Think sculpture is built to last? Think again. This
summer, University of Maine students explored the use of natural and,
in many cases, biodegradable materials in the first Sustainable
Trash became treasure. Twigs became shrines. Salt
and mineral blocks were carved into figures that would eventually
"To actually have a conversation with our
environment, that's a really liberating experience
allowing myself to
let go of that work that is 'mine' as part of something bigger," says
senior Samantha Jones.
In the four-week summer course, students worked with
biodegradable materials such as handmade paper and scavenged wood, as
well as castoffs from the campus recycling center.
"That is one of our objectives in the course, to get
students to seriously consider the materials from the inception Where
do they come from? Are they mined/collected from renewable resources?
What types of processes and resources are involved in getting them to
your studio? through the entire design process, which includes how the
artist uses them and the real life span of the material," says Andy
Mauery, a professor in UMaine's Department of Art.
The students took their charge seriously; for
instance, questioning the impact a mineral block laced with copper might
have on birds and small animals. In an online forum, they developed a
vocabulary of sustainable art. When the class ended, the students formed
a club to continue the conversation.
"A lot of students are thinking very deeply about
the concepts," says sculptor and adjunct professor Susan Camp, who
cotaught the class with Mauery.
Social Security investing
Contrary to popular belief, there is no Social
Security trust fund. Instead, future obligations are funded by U.S.
Treasury bonds, and that's not the best news for returns, according to
recent research by a University of Maine professor of finance.
Robert Strong, the University of Maine Foundation
Professor of Investment Education, found the earning potential of a
portfolio invested completely in Treasury bonds isn't likely to keep up
with inflation. But by allowing participants to invest a small
percentage of the portfolio in the stock market, he says, such
investments have a better chance of meeting or exceeding cost-of-living
Rather than considering performance in a traditional
risk/return framework, Strong's research centers on an investment
program with an objective of simply earning at least the rate of
inflation. Historical data suggest that a bonds-only portfolio wouldn't
achieve that goal. However, the inclusion of a surprisingly small amount
as low as 5 percent of stock investments would dramatically increase
the chances of keeping up with cost-of-living increases without
significantly increasing risk.
The results indicate that from a simple
cost-of-living perspective, it makes sense to permit Social Security
participants to put a small percentage of their contributions in the
stock market, says Strong, whose findings were published in the Journal
of Business & Economic Studies.
Taking the pulse of home care
Home care workers provide a critical service by
helping Maine's elders stay in their homes when they need extra personal
care, but the labor pool serving that expanding population is shrinking.
Sandy Butler, professor of social work and
coordinator of the University of Maine Master's in Social Work program,
has begun a three-year research project to find out why. With funding
from an Academic Research Enhancement Award from the National Institute
on Aging, she will oversee a survey of 250 home care workers in Maine to
investigate factors influencing job turnover and retention, and how
those factors differ between older and younger workers.
Personal support specialists and personal care
attendants classified as direct care or home care workers provide
in-home assistance for frail elders and individuals with disabilities.
The work can include bathing, dressing, feeding, assistance with
transportation and light housework. Butler notes that they usually work
for very low wages, often without benefits and under difficult
The study explores two areas of interest to Butler,
a nationally recognized gerontologist and eldercare researcher: the
financial security of women throughout their lives, and the health and
well-being of elders.
Experts on topic
In response to growing concern about food allergies
in America's schools, a uniform, nationwide policy called the Food
Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act is now moving through Congress.
But sweeping legislation often doesn't address the
legal and ethical issues schools face when trying to accommodate
students with food allergies. Dianne Hoff, an associate professor of
educational leadership at the University of Maine, has done extensive
research in the legal and ethical dilemmas public schools face,
including peanut allergies.
"Federal acts will say something like, 'All schools
have to have a plan,'" Hoff says. "But that still doesn't answer the
ethical or legal dilemmas: How far do we have to go? And whose rights
trump whose rights?"
