Seven UMS students are Maine Policy Scholars for 2017-18

The Maine Policy Scholars Program welcomes seven undergraduates representing each of the seven UMS campuses for the academic-year scholarship program. One student at each campus has been chosen to conduct research on a topic of public policy importance to the state of Maine.

This year’s scholars are Allison Bernier (UMF), Corey Claflin (UMaine), Sam Atwood (UMA),  Alex Gillis (UMFK), Erik Squire (USM), Liz Whittaker (UMM), and Valentina Annunziata (UMPI). Their chosen research areas cover an array of topics: art education standards in Maine public high schools; food insecurity among college students; factors in life expectancy for mentally ill people; regeneration species for forest clearcutting; barriers to Maine students’ achievement rates in literacy; recycling in rural Maine; and inmate’s access to mental health services within Maine’s prisons and jails.

Scholarships are awarded annually to one student from each of the seven UMS campuses to work with a faculty advisor and a community mentor to tackle a real-life policy issue facing Maine. Topics may range from local to statewide in significance and are expected to be well-defined, subject to research, and of current concern to Maine or a segment of its people. The scholars conduct extensive research from literature, data analysis, and interviews – or all three. In the spring, each student produces a final report as a memo to the governor or appropriate policymaker that outlines the problem, data available, and recommended policy solutions.

Historically, one of Maine’s most important political characteristics is the openness of its public policy process. Legislators, the governor, and local and state agency leaders are accessible and interested in practical solutions to real-life problems. The Maine Policy Scholars program gives UMS students an opportunity to experience that process and make meaningful contributions to Maine’s future.

The program was conceived by the late Peter Cox to engage students from the University of Maine System in the public policy process. The program is funded by the Maine Community Foundation and administered by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine.