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What the heck is a Metropolitan University?

In the past year, the University of Southern Maine has been in the news as it navigates the white water of restructuring. It closed a $14 million deficit last year but now grapples with a current $16 million structural budget gap. Sadly, the operating costs of the university exceeds the revenue that USM receives from tuition, state aid and other sources of unrestricted annual support. Payne-bw-blogger copy

With a financial crisis, it's a good time to reinvent USM for the benefit of the students. So, what is this Metropolitan University and how do we get there?

For a mostly rural state, the term "metropolitan" seems out of place. However, the definition of a Metropolitan University (MU) is a good fit for the future of USM. It is a recognized model for higher education that many universities across the country have adopted to describe a deeper, more integrated curriculum with experiential learning. With southern Maine having 48 percent of the population and 52 percent of the employed workforce, the MU model makes a lot of sense.

At USM, there are several programs already in place that are models of what a multi-disciplinary course of study can do for those pursuing a college degree. In addition to programs in science/technology/engineering/math (STEM) as well as social sciences, the relatively new Tourism and Hospitality program and Risk Management & Insurance program are strong examples of demand-driven learning.

Let's take a look at Tourism and Hospitality. The largest sector of the Maine economy in terms of jobs is centered around serving in-state and out-of-state visitors. If you think about it, the experience of our vacationing guests is largely defined by what they learn, eat, see and buy. All together, the quality of those experiences helps define the Maine brand.

It doesn't matter if the weather is perfect or horrible, the hospitality of Maine people and the knowledge we impart about this place is what our guests will remember. That is why USM has established the Tourism and Hospitality (T&H) Program — to be certain that qualified graduates strengthen the Maine brand and grow this century-old industry.

Students in T&H already are integrating their studies outside the classroom. They have consulted with ten municipalities and delivered T&H plans to help those communities serve as effective hosts. As Steve Hewins, executive director of Portland's Downtown District and chair of the USM T&H Advisory Board has said, "The Hospitality and Tourism program represents the future of Maine, and could be the cornerstone of the new Metro University. It could encompass so much of what draws visitors to this state — history, culture, arts, food, entertainment, retail shopping, outdoor recreation, etc. etc. This is tourism in its authentic nature. If we build a program around these attributes we will draw students from in-state and out."

The program currently has 59 degree students enrolled and expects to increase its numbers to 75 by next fall. Anthropology, finance, marketing, event management and environmental sustainability are just some of the facets of this academic major.

In addition, AAA of Northern New England funded five scholarships to support students in the planning of a week-long spring cruise from Boston to Bermuda on a Holland America vessel. The cruise also will offer college credits for classes held during the cruise.

Another example is the Risk Management and Insurance Program. It may be surprising to know that Maine has the second highest concentration of claims adjusters, examiners and investigators in the country. Of the 1,750 Maine people employed in insurance claims, 1,340 are in southern Maine earning a mean annual income of $59,270. All in, Maine's insurance business employs 13,418 people earning a combined $939.1 million in compensation. Again, the employer community stepped forward with financial and advisory support to teach students about financial accounting, law, environmental risk assessment and terrorism. The program now has 61 graduates with 91 percent working in Maine in insurance or banking. Starting salaries for new graduates range from $37,000 to $45,000.

Finally, the University of Maine System recently announced that "The National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated the UMS as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity (CAE/IAE), a designation that honors schools excelling in the development of professionals who help protect national security information systems.

The government has newly minted only a handful of schools nationwide with this specific designation, and the UMS is the first in the state of Maine to receive the recognition, which extends from 2014 to 2019."

Professors Raymond Albert and Glenn Wilson told the UMS Board of Trustees that an estimated 300,000 jobs in cyber security will be created in the next few years. These, too, will require a multi-disciplinary education to fill the need.

While the headlines and evening news reports the painful changes of faculty and staff layoffs, the reality is that a new, leaner, stronger and relevant university is in the making. With the foresight of the board, engagement of the faculty and support of the employer community, USM and the state's university system will emerge from the white water as a university of distinction for the students it serves.

