Friday, September 21st, 2018

Student worries about value of her education

Kimberly Clark, USM graduate of the media studies department, is currently enrolled in the eliminated American and New England studies program.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Kimberly Clark, USM graduate of the media studies department, is currently enrolled in the eliminated American and New England studies program.

Posted on November 17, 2014 in News, Uncategorized
By Brian Gordon

The University’s graduate degree program in American and New England Studies has been abolished as part of the cuts handed down by President David Flanagan and the board of trustees. No teach out plan has been available to students or faculty, leaving students wondering how they will finish their studies in the two years the administration is giving them. They are in the process of firing tenured professors and hiring adjunct or temporary workers in their place.

One of the students affected by the elimination of the program is Kimberly Clark, a Gray, Maine native who graduated from USM with a Media Studies degree in 2003. She returned to the school in 2010 to pursue a master’s degree in ANES but now finds herself wondering what kind of a degree she is getting and what the rest of her education will be like.

“I worry about the value of my education, moving forward,” said Clark. “It’s certainly going to be a different quality than what it would have been.”

Clark is taking one class a semester and has two classes left and two internships. She has opted not to try out the adjunct teachers because they might not be up to snuff. “I didn’t want to be a guinea pig for a new professor. I make choices based on who the professor is going to be.”

“I will finish within the two year allotment,” said Clark. “The question is the quality and losing my professors – and who is assigned to me now?”

A search on MaineStreet yields only two classes available to Clark both to be taught in room “TBA,” on days “TBA” and the teacher as “Staff.” 

These types of results don’t inspire confidence in Clark who even used her 401k earned from eight years of working at Time Warner Cable on her education at USM. She didn’t see it as a gamble at the time; it seemed to be a sure thing.

“I invested in my education. I invested in USM because I took that money out of my future,” said Clark. “I believed getting this education would improve my opportunities and my future.”

There was a meeting Tuesday the 11th about the future of the ANES program, but Clark was busy manning the Jumbotron of the Portland Pirates where she’s a technical director of camera operations for all home games. She was hoping to at least get an email about what happened to see if there was a plan.

“The admin and the BOT have no idea what these programs do,” said Clark. “If they did they would be thinking twice.”  

Clark doesn’t think the administration is considering the non-traditional structure of USM. She has high school teachers in her classes, who want to teach a specialized course in their classrooms. There’s also undergrads and non-matriculated students allowed to take courses in ANES program that don’t receive a master’s degree.

“This university is not about just a degree. It’s about an education,” said Clark. “Education doesn’t equal degree. It’s that narrow minded thinking that’s killing the university.”

It was almost five years ago that Clark took an archeology class with Professor Nathan Hamilton who now teaches at the Muskie school. That class got her interested in ANES and Hamilton nudged her into it. Clark was hesitant after being out of school for seven years but took to the program and was glad she did.

The public history and culture track Clark is a part of focuses less on writing and getting a Ph.D later and more about how to present history to the public. Most people get jobs working at a historical site or a museum. Clark notes many graduates are working at area museums, educating people on local history, including the Victoria Mansion, the Scott Dyer Museum in Saco and The Maine State Museum has curators that went through the program.

Right now Clark also works at Maine Irish Heritage Center. She sees her American and New England Studies program being vital to understanding the Yankee identity and the diversity in the region.

“I don’t like feeling powerless about it and I don’t like seeing this program being eliminated.  I’m really so sorry for the future students that won’t have the opportunity to take classes with these professors,” said Clark. “They won’t have the same opportunity that I had.”

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