It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Kelsea Dunham, candidate for student body president at the University of Southern Maine

Posted on March 13, 2013 in News
By Tom Collier

Kelsea Dunham is former vice president of the Gender Studies Student Organization and also organized the protest against the Genocide Awareness Project’s display. Students may remember GAP for their exhibition of violent images of aborted fetuses on the walking paths between Payson Smith Hall and Luther Bonney Hall last year. Dunham explained that her experience organizing that event taught her the ins and outs of accessing money from the student activity fund and that she has subsequently been able to help others gain access as well.

“As a student — I was vice-president of the Gender Studies Student Organization — but as a student outside the context of a BSO group, I didn’t know how to access my student activity fee. I didn’t know that I could access it for other folks. It took a lot of money from the student senate to put that [protest] on.”

Should she win the position of student body president, Dunham said that she would focus on increasing student involvement on campus. “I think that student participation at this university is very low. I’m a non-traditional student and a commuter student, and I’m also a transfer student. This is my third school. So I have a lot of experience at universities that have huge participation rates, particularly Florida State.”

One of the greatest issues of increasing student involvement and awareness, Dunham said, is work to better cater to USM’s largest student demographic — namely, non-traditional, commuter students.

“I think the idea of creating a student common hour is genius,” Dunham said, referring to an item up for discussion at the Student Senate meeting last Friday. The basic idea of the common hour is to invite students to be on campus at a convenient time during which no classes would take place so that students would have the opportunity to become involved in student groups and activities.

“I would like to see it happen every single day so that I can be involved in more than one student group as a student. I think that it would increase retention in a big way, which is financially the best idea for our university,” Dunham said.

“I think diversity and some institutional issues around diversity are still a problem,” Dunham said, “one that the university is working on and that I personally would like to improve upon.”

When asked if she could be more specific, Dunham explained. “I identify as queer, and it is hard for me to always be totally out in all of my classes. Women and gender studies? Not a problem. School of Business? Sometimes a problem. I’ve heard comments from students and professors about folks of other ethnicities or backgrounds or other sexualities or other gender identities, and that just isn’t as inclusive as it could be. And that’s an institutional problem.”

Dunham emphasized her friendship with her opponent, Isaac Misiuk, but admitted that they shared opposite political views and that their goals as potential student body president differ as well. “I think something that makes us very different is that Isaac really wants to address super-systematic issues like implementing specialization programs in order to increase jobs after we graduate — which is awesome. I am far more focused on the day-to-day life of our students — what it is that makes us students, even if we’re not at that traditional age of being a student. Our lives are different from those who just go to work, and so they need to be handled differently.”