Unity College 2019 graduates: Be prepared for change

by Jeanne Marquis

The theme heard at the Unity College graduation ceremony, on May 11, 2019, was the importance of being prepared for the changing world ahead. New graduates will need to do more than survive change but lead the way for others. Those who will thrive, in the decades to come, will fearlessly embrace challenges by having a deep understanding of the world and possessing the unique skills to solve 21st Century problems.

Unity College President Melik Peter Khoury announced to the 130 graduates of Unity college and their families: “Class of 2019, you have the foundation and the pedigree needed to take the next steps into this challenging green economy on a global scale. And I speak for all of us here at Unity College when I say that we cannot wait to see what those next steps are. Please, share your stories, share your successes and share your adventures.”

Retired United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills delivered the 2019 Commencement address and was bestowed with an honorary doctorate in sustainability sciences. While on patrol in April 2012, SSG Mills was critically injured by an IED on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. He is one of only five quadruple amputees who survived from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His inspiring spirit turned his overwhelming challenges into success. After his hard road to recovery, he established the Travis Mills foundation to help other wounded veterans and wrote a New York Times best seller, Tough as They Come. Travis Mills, with a sense of humor, encouraged the graduates to embrace their own challenges – “I had one really bad at work. Then, I went on to have seven fabulous years since that day.”

The philosophy of embracing change has been deeply ingrained in Unity College since its establishment in 1967. The college founder Bert Clifford envisioned that building a college would secure their town’s future in an era when rural towns were declining nationwide. Clifford’s vision came to fruition with a college that serves the local region and attracts students nationwide.

Raymond Hall, a 2019 recipient of a master’s degree, selected Unity College Online after his own intensive search He found the academic rigor to be competitive, and the online format worked with the demands of his position as a safety specialist of environment protection at University of Texas — MD Andersen Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas. (photos by Jeannie Marquis)

In recent years, Unity College also demonstrated resilience and embraced change. The college leaders’ keen ability to forecast future global needs transformed Unity college into America’s first environmental college.

All areas of study at Unity College blend academic rigor with hands-on field work and a goal of teaching students to translate their knowledge into sustainable solutions. Among their majors are Sustainable Agriculture, Biology, Marine Biology, Captive Wildlife Care and Education, Parks and forest Resources, Environmental Writing and Media studies, Wildlife and Fisheries Management, Sustainable Energy Management and Conservation Law Enforcement.

Nolan Allen, a 2019 graduate with a degree in Conservation Law Enforcement, has accepted a position as an officer on the Fairfield Police Department. Allen chose Unity College because of the flexible law enforcement major that provides him with a variety of career options. He appreciated the low student to faculty ratio, 15 to one, which gave him the chance to get to know his professors.

Recognizing a growing need for distance education, college administrators once again embraced this change and developed Unity College Online offering bachelor’s, master’s and non-degree credits. Distance education provides the flexibility, while maintaining the same high standards to reach out to professions who seek to advance their careers. Unity College Online is fully accredited and most of the online faculty are fulltime faculty or are leading experts in their fields. The online capability provides Unity College to reach students globally and provide students with more diverse field experiences.

Raymond Hall, a 2019 recipient of a master’s degree, selected Unity College Online after his own intensive search. He found the academic rigor to be competitive, and the online format worked with the demands of his position as a safety specialist of environment protection at University of Texas—MD Andersen Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas. Hall says the emphasis on problem-solving throughout the the college course work has prepared him well for challenges that lie ahead.




Travis Mills to deliver Unity College 2019 commencement address

SSgt. Travis Mills

The road every college student takes to complete their degree is never an easy one. It’s full of trying times, late night study sessions, and early morning exams that can certainly be stressful. Whether they know it or not, the more than 130 Unity College graduates receiving diplomas on Saturday, May 11, all persevered using the mantra of the college’s esteemed 2019 commencement speaker, retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills: “Never give up. Never quit.”

SSG Mills has told his inspiring story of perseverance all over television (including Ellen, NBC Nightly News, and Fox News) after losing all four limbs to an IED on his third tour of Afghanistan. Mills is one of only five quadruple amputees to survive their injuries received in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he documented his road to recovery in his memoir Tough as They Come, a New York Times Best Seller.

