experience, and engages retirement community members to engaging discussions with younger members of their community, Jacobson says.
In the 2013–2014 academic year, 10 UMaine undergraduate students participated in the program, visiting Orono High School and Dirigo Pines, a retirement community in Orono. So far in the 2014–2015 academic year, seven UMaine undergraduate students and 15 Orono High School students have participated, according to Jacobson.
On Jan. 24, undergraduate and high school members of Philosophy Across the Ages will join Jacobson at the Bangor Public Library to host a “Philosophy Tea” as part of the University of Maine Humanities Center’s third annual Downtown Bangor Public Humanities Day. The gathering will involve a discussion of a selection from Edith Cobb’s “The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood.”
Jacobson also is working to create a University of Maine–Orono High School Humanities Collaboration to find creative ways to bring together faculty and students at UMaine and the high school with community members around shared interests in the humanities, she says.
“We envision this project to have a number of stages, and are aiming to establish some form of permanent programing connecting our two campuses and the surrounding community through the humanities,” Jacobson says, adding she hopes the relationship will produce humanities-based collaborative events such as co-taught seminars, workshops and presentations.
Jonathan Rubin, a professor of resource economics and policy at the University of Maine, spoke with WABI (Channel 5) for a report about low gas prices and how it affects the average consumer. “We all rejoice when we go to the pump now, right? We’re paying about two bucks a gallon, which is about half of what it was just a year ago,” Rubin said. “So if you’re cutting that cost in half, the savings are going to be hundreds, maybe four or five hundred dollars would be what a family is going to see in savings. It’s real savings.” He also warned that the low cost may not last. “We probably are close to the bottom of prices, and we would expect them to rise,” Rubin said.
The Bangor Daily News spoke with Liam Riordan, a University of Maine history professor, board member of the Maine Humanities Council and director of the UMaine Humanities Center; and Pauleena MacDougall, director of the Maine Folklife Center, about the UMaine Humanities Center’s third annual Downtown Bangor Public Humanities Day on Jan. 24 with a kickoff event on Jan. 23. “The humanities are vital and dynamic, but are often hard to explain in a general way,” Riordan said. “The public humanities events showcase the range of activities that count as the humanities, from music and the visual arts to philosophy, film, oral history and more.” Several events for participants of all ages will be offered at venues including the University of Maine Museum of Art, Bangor Public Library and Maine Discovery Museum. “We hope the program will provide stimulating discussions, will be fun and will build personal connections between UMaine faculty and members of the Greater Bangor community,” MacDougall said.
University of Maine aquaculture facilities and research were quoted in articles by The Free Press titled “Farming the Blue Frontier.” One of the articles focused on the growth of Maine sea farms and mentioned the diverse products in the state. The article cited Sea & Reef Aquaculture, a company that is housed at UMaine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR) and provides tropical marine fishes to the saltwater aquarium trade. CCAR in Franklin, UMaine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole and the Aquaculture Research Institute in Orono were mentioned as some of the best aquaculture research facilities in North America. Maine Sea Grant, UMaine’s outreach marine education program, was cited in a related article on oysters and mussels. Maine Sea Grant is researching growing mussels and kelp together, with the kelp acting as a filter for the waste produced by the mussels, according to the article. UMaine’s aquaculture facilities and efforts also were mentioned in an Ellsworth American article on the industry.
Gretchen Faulkner, director of the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine, spoke with WABI (Channel 5) about a native mask that belongs to the museum and may be the inspiration for the original team logo for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. The wooden Northwest Coast transformation mask depicts a bird of prey when closed and reveals a painted depiction of a human face when opened. The mask is currently on loan to Seattle’s Burke Museum and since the unveiling of the artifact at the Washington museum in November, the Seahawks have not lost a game. Faulkner said she hopes any luck the mask may have brought the Seahawks runs out before they play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. The museum directors also have wagered a lobster and crab dinner on the outcome of the game, Faulkner said.
The Sun Journal reported the Bethel Chamber of Commerce and the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond will host the Bethel Maine Moose Festival from June 12 to 14. The annual Maine Moose Permit Lottery will be held June 13 in Bethel, according to the article.
Accounting students in the Maine Business School at the University of Maine are offering free federal and state income tax filing assistance to the public, under the supervision of Steven Colburn, associate professor of accounting.
From Jan. 29 through April 10, except for the weeks of March 2 and March 9, free help sessions will be available 3:30–5 p.m. Thursdays, at 312 D.P. Corbett Business Building on campus, and from 10 a.m. to noon Fridays, at the Orono Public Library, 39 Pine St.
