When senior journalism student, Maria NeCastro of Machias, Maine, embarked on her Honors College thesis, she was inspired by Ida Tarbell’s muckraking work “The History of The Standard Oil Company.”
Muckrakers were a league of American journalistic reporters and novelists in the late 1800s to early 1900s seeking to raise awareness of societal issues and expose corruption. Although the modern cultural definition of muckraking is associated with tabloid writers, it also includes investigative journalists.
With an internship with UMaine’s Division of Marketing and Communications and plans for a career in public relations, NeCastro, 21, is finding a way to combine both her journalistic passions in her final project as a UMaine student.
Seniors in the Honors College are required to complete a thesis, which will also serve as NeCastro’s journalism capstone. The psychology minor’s project “Muckrakers vs. Public Relations: The Struggle to Shape Public Opinion,” explores the relationship between modern muckrakers and public relations forces that try to minimize damage from groundbreaking reports. She hopes to benefit future investigative reporters by showing how public relation strategies borrow from journalistic techniques to undermine independent, investigative reporting.
“As one of my mentors told me, seasoned journalists make some of the best public relations professionals. In the case of a scandal a journalist can borrow the schemes of the corporate public relations specialists to find any and all missing pieces from the corporation’s press releases and public announcements. While a corporation may seem to provide a thorough message, there is always more investigative research to be done to find the whole truth that the public deserves,” said NeCastro.
What inspired you to chose this thesis?
Since taking CMJ 211 (Journalism Studies I: Introduction and History) during my very first semester at UMaine, I have been fascinated with the idea of muckraking. I fell in love with the work of Ida Tarbell, a muckraker who wrote “The History of the Standard Oil Company” as part of a series of articles that were published in McClure’s Magazine in the early 1900s. When I was beginning to come up with ideas for my thesis, I knew that I wanted to study something related to the field of muckraking and investigative journalism, yet I wanted to be able to relate the work I would be doing to the career I hope to pursue in public relations.
Which “modern muckrakers” will you be researching?
I’ll be writing about Rachel Carson (author of “Silent Spring”), Barbara Ehrenreich (author of “Nickel and Dimed”) and Eric Schlosser (author of “Fast Food Nation”). Each of these extraordinary authors were and are some are the best investigative journalists of the mid-20th and early 21st century. Their work called for change and educated many about issues, from the environment to the dangers of unhealthy eating.
Doing a thesis is a huge commitment. What benefits do you gain from doing one? Why is it worth it?
Writing a thesis is about researching and writing about something that is significant to the writer. I have found that it is also about learning to collaborate with faculty who have expertise in the topic being studied. It may not be something that’s worth the time commitment in the eyes of everyone, but I am grateful that it serves as my senior capstone in journalism.
Not every student at UMaine gets the opportunity to conduct a thesis — or chooses to. What made you decide to taken on the project?
Before I began taking courses in the Honors College, I was not sure that the course would be right for me, but as time went on, I realized how beneficial the whole Honors sequence can be to an education. The thesis process serves as a way to apply the great Honors College themes of philosophy, history and literature in a final project that is really relatable to both my education and my career.
The Honors College creates a special experience for UMaine students. What has your experience with the Honors College been like?
There was nothing I enjoyed more in my two years of taking the Civilizations course (a sequence taken for four semesters by all students in the Honors College) than sitting down in a giant Neville lecture hall and listening to top scholars and speakers explain the concepts of everything from Plato’s “Cave” to Dutch art to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.” I really loved the idea of being able to learn something beyond the basics.
What is your favorite memory from your time with Honors?
It was when my father, a Medieval scholar who teaches at University of Maine at Machias, lectured on Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales.”
What other activities, groups or projects are you involved in on campus?
I am involved with the UMaine chapter of HerCampus, an online publication. I’ve been writing movie reviews for the publication for over a year now and love being able to write about fun topics while collaborating with members of all different majors and interests. I’ve also written for The Maine Campus.
Why did you choose UMaine?
I decided to go to UMaine because it was close enough to home that I’d never get truly homesick, but also far enough away that I’d be able to grow up and become my own person.
Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, if so how?
I think that this internship experience at the Division of Marketing and Communications has provided me with some of the best mentors and role models I could have ever asked for. It has been one of my most influential experiences. I love the feeling of the intellectual and creative community to which it has exposed me.
