UMF graduates urged to get involved with their communities

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FARMINGTON — The student speaker at the 157th commencement ceremony at the University of Maine at Farmington on Saturday spoke of the value of a liberal arts education and of the special experience the small campus in the western foothills provides.

“(This is) a community of learners, leaders and even activists who are nestled remotely but yet so vibrantly within these foothills,” said class president Robert Sherman of Johnston, R.I.

“UMF is a place where your professors become your mentors, learning coaches and lifelong friends. I do not think there is any place quite like our small liberal arts university,” he said.

Sherman, who graduated with a major in sociology/anthropology and a minor in women’s and gender studies, plans to pursue a doctorate in sociology at George Mason University in Washington, D.C. He spoke before 416 graduates from the class of 2010 and hundreds of guests seated in the UMF Fitness and Recreation Center.

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“You have learned the tools to think critically; you have learned that people matter; and you have been part of a community unlike any other,” he said to his peers. “Now, you can even try and replicate this sense of community and love in everything you do. Caring for others, respecting our world, and shaping our lives — things you have learned here at Farmington.”

He said many students will be going on to pursue positive social, economic and environmental efforts and he urged his classmates to “constantly expose and move the barriers against injustice and oppression.”

Before the ceremony, several graduates spoke about their futures.

William Butler of Brunswick, a history major, said while his line of work will likely be in business, he chose to study history rather than pursue a major focused on career.

“I wanted something that would be interesting and would engage me,” he said. “What it did was to help me think critically about issues and understand how to analyze problems.”

As for his future, he has a job at Hannaford Bros., where he worked his way through school and is now assistant produce manager, but he didn’t discount the idea of pursuing a master’s degree in history.

Paul Kabatznick of Portland, another history major, said his dream is to teach in Southeast Asia where he has traveled with his family and where his mother just returned from teaching English to students in Myanmar, formerly Burma.

Lisa Therrien of Shapleigh, who majored in psychology, already has a job lined up with a Hallowell-based social-service agency to work with autistic children.

“The psychology department at UMF is amazing,” she said. “The professors really understand you; they are nice and they challenge you to do your best.”

Her classmate Angela West of Fryeburg majored in forensic and child psychology. She said she was not worried about getting a job in her field.

“I studied both fields to keep my options open,” she said.

Jessica Pinter of Connecticut majored in geology and women’s and gender studies. Her plan is to volunteer to do community service through AmeriCorps, then work with a nonprofit agency. She would also like to become a park ranger.

And Bethany Mathieu of Fairfield, who majored in creative writing and women’s and gender studies, said she was doing freelance writing for a newspaper and volunteering with the Restorative Justice Project of the Midcoast in Belfast.

“UMF has an amazing writing program with great professors who care about you. That is unique,” she said.

The keynote speaker was Rep. Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, the youngest woman in the country to serve as speaker of a state House of Representatives.

“You are graduating into one of the most difficult economic periods our country has ever experienced,” Pingree said. “There are good signs of recovery every day and even as things improve, you will need to stand out.”

She hoped many graduates would choose to work and live in Maine.

“Young people are key to the state’s future,” she said. “We are the people who will fuel the economy, create jobs (and) teach kids. We need to be the entrepreneurs, innovators and the job creators of the future.”

Also on Saturday, UMF President Theodora Kalikow introduced Richard Batt, former president of the Franklin Community Health Network and a leader in community health care, who received an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters.

 bjespersen@beeline-online.net

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