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.
Liam Riordan, a University of Maine history professor, board member of the Maine Humanities Council and director of the UMaine Humanities Center, wrote an opinion piece for the Bangor Daily News. In his article, “The world needs the humanities, and UMaine is responding,” Riordan cited the UMaine Humanities Center’s third annual Downtown Bangor Public Humanities Day, scheduled for Jan. 24 with a kickoff event Jan. 23.
Jack Cosgrove, head coach of the University of Maine football team, and several players spoke with the Bangor Daily News about under-inflated footballs in response to the NFL’s investigation of the New England Patriots. Cosgrove said he was confused about the circumstances surrounding the investigation. “How did the air come out of the balls?” Cosgrove asked. “Why didn’t the referees recognize it during the game, since they handled the footballs? Are they kicking the same footballs? If they are using under-inflated balls, that’s a huge disadvantage to the kickers.” Cosgrove and the players told the BDN air pressure does affect passing ability — making it easier to grip if it’s rainy, but harder to kick or throw, especially in windy conditions.
The Bangor Daily News published 50 digital postcards as part of its “My Maine Culture” collaboration with the University of Maine Humanities Center. The project was created to celebrate Maine’s sense of place.
In December, members of the public were invited to submit a digital postcard — an image or video with accompanying text — that captures their Maine culture or what they love about the state.
Highlights from the collection are now online and will contribute to the Downtown Bangor Public Humanities Day. The events kick off 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23 with a humanities-themed PechaKucha presentation at Coe Space, 48 Columbia Street, where BDN editor Erin Rhoda will share examples from the collection.
The Maine Folklife Center also may choose to preserve the digital postcards in its archives.
More information about the Downtown Bangor Public Humanities Day is online.
Amy Benoit Frappier, a University of Maine graduate and Skidmore College professor, will deliver the 2014–2015 Distinguished Honors Graduate Lecture on Monday, Feb. 2.
Frappier will speak about “The Natural Philosophy of Hurricanes in the Anthropocene” at 4 p.m. in the Buchanan Alumni House. She will discuss the study of ancient and modern hurricanes, the consequences of a changing Earth and what it means for humans to be a small part of a global force.
Frappier graduated from UMaine with Honors and a degree in geological sciences in 1999. She earned her Ph.D. in Earth and environmental sciences from the University of New Hampshire in 2006. Frappier currently is an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Skidmore College and serves as the Charles Lubin Family Professor for Women in Science.
In 2002, the Distinguished Honors Graduate Lecture series was established to show appreciation to UMaine Honors graduates and to recognize their accomplishments, vision and connection with UMaine.
The University of Maine will host former state attorney general, politician and alumnus James Tierney Feb. 10–11.
Tierney, who served in the Maine State Legislature, was the state’s attorney general from 1981–1990 and the Democratic candidate for governor in 1986. While attorney general, he was active in litigation against the tobacco industry.
Tierney currently teaches at the law schools of Harvard and Columbia. At Columbia Law School he directs the National State Attorneys General Program. He also has served as a consultant to emerging democracies in Eastern Europe and has worked to oversee elections in Albania, Bulgaria, Cameroon and Croatia.
Tierney will deliver the talk, “Race and American Justice,” from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Feb. 11 in the Estabrooke Ballroom. He will discuss recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, and the role race plays in the American justice system.
Tierney also will lead a session for students from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10 in the FFA Room of the Memorial Union. He will speak about his career in law, share experiences from his time as attorney general and offer advice to students considering law school and a career in the legal profession. The session is hosted by the UMaine Political Science Department and the UMaine Pre-Law Society.
For more information or to request a disability accommodation, contact Robert Glover at 581.1880 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Faculty Senate Executive Committee and Provost Jeff Hecker are pleased to invite members of the university community to participate in the second Academic Affairs Faculty Forum of the year. The open forum, focusing on evaluation of student learning outcomes in foundational areas, will be held from 3–4:40 p.m., Feb. 4, in the Bangor Room, Memorial Union.
The meeting will continue the dialogue started at the Faculty Forum on Oct. 6, 2014 focused on “Foundational Competencies for the 21st Century.” In that forum, a panel of faculty members discussed the learning outcomes identified through the LEAP Initiative of the AAC&U. A sense emerged at the forum that the LEAP outcomes have value and that, while we think UMaine is doing well providing our students the opportunities to develop these competencies, we need to assess more effectively.
Subsequent to the Oct. 6 forum, Brian Doore, director of assessment, and Kirsten Jacobsen, associate professor of philosophy, attended a meeting regarding the Multi-State Collaborative (MSC), an agreement among signatory states to work together on a pilot project to test a process for learning outcomes assessment based on the LEAP VALUE rubrics. UMaine has now been invited to join the MSC. The Feb. 4 forum will focus on what this means for UMaine and how interested faculty can get involved.
