Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Out of the House!

On Monday, November 5th, I drove down to Freeport, Maine with Professor Aimee Phillippi and first year Unity student Ayla Blyther to visit a unique and inspiring learning environment. Coastal Studies for Girls (CSG) is a 16 week semester school for 10th grade girls. 

The day was a blast through the past for Ayla, who was part of CSG's Pioneer Class in the fall of 2011. CSG is the realization of Executive Director Pam Erickson’s decade-long dream to create the nation’s first ever residential science and leadership semester high school for girls. Pam (at right) had a lot of help along the way from generous supporters and other activists, but I think CSG was born largely because Pam had a vision and she never let go of it.
On the ride down, Ayla told me and Aimee about the many connections she sees between CSG and Unity College: the emphasis on science and leadership, the experiential curriculum, but most of all a shared sense of community. As we toured the "little yellow farmhouse" and the recently constructed yurt, I started to understand Ayla's love of CSG, and why that experience led her to choose Unity College.

I roamed around the yurt while Ayla chatted with Vanessa Jones, currently the Extended Programs Coordinator, who was the head resident advisor from 2010 - 2011. Much of the student work had a distinctly Unity-esque feeling about it. I noticed a lot of "we," and a lot of work that demonstrated student ownership of both process and content. Also, the bookshelves were full of familiar favorites.

At dinner (a very delicious dinner), Aimee and I got to talk with the fifteen current students at CSG, and we learned more about the program. We were both struck with how willing all of the girls were to answer questions, to speak up, and to ask their own questions -- must be that leadership piece!

Stephen and I are looking forward to building a sustainable, mutually enhancing relationship between CSG and Unity College. I love my new position as Special Assistant for College Outreach because it's all about making new friends -- and I guess we have to get out of the house to do that!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Sustaining Relationship

On October 11, 2012, Unity House hosted a lunch for representatives from Allen Insurance and Financial and student Shayne Van Leer (pictured at left), the Allen scholarship recipient.

I asked Shayne what he thought about businesses like Allen supporting scholarships at a small college like Unity.  "I'm very thankful as an individual. But I also believe that businesses should be investing in education; it's where their future employees and customers come from.  And, it's a way of giving back to the community."

Conversation ranged over a variety of issues. Richard Crossman (far left) talked about his interest in risk management for renewable energy companies like Revision Energy, the installers of the new solar panels on our library. Dan Wyman (second from left) told us of his experience as an instructor and licensed captain with the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School. We all discovered common connections -- which make for sustaining and sustainable human relationships.

Oh, yes -- and there was dessert!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bon Voyage, Joe Galli

 On September 13, Unity House hosted a bon voyage party for Joe Galli, who has served the college in several capacities over the last few years, most recently as the Interim Vice President for College Advancement. Like many Unity folks, Joe made our transition here easier with his friendly, generous personality and his commitment to furthering the mission of the college.

We had two cakes -- an apple cake and a carrot cake in honor of Joe's healthy lifestyle.
 We had serious moments . . .
 and we had silly moments,
new friends,
and old friends,
                                  hugs and more hugs,

 smiling faces,

 and sad faces.
Joe will be missed by faculty, staff, and students. but we all wish him the best in his new Southern California adventure. I will especially miss his sense of humor and his willingness to just be himself.  Stephen will especially miss his insight and wisdom. But the people who will probably miss him most of all are those who worked under him -- Reeta Benedict, Deb Noone, and Cindy Schaub, who valued his way of bringing out the best in people and his understanding of human sustainability.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

RA Breakfast at Unity House

It was a glorious morning at Unity House on August 24 when the 2012-2013 Resident Advisors visited us for breakfast.  They stormed in yelling "Orange juice!" and "Coffee!" as if they had been living in the woods all summer, far away from the civilization of the Edwards Shop 'n' Save and Wyman Commons.   And knowing Unity students, maybe they were!
New faces and familiar faces sat around the table together. At right is new RA Austin Calvert, Veteran RA Eve Dietrich, and New RA Elizabeth Whitney.
And on the left, facing the camera, it's veterans Ryan Morrison and Eli Walker, newbie Rose Zoller (under a quilt made by my sister Lisa Swift), and Rob Eckelbecker, who has the coolest last name in the world.  Eckelbecker!
Unity RAs are well-known for their generous spirits. They share that spirit in creating nurturing communities in the residence halls. They share their time and talents on campus and in community events like Arts for Hunger.  Here, Matt Dyer goes a step further and shares his cranberry-walnut muffin with Keeper.

