2019 was a special year for the University of Maine at Presque Isle as lots of success and memories were made on campus with students, staff, faculty and community members. Students excelled in the classroom, resulting in a great deal of recognition for the university. UMPI gave back to its local and global community. Comedians, musicians and more visited campus during the year, creating many memories that people would not forget. Select students around campus not only did well with their academics, but succeeded with extracurriculars. UMPI’s athletic teams also had an exciting year during their first season competing in the North Atlantic Conference. Through these accomplishments and milestones, UMPI definitely had a year to remember.
The year started strong with UMPI’s Medical Laboratory Technology program receiving a $200,000 training center on Jan. 10 in Pullen Hall. The men’s basketball team made history with the university’s first ever appearance in a NAC playoff game. Griffin Guerrette was named NAC Rookie of the Year and Shyquinn Dix was named 1st Team All-Conference during the 2018-2019 season. Justin Rupple hosted UMPI’s first variety show, which included entertainment from students, faculty and community members. This event proved so memorable that UMPI decided to host another variety show this semester.
The university held Planet Head Day, a cancer fundraiser, in Wieden Hall on March 16. Guest speaker Shay Stewart-Bouley spoke on March 26 at a campus diversity dialogue discussing racism. Faculty member Michelle Mishaan exhibited her art in the Reed Gallery with her painted landscapes of Aroostook County. UMPI celebrated the 18 annual University Day on April 10 with a variety of student presentations. Star basketball player Shyquinn Dix was featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” following his life-changing experience before UMPI. On April 5 “Free Hugs” motivational speaker, Ken E. Nwadike, Jr., gave students a night to remember during his discussion. The Cinemaniacs Film Club presented screenings of their original film “The 9th Reward.”
“The 9th Reward was the first full film that I ever made. It was very successful on campus, but I was also really proud of the accomplishment because the movie was a team effort. Everybody worked really hard to make it happen,” producer of the film, Tiffany Smith, said. “2019 was a big year, because I co-produced The 9th Reward and a documentary on the History of UMPI. It was also the year that my videography business really took off.”
The Art Club held the 4 Annual Trash to Fashion Show on April 22, creating innovative fashion pieces from recycled goods. The highly anticipated Zillman Family Greenhouse was welcomed to campus during the groundbreaking ceremony on April 25. The greenhouse will benefit the agriculture science program on campus. The women’s softball team competed in the NAC conference tournament, finishing third. Later in the month, former Owl softball player, Alissa Edwards, was hired as head coach for the program. Aaron Marston was officially hired as the head women’s soccer coach and Shea Cushman took over UMPI’s Nordic ski program.
The university held its 110 Commencement ceremony on May 11, with 112 students participating. Bringing in the new academic year, UMPI announced a new Cybersecurity bachelor’s degree starting in the fall of 2019. Cross Country coach Christopher Smith was honored for his 30 plus years of service with the athletics department. UMPI was recognized as one of the top 5 Most Innovative Schools for Regional Colleges in the North, along with four other top rankings in the “U.S. News and World Report 2020 Best Colleges” list.
Homecoming 2019 was a success as usual, filled with entertainment and fireworks for students and community members. The end of the year was especially bright when news came that UMPI had won one of the largest grants in university history. The U.S. Department of Education’s announced that the University was selected for a 2019 Title III Strengthening Institutions Program grant worth nearly $2.25 million over a five-year cycle. The 8 Annual Purple Pinkie event was held on campus and through Aroostook County, raising over $3,000 for efforts to eradicate polio around the world. UMPI’s History Club established the Little Free Library on Nov. 22 in the Owl’s Nest, a large bookcase used for book exchanges with people on campus and around the community. The club’s president and well-known student on campus, Evan Zarkadas, not only founded the library, but also had other accomplishments through the year.
“The Free Little Library was an idea that I had over the summer and a project that I thought would be a great addition to this campus. I was following a few social media pages from the Free Little Library foundation and the idea was very appealing to me, and I was admitting the incredible work they do, so I decided to establish one here on campus,” Evan Zarkadas said. “One word that would describe my 2019 is Inspirational. From all of these experiences, awards, projects, learning curves, etc. I have become even more inspired to keep moving forwards, gain as much experience and enjoy life even more and keep doing great things, while at the same time give back to my community, family and friends.”
UMPI finished out the year strong with another national ranking. The university was recognized in “Washington Monthly” magazine for 2019 college rankings, earning spots in the Top 50 Liberal Arts Colleges: Northeast and Top 50 Best Bang for the Buck: Northeast.
Through student success, university awards, guest speakers and more, 2019 was one of the university’s strongest years. Many memories were made during the year that will be carried into 2020 as UMPI hopes to have an even better year as it continues to grow as an institution. The university’s success in 2019 was represented by individuals across the county, nation and world who embody what it means to be an UMPI Owl.