In the State of the University Address last Wednesday, Student Body President Kelsea Dunham encouraged students to learn more about the changes happening at USM and to get involved.
“Change is coming, kids. It is what it is,” said Dunham. “If it doesn’t happen, I can’t confidently say that this institution will continue to exist.”
Dunham said it has been her and Student Body Vice President Marpheen Chann’s goal from the beginning of the year to connect students and administrators in a way that hasn’t happened at USM in a very long time. She believes that they have begun to do so through events like the student leadership brunch, the Student Vision Conference and EDTalks, but that there is always room for more student voices.
“Administrators don’t know what you want and what you need unless you speak up and tell them,” said Dunham.
Encouraging students to voice their opinions on university matters was the main goal of the Student Visions Conference, where Dunham gathered students together to discuss what they wanted from the administration and problems they had with the university.
“I specifically asked administrators and faculty to stay away,” said Dunham. “I wanted a space where students could come to me and say what they needed and what they wanted from this institution. I really feel like the work of the Direction Package was largely shaped by the work that we, as students, did.”
Since October, Dunham has been working with administrators as a member of the Direction Package Advisory Board. She worked on the vision sub-group, which was tasked with finding and defining a distinct identity for USM. One of the main focuses on the vision group was molding USM into an urban metropolitan university, an institution that is very involved with its urban community and prioritizes real-world application of skills gained in the classroom. Lynn Kuzma, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, introduced the idea of using the city of Portland as a lab for students.
“That statement has stuck with me in such a huge way through the entire work that we’ve done,” said Dunham. “I’m a dual degree in marketing and women and gender studies. There is no better place for me to do what I want to do than this city. I don’t know if you guys have looked around lately, but Portland is an awesome place to live, and USM isn’t utilizing that space the way it could.”
Dunham went on to praise the diversity of Portland in comparison to the rest of Maine and the diversity of the student body, saying that the diversity in USM’s students isn’t always reflected in the student leadership and that more work needs to be done to get more students involved.
Toward the end of her address, Dunham stressed to the audience that the administration had a plan for each and every student at USM.
“You are not going to be shipped off to another university,” said Dunham. “You will not have to leave your program. You will get through this. I promise.”
She also advocated students putting more effort into understanding system and university level problems.
“The best thing that we as students can do through this incredibly difficult time of change is to educate ourselves on what is actually happening,” said Dunham. “Don’t feed into the big scary rumors. I know, it’s real easy, but educate yourself on what’s actually happening and work with USM to get through this.”
A recording of the State of the University Address can be found at usmvotes.com.