What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine? Why?
I think that my favorite class is Hollie Smith’s public relations course. It not only taught me about what the world of public relations, it also helped me understand my passion for the field. I also have loved taking psychology classes. The study of human thought and development will always fascinate me.
What difference has UMaine made in your life, helping you reach your goals?
UMaine has really helped me become a more independent thinker. I originally started out with an accounting minor, but after a few hits and misses, I came to the conclusion that it would be best for me to switch to a subject in which I was truly interested. UMaine made that process easy, and thus has helped me understand that life is full of people trying to find their way to happiness.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
This is some of the least followed advice in the world, but I’d say: Don’t procrastinate. I’ve found that there’s so much more time to focus on fun activities when you’re not stressed about getting all of your work done at the last possible moment.
What are your plans after graduating from UMaine? What has the Department of Communications and Journalism, DMC and/or your classes, done to help your career?
My journalism and communications background gained from UMaine and the Division of Marketing and Communications has helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses, increase my communicative skills and realize my passion for the career field. After graduating, I plan to temporarily work at my summer job in my hometown while looking for public relations-related job openings in New England. Within a couple years, I hope to further my education with a master’s degree in a marketing and communications program.
The Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR) has launched the Research Fellows Program, a new Blue Sky initiative to support University of Maine faculty efforts in promoting undergraduate research opportunities. Emerging from 2011 stimulus funding of CUGR as one of six initiatives through the 2011 Presidential Request for Visions of University Excellence (PRE-VUE) Program, this CUGR Research Fellows Program is intended to improve undergraduate research and scholarship mentoring skills, expand curricula to include research and scholarship experiences, and develop proposals for further funding specifically involving undergraduate students.
Twenty-three faculty members who were nominated by their deans to be CUGR Research Fellows will participate in the two-year development program. Workshops will focus on topics such as mentoring undergraduate students, funding sources, responsible conduct of research and grant writing. Each CUGR Research Fellow receives a modest stipend and one undergraduate assistant.
The CUGR Research Fellows are:
Laura Artesani, Associate Professor of Music
Dan Bilodeau, Assistant Professor of Theatre
Tim Bowden, Assistant Professor of Aquaculture
Steven Elmer, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education
Nuri Emanetoglu, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Nick Giudice, Associate Professor of Spatial Information Sciences
Rob Glover, CLAS-Honors Preceptor and Assistant Professor of Political Science
Will Gramlich, Assistant Professor of Organic Chemistry
Hamish Greig, Associate Professor of Stream Ecology
Mark Haggerty, Associate Rezendes Preceptor for Civil Engagement
Sarah Harlan-Haughey, Assistant Professor of English and Assistant Professor of Honors
Kim Huisman, Associate Professor of Sociology
Karl Kreutz, Professor of Geological Sciences and Climate Change Institute
Jordan LaBouff, CLAS-Honors Preceptor and Assistant Professor of Psychology
Roberto Lopez-Anido, Professor of Civil Engineering
Benildo de los Reyes, Professor of Molecular Genetics
Shannon McCoy, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Reinhard Moratz, Associate Professor of Spatial Information Sciences
Balunkeswar Nayak, Assistant Professor of Food Processing
Brian Robinson, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Climate Change Institute
Mary Shea, Assistant Professor of Nursing
Ebru Ulusoy, Assistant Professor of Marketing
Faren Wolter, Lecturer
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
Dr. Jeff Hecker, University of Maine Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost, is enthusiastic about his role in facilitating implementation of the Blue Sky Plan — the university’s blueprint to become a nationwide leader among America’s research universities in student success, achievement and community engagement.
UMaine President Paul Ferguson named Hecker to this position in July. He replaces Susan Hunter, who was named Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the University of Maine System.
Provost Hecker, the former Dean of the UMaine College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, says his challenge is to manage the day-to-day operations of the Academic Affairs division while keeping an eye on the big picture — communicating long-range, mission-driven goals, and moving Blue Sky Plan initiatives forward in collaboration with faculty, other Cabinet members and the broader UMaine community.
Hecker describes the Blue Sky Plan unveiled in October 2011 as unified, ambitious, focused and inclusive. He is primarily focused on those initiatives that relate to the academic affairs agenda that are integral to each of the five major Blue Sky Pathways.
