By: Kate Rogers, Community Editor
If you have ever visited the disability services center (DSC) on USM’s Portland campus, there is a good chance that you have met and received a smile from Margo Luken. If you haven’t — you should. Luken is the administrative specialist for the DSC, manning the front desk and making sure everything runs smoothly. After settling back in Maine where she grew up, Luken has worked for USM since 2012.
Luken is originally from Gardner, and graduated from USM with a political science degree. She then moved to Florida, where she worked in administration and finance. At some point, she moved all the way to Cordova, Alaska. This is a place you can only get to by airplane or boat. “It’s very different … kind of like the Wild West. Probably one of the strangest places I’ve ever been,” Luken said. The job in Alaska didn’t work out because the company she was working for went bankrupt and the fishermen there were striking, she said. Luken isn’t regretful, though. “I’m glad I went and I’m glad I came back,” she said.
Eventually, Luken left the finance profession. “There was nothing feel good. It was transactions, money, people getting rich, not me!” Luken said about why finance was unfulfilling for her. She talked about the values of the corporate world, saying that it is for some people but not for her.
“I worked in a high-stress office and I saw people who were hurting, emotionally — physically,” Luken said. “I saw someone who thought he was having a heart attack, a young stockbroker — it was anxiety.”
Now Luken works to help people with anxiety — and any other disability, physical and mental — get the best out of their educational experience. “This is a nurturing environment … I can’t say that going out into the workforce is always nurturing and understanding, so give people the best you can,” she said.
The thing Luken loves most about her job is the students, she said. “I love my students and they love me … students come in that aren’t even registered with us and having a tough day and … just a kind word or a smile,” she said. Luken talked at length about the importance of being supportive and encouraging to students, and the joy of seeing people grow. “It’s sad sometimes to me because you see people grow and then they graduate and then they’re gone, which is part of life,” she said. However, what is most important is giving students everything you can and hoping for the best, she said.
Luken said she is very happy where she is, and plans to be here for a long time. After Florida, and backpacking in Europe for a time, she came back to Maine because she said she feels like “a New England person.” Luken lives in Portland with her cat Melvin, who she talked very highly of. She found Melvin on Forest Ave, on a rainy night, she said, agreeing that their meeting was kind of like fate. After bringing him to a the vet she found that he didn’t have a chip, but he was in rough shape. After asking the vet to do everything he needed to, she got to bring Melvin home. “He’s been a love ever since,” she said.
Luken says that she’s found her place in the DSC. “I guess I beat by a different drum and people accept me for who I am,” she said. “I think I’m here for a while, I do … I’m not rich but … I can pay my rent and I can buy cat food which is more important.”
Students can stop by the disability services center in 242 Luther Bonney to register with them if need be, or to simply ask for support during a rough time.