Life Outside the Classroom



Sarah Coyer is pictured answering the phone and typing away as usual.

College is about learning and creating experiences. This year at UMPI, a position was created to bring those elements in. Meet Sarah Coyer: Sarah is director of student life at UMPI. Sarah’s office is located in the Emerson Annex and from her window she can see the pathways students are traveling to class, residential halls and other destinations on campus. Her view captures her position: students’ lives outside the classroom and helping set the right path for their success.

Sarah joined UMPI at the end of October, but is no stranger to college campuses. Sarah is from Wisconsin, where she earned her undergraduate degree in theater. During her time as a student, Sarah worked as a resident assistant in the halls. She explained that during her undergraduate years, the staff and faculty were her role models: she wanted to be them. Sarah had a deep desire to help people.

Sarah has experience from working in different types of colleges, from private, to a “Big 10” public university and now a smaller public university. Sarah’s decision to work at UMPI is based on wanting to go back to a small, public campus and UMPI fit that description perfectly. She also found the U Maine System interesting, with the system accreditation and strong connection among all the campuses.

Being new, Sarah has been learning about UMPI. Sarah currently lives on campus. “I loved being a student so much, I decided to be a student forever,” she said, laughing. As she learns the process, she wants to understand and ask questions. “She asks good questions, but also listens. I think that’s very important,” Dr. Jacqui Lowman said. Dr. Lowman is on different committees with Sarah and noted her: “can-do attitude” and ability to look at the big picture for UMPI. Sarah said she wants to “honor the traditions while bringing in new ideas.” Her ultimate question for students is: “How can we better serve you?”

Sarah noted that everyone at UMPI cares for the students. “The students are the best part,” she said, as she explained she gets to work with students at all different parts of their lives. She’s passionate about caring for the students. She said the staff has the same motivation of wanting to care for the students and it’s powerful. “Having an awesome group of people is the best way to find satisfaction in your work,” she said, with a gleaming smile as the passionate emotion came from her statement.

Sarah said in her position she would like to incorporate a residential curriculum: learning outside the classroom. She explained that learning outside the classrooms is just as important as inside. Students need to learn the material for their career, but need life skills and experiences from outside the classroom. The goal is to manage life, because life outside college doesn’t stop. Sarah’s position helps support students when life hits.

Sarah’s vision is that she wants all students to have an intense feeling of belonging and mattering to the campus community. She touched greatly on wanting to reach all students: on and off campus students, online, international, part-time, older students, new students and even the local community, too. She explained that everyone comes in at different levels but has the potential to grow and develop. The staff is here to help navigate.

The Work for Something More Than a Picture

To win the Pulitzer Prize for photojournalism is an honor for journalists. “It’s not a photography contest. It’s about telling some of the biggest stories of the year,” Pulitzer winning photojournalist William Snyder said. The award is given to a photo that captures a moment in time that touches people. The picture should make the viewer understand the story in a new light, with emotion. “Something about that still moment in time that does touch people,” Pulitzer winning photojournalist Carol Guzy said. The photo should bring emotion and awareness. The goal for photojournalists is to be invisible and be the eyes of the people who are not there.

In 1945, Joe Rosenthal’s photo of raising the flag on Iwo Jima won. The iconic photo holds the still moment of five American soldiers working together to raise the American flag. The photo gave hope to Americans. The photo fits the quote by John White: “It’s a front seat to history.” The picture is a perfect poster image for the war. The photo captures the emotion from the war and still shows hope for the audience.

Eddie Adams’ 1968 photo of the “Saigon Execution” won. The photo shows a South Vietnamese general firing his pistol at a Viet Cong officer/ prisoner. The photo shows another soldier in the back and the horror coming from the Viet Cong’s face. As this event was happening, Adams had to fire his camera as the general fired his pistol. The picture created controversy, but is a true view of war.

Jerry Gay captured a famous firefighter photograph from 1974. The photo shows four exhausted firefighters sitting on the side of a muddy hill, reflecting on what just happened. The photo captures the firefighters as soldiers with their helmets off. The picture captures the intense feelings as if the viewer is right there with the smoky haze, mud and emotion.

In 1982, John White captures a photograph of two children running in front of a Chicago housing project. The picture captures the innocence and fun of the happy children. As they play, their smiles make the shot a good-feeling picture for the viewer. The picture allows a light to shine through the element of children in these events.

Annie Wells captures a young girl being rescued from flooding waters in 1997. The photo shows the girl holding onto a branch as the muddy water around her swirls and a man rescuing her with a vibrant red lifejacket on. She looks into the shot for hope and survival. The picture shows the true moments of horror escaping fast to save the girl. For Wells to take this picture, she had to join the experience of the flood and follow the hope to help save the girl.

To capture these shots is a journey. Photojournalists truly go through an experience for a photo. They are the first responders to these events. “Everyone has a story. And we sing their song,” John White said. Photojournalists walk into these scenes that are often graphic. They go through the full experience of all the senses involved to capture these moments. The work is hard and they have to deal with the experience of the photo for the rest of their lives. Carol Guzy said, “ Someone once told me empathy was not imagining how you would feel in a particular situation, but actually feeling what the other person is feeling.”

This job is a calling because photojournalists go through the same experiences as captured in the pictures. Photojournalists have to hold onto that experience forever. Their profession is powerful. They can portray reality from their pictures, which can create change.

POW Returns From Vietnam, Photo by Slava Veder.