You can find relevant background materials, including video of the Oct. 4 forum, linked on the Provost’s Web page.
Forum participants are encouraged to look over some of the background information prior to the forum. Additional information, including a link to a video of the forum and a summary of key topics discussed, will be added after the meeting. There will be a space where faculty members can submit reactions, comments or questions.
Top 10 lists are compiled annually — last year there were lists for best books, Seinfeld characters, movies and restaurants. In 2014, an article about a University of Maine professor’s research made a best-read list.
Michelle Smith, assistant professor in the School of Biology and Ecology, co-authored a paper about teaching approaches.
Aleszu Bajak penned “Lectures Aren’t Just Boring, They’re Ineffective, Too, Study Finds,” for ScienceInsider about the research that Smith and others conducted with lead author Scott Freeman of the University of Washington, Seattle. The piece was ScienceInsider’s third most popular of the year, just behind pieces on plagiarism and Ebola.
The researchers re-analyzed 225 studies that compared grades of students enrolled in undergraduate science, engineering and mathematics courses taught in a typical lecture format with the grades of students in STEM courses that utilized active learning methods.
Freeman, Smith and others found students in classes that incorporated active learning techniques were 1.5 times more likely to pass than those in traditional lecture format classes. In addition, they found students in active learning sections earned grades nearly one-half a standard deviation higher, or, for example, a B rather than a B-, than students listening to a lecturer.
The well-read study, “Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics,” was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
In Bajak’s ScienceInsider article about the study, Harvard University physicist Eric Mazur was quoted saying the research is important and that “it’s almost unethical to be lecturing if you have this data.”
He continued, “It’s good to see such a cohesive picture emerge from their meta-analysis — an abundance of proof that lecturing is outmoded, outdated, and inefficient.”
Also in December, Smith and Farahad Dastoor, lecturer of biological sciences, were highlighted in a National Science Foundation story titled “Rules of engagement: Transforming the teaching of college-level science.”
Thanks to Smith and Dastoor, 800 UMaine students in three introductory biology sections utilize clickers (response devices) and engage in small group conversations rather than sitting and listening to information dispensed by a “sage on a stage.” Smith “is helping to re-envision science education on her campus as well as across the country,” says the article.
In 2013, Smith became principal investigator on four projects and co-principal investigator on another that were granted $6.8 million in total funding from the National Science Foundation; UMaine’s portion was $1,012,269. The projects are aimed at improving nationwide science instruction and assessments. The studies are collaborative with other universities and involve UMaine administrators, faculty, postdoctoral and graduate students, undergraduates and area K–12 teachers.
Contact: Beth Staples 207.581.3777
Chef, author and sustainable food system expert Barton Seaver is being honored by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center (MCSPC) as a Distinguished Maine Policy Fellow at a reception at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27, at the University Club, Fogler Library at the University of Maine.
The MCSPC is a nonpartisan, independent, research and public service unit of UMaine.
Seaver works collaboratively with industry and institution leaders, policymakers, media and conservationists and is a leading voice for sustainable food systems. The director of the Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health spearheads initiatives to inform citizens about how menu and diet choices can promote healthier people, more secure food supplies and thriving communities.
“Esquire” magazine’s 2009 Chef of the Year also is on a mission to restore people’s relationship with the ocean, the land, and with each other — through dinner. Seaver is both a National Geographic Society Fellow and the first Sustainability Fellow in Residence at the New England Aquarium, where he educates restaurant and culinary school staffs about sustainable seafood. In 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton named Seaver to the United States Culinary Ambassador Corp.
The Jan. 27 event is co-sponsored by University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Sea Grant College Program at the University of Maine, Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine and the university’s School of Marine Sciences.
The MCSPC brings Fellows to campus each semester to teach an undergraduate class, engage faculty in discussions about research and public policy, tour research projects and meet with UMaine administration and graduate students. By connecting Maine leaders with students and faculty, the program stimulates interest in state policy research and gives policymakers a better understanding of the value of the university.
WABI (Channel 5) reported on a rehearsal of University of Maine students for the upcoming student-run benefit concert “150 Years of American Song: A Celebration of the University of Maine.” The Jan. 23 event at the Collins Center for the Arts will celebrate UMaine’s 150th anniversary and serve as a School of Performing Arts fundraiser. More than 75 students will bring to the stage selections from the Great American Songbook through performances by a full big band, string orchestra and singing groups. Morgan Cates, a business administration major who will emcee the event, said proceeds from the concert will go toward SPA outreach programs that place UMaine students in the community and public classrooms to “spread the joy of the performing arts.”
The University of Maine football program has released its 2015 schedule.