“The heart of UMaine’s mission is undergraduate education. As we pursue our research, community engagement and graduate education goals, we can’t lose sight of that core mission,” he says. “The beauty of the Blue Sky Plan is that it is at once aspirational and pragmatic. We are committed to growth as Maine’s land grant research university and equally committed to pursue excellence in our core mission.”
Provost Hecker and Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Jeff St. John are leading the campus in addressing a number of the Blue Sky Strategic Initiatives related to academic affairs. The newly reconstituted University Teaching Council and several Blue Sky Advisory Teams are assisting them in addressing a number of priority issues.
Faculty Development is at the top of the list. Those initiatives include promotion of best practices in the classroom, labs and studios, creating faculty development opportunities for the more than 100 adjunct faculty UMaine employs every year, enhancing online teaching quality, and launching the new Blue Sky Faculty Fellows Program to develop the next generation of faculty leaders and university spokespeople.
Due to significant enrollment increases, particularly in engineering and sciences, Provost Hecker is also exploring a new initiative to bring postdoctoral fellows to UMaine as Visiting Assistant Professors.
During their two- to-three-year fixed-length appointments, the visiting faculty will hone their teaching and research skills to prepare themselves for careers in academia. At the same time, they will help address the need for high-quality instruction in high-demand areas, such as mathematics, English and laboratory sciences.
The idea, Hecker says, is to create opportunities that benefit both the postdoctoral faculty member and UMaine. “These positions could be an important piece of the puzzle,” Hecker says. “We are exploring cost-effective ways of meeting our students’ needs for quality, innovative instruction.”
A second Blue Sky emphasis for Provost Hecker is student success. He is leading a multipronged approach to improve the four- and six-year graduation rates by 10 percent by 2017. “Relative to our peers, we do well,” he says, adding that UMaine’s four-year graduation rate is about 40 percent and its six-year rate is about 60 percent. “But we can do better.”
An advisory group is gathering data about factors that impact whether students remain enrolled, including affordability; timely access to courses they need; and quality of their campus experience.
Dr. St. John, says Provost Hecker, is also working on the UMaine Blue Sky Plan Pathway 2 initiative to improve annual student retention by 5 percent by 2017. From 2011–12, UMaine succeeded in that effort — 81 percent of the 2012 cohort of first-time, full-time students stayed in school, which was a 5 percent improvement from the 2011 cohort, according to the University of Maine Office of Institutional Research. The challenge is to maintain that improvement.
Lastly, Provost Hecker and Faculty Senate President Harlan Onsrud are working collaboratively to create a process of inventorying UMaine’s academic programs to better define UMaine’s strengths and opportunities. By jointly hosting Academic Affairs Faculty Forums in which faculty members discuss academic initiatives and how to best advance strategic goals, the university is engaging in an open process that will help to guide investments central to future success.
“It’s fantastic having an opportunity like this,” Hecker says. “This is my 28th year of employment here and I am thrilled to be in a leadership role, helping UMaine achieve its goals.”
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
The Tamara Journal for Critical Organization Inquiry recently published an article co-authored by several University of Maine faculty members who were part of a Community Engaged Research Teaching and Service (CERTS) learning circle. In “Moving Beyond the Single Discipline: Building a Scholarship of Engagement that Permeates Higher Education,” the co-authors, led by Linda Silka, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and a professor in the School of Economics, and Robert Glover, an Honors preceptor of political science, use the example of the Sustainability Solutions Initiative to explore the challenges and opportunities associated with engaged scholarship that is designed to address community problems, according to co-author Amy Blackstone, an associate professor of sociology. Other co-authors include Laura Lindenfeld and Claire Sullivan, associate professors in the Department of Communication and Journalism; Karen Hutchins, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism; Catherine Elliott, an associate extension professor with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension; and Melissa Ladenheim, an adjunct assistant professor in Honors.
The Bangor Daily News covered a speech that Dr. David Bronson delivered titled “Healthcare Reform and the Bumpy Road to Universal Access” at Buchanan Alumni House.
Bronson, a 1969 graduate of UMaine and president of Cleveland Clinic Regional Hospitals, was on campus Nov. 20 to deliver the University of Maine 2013 Distinguished Honors Graduate. He said the less-than-successful launch of the Affordable Care Act and website doesn’t lessen the law’s importance to the future of U.S. healthcare.
