One of the primary goals and a mission of UNE North is to provide students with the opportunity for education and community engagement around topics related to the North Atlantic and Arctic regions. There are so many topics this could cover, such as: sustainability, climate change, healthcare in rural areas, cultural engagement, and interaction with others.
This month, UNE North was a part of two different activities that provided students with a great opportunity to learn about Maine communities that they may not know much about and have wanted to learn more. On February 8th, UNE North co-sponsored a virtual event with the Center for Excellence in Collaborative Education, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA), and Co-Occurring Collaborative Serving Maine. The event was titled “Together, We Persevere: Understanding health, culture within Maine’s fishing community.” The session had a panel of experts involved with Maine’s fishing community that consisted of Monique Coombs, Director of Community Programs for MCFA; Curt Brown, lobsterman and Marine Biologist; and Julia Bergquist, LCSW. They led discussions around different topics to provide students and other attendees with better knowledge and understanding around what life is like for an individual in the fishing community. Discussions consisted of the physical and mental challenges of the work, how to relate to members of this community, and the struggles they experience including access to healthcare, substance misuse, and mental health challenges. The session provided the unique opportunity for students across disciplines to interact with each other as well as members of the local community. The goal of the session was to provide greater understanding of what the fishing community experiences so that the students could be better equipped to engage with these members in their professional careers.
The second event took place on February 4th. A group of individuals, consisting of UNE students, faculty, and senior administration as well as community partners, attended the world premiere of the Wabanaki Stories show at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland. First, I need to give great acknowledgement to this group because the show took place on an evening in Portland, Maine when we had record low temperatures (negative double-digits). They bundled up warm to get to and from the event. This effort was well worth it. We all enjoyed music, stories, and interactions that allowed every one of us to gain more knowledge and understanding of the Wabanaki culture across the state of Maine. One student commented that “It was really nice to be able to learn about a new culture,” and another noted they would have loved to also see some traditional dancing. The legend of the Chenoo, an evil ice giant, was the highlight of the evening for many of our group members. We enjoyed traditional drumming and music and ended the evening with some amazing music by Jason Brown, aka Firefly, that had a modern context. After the show, the group came together on UNE’s campus for pizza and discussions about the experience. This time for debrief was equally as important to the entire experience. We continued to learn through our discussions around our feelings about the show and what we know about the Wabanaki culture. One student commented that “the debrief was an important piece of this experience and it gave an opportunity for learning and building community.” UNE North plans to continue to provide opportunities like this for students and UNE community members to experience different cultures and communities.