The season is highlighted by a pair of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) contests at Boston College and Tulane, a home game against Yale, and a competitive set of Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) league contests where UMaine will face all three CAA teams who made the NCAA FCS Playoffs in 2014.
The Black Bears’ season opener is Sept. 5 at Boston College. The team’s first home game will be Sept. 26 against Rhode Island. UMaine closes out the regular season at New Hampshire on Nov. 21.
“When we informed our team of the 2015 schedule I was taken by the level of excitement in the eyes of our players,” says head coach Jack Cosgrove. “This is as challenging a schedule as we’ve ever encountered here to two FBS games and a great Ivy League opponent in Yale for our non-conference slate. The CAA segment speaks for itself, we need to be ready each and every Saturday. So our fans know, our preparation for this great schedule has already begun.”
Season tickets are on sale and can be reserved by calling the ticket office at 207.581.BEAR or 800.756.TEAM.
Sheila Pendse, a project development associate in the Dean’s Office of the University of Maine College of Engineering, is leading a project that aims to engage female middle school students from rural Maine communities in forest bioproducts research programs and STEM careers.
The Engineering Information Foundation recently awarded Pendse $12,540 to create a Sustainable Energy Leaders of the Future (SELF) group to address the need for a diverse workforce in the state’s forest industry.
Girls Engineer Maine (GEM), a statewide educational outreach program designed to increase the number of women studying engineering, aims to start the education initiative by promoting awareness about the responsible use of a forest ecosystem among middle school girls.
The project’s objective is to introduce about 80 girls to forest bioproducts research for potential renewable energy sources and value-added materials that will provide STEM career opportunities within Maine’s forest industry, according to the researchers.
SELF will pair each participant with a female mentor who is enrolled in an undergraduate STEM degree program at UMaine. When the participants start high school, they will have the opportunity to create research projects in sustainable forest management and forest bioproducts, the researchers say.
The Bangor Daily News reported several University of Maine students were part of a panel discussion at the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. The four members of the panel discussed being young and black today and cited experiences both on and off campus, according to the article. The panelists were Izundu Ngwu, an international student from Nigeria; Ronald Robbs, an elementary education major and president of the Black Student Union at UMaine; Ogechi Ogoke, a chemical engineering major and president of the UMaine chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers; and Muna Abdullahi, director of Multicultural Student Life on campus. Each stressed the need to achieve King’s dream that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, the article states. “Maine may be one of the whitest places I’ve ever lived, but it also may be one of the most open and accepting places,” Ogoke said. “You are able to grow here as an individual.”
Nory Jones, a University of Maine professor of management information systems; and John Mahon, the John M. Murphy Chair of International Business Policy and Strategy, and professor of management at UMaine; were recent guests on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s “Maine Calling” radio show. Jones and Mahon spoke about what it means for a corporation to be socially responsible.
The Bangor Daily News, WABI (Channel 5) and WLBZ (Channel 2) reported on the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast sponsored by the Greater Bangor Area NAACP and the University of Maine. Wabanaki reconciliation was the focus of this year’s keynote address by Esther Attean and Denise Altvater, advisers to the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission. “For me, the work of Martin Luther King was about giving everyone a voice,” Altvater said. The Portland Press Herald also mentioned the breakfast in a report on celebrations around the state.
The Bangor Daily News reported on the upcoming student-run benefit concert “150 Years of American Song: A Celebration of the University of Maine.” The Jan. 23 event at the Collins Center for the Arts will celebrate UMaine’s 150th anniversary and serve as a School of Performing Arts fundraiser. More than 75 students will bring to the stage selections from the Great American Songbook through performances by a full big band, string orchestra and singing groups. UMaine alumnus and Broadway performer Merritt David Janes will perform during the concert and teach a free master class on musical theater on Jan. 22. “[Janes] has experienced much success since leaving UMaine, so this is a great opportunity to have an artist of his caliber perform on stage alongside our students,” said Ben McNaboe, a music education major who is the show’s music director and conductor. “It’s just an unbelievable experiential learning experience for us all.”
Professor of mechanical engineering Michael Peterson’s work with the New York Racing Association was cited in the New York Times and Queens Chronicle following the deaths of 11 horses since late November while running at Aqueduct Racetrack. The New York Racing Association is working with Peterson, executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory in Orono, as one measure to ensure the safety of equine athletes and jockeys.
The Mount Desert Islander reported Acadia Senior College in Bar Harbor will host University of Maine history professor Liam Riordan at its Food for Thought program at Birch Bay Village in Hulls Cove on Jan. 23. Riordan is expected to present his talk, “Does the American Revolution Look Different from the Penobscot River?” His presentation will focus on three events of the Revolution — the capture of the Margaretta, the burning of Falmouth and British control of Castine — to better understand the Revolution in Maine, according to the article.