Friday, October 19th, 2018

Our Opinion: Student organizations lead the way in community engagement

Posted on January 27, 2015 in Our Opinion, Perspectives
By USM Free Press

The idea of a metropolitan university is one that’s been almost force-fed to the USM community since it was introduced as the future vision for the university back in August. We’ve heard the term mentioned in almost every interview with administrative members and understandably so;  because whether the faculty and community like it or not, this model is going to be one that defines USM’s future.

The metropolitan model wants to simply capitalize on USM prime location in the populated southern Maine area and make it an institution that engages with the community more through education and applied research. The goal from that is more opportunities will be created for both students and entrepreneurs and business leaders that might want to tap into an academic clientele.

While new letter heads with “Maine’s Metropolitan University” are being printed, and a new president is searched for with the new model in mind, let’s take a moment to consider the ways that USM already functions like a metropolitan university.

We’ve never viewed USM as a gated “ivory tower” community, that distances itself by crafting its curriculum, extracurriculars and mission without the southern Maine community in mind. So we think that inherently USM has always been a metropolitan university and doesn’t exactly need an expensive rebranding to tell that story.

The student group Enactus is a perfect example of metropolitan ideals practiced right now in our university. Since its inception 12 years ago, Enactus has been empowering students by connecting them with real world companies and organizations in partnerships that test the business concepts they’ve learned in the classroom. They’ve done over 20 community outreach projects with businesses in the local area just this past year. Most recently they’ve partnered up with The Open Bench Project, a local startup that created Portland’s first “makerspace.”

Enactus is competing with The Portland Alliance, and The Center for Grieving Children for a $2,000 grant sponsored by the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation, that supports organizations that “build our community.”

Though Enactus is one of the largest and most involved student groups on campus, with over 200 members, there are many other example of metropolitan gears moving within the inner workings of our school.

While we aren’t opposed to the idea of USM formally labelling itself as a metropolitan university, we just don’t need to be reminded about it. We’ve already got the longtime contributions of student groups like Enactus, ASL Club, the Social Work Student Group and the various fraternities and sororities to thank for that.

Our Opinion is written and reviewed by the Free Press editorial board. 

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