Big Dill on Campus

Our Million Dollar Greenhouse

     Our campus has a very special building. Although most people on campus might have heard of it, they probably don’t know much about it. The Zillman Family Greenhouse is a one-million-dollar project. It was completed and dedicated in September of 2019 as a part of UMPI’s homecoming.

Tending the Zillman Family Greenhouse from left-to-right: Lindsay Pelletier, Larry Feinstein, Tori Raeihle. Not pictured: Wyatt Braun.

     The greenhouse has two separated growing areas. This makes growing different types of plants much easier. In the winter, the temperature inside the greenhouse is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In the summer, it gets up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. A few years ago, Dr. Larry Feinstein worked with the USDA for a project on oats and barley in the greenhouse on campus!   

     The greenhouse grows lots of vegetables. Right now, they have romaine lettuce, spinach, spring greens, tri-color green beans, peas and carrots. They also have seedlings started for some other fruits and vegetables such as bell peppers, green peppers, tomatoes and cantaloupe. When you step inside, you can see rows of blue, one-gallon buckets filled with plants bearing fresh produce ready to be eaten.

     Besides Dr. Feinstein, there are also a few students who pitch in with the work. Lindsay Pelletier helps with the picking and weighing of the produce. She also reaches out to college students or local families who might be struggling with food insecurity. “Many college students struggle with food insecurity,” Lindsay said. “Eating locally grown produce is tasty and good for you.” 

     Freshman Wyatt Braun is working on an experiment in the greenhouse. He is using a fungus called Mycorrhizae fungi to test if the relationship of the plants and fungi will be beneficial and help the plants produce more food. So far, the fungus seems to be doing its job.

     Freshman Tori Raeihle helps with the gathering, weighing and distribution of the vegetables as well. “I send out emails to students to help them coordinate times for them to come and pick up veggies that they want. I’m also trying to include recipes that are easy for in the dorms and yummy for students to make. So be on the lookout!”

     The Zillman Family Greenhouse has lots to offer to students around campus. It is a beautiful spot on campus, although highly overlooked. If you have a chance, stop by and give it a look around. If you’d like to pick up vegetables, contact Tori Raeihle at or Larry Feinstein at

Gold of Ghana

     For those who attended University Day, you may have had the enrichening experience of learning about another culture. Gideon Osei Bonsu presented How Ghana Became a Country to a room full of people. He taught his audience about Ghana traditions, history and value. He started with the Ghana flag and the meaning of the colors and symbols “Red is for the blood of the Ghanian people that fought for their country’s independence. Yellow shows the gold that Ghana has a lot of. Until 1957, Ghana was called the Gold Coast. Green shows the forest reserves of Ghana. The black star shows the hope of African emancipation. It serves as a hope for the other African countries’ gaining independence,” Gideon said. 

Gideon presenting how Ghana became a country.

     The history of Ghana reflects the strength of the Ghanaian people during a time of slave trade and inhumane treatment from travelers foreign to Ghana. “The Ashanti/Asante people revolted against the British and defeated them in 1824,” Gideon said, “Asa means war. Asante means for the sake of war.” Ghanaians fought with pride and expanded their empire in the 1820s. Since then, Ghana territory has had a long history of war against the British. Those who lived in and fought for Ghana did so with pride.

     “Ghana is the second largest gold producer in the world,” Gideon said, “Whoever had access to trade with the local people gained more of a profit.” The Ashanti’s most prized possession was the Golden Stool. “The colonial governor, Frederick Hodgson, demanded the Golden Stool.  The Golden Stool held meaning of the very existence of the people of Ashanti. The general wanted to give it to the British queen,” Gideon said. The disrespect of requesting the Golden Stool caused a resistance against the British. The Ashanti people hid the Golden Stool where it would be safe from the British. It was not again discovered until the 1920s by African railroad builders who stripped it of its gold and, in turn, became exiled by the ruling of the Ashanti people.

How Technology Keeps Families Together

      Kat Rivera, an office worker in Portland, lives with her younger sister, Ariana Rivera. The two live quite far from their mother, who lives in Puerto Rico, where the Rivera sisters were born. They had to move to the U.S. at a young age for a better chance at life. Their mother had to stay in Puerto Rico. 

     “When I was younger and moved to the U.S., there wasn’t all this technology to communicate with my mom,” Kat Rivera said. “It was very hard because I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk with her much. I had to wait for a free time to call her and I didn’t have a good phone plan.”  