It took 14 hours of surgery, nine doctors, seven nurses – two of which were dedicated to pumping air in and out of his lungs — and 30 blood transfusions to keep Mills alive. When he finally regained consciousness days later on his 25th birthday, the first words out of his mouth were: “How are my soldiers?” Finding out they would be fine, his brother-in-law broke the news to Mills that he wasn’t paralyzed but was, in fact, a quadruple amputee. He became angry and upset, but found the motivation to carry on in his wife and six-month-old daughter.

After returning to the United States for an intense recovery process, which Mills says is an ongoing process every single day, he founded the Travis Mills Foundation based in Rome, Maine, to assist combat-injured veterans. In addition to assisting wounded veterans, Mills worked closely with many victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, helping to guide them following amputation, just as other amputees had done for him. Mills also consults with and speaks to companies and organizations nationwide inspiring others to overcome life’s challenges and adversity, no matter what form that may take.

“It is certainly no exaggeration when I refer to Staff Sergeant Mills as a national treasure,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “Having watched his story of recovery both physically and mentally unfold on television, I not only find Travis to be a remarkable human being, but also a genuine person who is a natural-born leader. He has a knack for inspiring everyone he comes in contact with, and he can almost always get them to smile or laugh, no matter what it is they’re going through. I can’t wait for our graduates to hear him speak.”

“I am extremely honored to be giving the commencement speech at Unity College, in my home state!” said Mills. “I look forward to sharing my story with the 2019 graduating class, and I hope to inspire resiliency and drive as they enter the workforce or graduate school.”

Dr. Khoury said Mills will receive an Honorary Doctorate in Sustainability Science before addressing the candidates for graduation from America’s Environmental College.

“From here, our graduates will travel all over the world, pursuing careers that they’re passionate about or seek further education,” said Dr. Khoury. “I think that the words and story of Travis will stay with them well after they receive their diploma, and they’ll find ways to apply it in all that they do.”

Commencement exercises begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 11. The ceremony, which happens to be Unity College’s 50th May Commencement, is open to Unity College graduates and their guests. The ceremony and speeches will be streamed on the Unity College Facebook page.

Unity College professor earns Fulbright Scholarship for brown bear research in Slovenia

Dr. Jack Hopkins to look into conflict behavior in bears

Dr. Jack Hopkins

Bears and humans aren’t known for always seeing eye to eye. Sure, the two species can have positive encounters, such as bear sightings at a safe distance in the northern Maine woods. Human-bear interactions, however, can turn nasty very quickly, ranging from the more benign end of the spectrum where bears commandeer human food, agricultural crops, or livestock, to more harmful incidents where people get hurt.

It’s these interactions that are the focus of Unity College Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology, Dr. Jack Hopkins’ latest research project titled Development of a Multi-method Approach to Study Wildlife Behavior: Investigating Human-Bear Conflicts in the Contrasting Landscapes of Europe. For Dr. Hopkins’ Fulbright Scholarship, he and researchers from the University of Ljubljana will use a large collection of tissues (muscle, liver, hair, and teeth) sampled from roughly 800 bears in Slovenia and Scandinavia over the course of roughly 25 years to investigate human-bear conflict.

“It’s a really great opportunity to work with my partners,” said Dr. Hopkins, noting that Fulbright Scholarships offer only about 20 percent of applicants the chance to either teach, conduct research, or do a combination of both. For the spring semester, Dr. Hopkins earned an award to focus strictly on research, leaving Maine for Slovenia at the end of December with his wife and four children.

“I’m also really excited about the opportunity for my kids,” he said. “Having the chance to live and go to school in Europe has the potential to really change their lives. It’ll be a great family adventure.”

Slovenia has one of the highest-density bear populations in the world, which is in part due to the country’s interest in harvesting them twice a year, using supplemental corn feed to maintain their thriving population. Dr. Hopkins will work with genetic and isotopic data from bear tissues to investigate their reliance on corn, how their diets affect their reproductive success and survival, and how conflict behavior develops in the first place.