Maine's story bank
Maine: The way life should be. It's a catchy slogan
that speaks to Maine's quality of place. But while the concept is easy
to grasp, it's a bit hard to define.
The Story Bank Institute, a project of the Maine
Folklife Center at the University of Maine and Cultural Resources Inc.,
of Rockport, hopes to uncover what sense of place means, from the Great
North Woods to the southern coast. After a four-day intensive workshop
this summer, participants went into their communities to collect stories
of Maine: The way life is. Their subjects included bateau building on
the St. John River, basketmaking materials collection on Indian Island,
the culture of Bangor's Hispanic community and the coastal traditions of
crab picking and clam digging.
Preliminary work was presented live at the American
Folk Festival in Bangor in August. Audio, video and photographs from the
project will reside in the Folklife Center archives. The project is
funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maine
By the numbers
University of Maine Museum of Art permanent
6,989 pieces of art
4,561 works on paper, including drawings, photos and
1,733 artists represented
142 Maine artists represented
46 exhibits in the Museums by Mail traveling art
Term limit drawbacks
At the state level, term limits don't provide the
significant boost to minority party representation that proponents
expect, according to a recent study by University of Maine political
scientist Richard Powell.
When states began imposing term limits in the late
1980s and early 1990s, the populace was dissatisfied with elected
officials at all levels of government. Many political scientists
predicted the move would benefit Republicans the traditional minority
party by eliminating Democrats' incumbency advantage.
Powell, an associate professor of political science
at UMaine, studied the partisan makeup of state legislatures from
19902004. His findings, published in State Politics and Policy
Quarterly, challenge those early predictions.
On paper, it seemed there were a number of reasons
why term limits would benefit Republicans, but in practice, this didn't
happen in states with term limits, possibly because of the types of
states involved. Term limits passed more easily in predominantly
Republican states because voters viewed the issue as a tool against
congressional Democrats. However, term limits undercut majority
Republican incumbents in their state legislatures.
Neither UMaine junior James Daniels nor Kurtis
Petersons, a 2005 UMaine graduate, is a golfer, but that didn't hinder
collaborative development on a prize-winning reality-based golf program.
The $10,000 cash prize and a $15,000 consulting
services package they won in the annual statewide Business Plan
Competition held by the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of
Southern Maine in April has enabled mCaddie to move to the next
development level national launch of a limited version of the program.
mCaddie allows golfers to track and replicate an
actual game with a simultaneous virtual one that generates statistics.
In addition, mCaddie offers an online social clubhouse and allows
players to see which of their friends are playing golf at a given time
and how they are doing.
The system begins on the green with a cell phone
with GPS function. Players save their tee off location with a waypoint.
As the game progresses, mCaddie logs strokes and ball travel distances.
The game is saved to the mCaddie Web site, where it can be reviewed and
analyzed, or viewed by other players.
"It's a caddie with tie-ins to golf courses,"
Daniels says. "We already have a number of golf courses that are quite
eager to sign on."
Petersons came up with the idea for mCaddie and
Daniels provided the technical expertise. Since January, the two have
been refining mCaddie with help from UMaine's Foster Student Innovation
Center and the Maine Center for Enterprise Development in Portland.
How much carbon Mississippi River mud contributes to
the ocean and to the atmosphere is the focus of research by a University
of Maine Ph.D. student in oceanography.
Margaret Estapa, a recent recipient of a NASA Earth
and Space Science Fellowship, is measuring the release of carbon from
mud delivered by the Mississippi River and deposited along the Gulf of
When exposed to intense sunlight, some of the carbon
is released from the mud and flows out into the ocean, where it could be
consumed in the ocean food web or released as carbon dioxide, a
heat-trapping greenhouse gas. Using light-measuring equipment and
satellite data, Estapa is hoping to determine how much carbon is
liberated by the sunlight, and how much remains buried in the mud.