What Is This New Unified Accreditation?

The University of Maine System’s logo.

     You might have seen some news stories lately that are talking about a new model that the University of Maine System is considering for its future called Unified Accreditation. You could most likely read those articles and news stories to learn more about this new topic that is currently prevalent in our university. But at the end of the day, what remains memorable are just big words and confusing sentences about a topic that has proven to be really difficult to explain and deal with. 

     What is Unified Accreditation?

     According to the “Summary of Process Considerations and Framework for Pursuing Unified Accreditation” that was presented by the University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel P. Malloy at the Board of Trustees meeting this past November, the University of Maine System is composed of seven unique universities (UMaine, USM, UMA, UMF, UMFK, UMPI, UMM). These independent universities are not separate legal institutions. For example, no university can sign contracts or own property by itself without the approval of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. Each campus every 4-5 years has to go through an accreditation process by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). When this accreditation process takes place, NECHE accredits each university separately, as its very own separate accredited institution, and each campus has to go through the same process in order to receive its accreditation. This has proven to be both challenging for the system, but also a great obstacle for both students, faculty and for the accomplishment of the system’s future goals. With the proposal of a Unified Accreditation, the system is hoping to unify each UMS campus separate accreditation into one statewide institutional accreditation covering all UMS universities. It will furthermore mean that the currently separate NECHE accreditations will be joined together at the system level, with the University of Maine System recognized by NECHE and the U.S. Department of Education as one accredited institution made up of the current seven UMS universities. 

     But what does that mean for students? And does it benefit us?

     The recent few years have been very interesting and at the same time frustrating among UMPI students when it comes to credits, financial aid and accessing resources from the rest of the University of Maine campuses. There have been plenty of student stories that make clear the frustration and difficulty that students are having while trying to complete their education in our institution. That frustration is what partially drove the trustees to consider this issue and finally (this idea was first introduced in 1986) to create a new pathway to answer these issues. As a student, you might have noticed that for small campuses such as ours, Fort Kent orMachias, the availability of getting courses is becoming more challenging, while certain majors in some instances cannot complete some of the requirements for graduation because the courses are not available anymore in the home campus. When this happens, students have to enroll at another UMS institution to fulfil their course needs. When they enroll in a course from another University of Maine System campus–for example USM or UMA–these credits come in as transfer credits, which means that students might lose financial aid at their home campus because of the limit of home credits a student has to take to be considered full time. On the other hand, these transfer credits don’t count for Dean’s List and for GPA on the home campus. There have been instances where students did not make Dean’s List because of that. 

     In extreme cases, students have had to leave the campus residence halls because they took more transfer courses from another UMS institution. UMPI senior Destiny Wetherell faced some of these issues last year, when she had to leave the campus residence halls because she had to take more courses from another UMS institution that were not being offered at UMPI but were required if she wanted to get her degree. This made her not qualify for financial aid here at her home campus. “It is frustrating to know that I was allotted an amount that would have been enough to live on campus here at UMPI, but I had required courses for my degree that were not being offered for a number of reasons, such as not being taught for a number of years or retired professors not being able to be replaced. Due to this, I had to look outside of UMPI for said courses and/or alternatives, which took a large chunk of my financial aid. This caused me to no longer have enough financial aid to live on campus. It was an extremely hard decision to make Wetherell said. “I had either to take the courses and not live on campus or live on campus but be set back due to the missing courses. It is also a situation that could be avoided and I hope it will be in the future.” This is just one of the numerous stories that students share naming their frustration about this “bureaucracy” that they have to face just to complete their degrees.   

     According to the chancellor’s report, “With Unified Accreditation, UMS universities and their faculties will be able to work out seamless ways for students to take courses from other UMS universities without having to transfer them back in, with their financial aid following them when they do and with the credits they earn from other UMS universities applying to their qualification for Dean’s list status. Over time, with UMS universities working out the details in coordination with System leadership, UMS students could have access to the full array of courses and programs across the entire System.”

     What this means is that with Unified Accreditation, they hope for all the processes to be simplified and become more transparent, bring greater opportunities for the campus and its students and remove all barriers when it comes to student success.

     Unified Accreditation is currently designed to secure the futures of the smaller UMS universities and with that serve the state effectively, respond to market changes and demands and, most critically, better support the students and their future. There is still a lot of work to be done, and it will certainly will not be achieved in the course of a year or two. But it will rather be a continual process to make things better.     

Aroostook County Brew and Wine Festival: A Hope for the Future

The logo of the festival.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, beer and wine lovers from all over Aroostook County and beyond gathered at the Aroostook County Brew and Wine Festival at the Aroostook Shrine Club on Houlton Road for a beautiful afternoon full of delicious local beer, wine and food.

The festival was established in 2015 by the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce with the purpose of showcasing the growing craft beer and wine industry in Maine.

Destiny Wetherell, an UMPI student, shared her festival experience.

“The atmosphere was really great and the different types of beer and wine were fantastic. It was great seeing that many local beer and wine vendors here in the County and I am very glad I got to try and support our local crafts.”

