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.

Distinguished Maine Policy Fellow Michael Thibodeau

On Thursday, Nov. 2nd, the Policy Center welcomes Michael Thibodeau, President of the Maine State Senate, as a Distinguished Maine Policy Fellow. Thibodeau has served in both the House and the Senate and currently represents Senate District 11 which includes all of Waldo County. Thibodeau has served on the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee, the Labor Committee, and the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. He is also a small business owner.

Thibodeau has called upon his fellow state senators to work together over the next two years to address Maine’s biggest challenges including a biennial budget, tax policy, energy costs and improving the state’s business climate. Senate President Thibodeau said Maine will be a “better place to live, work and make a living if we work together.”

Distinguished Maine Policy Fellows are prominent Maine individuals with past or current careers as policy makers in the state. The Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center brings these individuals to campus for a day to teach an undergraduate class, engage faculty about research and public policy, and meet with UMaine administration and graduate students.

A reception which is open to the public will be held from 4:00 – 5:30 in the University Club of Fogler Library.

Rubin presents at Economic Development Conference

Policy Center Director Jonathan Rubin participated in a panel on “Growth Factors of the Regional Economy” at the Eastern Maine Development Corporation’s conference  on October 16th entitled Transformation of a Region: A Technology Driven Innovative Experience. The conference was a look at the successes of the region over the past four years in recovering from manufacturing and retail closures and job losses. Rubin presented some of the success stories from the University of Maine in research and technology development. Other panelists were Jim Damicis, Camoin & Associates; Jon Dorrer, Consultant; and Chuck Lawton, Consultant. The panel was guided by Darren Fishell of the Bangor Daily News. Rubin’s presentation showcased the opportunities offered by UMaine’s research and its impact on economic development of the region.

Talk – The Politics of a Sustainable Coast

Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions


The Politics of a Sustainable Coast: Money, Science, Democracy, and Climate in Southeastern Louisiana

Monday, October 16 at 3pm, 107 Norman Smith Hall

Speaker: Michael A. Haedicke, Associate Professor, Drake

Given its low elevation and high rate of subsidence, coastal Louisiana is particularly vulnerable to the projected effects of climate change. This presentation will examine Louisiana’s Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, an ambitious effort to increase the region’s resilience in the face of change through large-scale restoration of coastal wetlands. Drawing from my research with local stakeholders, I will discuss the origins of Louisiana’s approach and the current status of restoration efforts. The talk will also explore how social inequalities in Louisiana have impacted the Plan’s character and it will put these observations into dialogue with writing about the potential of climate change to enhance or curtail democratic participation in environmental governance.
Michael A. Haedicke is an associate professor of sociology in the Department for the Study of Culture and Society at Drake University. His research concerns the frequently contentious politics of environmental sustainability. He has published articles in sociology and environmental studies journals, as well as a recent book, Organizing Organic (Stanford University Press, 2016), which considers the relationship between market development and social activism in the United States organic foods industry. His current research examines environmental management in coastal Louisiana, with a particular focus on the state’s efforts to adapt to climate-induced vulnerabilities.

Meet this year’s Public Affairs Scholars

Two UMaine undergraduates have been chosen to receive this year’s Margaret Chase Smith Public Affairs Scholarship. Each student will carry out a year-long research project with relevance to public policy in the state of Maine. The project culminates in a presentation at the UMaine Student Research Symposium, where each will display their findings to the public. This year’s scholars are seniors Katie Manzo and Julianna Ferguson.

Katie Manzo is a Computer Science major and has focused her research on making it easier for communities to tackle climate change. Katie believes that a community “being able to start new alternative energy projects, on a large scale, and being able to get more projects connected to each other, and to the public, is imperative to saving our planet.” Katie plans to expand an online database on energy projects into an interactive platform for the public to reference in planning their own projects. To make it more interactive she plans to incorporate social media into the website’s platform. Groups thinking of starting a particular project will be able to see where else it has been done, how it was funded, with how much capacity, and find contact information so they can learn from others’ experiences. She will be working with Dr. Sharon Klein of the School of Economics and Dr. Silvia Nittel of the School of Computing and Information Science. Katie is enthusiastic about being “able to aid people in starting their own alternative energy projects. This will allow me to apply many of the skills I have learned in my courses to an impactful project.”