(Tony Payne is business development director at Clark Insurance. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 207-523-2213)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 02:30

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'It' couldn't happen to you

Here are three common scenarios we all have done at some point in time: 1) pulled the battery or the wire from the smoke alarm when something set it off — and we didn't reactivate it. 2) Pulled the battery from the alarm when it reminded us to replace it with that annoying little tweet. 3) Failed to replace an alarm that was more than ten years old. So, what is it that makes us believe "it" isn't important and couldn't happen to us? Payne-bw-blogger copy

The "it," of course, is a fire. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that in 2010, public fire departments responded to 1.3 million fires; there were more than 3,000 civilian fire deaths in the United States and more than 17,000 fire-related civilian injuries in that year. Gratefully, the incidence of fire-related deaths is a fraction of the old days when fireplaces, wood stoves, candles and poor construction made home fires far more likely.

Since 1977, the use of home smoke alarms has increased from about 22 percent to about 96 percent according to data on found at freakonomics.com. This source also indicates that the death rate since 1918 from fire and burns has dropped from ten per hundred thousand people to approximately one per one hundred thousand. Better construction, fewer open flames, central heating systems, fewer smokers and public awareness certainly have been contributors to a lower incident rate.

Joe Fleming, a Boston Deputy Fire Chief and the author of the freakonomics.com article notes, however, that deaths due to fire have been relatively flat since the proliferation of ionization alarms. He contends that other factors have brought down the rate and that many deaths are due to confined space fires (e.g. fires that originate in a single room without a photoelectric sensor such as from a smoldering cigarette, incense and resistance heating devices). That is why all the alarms in his home are photoelectric sensors.

Even with improvements, tragedies happen. Sixty percent of home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

In researching this article, I discovered some facts that may help you be more diligent about your household safety. For example, one that I had not considered was the age of the smoke alarm. I recently hit the test button of one of our home alarms after replacing a battery. All I got was a whimpy buzz that was more like a mosquito than a life saving alarm. It then occurred to me that we had been living in our house for more than ten years. Oops — my bad. All alarms now have been replaced with photoelectric/ ionization combination alarms at about $20 each.

If alarms are more than ten years old, they need to be replaced. The sensors have a life span. The element in the alarm that makes it work degrades over time.
An alarm should have both photoelectric and ionization sensors. The photoelectric sensor detects smoldering fires such as ones caused by a discarded cigarette or melting electrical wires. These alarms tend to have less false alarms and provide earlier warnings. An ionization sensor alerts you to fast flaming blazes such as grease fires on your stove.
Newer home alarm systems can either be hard-wired by an electrician or can be set to go off throughout the house via wireless technology providing extra time should there be a real threat.
Alarms not only should be certified by a testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), but also should have a convenient reset and hush button to help avoid having batteries removed and never replaced when false alarms occur.
Maine laws and New Hampshire laws have strict guidance when it comes to fire protection and prevention, including smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Though short and to the point, the New Hampshire statute is stricter particularly for rental and multi-family structures.

The easiest way to remember to check detectors and change batteries is on daylight savings days, twice a year. Even plug-in or hard wired devices still may need a battery backup.

Also, if you are a renter, be sure to alert your landlord in writing if your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are not working or have not been serviced. In addition, we suggest you buy renter's insurance that will help pay for smoke and water damage should a fire occur. Most renter's policies cover not only your possessions (e.g. repair, replacement and cleaning) but also your cost for housing if you are forced to vacate your apartment.

Though the odds against being injured or dying in a fire are in your favor, why take a chance that "it" couldn't happen to you?

P.S. Don't forget to have a fully charged fire extinguisher in your home or apartment.

(Tony Payne is business development director at Clark Insurance. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 207-523-2213)

Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2014 02:10

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Pulse Check combines passions of health, arts

The creative partnership of TLove and Lil J are bringing "Pulse Check," a monthly workshop that combines juice, yoga and poetry to healthy effects. The next Pulse Check is at the Dreamship Community Studio, 15 Boynton St. in Portland on Thursday, Nov. 13, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.11-11-14-TG-biz-pulse

The brainchild of Tina Smith (TLove) and Jeanette Richelson (Lil J), the workshop series began last month with "Falling Into Our Roots," and the series offers "Feeling & Being Enough" for this month's theme.