Many of the 51 million uninsured Americans are poor, Bronson said, adding that an estimated 21 million to 31 million Americans will sign up for insurance with the Affordable Care Act. Bronson said it’s embarrassing that the U.S. spends nearly 18 percent of its gross domestic product on healthcare but is ranked 27th (among countries) in healthcare quality by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Dr. David Bronson, University of Maine graduate and president of Cleveland Clinic Regional Hospital, will deliver the 2013 Distinguished Honors Graduate Lecture titled “Healthcare Reform and the Bumpy Road to Universal Access” on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at Buchanan Alumni House on campus.
Bronson, who also practices internal medicine on the main campus of the Cleveland Clinic, graduated in 1969 from UMaine. A reception in his honor begins at 3:30 p.m. in Andrews Leadership Hall, and his lecture starts at 4 p.m. in the McIntire Room.
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.
François Amar, dean of the Honors College, said the UMaine community is excited to welcome back the distinguished alumnus. Bronson’s leadership in creating systems for patient-centered medical care make him uniquely qualified to speak on current trends in healthcare reform, Amar said.
Bronson has received numerous honors and teaching awards and for more than 20 years Cleveland magazine cited him as a “Best Doctor.” In 2011, the immediate past president of the American College of Physicians was honored as a “Living Legend” and “Cleveland Father of the Year” by the Center for Families and Children. Bronson also serves on the board of the Cleveland Play House, America’s oldest regional professional theater.
He is married to Kathleen Franco, who is board-certified in psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine and is associate dean of admissions and student affairs at Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. They have six children.
The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, or to request a disability accommodation, contact the Honors College at 207.581.3263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
The University of Maine Office of International Programs announced winners of the Study Abroad Photo Contest. The contest is open to UMaine students who have studied abroad or are currently abroad and is usually offered every semester.
The contest started about eight years ago and for the past few years has been run on the UMaine Study Abroad Facebook page where anyone can view the photos and vote for their favorite image by “liking” it.
This year’s winners are:
First place: Katherine Silver (250 votes). Silver, an international affairs major, is currently studying at Bangor University in Wales on a direct exchange program. The photo of herself in the city of Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background was taken while she was traveling in Italy.
Second place: Terri Bastarache (225 votes). Bastarache, a management major, spent a semester at the University College Cork in Ireland after winning the George J. Mitchell Peace Scholarship through the University of Maine System. Her photo was taken in Sevilla, Spain while she was skydiving during Easter break in March 2013.
Third place: Kimberly Dao (90 votes). Dao is a biology major, student in the Honors College, and the current student government president. Dao’s photo of herself riding a camel was taken during her summer study abroad program in Marrakech, Morocco.
The Office of International Programs awarded the winners with University Bookstore gift cards.
The winning photos can be seen online.
Fifteen University of Maine Honors College students and 11 members of the Honors College faculty and staff attended the 2013 National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Conference Nov. 6–9 in New Orleans.
The UMaine delegation participated in several presentations and panels on various topics including issues affecting honors curriculum development, community engagement and psychology research.
The Honors College was highlighted twice during the awards ceremony. Minerva, the UMaine Honors College’s annual publication, was awarded second place in the print category, marking the fifth consecutive cycle in which it was awarded either first or second place.
Christine Gilbert, a senior in the Honors College, won the 2013 NCHC Top Student of the Year award in the four-year school category. An international affairs major with a German minor, Gilbert was cited for her strong academics, commitment to NCHC, dedication to service, and engagement with the Honors community.
The Bangor Daily News published an opinion piece by Robert Glover, a University of Maine College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Honors preceptor of political science. The article is titled “Redemption song: Why progress on immigration reform could restore America’s faith in Congress.”
The Maine Edge reported members of the University of Maine community are scheduled to participate in the Bangor Book Festival Oct. 4–5. On Saturday morning at the Bangor Public Library, Jordan LaBouff, UMaine Honors preceptor of psychology, will lead a discussion of “The Sparrow,” and Pauleena MacDougall, director of the Maine Folklife Center and faculty associate in anthropology at UMaine, will present “Pages of Local History” with historian Wayne Reilly.