     Today, Kat Rivera uses FaceTime and Messenger to communicate with

FaceTime logo.

her mother many times throughout the day. She uses it to send pictures and videos of herself and life events. 
    “It brightens my day when my mother sends me a beautiful selfie or a picture back home. It warms my heart to see that the town I grew up in is still the same.”

The Effects of the Pandemic on Teachers

     Most people have been affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic in some way, maybe some more than others. Many people had different experiences throughout the pandemic. Many people’s lives have been turned upside down by this life-changing event. Teachers and students have had to go online and in person many times over the past couple of years. They have learned how to teach remotely and in person. 

     Trevor Parent is a high school adulting/leadership health teacher and Samantha Drost is a high school social studies teacher. Both have taught both pre- and post- pandemic.

Students and teachers learned how to adapt to the challenging times. They thought of new ways to keep people safe.

     Trevor Parent is a former student athlete. He graduated from the University of Maine at Presque Isle in 2007 with an exercise science degree. Trevor has been teaching at the high school level for five years, but has been in the education field for 15 years. He has some perspectives on the effects of the pandemic in school. “It has affected teaching profoundly in both positive and negative ways. It emphasized the social climate issues, such as feeding students, sheltering students and having a safe environment for students–in other words… keeping kids safe.” Trevor also said, “My relationships with my students have been positively affected. When the students came back for in-person learning, relationships were more valued.” 

The Mind-Body Connection

    Have you ever considered the mind-body connection? Have you ever noticed how your mental health affects your physical health, or vice versa? The mind and body are often treated separately. But they are indeed connected. 

     “Mental health and physical health go hand in hand. Poor mental health has been shown to have negative effects on physical health,” Sue Hillegass, behavioral home health coordinator and community integration specialist, said. Hillegass has worked for Aroostook Mental Health Center for three years. She has observed the physical impact on people who struggle with mental health. “Someone with poor mental health may make unhealthy decisions. Which leads to poor physical health. People with mental health disorders like anxiety and depression are more prone to diabetes, heart conditions, sleep issues, cancer and even arthritis.”

The mind-body connection (photo from

     Similar to how the mind affects the body, the body affects the mind. Physical therapy aide Ashley Gwirtz has noted how one’s physical state alters mental well-being. “Physical health has a lot to do with mental health. Mental and physical health work together. When one goes up, the other follows,” Gwirtz said. Gwirtz works for County Physical Therapy in Madawaska. She has also had experience working in the mental health field. “When someone is struggling with physical health, the most common mental health symptoms I see are low self-esteem, lack of communication and low energy.” 

The Road to Alaska

    University Day recently made its return for the first time since 2019. Abi Davis, a senior in the Professional Communication and Journalism major, gave a presentation on her senior practicum. Her project on the outside seemed simple. But her presentation proved that it was anything but.

Abi Davis speaks on the difficulties of finding accessible hotel rooms during her presentation, The Road to Alaska.

     Abi’s professor, Dr. Jacqui Lowman, is a wheelchair user with two service dogs. In fact, she is the only employee in the University of Maine System who falls into that category. Dr. J., as her students call her, has proven many times that labels are meaningless for her. She has gone skiing, climbed Mt. Katahdin and hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail.

     In the fall of 2022, Dr. J. will add to her resume. She will make the long voyage driving from her home in Crouseville, Maine, to Alaska– and back, of course. Abi’s practicum was to hash out the logistics for her. “Dr. J. mentioned that this was a trip they were going to be taking and I said, ‘I think that’s right up my alley,’” Abi said. 

     With this task came a lot of intricate details. Every hotel and gas station had to be planned out and researched for accessibility. Information on this is extremely hard to find. “I ended up calling two big oil companies and really nagging them for information on accessibility,” Abi said in her presentation. 

     Abi’s role in Dr. J.’s trip gives them much more peace of mind. The Lowmans now know that where they are going will work for them. “Having another person with that level of expertise…. It was a great project for her and was extremely helpful,” Dr. Lowman said.     

     Abi saw the bigger picture in this project of helping Dr. J. She has also found a joy in helping others. “This class and the PCJ program as a whole have inspired my passion in advocacy and helping marginalized groups find their voices.”

     “The Road to Alaska” brought up a lot of things most of us would not think about. Driving from Maine to Alaska is daunting enough. But adding two service dogs and a wheelchair to the mix makes it even more so. But despite the many challenges, Abi couldn’t have found the project more rewarding. “Overall, my favorite part of this class was the opportunity of having the one-on-one time with Dr. J.” 

Bell Is Leading the Way With Next-level Technology!