“I want to congratulate Dr. Hopkins on this incredible honor, and I can’t wait to see the results and conclusions that his research produces,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “Here at Unity College, we emphasize experiential education for our students, but it’s important to also encourage our faculty to pursue opportunities like this. In turn, they will pass down those experiences and inspire our students in the classroom and in the field.”

Although the research project focuses on Slovenia’s brown bear population, Dr. Hopkins believes the issues, in many ways, are similar here in Maine.

“Brown bears feed on corn in Slovenia like black bears feed on doughnuts and other bait in the fall in Maine,” Hopkins said. “In both places, baits are used to help control population numbers and meet the needs of hunters. Although baiting is controversial in Maine, it is the most successful method used to harvest bears. The concern is that if these artificial food sources are removed from the landscape, harvest numbers will decrease, and human-bear conflict will increase with bear density, which obviously has huge management implications in both Maine and Slovenia.”

For more on Dr. Hopkins’ research, visit jackhopkinswildlife.com.

Unity Rotary Club taking fruit orders as fundraiser

Jan, left, and Ron Cropley, are taking fruit orders for the Unity Rotary Club. The club will be offering 20-pound cases of oranges or grapefruit for $25 per case, and new this year, mixed packages of a variety of choices for $20. The deadline for ordering the fruit will be the week of November 5-9 for expected delivery to start the first week in December. (Contributed photo)

Ron and Jan Cropley, of the Unity Area Rotary Club, are working hard, along with the other members of the Unity Area Rotary Club, taking calls and messages for fruit orders.

Unity Area Rotary Club’s very first fund raiser was the sale of citrus fruit. The chairman then was Max Gillette (1992 – 2017) who continued as its chairman for 25 years. Ron Cropley, of Troy, currently serves as the fundraiser’s chairman and Jan as his secretary.

Unity’s Rotary club will be offering 20-pound cases of oranges or grapefruit for $25 per case, and new this year, mixed packages of a variety of choices for $20. The deadline for ordering the fruit will be the week of November 5-9 for expected delivery to start the first week in December.

For more information, contact Ron or Jan Cropley at (207)948-2524, message the club through their Facebook page (Unity Area Rotary Club) or any other member of the club.

Last call for Common Ground Country Fair poster contest

The submission deadline for the 2019 Common Ground Country Fair Poster Contest is nearing.

If you have already sent in your poster design, thank you!

If you have not yet submitted, and are interested, you will find the the poster guidelines and application are available at http://mofga.org/The-Fair/Poster

The winning artist receives $2,500, a press release, and is highlighted in MOFGA’s quarterly newspaper, The Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener. The selected design is also featured on the Fair poster, website, T-shirt and in promotional literature.

The theme of the design must be in line with MOFGA’s mission and the general guidelines for participating in the Fair. We welcome all Maine residents and MOFGA members to enter submissions by August 3rd.

For more information please contact the Fair office at commonground@mofga.org.

Unity College graduates six deputy game wardens

Six recently graduated Deputy Maine Game Wardens. (Contributed photo)

Four are from area towns Troy, Unity, Frankfort & Windsor

For any student interested in becoming a Maine State Game Warden, there’s no better way to prepare than by landing a summer position as a Deputy Game Warden. This year, all six Deputy Game Warden summer positions were filled by Unity College Conservation Law Enforcement students.

“This is an accomplishment that our students, as well as their professors, should be very proud of,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “ In fact, it speaks to the breadth of our Conservation Law Enforcement program, and the overall quality of our education. Experience is a critical part of a Unity College education, and this will certainly give these students an edge when they graduate, whether they choose to enter the workforce or pursue further education.”

The process began for the six students with an application in December. From there, Marc D’Elia, of Troy; Nicholas Johnson, of Unity; Emily Tripp, of Frankfort; Morgan Jeane, of Windsor; Keegan Nelligan, of Abington, Massachusetts; Will Reinsborough, of Pownal, spent several months taking written exams, oral boards, swim tests, polygraph tests, and psychological exams to emerge as top tier candidates. The process closely mirrors the rigor and difficulty that a full-time candidate would go through.

