Active, interested University of Maine students stay in school, says Robert Dana, UMaine’s dean of students.
Fostering student engagement is therefore important for Dana, who knows a thing or two about longevity and stability. The vice president for student life has been at the state’s flagship university for nearly three decades.
“UMaine truly is a world-class institution and student success is at the top of the priority list,” he says, adding that it’s empowering to help lead the charge for a UMaine Blue Sky Plan Pathway 2 initiative to improve annual student retention by 5 percent by fiscal year 2017.
From 2011–12, UMaine did just that. Eighty-one percent of the 2012 cohort of first-time, full-time students stayed in school. It was a 5-percent improvement from the 2011 cohort, according to the University of Maine Office of Institutional Research.
The national first- to second-year retention rate for four-year public institutions is 72.2 percent, according to ACT (2013) and the national retention rate for selective public institutions is 77.6 percent, according to Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange (2013).
Dana says that UMaine President Paul Ferguson has energized this community specifically through the Blue Sky Plan and his total commitment to student success and his emphasis on our obligation to support students so they can achieve a college education. According to Dana, this orientation creates all sorts of opportunities.
Opportunities, for instance, to create “super-enriched” interconnected academic, cultural and social environments that serve as effective, durable, connected student support structures. It helps, Dana says, that all faculty and staff are “pulling in the same direction.”
He points to several recent developments intended to bolster student academic engagement and success, including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Advising Center, the College of Education and Human Development Advising Center and the Unum Black Bear Leaders program.
Advisers, he says, provide academic guidance, personal support and resources and seek to forge authentic supportive relationships with students. The advisers understand that students are complete and complex human beings, and not just an education or engineering major, Dana says.
The Unum Black Bear Leaders program provides selected first-year students with a trained one-on-one coach, team-building activities, as well as yearlong mentoring, seminars, social events and experiences.
The retention rate of the 113 first-year students who participated in the 2011–12 Unum Black Bear Leaders program was 87 percent; 73 percent surveyed said they had gained leadership skills, life skills and knowledge by participating in the program.
Of the students who completed the program, 13 percent withdrew after the first year, compared to 31 percent of first-year students with similar characteristics who chose not to participate.
Jeffrey Hecker, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, says it’s key that the multipronged approach to improving both retention and four- and six-year graduation rates is informed by data.
Retention is affected by a number of factors, says Hecker, including affordability, quality of instruction, access to required classes and quality of residential life.
There are more than 200 campus organizations in which students can become socially and culturally engaged and connected, says Dana, whether they’re from Maine, another state or country, are a veteran and/or a nontraditional student.
Dana listed a myriad of ways that students can be a contributor and leader on campus, including through research, volunteering, Greek Life, athletics, theater, music, GLBT advocacy, recreation, the campus newspaper and student government.
“Engagement matters,” he says. “Community matters. Being truly engaged in the world around us provides us with the opportunity to realize leadership. We admit people capable of greatness. It’s true you can do anything you want…teacher, doctor, lawyer, scientist…”
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
The Penobscot Bay Pilot reported on University of Maine professor Stephen Butterfield’s recent trip to Beijing, China. Butterfield, a professor and chair of UMaine’s Department of Exercise Science and STEM Education, traveled to China to help train students at Beijing Sport University on how to test motor proficiency of children with intellectual disabilities.
A 2009 study conducted by researchers at the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development’s Center for Research and Evaluation was cited in a Portland Press Herald editorial on high school accreditation. The study found 102 of the state’s 119 public secondary schools were accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The study also found some schools dropped accreditation in the early 1990s because of budget constraints and that high school accreditation rarely comes into play when New England colleges review applications.
The Bangor Daily News reported the new Brewer Community Center will provide 18 wireless computers that will be connected to the University of Maine to offer online or satellite classes, according to Gordon Stitham, Brewer Housing Authority’s executive director. Stitham said the facility is meant to be used by the community and offer more educational opportunities to residents.
Robert Milardo, a professor of family relations at the University of Maine, was interviewed for the Down East magazine article “Splitsville, USA: When it comes to divorce in the United States, Maine is second only to Nevada. Why?” Milardo said he believes the rate reflects Maine’s aging population. “People who are older have more experience with divorce, and Maine has the oldest population in the U.S.,” he said. Milardo also said he expects the rate to decrease because people who are marrying today are experiencing less divorce.
People in the giving spirit at the University of Maine have been making the holidays brighter for others.
The UMaine Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism, Greek Life, athletic groups and student organizations have all spearheaded charitable efforts this season.
The Bodwell Center has been a driving force for the Holiday Sharing Program and FIGI Christmas since 2004. In collaboration with Greek Life, the center collects holiday gifts for Crossroads Ministries, where families from the greater Old Town and Orono areas select presents for their children from among the donated gifts.
People may donate gifts through Dec. 6 at the Bodwell Center on campus or to Crossroads Ministries in Old Town.
Bodwell Center volunteers also participated in an American Red Cross blood drive and the fourth annual GobbleFest. At the Nov. 13–14 blood drive at the New Balance Student Recreation Center, donors gave 174 units of blood and about a dozen double red cell donations. The American Red Cross and UMaine Office of Student Life sponsored the drive.
GobbleFest was a combined effort of the Bodwell Center and Old Town-Orono YMCA. Nov. 17 at the YMCA, UMaine students collected turkeys and cash donations so Crossroads Ministries could provide Thanksgiving dinners for families in need. The Bodwell Center continued to collect turkeys and cash donations through Nov. 22.