Julianna Ferguson is a Sociology Major concentrating in Crime, Law, and Justice with Spanish, Legal Studies, and Political Science minors. Her research analyzes data regarding the impact of mental illness and substance abuse on violence, and she plans to use the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health survey to do so. Working with her advisor Dr. Steven Barkan, Julianna is “particularly interested in public policy related to gun control, immigration, and preventing juvenile delinquency.” One reason her focus is on juveniles is because violent behavior generally begins in late childhood through early adolescence and there is a “lack of research regarding the effects of mental illness and substance abuse on violence among adolescents.” Her research will help indicate the extent of the impact of mental illness and substance abuse on violence, giving policy makers a better understanding of why some forms of violence are committed by people who fall into this subgroup, and thus where to allocate resources.

This scholarship was established in recognition of Senator Margaret Chase Smith’s many years of dedicated public service to the citizens of Maine and to the nation from 1940 to 1973. Senator Smith’s abiding belief was that real progress will be attained only through the education of Maine’s young voters. The scholarship program is administered by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, and applications are taken in the spring for the following academic year.


Trostel presents to New England Board of Higher Education

Professor Philip Trostel gave a presentation to the Legislative Advisory Committee of the New England Board of Higher Education last week in a session entitled “Advocating for Higher Education as a Public Good.” The meeting on September 14 focused on the topic of the documenting the public benefits of higher education. The committee notes that the “benefits of a well-educated population extend beyond lifetime earnings into the domains of employment rates, tax receipts, mortality rates, incidence of poverty, health insurance claims and outcomes, contributions to the community, retirement security, philanthropic activity, crime rates, voting, and personal satisfaction.” Trostel’s research has focused on documenting  many of these benefits. The session explored how state policymakers can use data and communication tools to be strong advocates for higher education.

Marcella Sorg presenting a webinar on drug topics

Dr. Marcella Sorg, Research Professor at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, will be presenting a webinar with Dr. Lisa Marsch of Dartmouth on “Understanding the Increase in Opiod Overdoses: NDEWS New Hampshire Hotspot Study Results.” The webinar will be Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at 12:00 noon.

To register use this link:

More information at the NDEWS website:

Sorg’s Research on Drug Deaths in the News

The first half of 2017 saw 185 drug overdose deaths in Maine, according to data recently released by the state. Dr. Marcella Sorg of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center has tracked overdose deaths and trends for the state for years, and her research shows that the number of deaths linked to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl continues to rise. The data compiled by Sorg also indicates the overdose antidote Naloxone was given to more than a third of overdose victims who died.

Recent reports on drug overdose research in Maine:

Bangor Daily News
185 people died in Maine from drug overdoses in first half of 2017

US News and World Report
Drug Overdose Deaths in 1st Half of Year on Par With 2016

For full report see the Maine Attorney General’s Office

Celebrating Summer Interns

The final reception for the Maine Government Summer Interns was held at the Blaine House to recognize the contribution of the student interns and their supervisors to Maine state and local government. The internship program this year hosted 39 students for summer internships in locations throughout Maine. Interns were undergraduate, graduate and law students who either attend school in Maine or are residents of the state studying elsewhere. The interns worked for 12 weeks in 11 different state government departments, 6 municipal governments and a regional planning commission. Their projects included transportation planning, energy engineering, public relations, forestry, policy research, accounting, biological lab work, GIS, public works, city administration, and much more.

Aaron Chadbourne, senior policy advisor to Gov. LePage, addressed the interns at the Blaine House reception, emphasizing the value and importance of their work for Maine as well as eliciting stories of what they learned from their experience. We thank this year’s supervisors for creating terrific learning experiences for their interns and hope that future years are equally successful. Good luck in the future to all our interns!

New Issue of Maine Policy Review, MPR 26(1)

MPR 26(1) coverThe latest issue of Maine Policy Review is now available for download on Digital Commons. To see a list of article titles and brief abstracts for MPR Volume 26, number 1, click here.