After passing the first part of the hiring process, the students were then required to attend the Law Enforcement Pre-Service, administered by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, and pass the training from the Maine Warden Service, which includes firearms, water survival, and mechanics of arrest.

“Many students come to Unity with the goal of one day working for a top agency like the Maine Warden Service,” said Zachary Falcon, Assistant Professor of Conservation Law and Environmental Policy. “The Conservation Law Enforcement program prepares students to compete in the field, but they still need a strong work ethic and a high degree of professionalism to succeed. These six students demonstrate that every day, and we could not be more proud of their achievement.”

“It’s surreal. It didn’t fully sink in until they pinned the badge on me,” said Keegan Nelligan, one of the six students. “I’ve been wanting to be a game warden since I was a little kid, and even though I’m not currently a full-time game warden, this is a big step for me. I’m very excited, and excited to see what the future holds for this position.”

Though he’s currently in his training hours, Keegan said that the majority of his work this summer will be as a Boating Deputy, where he’ll patrol bodies of water such as Long Lake or Brandy Pond to ensure boaters are being safe. The Maine Warden Service, however, could call upon the Deputy Game Wardens for other tasks as needed, such as search and rescue assistance.

After this summer position, Keegan will enter into his senior year at Unity College, and hopes to land a full-time position as a game warden upon graduation.

“It’s always exciting to see where our students go after graduation,” added Dr. Khoury. “With a summer serving as Deputy Game Wardens, I see a very bright future for all six of these students.”

Unity group proposes creating green cemetery

movie poster (source: imdb)

The citizens of the Town of Unity have expressed interest in opening a green cemetery. Therefore, the Unity Cemetery Committee has arranged to show, “A Will for the Woods,” an award-winning documentary about green burials. The presentation will take place at the Unity College Center for Performing Arts on February 8, at 6 p.m. Admission is free. All are welcome to attend. A snow date has been set aside for February 15, at the same time.

Michael Womersley to speak at SRLT meeting

What will happen to Maine’s land and ocean resources as climate changes in the 21st century? What likely climate scenarios are there for Maine? What will most likely happen to our weather and to sea level? How should we best respond? What mitigation and adaptation strategies are most likely to work? In fisheries?In forestry and agriculture?Which ones are likely to lead to yet more problems down the road?

Dr. Michael Womersley, Professor of Human Ecology/School of Environmental Citizenship at Unity College, will address these concerns. Womersley has a PhD in Environmental Policy Analysis from the University of Maryland Policy School, with a focus on U.S. cultural acceptance of cli-mate policy. His current research is in political economy and geopolitics of climate change.

Womersley’s presentation is part of the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust’s monthly speaker series, “Restoring Connections to Place,” featuring a wide variety of conservation topics. The programs are held on the second Wednesday of every month at the café, 93 Main Coffee Shop, located at 93 Main St., Unity. These monthly events are open to the public and a five dollar donation is suggested. For more information, please email info@sebasticookrlt.org or call 948-3766.

Sebasticook Regional Land Trust has a mission to recognize and conserve the rich wild and working landscape of Central Maine’s Sebasticook River watershed.

MOFGA to Host 41st Annual Common Ground Country Fair

On September 22, 23 & 24, the 41st annual Common Ground Country Fair will take place at the home of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) in Unity, Maine. Some 60,000 people take part in this event, which celebrates rural and sustainable living in Maine. The Fair is unique because there are no midway carnivals, fast food or games of chance. What it does offer is pure fun and entertainment in an educational context.

Pinterest photo

“Vendors, demonstrators, entertainers and exhibitors feature traditional skills, talent, local organic food, and made-in-Maine crafts,” said Fair Director April Boucher. “Common Ground has some of the most delicious food of any fair in Maine. MOFGA places a great deal of emphasis on educating people about available alternatives for living healthfully, happily and comfortably in the Northeast.”

Each day, there are hundreds of talks, demonstrations and exhibits focusing on healthy and environmentally sound living. The Fair’s activities are spread out over 40+ acres of well-tended land adorned by beautiful perennial gardens, walkways, and orchards.