Heather was a bit overwhelmed with all the excitement, but she made time to demonstrate how well she matches the Unity House floor.
Our breakfast concluded with a group photo shot.  Say hello to your RAs, folks!  In the front row left, it's new RA Alex Bach next to "Boss Lady" Cassandra Thayer,  returning RA Rebecca Zerlin (official Keepie holder of Unity House.  It's a tough job, but someone has to do it!) Jen Moran, Elizabeth and Eve.  In the back row left (the tall people),. it's new RAs Derrick Maltman and Austin, veteran Molly Cronin, Eckelbecker, Eli, that Stephen dude, Matt, Director of Residence Life/Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Steve Nason, and Ryan. Welcome back, everyone!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Unity House Welcomes New Board Members

On August 16, Stephen and I welcomed new members of the Board of Trustees to an orientation at Unity House. Pictured here, from left to right, are Linda Povey, Andy Hamilton, and Hallie Flint Gilman. Linda is Vice President of Strategy at the Natural Marketing Institute. Andy is an attorney at the Bangor office of the Eaton Peabody law firm. Hallie is Assistant General Counsel at First Wind, an independent wind energy company located in Portland, Maine.  Not pictured is Sarah Ruef-Lindquist, an attorney who also serves as Chief Executive Officer of The Maine Women's Fund.

Like all of Unity's trustees, these talented folks are volunteers, giving generously of their time, expertise, and and funds to nurture our mission as America's Environmental College. Please thank them for this essential service when you see them!

Organized by Chris Melanson, Secretary to the Board and Executive Assistant to the President , the orientation was an opportunity for the new trustees to meet each other as well as some of the folks in administration. We heard brief presentations on structure and strategy from Bill Trumble, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Gary Zane, Dean of Students, Alisa Johnson, Dean of Enrollment, Debbie Cronin, Vice President for Financial Affairs, Bob Fitzpatrick, Director of Marketing, and Joe Galli, Interim Vice President for Development.

Some of our more experienced trustees also attended to share their wisdom with the newbies.  Rob Kelley, Margot Kelley, Nadine Mort and Martha Dolben were on hand to answer questions and to offer their services as mentors. Jeffrey Davidson, sophomore, blogger, and Admissions Office summer work study, led a tour of the campus after lunch.

Our tasty menu for lunch and snacks was created by Unity's own Campus Dining magician, Lorey Duprey, and her talented staff. Charlie Krause and Amber Kett from the Student Center were also part of the team.

Amber, evening shift supervisor at the Student Center, made a luscious parfait style dessert from a ginger-glazed lemon pound cake, whipped cream, and raspberries. It was one of the best desserts I've ever tasted -- and yes, as an avid follower of The Sugar Diet (I made that up), I've tasted many desserts.  Amber very graciously shares the recipe here:

Fresh Blackberries
Favorite Pound Cake
1 pint heavy/whipping cream
1 cup sugar+some sugar to taste for whipped cream
1 cup water
2 about 2" fingers fresh ginger root

-Peel and chop ginger root. Combine water and 1 cup sugar with chopped ginger. Bring to a light boil and remove from heat. Allow ginger root to steep for at least ten minutes.
-Cut pound cake in half running the length to create two thin cakes. Once ginger syrup has cooled and steeped, remove ginger and coat pound cake using a pastry brush. Allow to set.
-Whip cream to light peaks by hand or on medium speed in a mixer. Add sugar to personal taste. Some people prefer to omit sugar completely. The tartness or sweetness of your blackberries should be considered when deciding this.
-Cut pound cakes into bite sized cubes. In a glass, layer pound cake, blackberries and whipped cream. Repeat two to three times until glass is full. Allow dessert to sit in fridge for a half hour to allow all the flavors to infuse together. Top with a fresh blackberry for presentation if desired and serve.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Unity House in the news

Melissa Coleman interviewed me and Jesse Pyles about Unity House for the July installment of her column "Bright-Minded Home" in Maine Home and Design.  Melissa also publishes the column on her blog, where you can read the column and see some photos of the young Unity House from our own Mark Tardiff.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer Reading

With students gone for the summer, we're on a bit of a hiatus at the Unity House blog.

Today, though, Stephen and I heard from 2012 Environmental Writing graduate, Hannah Kreitzer, who shared a link to her latest article. I so admire Hannah's spirit when she says "These days, thinking you can save the world is an audacious act of faith. . . I believe in believing because I think it is critical to our sustainability as a species."