Filers are asked to bring all their tax information for 2014 and, if they have it, a copy of their 2013 return. All filers’ information will be treated confidentially. Colburn will review all tax returns before they are filed.
To make a required appointment, contact Colburn, 581.1982, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim Simons, a 2001 University of Maine graduate with a bachelor’s degree in theatre, is a long way from his childhood home in Readfield, Maine. He now stars as White House liaison Jonah Ryan on the Emmy-winning HBO series “Veep” alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale and Anna Chlumsky. Simons also has starred in several movies, including “Beneath the Harvest Sky,” “The Interview” and the Oscar-nominated “Inherent Vice.”
Simons credits UMaine for his success and shares memories of when he was a student.
Catching the acting bug
The honest answer to why I chose UMaine may not be one UMaine would advertise with, but it may have been the only school I was accepted to. I wanted nothing more than to get out of the state. Unfortunately I wasn’t a very good high school student. At least I was when I applied myself, which wasn’t often.
That being said, going to UMaine was ultimately how I found my way to the job I love, and friends I still keep in touch with. I loved every second of my time at UMaine.
I became interested in acting when I was a freshman. Students in the Introduction to Directing Class in the Theatre Department had to direct 10-minute plays and I auditioned for them. I caught the bug and stuck with it.
I decided I was going to pursue acting professionally during my sophomore year after my first big show and with a lot of prodding from one of the graduate students — Claude Giroux. He was the one who put the thought in my mind that I could make a living in theatre.
Learning the hard way
Sandra Hardy was my first acting teacher at UMaine. She was harsh, but that’s how she should be. Nothing was ever really good enough. She hammered the basics into us. There are still things she taught me that I think about whenever I get a job.
My classmates and I were never fancy, we weren’t known the country over, but we worked hard, and we had talented people. We poured everything we had into the shows we did. We learned how to be professional.
One thing Maine teaches you is that you aren’t bigger than anything. Winter comes in, and it’s cold — everyone gets cold the same.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have done more, written more, created more work and put on more shows instead of waiting for the work to come to me. That’s something I still struggle with. I wish I had set up those habits then, maybe I’d be better at that now.
Performing on campus
I have far too many memorable UMaine moments to count, but one that sticks out is coming back to school early one fall to rehearse for “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Campus was empty, and only the cast was there. It felt really cool.
The Cyrus Pavilion Theatre was my favorite place on campus. It’s still one of the best spaces I’ve ever performed in. I loved it.
Life beyond Maine
Moving to Chicago and getting cast in my first play there were big professional milestones for me after graduating from UMaine. I also booked my first commercial gig in Chicago, which was for KFC. I was also an extra on the movie “Stranger than Fiction” and even though I got cut, it made me want to do more film work, and spurred my move to Los Angeles.
Although I took some improvisation classes at Second City Chicago, the majority of my improv training comes from Upright Citizens Brigade in LA. I love their training because it seems to be less about making a funny joke and more about making a strong scene. The training is applicable to all performance, not just comedy. It’s also been a huge help with the improvisational elements of ‘Veep.’
Now that I have kids, I keep looking for things in Los Angeles that remind me of my childhood in Maine that I can show them, but there aren’t a lot of streams, creeks and forests to run around in out here. I’m trying to figure out how they can have a small-town experience, but it’s not without challenges.
I love LA though; it’s a city that doesn’t get a lot of love from New York or Chicago, but it’s amazing. People should give it more credit.
It can’t get any better
Working on ‘Veep’ is fantastic. I love the job, and I love the people I work with. It’s a job that artistically satisfies me and let’s me support my family. It literally can’t get better than that.
My character Jonah Ryan is a guy that likes being close to power and likes having an important job at an important address. I think there is a shallowness and selfishness that people in this world have that is very directly relatable to Los Angeles.
I’m working on my dream role right now. As far as future plans go, I just hope to continue to get work.
I’ve always been a big fan of character actors who can jump from genre to genre, and I’d love to be able to do that. Steve Buscemi is an example. He can seamlessly play any genre — from leading man to bit part — and it’s always memorable.
The importance of failing
The advice I would give UMaine acting students is to create your own work and fail repeatedly. Also, get used to the word ‘no;’ you will hear it for years and years — more often than you will hear the word ‘yes.’