The success and continued growth of the Fair is attributable to generous donations and the tremendous loyalty of MOFGA’s remarkable volunteer community. If you’ve never had the opportunity to attend this local event, this is the year to do so. Here are just a few exciting reasons to attend the Fair:

Each day at 11 a.m. on the Common there will be a keynote address. On Friday, long-time MOFGA farmer Jill Agnew, of Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus, will deliver a talk entitled “Community” Supported Agriculture – Looking Back, Looking Forward, A 40-Year Story. She will talk about what visions lie ahead to maintain a positive impact in the community and how basic human values are supported, taught and nurtured – all in the context of agriculture, the panorama people can see, smell, experience and eat. On Saturday, Sherri Mitchell, attorney, teacher, spiritual activist, and director of the Land Peace Foundation, will speak about Standing on Indigenous Rights – the need for developing unity with indigenous rights movements, centering on our shared connection to the Earth and our interdependence with one another and the entire structure of life. And on Sunday, Jonathan Rosenthal, executive director of the New Economy Coalition, and co-founder of Equal Exchange, will discuss the interconnectedness of our many different struggles for justice. He will highlight solutions that fundamentally transform our economy, culture, and politics, while looking at the connection between local work and systemic transformation.

MOFGA’s Public Policy Committee will host an important Teach-in on Saturday at 1 p.m. on the Spotlight Stage. The Teach-in, entitled Making America Green Again: A Workshop In Resistance, will feature three environmental policy experts who will describe threats to state and federal policies, and ways to fight back. Emmie Theberge, federal project director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), will explain key environmental issues at the state and federal levels. Senator Shenna Bellows (D-Manchester) will speak about how to run for office at the state and federal levels. Beth Ahearn, political director at Maine Conservation Voters, will coach about how to make your voice heard – i.e., how best to contact state and federal legislators, and how to present testimony and lobby in person. Nancy Ross, former executive director of MOFGA, will moderate the Teach-in. Nancy is professor emerita of environmental policy at Unity College and adjunct faculty in political science at Southern Maine Community College. A Q&A session will follow the presentations.

Other speakers and demonstrators offer numerous informative presentations and workshops on topics such as seed saving, composting, growing grains, organic gardening, farm marketing, cooking with local and seasonal foods, medicinal and culinary herbs, working with animal fiber, raising livestock, energy efficiency, conservation, toxics and other environmental concerns, social and political initiatives, working with stone, traditional and practical Maine folk arts, Maine Native American culture, low impact forestry skills, Maine’s media sources, ecological design and building, and practices for healthy living. See the Fair’s detailed schedule of events.

One of the most beautiful fair venues is MOFGA’s Exhibition Hall — a post and beam structure designed and raised in 1998 by five Maine-based timber frame companies. The Hall showcases thousands of garden entries organically raised throughout the state. The vibrant colors and great diversity inspire fairgoers to try their hands at growing countless varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains, flowers, nuts, herbs and flowers. Eggs, honey, home-made beverages, baked goods, dried foods, and, of course, canned foods are on display. Amateur craftspeople and artists also submit wonderful items for display.

Throughout the Fair weekend, there are livestock shows, contests and demonstrations featuring draft horses and ponies, dairy cattle and oxen, donkeys and mules, goats and sheep, poultry, rabbits, llamas and alpacas, and pigs. Sheep Dog demonstrations happen three times a day.

Dozens of Maine’s entertainers will perform in the Amphitheater, on the Spotlight Stage, and as rovers around the fairgrounds.

The Fair’s festive Children’s Area is a mini-Fair unto itself. There are countless activities (all free) for kids to participate in joyfully, and there is a stage with great entertainment for families. A children’s garden parade winds around The Common twice daily. All are welcome to don garden costumes and march.

