Every year on University Day, UMPI students play a very different role than they usually do. For one day, they’re not just students. They become teachers to anyone who attends their presentations. The day always begins with a poster session in the Wieden Hall gymnasium. On Wednesday, April 20, students came armed with posters and knowledge. They were ready to show how anyone can “disrupt the status quo” and change the world for the better.
Two of the student presenters were Paige Chandler and Jessica Morneault. Chandler and Morneault are social work majors. They were advocating for a law that would make Maine social workers safer. Chandler said that right now social workers’ home addresses and phone numbers are on online public records. Anyone can access this information.
Chandler wanted people to know how important this new law would be. Sometimes social workers’ past clients threaten to harm them. Having personal information on the Internet makes it easy for those clients to contact the social workers. This does not just harm the social workers. It also puts their families in danger.
“Social work isn’t an easy job,” Chandler said. “Hopefully this makes social workers aware of the risk with having their information on the Internet. You don’t want to put your family in danger, especially not yourself.”
This was not the only law that social work students promoted. Michelle Post, Michelle Rockwell and Jessica Morley spoke about a new law that protects victims of sexual assault in Maine. Post explained that sometimes victims become pregnant as a result of sexual assault. The law gives victims the right to not give parental rights to their attacker. They also don’t have to go through a court custody trial.
Before the new law, victims could only terminate parental rights if the attacker received legal punishment. Now victims don’t have to wait for that to happen. Post shared with attendees why the law is important.
“I hope people take away that the state of Maine really cares about protecting sexual assault victims,” Post said. “It’s really about protecting the victims and making sure the child doesn’t have to grow up in that environment.”
Political activism was not the only work that students shared. Many science majors displayed posters of their recent research. Kaitlyn Belanger was one of those students. Her research measured the effect of electrostatic charge on bumblebee behavior. Belanger exposed bees to electrical stimuli. Then she recorded how the bees responded. She used different levels of voltage over time.
“We found that a negative polarity increased the bees’ walking, but as the charge got higher, they stopped walking,” Belanger said.
The poster session was also a great place for several campus clubs. Students Colleen White and Chenoa Jackson were there to promote the Page Turners Book Club. White and Jackson started the book club in February. They encouraged students to join the club and discover the great pastime of reading.
“It can lead them to books that they normally wouldn’t read,” White said. “We try to read different genres so that people can experience all different kinds of books.”
Blake Winslow, president of UMPI’s student government, also had a poster on display. He encouraged students to join student government. The club has a meeting every Tuesday at 1 p.m. in the Campus Center.
“I think it gives students a platform to speak not only for themselves but also for others,” Winslow said.
The poster session was a great experience for the students. Many of them were not just sharing what they’ve learned in class. They got to teach campus and community members about issues that matter. For some students, this meant being social activists. Others pursued research goals or more club members. Whatever their goal was, they had one thing in common. They used the knowledge they’ve gained to help others see the world in a new way.