LEWISTON — In conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit “The Way We Worked,” Museum L-A will host two panel discussions that answer the question: “What is Work in the 21st Century?” The first, titled “The Meaning of Work,” takes place from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10, followed by “L-A’s Legacy of Health and Healing … and Today’s Caring Economy” from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24. Both programs are offered free of charge and will take place at Museum L-A, 35 Canal St., Bates Mill Complex.

We spend most of our waking hours working, but we rarely pause to consider its meaning for our lives as individuals and citizens. Is work a necessary evil, a basic human right, a vital avenue toward dignity or self-expression? Would we choose to work if we didn’t have to? In “The Meaning of Work,” panel discussion Professor Darby Ray of Bates College is joined by Mary Kozicki LaFontaine of Lewiston’s CareerCenter and David Bartage of Procter and Gamble as they share a wide-ranging set of insights and experiences into work’s meaning and purpose. From the arguments of classical Greek philosophers to the challenges and opportunities of today’s diverse workforce, this program promises something for everyone.

Ray is director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships at Bates College. Before moving to Maine last summer, she spent 16 years as professor of religious studies at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. At Bates, her primary responsibility is the cultivation of mutually beneficial partnerships and projects between the college and the local and statewide communities. As a member of the faculty at Bates, she teaches a course titled, “The Meaning of Work.”

LaFontaine is manager of the Lewiston CareerCenter which is part of a statewide network that connects employers with job seekers in the area while offering free job training services to help the unemployed in L-A return to work. LaFontaine also serves on the Auburn City Council, teaches at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College and also serves on several boards.

Bartage is the finance manager of Procter and Gamble’s Tambrands division in Auburn, which is one of the largest private employers in the city. The company manufactures Tampax brand tampons which help to supply all of North America. Bartage serves on the Core Steering Committee for Maine Business Leadership Network which helps employers hire people of disabilities.

The April 24 program will feature a human services panel discussion. Slated to take part are Dr. Michelle Vazquez Jacobus, of the University of Southern Maine at Lewiston Auburn College, Jane Morrison of Safe Voices, Bob Rowe of New Beginnings and Catherine Ryder, Tri-County Mental Health. Each will speak briefly about services offered by their respective organizations.

Vazquez Jacobus, who will introduce the program and panel, is an associate professor at USM’s Lewiston campus where she teaches social and behavioral sciences and leadership and organizational studies. Before becoming a professor at USM/LAC, she was a lawyer, social worker and college instructor. In 2006, she was presented with an honor before the Maine State House for incorporating her community service work into education. Her latest focus has been aimed at children whose families recently immigrated to the United States.

Jane Morrison is executive director of Safe Voices, the domestic abuse agency in Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin Counties. Morrison has been in nonprofit human service work for more than 30 years.

Rowe is the executive director of Lewiston’s New Beginnings, which has grown from a program providing basic shelter care to an agency with a variety of community-based services meeting the needs of youth in crisis and their families. Rowe has chaired the state’s Child Welfare Advisory Council and served as president of the Maine Homeless Coalition.

Ryder serves as executive director for Tri-County Mental Health Services, which provides mental health, substance abuse, rehabilitation and life skills services. She is passionate about ensuring access to appropriate levels of care, bending the cost curve and reducing stigma associated with behavioral health.

“The Way We Worked” is adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives and explores how work became such a central element in American culture by tracing the many changes that affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years. The exhibit draws from the Archives’ rich collections to tell this compelling story, as well as items from Museum L-A’s collection and from photographs and stories contributed by local individuals and businesses.

For more information call the museum at 207-333-3881 or email [email protected] Regular hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and students. Visit online at www.museumla.org.

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