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Community Web

Just before the semester ended, Library Media Technician Sandy Olson stopped by Unity House to talk about her other job -- as a volunteer community builder.  Many of us at Unity College are forever grateful to Sandy for helping us solve a frustrating technical problem.  She almost always seems to have the answers when it comes to questions about instructional technology. Friendliness and expertise are both qualities of our Unity College Community.

It's no surprise, then, that Sandy is helping her residential community as well. Along with a few other residents of Troy, she has developed and maintained the Troy Maine Local News site, "a news website that we hope you will come to use like a virtual town hub, a central place to find out about all things local." Features include information about people (births, weddings, deaths), as well as articles about happenings like the Town Meeting, pictured here.

Sandy's interest in this project developed as a confluence of several more specific avocations. She has been a skilled practitioner of digital photography for more than a dozen years, and maintains a website that showcases some of her work.  She says her latest series of photo essays, Watershed, "came about gradually as I spent more time locally exploring both the culture and the nature of where I live."

She is also committed to the concept of community narrative, and to exploring how digital media can connect, or reconnect, people who live in particular geographic areas. "I think it's important to be grounded," she says.  She notes that many Troy residents now work out of town (as compared to 30 or 40 years ago), and that there are only one or two active members of the Grange.  However, in recent years, a number of town committees have been formed, and residents have developed a sense of being some place special.  Troy, for example, is different from Unity -- it is a more rural community, with its own character and landmarks, like the Troy Union Church.

"I'm learning through the whole process," Sandy says, "about the town, the Sebasticook watershed, the local narrative.  And it's all changing so fast." Like many Mainers, Sandy is in favor of nurturing the local economy. One way of doing so might be to expand the website: she hopes to list farmers' produce soon.  But Sandy's main concern seems to be an overarching sense of community.  "How do we connect to each other," she asks, "to the land, to the past?  Is narrative the thread?"

Saturday, May 5, 2012

It's All About Service

. .Four members of the Service Squad visited Unity House on April 23rd.  President and founder Kelly Barber was joined by club officers Rachelanne Vander Werf, Summer Nay, and Zeidy Candelario. The squad has forty-four members in all who join together to complete a variety of local and regional service projects. Community-Based Learning coordinator Jen Olin is the club's advisor.

Kelly saw a need for the squad when flooding from Hurricane Irene devastated areas of New England. She says her service ethic may have developed during her freshman experience at Unity College in the Neighbor Warming Neighbor project and she got that warm, fuzzy "I'm a volunteer" feeling, which was enhanced during her Alternative Spring Break trip..

Now, Kelly's motive for engaging in volunteer work is "not for me to feel good, but to insure people are in a better place when I've left." Rachelanne likes to keep busy -- and she likes putting a smile on other people's faces.  Summer and Zeidy both worked as volunteers during high school; for Summer, that early experience "made me feel appreciated."  For Zeidy, volunteering is something of a family tradition; her older sister, Unity alumna Hannia Candelario, was a role model for her in college, and when they were growing up in Miami. 

All four participated in an April disaster relief training sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention. This included training in safe, effective chainsaw use, equipment management, mold identification, and mud-out techniques.  All of the women valued this training, and all were pleased that the church members "were so welcoming, even though we weren't a part of the church." And, the leaders of this session said they would be willing to conduct a disaster relief training session here at Unity College.

Kelly is graduating this year, and she is sad to leave her baby -- the Service Squad -- behind.  Luckily, she has highly motivated colleagues who will carry on the work.  Summer will work to expand options for volunteering; Zeidy will work toward a Dean's Cup event for service to promote volunteerism on campus; Rachelanne will help students "find their fit." The list of service opportunities is long: Unity Barn Raisers, Addie's Attic Clothing Bank, Volunteer Regional Food Pantry, and Avian Haven are just a few in the region.  Get involved -- and who knows, you might get some cookies!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Music Making at Unity House

The musical genius of The Unity Chorus visited Unity House on April 9th.  Chorus members are yet another example of Unity's unsung (excuse the pun) heroes. Rebecca Zerlin, club president, says many of the members sang in high school, but there is no experience necessary to join this group.

Under director Ciara Hargrove, and with the help of faculty advisor Janet Preston (who also sings) members put in many hours of practice, ultimately bringing the magic of chorale music to campus events like the Spring Preview and Earth Day as well as to community audiences like the residents of Clearview Manor.

