UMS Students Present Recommendations on Current Policy Issues in Maine

The Maine Policy Scholars program held final presentations from scholarship recipients on November 6, as five students from University of Maine System campuses outlined their research and recommendations before four panelists. Presentations were made online due to the pandemic, allowing friends, family, and the broader University of Maine System community to attend.

Managed by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, the Maine Policy Scholars program was established by the late Peter Cox, publisher, editor, and co-founder of Maine Times, and supported by many donors to engage students in the public policy process. Working alongside a faculty advisor, one student from each university campus tackles a real-life policy issue facing Maine. After conducting extensive research, the scholars produce a final report in the form of a memo to the Governor outlining the issue, the data available, and recommended policy solutions.

The five scholars presenting this year, their respective institutions, faculty advisors, and project titles were:

Celena Zacchai, University of Maine at Augusta
Advisor: Dr. James Cook, Sociology
Topic: “Increasing Access to Affordable Housing Options for Maine Seniors Through Comprehensive Navigation Services”

Ines Ngoga, University of Maine at Presque Isle
Advisor: Dr. Lisa Leduc, Criminal Justice Program
Topic: “Improving University of Maine System Non-discrimination Policy and Practices”

Saja Indigo Hicks, University of Maine at Fort Kent
Advisor: Rep. John Martin, Political Science
Topic: “Reducing the Use of Insecticide in the Relationship of Potatoes and Aphids”

Emma McPhail, University of Maine at Machias
Advisors: Dr. Meghan Duff and Dr. Lori Schnieders, Psychology and Community Studies
Topic: “Effectiveness of Maine’s Needle Exchange Program”

Dominique DiSpirito, University of Maine
Advisor: Dr. Amy Fried, Political Science
Topic: “Cultivating Community in the Commons: A call for natural resource management focused on community partnerships”

This year’s panelists were:

  • Tony Cox, business owner and son of program founder Peter Cox
  • Dr. Robert Placido, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, University of Maine System
  • Hon. Libby Mitchell, Kennebec County Judge of Probate and former chair of the Maine Policy Scholars Program
  • Idella Marquis, Maine Policy Scholar 2017, graduate of the University of Maine at Presque Isle

“We would like to thank everyone involved in this year’s Maine Policy Scholars program, including the panelists, the Cox family, the program’s many donors, and the Maine Community Foundation,” said Peggy McKee, the program coordinator. “With the service and financial support of everyone involved in the program it continues to be a great success.”

For information about the program, visit