ACTIVITIES & NEWS
The Maine History Tour class meets for lunch at Bald Mountain Camps on Mooselookmeguntic Lake in Oquossoc before heading to the Outdoor Heritage Museum down the road. This was the last of five trips planned for this late summer course held in September 2022.
General Information for Potential Students and Instructors
- UMA Senior College activities are focused on people 50 years old and up.
- There are two semesters – Spring (begins mid-March) and Fall (begins mid-September) – about 25 to 30 classes per semester.
- Classes are typically 1.5 – 2 hours long and run 8 weeks.
- Not including our Concert series, we produce about 25 lecture and forum events per year, in addition to classes. Lectures are one or two-part presentations on a wide variety of subjects. This is often how volunteer instructors get started.
- Our long-running Concerts at Jewett series, sponsored by local businesses and private contributions, featured talented Maine performers representing a variety of musical forms. The concert series has been temporarily suspended.
- During the winter months of January, February and March, Zoom Winter Lectures are held Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. This replaces the Brown Bag Lectures that were formerly held at noon.
- The Granite Hill Lecture Series is a regular course lasting for 8 weeks that is taught each semester by 8 different instructors. (Suspended and replaced with Zoom lectures due to Covid precautions at the Granite Hill Estates facility.)
- Classroom facilities include white boards, overhead projectors, computers, etc. You can usually set up a video or PowerPoint presentation on your laptop or thumbdrive, and project it. Some classrooms are Zoom friendly.
The information above describes what have been our historical norms. Don’t hesitate to ask about something different. In particular, although we serve retired seniors well, we believe our classes are not easily available to those still working. We are looking to inaugurate Saturday classes and evening classes. It would help to know if you are interested or have other suggestions.
The Klahr Center
What Goes Around
Tech support at Senior College is grateful for the help provided by Bill Starrett of UMA Media Support Services. On two occasions Bill set up various audio visual equipment to demonstrate and explain the choices for teaching in classrooms and on zoom synchronously. At the time we thought we were preparing to purchase equipment. In reality, the time we spent with him prepared us to recognize how perfectly the recently renovated classroom at the Klahr Center was for teaching hybrid (synchronous) classes.
The Klahr Center has a long history of assisting Senior College with lecture and classroom space, but their current support providing synchronous classroom space for 7 classes in the fall semester is unprecedented! The Klahr Center’s Holocaust and Human Rights Center (HHRC) provides educational services throughout the state, including 3 recent classes at UMASC, and you can find the services they might provide for you or your organization under Education at the new HHRC website.
BTW, the audio visual equipment in the Klahr center classroom was designed and installed by UMA Media Support Services.
The new UMASC publicity card
It was a chilly, rainy day outside on the UMA campus that Thursday morning, June 9th; but there was plenty of warmth and sunny smiles inside the Klahr Center as members of the UMA Senior College gathered for the 2022 Annual Meeting, in person, for the first time since 2019. Due to Covid restrictions, the previous two Annual Meetings took place via Zoom. This year, for the first time, our meeting was hybrid, allowing folks with health concerns and those “from away” to join us via Zoom. However, most of the attendees chose to be there in person, and it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces gathered together!
Board of Directors Chairperson Carole Baldwin and UMA Dean of Arts and Sciences Pamela MacRae welcomed everyone and got the Annual Meeting underway. Dean MacRae conveyed Interim President Joseph Szakas’s commitment to UMASC and thanked board members and administrative specialist Pam St. Peter for their support.
Carole highlighted a few important accomplishments of the past year including the continuation of offering classes free of charge and, with the support of the Office Committee, offering classes via Zoom and hybrid options. UMASC provided over 40 courses to more than 300 members this past year!
Following this welcome, the Annual Meeting was called to order.
Here are some highlights of the meeting:
- Frank Johnson was welcomed as a new member of the Board of Directors.
- Elizabeth Reinsborough, retiring Board of Directors member, was recognized for her 17 years of service on the Board as one of our longest–serving members.
- Philip Fishman thanked the Office Committee for all of their work to support the Zoom and hybrid classes for UMASC. He recognized Shelly Gerstein and Gale Mettey for their work on our website.
- Louis Fontaine expressed appreciation for the faculty. 28 people presented lectures, and 25 instructors offered 40 courses.
- Elizabeth Reinsborough expressed appreciation of the committee chairs, acknowledging their hard work and dedication. Their leadership helps the committee volunteers achieve their goals.
- Bob O’Halloran thanked the Holocaust and Human Rights Center for letting UMASC use their “smart” room. He thanked HHRC Operating Manager Philip Fishman for all his assistance.
- Carole Baldwin expressed appreciation for UMA, which provides us with classrooms and meeting rooms. They are supportive in every way, and we are very fortunate to have our senior college on the UMA campus.
- Ann Sullivan expressed appreciation for Maine Senior College Network Program Director Anne Cardale. Anne meets with the 16 senior college representatives weekly. She offers a monthly newsletter on the MSCN website (visit ) that lists offerings statewide.