Crossroad Ministries also will benefit from a food drive sponsored by UMaine Printing and Mailing Services. Campus mail carriers are accepting nonperishable food donations as part of the drive, and drop boxes are located in Keyo Building. The food donations will be accepted through Dec. 16.
Male Athletes Against Violence and HerCampus sponsored a Cans For Those Who Can’t event Nov. 23. That night, people who donated canned goods for Strong Mind-Strong Body Inc.’s Thanksgiving food drive were admitted free to the Bear Brew Pub in Orono.
The University of Maine Sports Medicine Team and the University of Maine Student-Athlete Advisory Committee collected nonperishable food at UMaine football, women’s basketball and men’s ice hockey games. The donated canned goods were given to The Parish of the Resurrection of the Lord Food Pantry, which serves those in need in the greater Bangor, Orono and Old Town communities. Donations continued to be accepted through Nov. 22 at the Mike Kessock Sports Medicine Center in Memorial Gym.
Kappa Sigma sold donated coats for $5 each at its second annual Coats for the Cold on Nov. 15–16. HerCampus UMaine, an online publication, held a bake sale in conjunction with the coat sale. All the combined proceeds went to Fisher House Foundation, which has homes near military and VA medical centers. When servicemen and women are hospitalized due to combat injuries and sickness, their loved ones can stay at the houses.
Alpha Delta held a food and clothing drive Nov. 11–22 in Memorial Union and gave all donated items to Hope House, a homeless shelter in Bangor.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
Lucille Zeph, an associate professor of education and director of the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies at the University of Maine, attended the White House’s observance of the 50th anniversary of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act.
The event was held Nov. 15 to offer those involved in the intellectual and developmental disability community an opportunity to review past accomplishments, examine current challenges and consider the future of disability policy, according to “The White House Blog.”
President Kennedy signed the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act into law in 1963.
In September, University of Maine Professor Stephen Butterfield helped train students at China’s Beijing Sport University (BSU) how to test motor proficiency of children with intellectual disabilities.
Despite being 6,500 miles from Orono, Maine, Butterfield says the experience was much like being in an American classroom; the 30 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students he taught each had an American name (as well as a Chinese name), spoke some English and wore Western-style clothing.
The BSU students are taking part in the Chinese government-funded study to develop a national database, says Butterfield, professor and chair of UMaine’s Department of Exercise Science and STEM Education. The data they gather about motor proficiency of youth with intellectual disabilities will likely be used to generate policy and provide direction for instruction and research, he says.
“I was honored to be invited to participate in this project,” Butterfield says. “It’s a pretty big study and will reach all parts of China. Eventually this project should result in Chinese children with disabilities receiving better physical education and opportunities to participate in sports. Data can speak very powerfully. Dr. Glenn Roswal, a world leader in APE (Adapted Physical Education), contacted me about a year ago. In terms of travel, the timing wasn’t great — second week of classes — but Dean (Dee) Nichols was very supportive.”
Butterfield conducted the training with Roswal from Jacksonville State University in Alabama and Mike Loovis of Cleveland State University in Ohio.
BSU has more than 14,000 students who study various fields within exercise science and sports, including coaching, sport science, management, journalism and rehabilitation. Butterfield says its facilities are impressive; the 1,400-acre campus has 25 gymnasiums and 62 outdoor sport fields. In the previous four Olympics, BSU staff and students have won 30 gold medals, 16 silver medals and nine bronze medals, according to the school’s website.
Butterfield says the students he trained were professional, smart, attentive, inquisitive and respectful of the youth with whom they worked. While a return trip to China is possible, Butterfield says additional consulting will likely be done electronically.
The weeklong all-expense-paid trip, Butterfield’s first to China, was gratifying. He visited Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall of China, dined at a country club adjacent to a golf course and was asked by a number of Chinese citizens to pose for pictures. Youth gave him artwork.
“The Chinese were wonderful hosts,” Butterfield says. “The subway system was clean and efficient and the traffic was unbelievable — it flows like a river. The air quality was variable and a lot of people wore masks.”
While Butterfield is widely recognized as a leader in adapted physical education, the specialty wasn’t part of his early career plan. In the early 1970s, after completing his bachelor’s at Springfield College focusing on curriculum and instruction in physical education, he was offered a job teaching physical education and coaching boys basketball at Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, Vt.
“I wasn’t really interested at first, but my wife was expecting and I had no job so I took it,” he says.
Butterfield learned sign language and found the job to be tremendously gratifying. “No one appreciates you more than kids with disabilities and their parents,” he says. “It’s a pretty big reward.”
When youth with multiple disabilities began attending the school, Butterfield decided he needed additional training to remain an effective educator. When he returned to school — The Ohio State University — he earned his Ph.D. with a focus on adapted physical education.
At UMaine, one of Butterfield’s courses is Adapted Physical Education, a required class for kinesiology and physical education majors in which students are paired with children and adults with disabilities. Butterfield has been teaching the course for nearly three decades.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
University of Maine Dean of Education and Human Development William “Dee” Nichols recently received an Outstanding Alumni Award from Texas A&M University. Nichols and four other alumni were recognized at the 2013 College Awards Celebration, which was held by the College of Education and Human Development of Texas A&M University on Oct. 25. The Outstanding Alumni Award is given to graduates who are accomplished, reputable and have contributed to society. Nichols graduated from Texas A&M University in 1995 with a doctoral degree in educational curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on literacy from Texas A&M University.
Students in the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development visited the Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor to learn about war and the sacrifices veterans make, WLBZ (Channel 2) and the Bangor Daily News reported. Galen Cole, the museum’s founder, said he invites education students to the museum in hopes they will one day bring their students back when they start teaching. The museum also provides scholarships to UMaine education majors.