     Interesting things are going on at Bell, formerly Bell Helicopter. They have changed from creating helicopters to the broader tech world. They have a few new products in the pipeline that could change the way that the world sees them. 

     Nick Pellas started working for Bell about 10 years ago after he left the Army. While he was in the Army, he repaired helicopters and went to school. There he got his bachelor’s degree in structural engineering. A good friend was able to get him the job at Bell. Nick started out working on the military helicopters, where he made sure that the helicopters wouldn’t develop cracks. After doing that type of work for a while, he started to wonder if there was something more exciting that he could do. While he enjoyed the work and his team was great, he was still looking for something more.

Bell Nexus displayed at the Uber Elevate Summit 2019. The Nexus project is a partnership with Uber and Bell to transport people short distances in an electric-powered aircraft. Photo by: Akihiro Mizutani.

     Nick is excited about a new aircraft from Bell. “Bell has partnered with Uber and Lyft to start developing an electric air taxi. This will be great for congested cities like New York. It will allow someone or a small group of people to travel between buildings within the city.” While they are still working on major parts of the vehicle, they have created a four-fan and a six-fan helicopter that only uses electricity. “It will be able to seat about five passengers and the pilot. There are also talks about having an autonomous version of the vehicle.” Just imagine having a meeting on the other side of town during rush-hour traffic. You could hop in the Nexus and be at your goal in less time than it would in a car!

A Shared Pursuit: Protecting Maine Land and Supporting Indigenous Freedom

     The Wabanaki nation is comprised of Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot peoples. They have occupied Maine for 12,000 years. Today, Maine land conservation trusts are shaping practices around Indigenous leadership and knowledge. Ethnic needs and environmental preservation goals have come to an intersection.

     French and English colonization introduced ideas of ownership through early settlers. Wabanaki experienced reduction of their ancestral lands and populations. Increasing conflict over divided land threatened Indigenous cultural freedoms and customs. 

     The Wabanaki population across Maine is around 8,700 people these days. They are still facing the effects of history to this day.

     Peter Forbes and Ciona Ulrich formed the First Light Committee in 2017. Its purpose is to merge communication between the Wabanaki community and the 80 recognized land trusts in the state. The committee has worked at

Allied Conservations of the First Light Conservation Delegation Committee.

expanding Indigenous access to land. It has also promoted opportunity for Indigenous leadership in land conservation. The committee takes on difficult, essential conversations and trust building to promote partnership with Indigenous representatives. Admitting and understanding the complex history of the tribes has advanced the long-term goals of land trusts.

Pulitzer Photos Capture the Making of History

     The perfect moment to capture an image does not wait. Photojournalists must seize it when it is there. Brave photojournalists are ready to snap an image to capture history in the making. 

     In the film “A Glimpse of Life–The Pulitzer Photographs,” photojournalists talk about their experiences taking Pulitzer winning photos. To win a Pulitzer, a photo does not have to be perfect. It has to capture iconic moments. It has to tell a story. A picture is worth a thousand words. The audience must be able to read it. A Pulitzer photo is one that makes the audience feel something. 

     Joe Rosenthal took Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima in 1945. It is a photograph of six U.S. Marines raising a flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Six men in uniforms work together to lift the heavy flag. “It’s a front seat to history,” John White, a Pulitzer Prize recipient, said about being a photojournalist. Raising a flag is an iconic symbol during a war. This photo is a historic moment caught that will last forever. Rosenthal’s image became one of the most iconic images worldwide. Many thought it to be a symbol of American resilience. It shows how a photo can produce feelings of pride. 

The Pressures We Experience

   People feel pressure for many different reasons throughout their lives. For example: to do well in school, to create the best painting, to pick the best fitting job. But for young people, one of the most stressful times can be during their senior year of high school. People are continually asking, “What college did you apply/get into?” “What major did you choose?” “Are you staying on campus or off campus?” “How many scholarships were you awarded?” Daisy Grant is currently a high school senior who has already decided which college she is going to attend. Audree Burtt is a senior in high school who has decided to become a travel certified nursing assistant after graduating. 

      Daisy is 18. She will be attending the University of Maine Farmington in the fall. She has a very close relationship with her family. But she is ready to take the next step in her life, which is college. Daisy explained what pressures affected her during senior year. “Probably the push for applying and filling out the different applications for colleges, and all the forms that go along with it. Such as FAFSA, writing essays and asking for recommendation letters.”  Sometimes parents will put a lot of pressure on their children during senior year. But Daisy’s parents had a different view. “There wasn’t a lot of pressure with what school I chose, as long as I got everything submitted on time and got into a good college.”