Ciara first took the chorus through a variety of vocal warm ups. Heather, our golden retriever, was kind enough to act as a sort of assistant director, using her tail as a metronome to help keep a steady tempo. While the chorus is currently composed of all women, they would welcome men.  Three lower register singers -- Janet, Shalonda, and Katie -- now take the tenor parts. As Bethany Decker says, they do a good job of working with what they have, but the addition of male voices would expand the range of the chorus.

My favorite song of the evening was "The Night the Pinatas Came Back," which tells the story of vengeful pinatas, ending with the admonition, "Violence and candy don't mix." Sound (sorry about that pun) advice, in my view.
And singing isn't the only area where these folks exhibit creativity. On April 19th from noon to 1:30 in the Tozier Gymnasium, the Unity Chorus will hold the most inventive fundraiser I've heard of: faculty members Emma Creaser and Barry Woods have volunteered to be duct-taped to a wall, and the club will be selling duct tape at $1.00 per yard. Students who've found themselves tied up in knots over marine biology or statistics, here's your chance!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Search and Rescue at Unity House

The Search and Rescue Club hosted a talk by Lieutenant Keven Adam at Unity House on April 2, 2012.  Lt. Adam has been with the Maine Warden Service since September 14, 1992.  He grew up in Marlboro, Massachusetts, and most importantly for us, he is an alum of Unity College, having graduated in 1988.

Eighteen club members, including president Melanie Renell, attended. The purpose of the evening's meeting was to give club members information and insight into search and rescue protocols from Lt. Adam, who serves as the state's search and rescue coordinator. Lt. Adam's  first search and rescue experience was with Tim Peabody, now an Associate Professor in the Conservation Law Enforcement program here at the college. "They didn't have this club when I was at Unity," he says, "but I wish they had!"

Unity College Search and Rescue Club members are an all-volunteer, non-profit service provided by the students, faculty, and staff of Unity College.   The rewards are intangible, but extraordinary. "It's very exciting and very uplifting," as Keven Adam says, "to find someone alive."
Remarking on the role of his college education in his professional life, Lt. Adam said "Unity taught me everything I needed to know about the Warden's test except discretion -- for that you have to go out and ride with experienced people." He feels that the diversity of environmental perspectives at Unity prepared him for his job because he sees people from all of those perspectives in his work. He advises students who want to rise to the level of lieutenant or higher in law enforcement to take writing, business, and accounting courses.  "I need those skills for writing and managing grants" he says. "College increases a person's writing, oral communication, and public speaking skills -- skills game wardens use every day."

Club members agreed that future students may be inspired to work for the Warden Service by television shows like North Woods Law, a production of the Animal Planet network. This show features our state's wardens in a variety of situations, including wildlife rescue and poaching investigations. The club, however, participates only in search and rescue operations. Professor Mick Womersley serves as club advisor, having experience as a mountain rescue specialist in addition to his PhD in policy studies. He is also the Blogmeister for the Unity College Search and Rescue Blog. The college community values the club's work.  We all feel uplifted by their courage, dedication, and professionalism.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sugar Makers -- Tap That!

Led by their superbly organized president, Jen Moran, The Sugar Makers Club held their March 26th meeting at Unity House.

Club business focused mostly on scheduling and signing up volunteers for a wide variety of events, including the popular Pancake Breakfast and Earth Day. Other tasks included taking buckets down, removing taps from trees, and cleaning this equipment for storage until the next season. There was no shortage of volunteers; everyone at the meeting was eager to participate.
Club members voiced some concern over whether they would have enough syrup for the Pancake Breakfast. Jen reported that the unusual heat wave in mid-March resulted in a short season for sap collection. Although the club still had about 50 gallons of sap left to boil as of the date of the meeting, it expects to produce only 4 gallons of maple syrup this year as opposed to the 14 gallons it produced last year. A recent Associated Press article in the Maine Sunday Telegram indicates that the heat wave produced similar problems in states as far away as Wisconsin.

The club boils sap and stores equipment in the Sugar Shack, pictured at right, which was built by club members in 2007. Sap runs when temperatures fall below freezing at night and rise to above freezing during the day, so the season here usually runs from the end of February until early April. Stephen popped in to tell us that climate change will affect this pattern. For a very readable study on this topic from the Consortium for Atlantic Regional Assessment , click here.

It's easy to see why the Sugar Makers are a popular club at Unity College: they have a diverse and dedicated membership, they produce a highly-valued, traditional New England treat, and they also make some pretty stylish jackets available for members who complete a certain number of service hours. Deborah was gracious enough to model her jacket in these photos.
Stephen and I will both be looking forward to the Pancake Breakfast this year and to checking out the Sugar Shack in upcoming seasons!