- Kay Fiedler announced that there will be one summer class offered on monarch butterflies. It will run four weeks starting July 12th. Fall classes will begin the week of September 19th, with the exception of the Maine History Tour class, which begins on September 2nd. Registrations for most classes will begin the week of September 6th.
- A slide of the new UMASC business card designed by Gale Mettey was presented (pictured above). Cards were distributed at the meeting and will be mailed out to members with the fall catalog. Kay encouraged members to carry a few to hand out to those interested in taking or teaching a class.
The 2022 Annual Meeting was adjourned shortly before noon, and those attending in person were able to enjoy a delicious box lunch while catching up with their UMASC friends.
Free classes – Where do they come from?
UMASC has a problem that most organizations would envy. Our coffers are overflowing. Our members support the organization with generous contributions, we’re frugal, and our compliance with the tenants of the Osher Foundation regarding (1) classroom space from a supporting educational institution (UMA) and (2) a commitment to a totally volunteer workforce (instructors and support staff) means that we have almost no costs for labor or rent.
The board began to tackle the situation after a $75,000 donation in 2019 pushed our total assets above $190,000. The board was comfortable with the cushion, but concerned that continued growth for its own sake was not in keeping with fulfilling the mission of Senior College. And then when Covid forced the college to virtual classes, the answer appeared.
Because the technology was new and problematic, we wanted the classes to be free as we prepared and learned to do reasonably glitch-free on-line events. Participation, however, in Zoom classes was immediately high. People were taking more classes than they had been. And, after polling, we saw that one of the many reasons was that Zoom classes were free, which made a second or third class possible for many who would not previously have thought it affordable. So, to serve as many people with as many classes as possible without regard to economic status, the $30 fee for classes was waived by the board for campus classes also.
One counter argument to free classes has been that commitment to the class would wane if it were free. Consistent attendance and participation at classes for the last 2 semesters, where classes have been free, does not support this conclusion so far.
- There’s a new word for savings at UMASC – endowment! As of now, the income from our endowment, our membership fees, and contributions are sufficient to support us. If our net worth starts to dwindle, we will adjust. We believe we need to continue to have a “cushion” as the full effect of the boomer generation may not yet have placed a full demand on our services.
- Based on committee recommendations, the Board of Directors approved the proposal to continue to offer free classes with the following conditions:
• No books or supplies will be furnished through the Operating Account, they will be purchased by the students.
• If other materials are needed (art supplies, etc.), the instructors may provide them at the students’ expense.
• Any expenses that may arise relating to field trips will be the students’ responsibility.
- To further ensure that cost does not prevent anyone from participating, we have established a self-administered scholarship level membership for $10. The traditional membership $25, and higher increments up to $100 have been added. So far, there is no evidence that significant numbers of people have shifted from $25 down to $10. Our average income is higher than $25 per membership.
- The Winter Lecture Series in February (formerly Brown Bag) and summer lectures and classes are free and open to the public.
THE ALL VOLUNTEER ALMA MATER
There is a team working at Senior College now that did not exist before Covid.
In the Spring of 2020, shortly after registration for classes was complete, the UMA campus was closed. Some of the temporary volunteers who had signed up to help during the days of registration at the office, took on the task of unraveling the payments and authorizing refunds. As they were finishing, the office building was locked.
This group, including Pam St. Peter, the administrative specialist from the University, were all relatively new to each other. And now they could not even meet in person. They were all seniors social distancing. The word was that Senior College would be suspended indefinitely. There were no vaccines. They had responded to a call to help with registration for just one week. So none of the individual volunteers knew if any of the others felt an obligation to try to continue facilitating Senior College activities into the future.
They held a meeting on Zoom, a new experience for them, where they discovered that they were all willing to commit, agreeing that Senior College would be even more important during the national shut-in period. From that virtual group handshake, many hundreds of volunteer hours ensued.
The group became familiar with Zoom so they could train and assist instructors with their Zoom presentations, even sitting in classes when needed to handle the issues students encountered so the class and instructor would not be interrupted.
The team scheduled duty days for themselves, so anyone who called to request help with Zoom or computer use would receive it. Usually, a special private Zoom session was set up for the caller to learn to log in and use the software. This made it possible for board and committee members to meet and for students to attend classes.
In the beginning, to get things started, Mike Bell agreed to present his canceled Roosevelt class on Zoom as a test case and learning experience for everyone. The process went well, and next came summer lectures and then full fall and spring semesters. In short, the heavens opened up, a light shone through, and Senior College did not suspend it’s classes!
What qualified these people to succeed? Among them they had life experience being at various times unemployed and/or on public assistance, the director of admissions for a Maine college, the art director for a regional magazine, a public school teacher, a manager for a small private company with 20 employees, an environmental specialist for a state Department of Environmental Protection, and an electrical engineer for a large international corporation.
The group, however, did not succeed because they had or had not held positions of authority, or because of particular training, or because of or in spite of their age. They were up to the task mostly because of a strong sense of purpose and a commitment to each other to share the burden.
The Office Volunteer Committee:
Kay Fiedler, Louis Fontaine, Shelly Gerstein, Gale Mettey, Robert O’Halloran, Elizabeth Reinsborough, Pam St. Peter, and Ann Sullivan