Recipient of the 2020-2021 Margaret Chase Smith Public Affairs Scholarship announced

The Margaret Chase Smith Public Affairs Scholarship for the 2020-2021 academic year has been awarded to UMaine undergraduate student Tom Adams. Adams is a secondary education major from Falmouth, Maine.

Building on his experiences teaching middle school and mentoring students in community service projects, Adams plans to carry out independent research related to civics education as it is implemented in Maine middle schools.

Developing Maine students’ civic awareness through civic action and service-learning projects is also known as “citizenship education.” Adams references a widely noted decline in civics education and civic participation in America. He notes that an essential responsibility of public schooling in civics is to prepare students to participate in a democratic society.

A 2019 revision of the Department of Education’s Maine Learning Results (MLR) for grades 6–8 attempts to rectify perceived shortcomings in civics education. Since it was recently implemented, there are no data yet on the impact of the projects resulting from the changes in the MLR. Adams’s plan is to collect data on what types of projects teachers are pursuing and then evaluate the quality of citizenship education, comparing schools based on location and demographics. Adams’s study “aims to analyze the implementation, quality, and impact of citizenship education projects undertaken by Maine’s middle school social studies teachers in response to the MLR.” He plans to collect data through surveys and interviews with teachers.

The project will be conducted under the direction of Dr. Rebecca Buchanan, Assistant Professor of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction, whose research examines the intersection of educational policy and social justice. The final result of his research project will be a policy recommendation to the Maine Department of Education, which will help identify the institutional supports schools and teachers need to strengthen the civics projects they create.

The MCS Public Affairs Scholarship was established in 1991 with gifts from Harold Alfond to the Margaret Chase Smith Foundation in Skowhegan, ME. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Senator Smith’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives, and in recognition of her many years of dedicated public service to the citizens of Maine and the nation from 1940 to 1973, this scholarship is awarded to residents of Maine enrolled at the University of Maine with exceptional academic records as full-time students and a clear research agenda in public affairs. This scholarship supports Senator Smith’s abiding belief that real progress for the state of Maine can only be attained through the education of its young people.

For more information regarding the MCS Public Affairs Scholarship, and to apply, please visit: or questions can be directed to Peggy McKee at