And, of course, there are countless opportunities to purchase Maine-grown produce and other beautifully crafted, Maine-made goods. Two large and brilliant farmers’ markets offer an abundance of Maine’s organic produce. The Agricultural Products and Farm & Homestead areas feature goods and services from Maine’s farming and gardening community. The Crafts tents showcase exquisite creations from Maine’s finest artists and craftspeople. The Energy & Shelter Area presents environmentally friendly materials and systems for Maine homes. The Maine Fiber Farms tent highlights beautiful crafts and practical items made from farm animal fiber. The Maine Indian Basketmakers Association area offers superb creations of basketry, jewelry and other crafts of the Wabanaki, as well as educational talks, traditional dances and music. And the Youth Enterprise Zone, which happens on Friday and Sunday, presents the skill, innovation and creativity of Maine’s young entrepreneurs. This celebration of rural living offers something for everyone, in a traditionally festive atmosphere.

“The Common Ground Country Fair blends the best of traditional with the best of modern-day living in Maine, and shows Fairgoers how they can incorporate sustainable living practices into their own daily routines,” said Boucher.

Volunteers are needed during Fair set-up (through September 21), during the Fair itself (September 22, 23 & 24), and for a focused Fair clean-up effort on October 14. Volunteers who work a 4-hour shift receive an organic cotton Fair t-shirt illustrated with this year’s artwork, a hearty meal from the Fair’s Common Kitchen, and free admission to the Fair. Online pre-registration for volunteers will run through September 19. After pre-registration, anyone wishing to volunteer should come to the fairgrounds where coordinators will assign shifts as needed. Fair organizers especially need help during the clean-up after the Fair. Clean-up volunteers wishing to receive free admission to the Fair should check in at the Volunteer Registration Tent.

The Fair goes on rain or shine. MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center is on the Crosby Brook Road in Unity. Gates open at 9 a.m. daily.

MOFGA offers free admission to the Fair for its members. Join MOFGA online. Tickets at the gate are $15 for general admission and $10 for elders.

For more information about the Common Ground Country Fair, call 207-568-4142 or visit www.mofga.org.

Woodland owners to hear speakers at fair

Image Credit: Maine Woodland Owners

Woodland owners and enthusiasts visiting the Common Ground Country Fair, in Unity, on Friday, September 22, will have an opportunity to learn what’s new with Maine forestry. In the low-impact forestry area, Maine Woodland Owners will present a speaker series covering “everything wood,” and designed for new and seasoned woodland owners alike.

A walk in the woods will be part of the program for two forest health presentations, “Invasive Plants on Your Woodlot” and “Forest Insects and Diseases that Threaten Your Woodlands.” One discussion will look at ways that cutting some timber and managing land for wildlife can be compatible. Whole tree versus main stem tree harvesting methods will be compared and contrasted. Two presentations will take a look into the future: new forest products that are transforming the forest products industry, and efforts to restore the American chestnut, a tree that once covered three-quarters of the North American seaboard. Finally, an interactive program about ways landowners can avoid the most common mistakes will wrap up the day.

The low-impact forestry area is located just outside the fairgrounds, near the Pine Gate. For the full program and schedule, go to www.mainewoodlandowners.org.

9 a.m. – Invasive Plants on Your Woodlot, Nancy Olmstead, Invasive Plant Biologist, Maine Natural Areas Program.

10 a.m. – Managing Your Woodlot for Wildlife, Chuck Hulsey, MDIFW Regional Wildlife Biologist.

11 a.m. – Reintroduction of the American Chestnut, Brian Roth, Board member of the Maine Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation and Associate Director of the Cooperative Forestry Research Unit at the University of Maine.

Noon – The Pluses and Minuses of Whole Tree Harvesting, Tom Doak, Executive Director, Maine Woodland Owners, and Mitch Lansky, author and a founder of the Maine Low-Impact Forestry Project.

1 p.m. – New Uses for Wood, Benjamin Herzog, Wood Technologist in the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, the University of Maine. 2 p.m. – Forest Insects and Diseases that Threaten Your Woodlands, Allison Kanoti, Forest Entomologist, Maine Forest Service, DACF.

3 p.m. – The Ten Biggest Mistakes Woodland Owners Make, Tom Doak, Executive Director, Maine Woodland Owners.

A membership-supported non-profit organization, Maine Woodland Owners advocates for family woodland owners, provides information for better forest management and promotes the stewardship of Maine’s woodland resources.