University of Maine Honors College undergraduates Audrey Cross and Ashley Thibeault tracked all of UMaine Dining’s food purchases for several months last year; they tracked everything from mayonnaise to sushi-grade tuna. Then they crunched the numbers, noting the percentage of food purchased from local producers.
They discovered that UMaine stacked up well against other universities with 15 percent of all food coming from local sources dedicated to sustainable practices. They reported their findings in a poster presented at the Maine EPSCoR State Conference in December.
“We want to see if we can get the university to commit to a goal of 20 percent by 2020,” says Cross, a junior, whose work is based on the Real Food Challenge — a national student movement to create sustainable food goals. “Where our food comes from means something. We want students to get in the habit of thinking that way, so after they graduate they can’t go back to, like, the ambiguous tomato.”
The research and analysis were made possible by grants from a new initiative of UMaine’s Honors College. The Sustainable Food Systems Research Collaborative (SFSRC) brings together students, faculty and community partners to enable an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems of food production and distribution, as well as hunger. SFSRC faculty also see a broader role for the collaborative as a center for innovative solutions to multiple aspects of food systems: social, cultural and economic, as well as physical boundaries and personal challenges. Students of any major are welcome and encouraged, faculty say.
Cross and seniors Thibeault and Danielle Walczak are the first fellows of the program, which received seed funding from the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions. The fellowships allowed each student to expand their food-systems-related senior theses, granting them access to a network of faculty and community partners such as farmers and food service professionals. The grant also gave them time to dedicate themselves exclusively to the work for a month following last year’s spring semester.
The idea, say faculty affiliates, is to build a rich collaborative that includes undergraduate students at all levels, university researchers and a network of invested community partners. New lines of inquiry will build on previous students’ work, making it possible to identify common factors and guiding principles that underlie studies in a variety of disciplines.
“Working together the group leverages the multiple disciplines of the participants to generate a broad view of the food system landscape before individual members take on specific projects,” says Francois Amar, dean of the Honors College. “The energy and enthusiasm of the first fellows has been incredible. In addition to wanting to focus on their own research problem or thesis topic, they were very open to reading and discussing articles and meeting with stakeholders who had broader concerns. Undergraduates are not yet fully integrated into a research discipline and so can often be very open to hybrid approaches to solving problems.”
Amar and colleagues say the research collaborative was born after they realized students such as Cross, Thibeault and Walczak were duplicating efforts.
“My colleagues and I realized that a number of students were working on research related to the food system, but were doing so mostly in isolation,” says Melissa Ladenheim, adjunct assistant professor in Honors and interim coordinator of advancement. “The support from the Mitchell Center allowed us to create a nerve center where we can coordinate these efforts. The collaborative fosters continuity in relationships and research that encourage students to engage in meaningful projects with real implications for our community partners.”
For Walczak that meant spending a lot of time on farms last year rather than cloistered in a library. Walczak, who is researching small Maine farms, met with several young farmers to assess their food production, business acumen and community connections.
Her goal is to understand their lives, which mainly involve small, diversified livestock and vegetable production, and what their contributions mean to the state. She discovered that, despite Maine’s aging population, young farmers who own small farms are on the rise. A journalism major, Walczak laid out her discoveries in a piece of literary journalism, outlining the struggles facing these new farmers such as land acquisition, availability of markets, climate change and capital.
“There are successes, but I’m interested in looking behind the statistics and getting the real story: What are the struggles facing these farmers? What makes them tick? SFSRC has allowed me to be really thoughtful about my process and how I set up my project. I was able to discuss ideas and engage in a place-based approach toward our food system,” she says.
Amar sees the year-old collaborative growing far beyond its current incarnation. And though building a large database of original research will require the work of multiple students over several years, the collaborative is gaining attention. The SFSRC team gave a presentation on its model at the National Collegiate Honors Council meeting in Denver in November. The talk attracted interest from faculty and students. Next up is a session on food systems at the 2015 Maine Sustainability and Water Conference in March.
SFSRC, says Amar, has potential implications beyond UMaine.
“Tailoring community-based research to undergraduates is novel and, I think, may be transportable to other complex problems and other institutions,” he says.
The Bangor Daily News and WABI (Channel 5) reported the Foster Center for Student Innovation at the University of Maine received the Nonprofit of the Year Award from the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce. The award was presented at the chamber’s annual dinner, Jan. 21 at the Cross Insurance Center, Bangor. The Foster Center supports student entrepreneurs and innovators and is part of the UMaine Office of Innovation and Economic Development, which provides leadership in working with organizations to leverage UMaine’s assets to build and grow Maine’s economy.