By Dakota Eddy/ News Editor
In the past, Husky Hero used to be a column dedicated to highlighting student athletes and their accomplishments. This year, we are taking it in a slightly different direction.
Husky Hero is going to be open to all members of USM, including staff, faculty, and students. For staff and faculty, we are highlighting those community members who embody the true meaning of “Student focused, everyday.” For students, we’re opening it up to celebrate all achievements, not only athletic achievements.
With the return of Husky Hero, it seemed obvious who our first community member would be. USM’s very own Paul, more often referred to as “Sodexo Paul”. He has been working on the Portland campus at the old Woodbury center, the Luther Bonney café, and now he’s loving his new location at the dining hall in McGoldrick’s. He stands out from many other staff members on campus by doing small things, such as just remembering student’s names. During any interaction with Paul, it is obvious that he loves his job and what he does. Even throughout the interview, Paul was frequently – and very politely – excusing himself with a smile to attend to student’s needs.
Q: I feel like most people aren’t aware that you also take classes here. What is your major?
A: I’m a Leadership major, with a background in History.
Q: Why did you choose that as your major?
A: When I was young I was taking classes for a degree in History, but got caught up with life and had to stop. After 30 years, my wife encouraged me to come back to school. My daughter was a Leadership major, so it was like I was following in her footsteps. Also, I wanted to understand the student experience, and become more involved in the community. Leadership fits where I’m at in my life. It helps me analyze how I did well in past leadership experiences, and how I can improve.
Q: How long have you been at usm?
A: Almost 5 years, with a break during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: Why did you choose USM?
A: About 5 years ago, my family moved back to Maine after living here 20 years ago. We moved to Gorham, Maine from California where I was raised . I was looking to be more involved in the community. I wandered around the Gorham campus, found myself in the dining hall in Brooks’, and watched the front desk worker saying hello to students as she scanned their cards. I thought, “I would love to do that, I could get to know people that way.” I’m very happy to be working in Portland. I met my manager Olivia Doucette here, and she has the same heart for students that I do. She always has my back. Without her I wouldn’t have been able to do what I have done. Yes, it’s a job, but it’s almost like a calling, because I have a bigger purpose than that.
Q: What does “student focused every day” mean to you?
A: It means intentionally, deliberately, being present for the students and their needs. It means looking everyone in the eye, and working hard to remember everyone’s names. I really work on it! If I can learn someone’s name, it’s a sign of caring, a sign of respect. It means something to them when I can call them by name, or by smiling at them. Student focused means, pushing all things aside to take care of students in front of you. You really have to enjoy people, it has to be genuine and sincere. It is a focus on the students and their needs as people, as individuals.
Q: What do you like about working at Sodexo?
A: I like working for Sodexo , especially in McGoldrick’s because of the opportunity to have regular contact with students, staff, and faculty. Every day brings moments of joy! This is a unique place. We see the same people every day. This is the students home, and we’re in their space. By being kind, getting to know students and learning their names we have an opportunity to have an impact on their lives. Some have never been away from home, and they just need someone to be nice to them. Someone they are familiar and comfortable with. We take care of their need for food, so they can focus on everything else. Just listen to them, make a connection, and you can make a difference. You have to see each student as an individual, one connection at a time. Over a period of time, you get to know all sorts of people.
Q: What do you do outside of work/classes?
A: I have 6 kids, and 7 grandkids. I’m very big on family. Over the summer, all of the children and grandchildren were here. We make sure to have weekly family dinners. I enjoy spending time with my family, catching up on the lawn, and enjoying Maine. My wife, Bonnie, encouraged me to try Pickleball. I did, and she kicks my butt every time!
Q: Who is your inspiration?
A: My dad and my mom. They always loved me, encouraged me, and were there for me. Growing up, my mother always told me, “Paul, be kind.” That stuck in me. My wife, Bonnie, is also an inspiration to me. She keeps me honest and helps me focus on the important things in life. She’s my rock. We have been married almost 40 years, it seems like yesterday. She knows me and keeps me grounded, and she’s taught me so much about caring for other people.
Q: Do you have any plans for after USM?
A: Haha, I’m very present about what I’m doing now. I may continue to stay here, it may be that this is where I’m at, maybe this will evolve into something else. Too much about life is about looking too far forward. See where you’re at, and make the most out of every opportunity you have, and that often grows into something else.
Q: Do you have any advice for students?
A: You gotta really listen to students to really find out what advice they need. Some students have this mindset that they must complete every single goal in this certain order, and if life gets in the way, all of a sudden they think they have failed, or missed the train, and that things won’t work out. Things are gonna happen. Don’t give up! Don’t stop taking classes. Take a detour, but don’t let it stop you from the ultimate goal. You can’t figure everything out ahead of time. Have a purpose and general direction, but you have lots of options. Tomorrow will always be a better day. Life will be better tomorrow.
Q: When you look back on your time at USM, what will you remember?
A: Hundreds of individual faces, moments that you know made a difference in someone’s life. When you know that something you said, or a smile, made a difference. Having a student come back and saying, “Oh, it’s so nice to see you again!” and knowing you helped them along the way. But it’s small things, it’s always small things. Anyone can do that. I do what I do because it’s important to me, but I’m not special. If any of us take the time to notice the people around us, we can make a difference. I see the McGoldrick Center becoming a special place. USM is a small college where we can get to know each other. When I see students graduate and remember them as freshmen I am so proud of them. I enjoy helping them on their way to succeeding, to being better versions of themselves.