Richelson owned Roost House of Juice from the summer of 2012 until May of 2014, and Smith just concluded a long run as founder of Rhythmic Cypher, which for four years offered poetry and music performances and a competitive poetry slam. Smith was part of the RC team that competed at the National Poetry Slam the past two years.

As co-founders of Pulse Check, the pair is moving their separate passions into the same sphere.

"We wanted to collaborate," Smith said. "We're both passionate and creative people."

They are each letting go of a big piece of their business past and want to fill that space while engaging the community. "We both have a lot of skills that others can benefit from, and this is the way to bring them together, using yoga, juice, and poetry to explore the energetic system of the body, mind, and spirit."

The November workshop will be at the Dreamship, which currently houses 12 area artists with hopes to expand to house three more. Smith and Richelson are hopeful for a grant to build the space out to make it more safe and accessible to the general public, with community hours.

"People could use the space by making a donation," Richelson said. "There's definitely a shortage of community space that's not expensive."

The first workshop in October welcomed "seven super-engaged people who collaborated with a local drummer, Todd Glacy. That was cool for me," Smith said. "I'm the type of writer who edits as I write. What the drumming did for me was turn off my mind that wanted to edit. I was writing in a rhythm. There was even a guy there who wrote a rap because of that rhythm."

The format of the workshop starts with an introduction and some light writing, then some juice mixed with local kombucha, and then some yoga. Richelson brings her experience with the juice business, and has a background in nutrition. She has been a yoga instructor here for five years, moving to Maine after finishing her training in Boston.

Next, Smith leads a meditation and then introduces the writing work through a list building exercise. She follows that with a free writing exercise using the lists and prompts associated with the theme. After a short time, participants come together and those who want to can share their pieces.

"We want to help people build a toolbox," Smith said. "And we hope people leave with more permission to nurse themselves."

They are planning a set of seven workshops at the Dreamship Community Studio and at Soma Massage and Wellness in South Portland. They are also looking to expand into Portsmouth, N.H.

They plan to have herbalists at upcoming workshops — Cathleen Miller, who teaches at Justice in the Body, at the Dreamship on Dec. 18 and Katie Munn, a consulting herbalist at Soma on Dec. 7. They may also take Pulse Check on the road.

"We're planning a trip to California and hoping to take Pulse Check on tour," Richelson said. "We want to start stuff like this in other communities around the country, something they can continue on. The workshops would be very good in a school setting, too."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 00:51

Hits: 449

Free Range Fish & Lobster expands on waterfront

Business is so good for the Free Range Fish & Lobster Co. that they had to open a new processing plant on the waterfront, next to the Brown Trading Co. They still sell fish from their retail store, next to the container yard at 450 Commercial Street, but needed more room to operate.11-4-14-TG-free-range-from-left-Francisco-Gomez-Tony-Hernandez-and-Inhan-Choe

Joe Ray, the owner, bought Free Range Fish & Lobster from Maggie Terry in 2004 and kept the name.

"She lasted two years, and we bought it out of bankruptcy," Ray said. "We kept her name and trademark. It's a good name. She was innovative in that, but didn't have the ability to supply the retail store with fresh local fish like we did."

For the first two winters, Ray had continued to process fish from their prior plant, which they'd owned already and was located behind the retail store.

"We were losing money, so we gutted the place, changed it all around, and started seeing signs of profit," Ray said of the business which got so good they had to move to a bigger plant to process their haddock, cod fish, pollock, and hake. They moved from 2,500 square feet to 7,800.

"We do a lot of lobsters," Ray said, "and there's so much more room to grade and pack lobsters at the new plant. "Haddock the number one fish; we sell so much of it, it's unbelievable."

By a rough estimate, Free Range Fish & Lobster's retail store has been pumping out 5,000 pounds of haddock fillets a week for the last few years. They are now selling around 7,500 pounds to buyers including about 20 local restaurants.

"The new facility also allows us to store packaging upstairs, and with these loading docks, we don't have to load in the middle of the street," Ray said. "It's a cleaner facility, more efficient, state of the art."

He credits Jerry Connect, who built and owned building — the old North Atlantic Seafood Co.
"When he built it in 2000, he did it with a modern design," Ray said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 November 2014 03:50

Hits: 534

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