Rice’s Ruminations Teaching Virtue

     As I write this, our country deals with another tragic incident, this time the mass killings of worshippers in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  This follows the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1, a shooting in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, not two years ago, the Orlando night club shooting in 2016, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, as well as countless others across the country that have received less media and political attention.  Some of these occurred in religious institutions, some in schools, some in public arenas.  Our public outlets are filled with near-constant discussion focusing in various ways—and with widely varying quality and integrity—upon the hows and whys of these events, often including who is directly or indirectly culpable and what could have been done to prevent them.  Continue reading “Rice’s Ruminations Teaching Virtue”

Reflections on 9-11

     Sixteen years ago this past Sept. 11, I recall leaving my 9:25 a.m. College Composition classroom in Pullen Hall on a clear blue morning and, as I made my way up to the Campus Center, hearing the first reports of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.  The weeks following were filled with fear, sorrow, anger and not a small amount of self-reflection.  Not long after the events, in fact, I began writing a paper (which I later presented at a conference and published in “The Maine Scholar”) that opened with a quote from Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulations,” followed by this: Continue reading “Reflections on 9-11”

An Insider’s Guide to Changing the World


When I was a kid growing up in Massachusetts during the 1970s, we spent a lot of our classroom time under our desks.  This wasn’t some sort of insipid punishment for bad behavior in which we had to look for petrified chunks of gum and candy to scrape clean. Rather it was survival training in the case of nuclear attack—or any other form of mass destruction.  We lived under a constant threat of such attack.  That threat manifested itself–overtly as well as indirectly–in nightly news broadcasts and political speeches as well as the entertainment industry, from cinema to popular music to children’s programming such as Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.  This was simply reality for those of us growing up in the United States at the time.  It was one that didn’t truly start to change until Glasnost, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the (unofficial) end of the Cold War in 1989.  
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Growth, Collaboration, Inclusion… and the Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Grammar!


Most American colleges and universities today are facing difficult choices about how they should allocate—or reallocate—increasingly challenged resources, both in human and fiscal terms, and more broadly, what they will do as an institution of higher learning and how they will do it.  We are fortunate in that, beginning with President Linda Schott, we initiated a process of taking charge of our own institutional destiny—this included both embracing outcomes-based or proficiency education as it is known in Maine as a means of differentiating our academic mission and practices and of addressing critical student success challenges—but also in terms of making conscious and forward-thinking choices in terms of both our budget and infrastructure.  Since her departure, it has been my mission both to accelerate and reinforce these processes as I view them as essential toward not merely meeting our current fiscal and educational responsibilities—but ensuring that our institution is best prepared in terms of its own internal processes and relationships to meet the future needs of our students and the communities we serve.  Continue reading “Growth, Collaboration, Inclusion… and the Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Grammar!”

The Little College That Could

I’ve never particularly liked phrases like that—“the little {something} that could”—because it sometimes seems a backhanded compliment—i.e., “even though you’re small, you can still manage to do good things,” etc.  But this past week saw our university recognized in two very different ways, each underscoring the reality about UMPI that more and more people, region- and-nation-wide, are experiencing: that this is a remarkable institution filled with remarkable individuals. Continue reading “The Little College That Could”

Civil Discourse and Our University


On Jan. 31, 2017, the presidents of the seven University of Maine System institutions all communicated with their campuses our commitment to diversity and inclusion.  We reminded all of our students, employees and community partners that we embrace all of our students, no matter what religion they practice, how diverse their perspectives, where they come from or how long they have lived here.  In addition, we reaffirmed that we would continue to admit and support students consistent with our non-discrimination policies and we will identify the supports and resources necessary to all of our students to successfully complete the education they seek.  Most important, we reasserted our commitment to the principles and promise of our democracy and the ideal of liberty in which the opportunity to better yourself and your family through education is considered sacrosanct. Continue reading “Civil Discourse and Our University”

Notes from a Mad English Professor: Holiday Postlude


My strongest memories of holiday season are invariably ones of traditions or their interruptions.  My brother and I looked forward to Christmas Eve service, held in a gigantic, Cathedral-like Congregationalist church built of brick and stone with a steeple more like a Gothic tower than a New England spire, as much for the fact that it signaled presents would soon be opened as it was the one time a year we could hold a lit candle and not get in trouble.  Years later, when I would travel south with my own family to my parents’ home for the holidays, and returned to the Christmas Eve service for the first time in over a decade, I could remember the program almost item for item.   It was almost as if I were returned to childhood, to my son’s age, only with a forward-looking memory leap-frogging through time, past high school and college and my first teaching jobs and marriage and a family of my own in which I now became my own parent, nervously allowing my own child to hold and light a candle against the darkness of that great, vaulted ceiling.
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After The Election

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The successful candidate of this past presidential election was bound to be a “first” in one form or another:  one would be the first woman ever to hold the office; the other without holding a previous political office or having served in the military.  One thing that was not going to be a first, of course, was that pollsters might get things wrong—just ask Thomas Dewey, a “progressive Republican” and governor of New York who lost not one but two historic races: in 1944 against Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who was reelected into the first and only presidential fourth term as a result) and in 1948 against Harry S. Truman in what was arguably the greatest popular vote and electoral college upset in the modern era.  Continue reading “After The Election”

Rice’s Ruminations – Help to Shape and Improve Our Futures

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      One of my most vivid college memories is of a warm spring evening my classmates and I spent at the home of our Latin professor, Mary Moser.  Classes had just ended, and we were celebrating with a dinner prepared by Prof. Moser herself, complete with Romanesque dishes such as poached cabbage and pickled young tuna garnished with rue leaves (!). After recollections of the past semester, sprinkled with the requisite complaints over the difficulty of translating ancient Roman authors, discussion turned to campus politics. As a student, I spent most of my time studying, working or worrying about my future, and I viewed the few political statements made by faculty members in my presence more as curiosities than inspirations (such as when a professor, during a lecture on Roman social attitudes, had extended his middle finger and wagged it at the administration building, cursing its Puritanical views). In the midst of our conversation, however, Prof. Moser suddenly grabbed my arm and exhorted us to get involved. “You’re so apolitical. You need to assert yourselves, to care.” Stunned into an awkward silence, I saw her then as the student she might have been in the early 1970s: a witness to Watergate, the end of the Vietnam War and our nation’s growing intervention in Central America–understanding that college was an inevitable part of that larger world. Hers was, in other words, the kind of student activism that we, as undergrads in the late 1980s, too often associated with the past rather than the present.

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