The brewfest was the event of the month, attracting a lot of people from all over the county, including some of our local politicians, entrepreneurs and local community leaders. The lines to enter the event extended beyond the gate all the way to the parking lot.  People floated around, trying all the different beer varieties in the tent, trying some of the gigantic hot dogs and barbecue that was available and overall enjoying the clear and sunny Aroostook sky.

Tiffany Smith, another UMPI student who attended the festival, said:

“It was a really nice community event that brought a lot of people together. It was a very happy environment with a lot of friendly faces.”

Events like these are a clear indication of a growing industry here in Maine.  With the support from our communities we can all elevate and encourage these businesses and support the local faces behind all the hard work and the products that we see. The deeper message behind the brewfest–beyond the love for beer–is community support of our local brewing and wine-making industries. The growing development of this festival is a great indication for a very hopeful future supporting local industries and local products. Andbrew and Wine  at the same time for us consumers, it is a great sign of more delicious products available for us here in the County.



A Documentary on the History of UMPI

Two students, Tiffany Smith and Evan Zarkadas, decided to find out about their school. They just wanted to find out the history of their university, why buildings and certain things got their names and learn about why things are the way they are. They did a search on Google and YouTube and surprisingly they did not find anything about the history of UMPI. That was the initial spark that started a project that will be appreciated and viewed in the future, but also bring a presence on the history of UMPI to social media. Continue reading “A Documentary on the History of UMPI”

Breaking News: Weather Update

Breaking News_ Weather Report.

What is happening in the County this year? Record breaking snow depths, powerful winds that cause whiteouts and huge ice walls along the roads is what describes our current situation here in northern Maine.

Well, according to the recent news and studies, the weather doesn’t seem to get better. The National Association of Snowing is pushing for a declaration of a national emergency, since the snowfall is estimated to continue even in the summer months, with world record-breaking amounts of snow. There is also a possibility that snow will continue all the way to December of 2019.  And scientists are assured that we will have a continuous winter until the winter of 2020. Continue reading “Breaking News: Weather Update”

When Racing Dogs Bring a Community Together

Picture of the CAN-AM Sled Dog Races. Picture taken by Tiffany Smith.

March is the third month of the year.  It has 31 days, and is named after Mars, the Roman god of war.  But for Aroostook County, it is the month of the Can-Am Crown, the sled dog races in Fort Kent. Every year in the first week of March, all of Aroostook County gathers in Fort Kent for a weekend of excitement, friendships and dog races.

During this year’s race, there was a variety of racers from various U.S. States and Canadian provinces. Maine was represented by 16 racers divided between the three race categories of 30, 100 and 250 miles. Continue reading “When Racing Dogs Bring a Community Together”

The Declaration of Strategic Priorities to Address Critical State Needs

Logo with all the UMaine System Campuses

A few weeks ago the University of Maine System Board of Trustees passed a declaration document whose purpose is to address the future strategic priorities that the UMS will have to follow in order to address some specific, critical state needs. But what does that mean? Continue reading “The Declaration of Strategic Priorities to Address Critical State Needs”

Did Somebody Mention Comedy?

Hailey Boyle in the Middle with Violet Washburn, Bethnay MacPherson and Roni Shaw from the SAO office.

What is your definition of comedy? If you find this question difficult to answer, then you should have been at the Hailey Boyle show this past Nov. 15. Hailey made her second appearance at UMPI, and just as with her first visit, through her spicy humor and temperament, she was able once more to make UMPI laugh. Hailey’s comedy is very particular and through her jokes about the sexes, her personal life and other topics about everyday life problems, she was able to captivate the audience’s love and attention. Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, she has a great comedy record, with her most recent distinction being named one of New York’s top 10 funniest comics at The New York Comedy Festival. Continue reading “Did Somebody Mention Comedy?”

Understanding the Native American Culture Through the Eyes of Archaeology

Matthew Payan, and Adam Weyeneth standing in front of a Wabanaki Canoe at the Abbe museum.

UMPI has always been a hub of great classes and professors full of passion and love for what they do. Curiosity and academic endeavors is what UMPI classes are all about, and because of that students get to experience situations and opportunities that they would never had the ability to do anywhere else. Professor Dave Putnam and his archaeology class on Dec. 1, 2018, got the chance to visit the Abbe Museum at Bar Harbor. The purpose of the trip was to examine archaic and prehistoric artifacts from Maine and also to learn more about the Native American culture and the new direction toward which the Abbe Museum is moving:  the Decolonization process. Continue reading “Understanding the Native American Culture Through the Eyes of Archaeology”

Kalikantzari: Greek Christmas Elves

A depiction of what a Kalikantzaros looks like.

They are tiny, ugly and skinny little creatures that appear during the Christmas days. Their only purpose is for 12 days to make the lives of humans miserable. Their name comes from the Greek word “καλός” which means good, and “κάνθαρος” which means beetle. Continue reading “Kalikantzari: Greek Christmas Elves”