Mapping where #USMWorksForME

The University of Southern Maine is an engine for the Maine economy. This map, compiled from data provided by the USM Career & Employment Hub, tracks the locations of USM student internships throughout Maine, the nation and beyond.

The Career & Employment Hub provides resources for USM students, faculty/staff, and community partners to address Maine’s workforce development needs. The Hub assists students in connecting with future employers, via internships, and employers with students through service-learning opportunities and community-engaged work. For more information, visit the Career & Employment Hub website.

‘The USM Update’ TV Show

As part of his work as the Social Media and Digital Content Specialist at the University of Southern Maine, Alan served as the director and producer of  “The USM Update,” a monthly, half-hour program covering all things about the University of Southern Maine — from groundbreaking research to multicultural initiatives, workforce development and more — hosted by University President Glenn Cummings during the academic year. The show previously aired on the Portland-based Portland Media Center Community Television Network (CTN) Channel 5. As of February 2018, under Alan’s direction, the show now airs on community access stations across Maine. Further examples can be found on the USM website and also on Youtube.

UNE students unearth Biddeford’s history


BIDDEFORD — At the University of New England, a group of students is getting the “dirt” on Biddeford’s history as a Native American trading hub through their work in a course on archeological field methods.

Three students, supervised by Visiting Assistant Lecturer Arthur Anderson, have taken residence along a strip of land at Freddy Beach, at the mouth of the Saco River, as part of an archeological exploration of land once occupied by the Almouchiquois people at the time it was visited by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1605.

The goal of the dig, Anderson said, is to unearth Biddeford Pool’s long history as an international Native trading post while educating students about archeology.

“We’re trying to return to the area, get a little more information about that, get some students trained up in archeology and see what else can find out,” Anderson said on a breezy Wednesday, after days of 90-degree temperatures. “This was part of a vast trading network of prehistoric times.”

Over the past two weeks — they finish their work on Friday — the group has uncovered hundreds of stone, bone and ceramic fragments left behind by the Almouchiquois, whose land was mostly destroyed in 1607 by local warfare. Later, in the 1620s, disease epidemics virtually wiped out the local population after what Anderson said could be more than 1,000 years of occupation.

Among the pieces found include stone tools used for cutting and scraping flesh from sea animals; bones left behind that offer clues into the Almouchiquois diet; and stones from up and down the eastern seaboard.

Anderson said he’s been able to identify stones from what is now Pennsylvania, northern Maine and the Labrador Peninsula in Canada.

Records indicate this summer’s excavation is not the first the site has seen. Anderson said small excavations took place in the 1950s and 1960s and, prior to construction of the Arthur P. Girard Marine Science Center in the early 2000s, other artifacts were unearthed at the site.

Despite last week’s rain, this week’s scorching heat and the rise of many a black fly, the students working with Anderson say the experience has been worth it — and some have even changed their career goals.

“Based on doing this, I actually changed my career path,” said sophomore Jessica Brewer, who studies marine biology. “I want to become a marine archeologist … it’s (about) going through and seeing how (ancient peoples) interacted with the ocean and how they were able to survive back then.”

Senior Mary Hollandbeck, who opted to sign up for the archeological dig as an elective, said the “sunburns and mosquito bites have really been worth it.”

“Archeology has a way of putting you in the past; you see what it was like. The different artifacts show you how they hunted, how they made containers, how they ate, so it’s just really interesting to see what everyday people went through,” she said.

That, Anderson said, is his mission: to inspire students to take a hands-on approach with their learning, and have some fun, too.

“It’s a lot of fun for me to introduce young people to archeology. I think it’s exciting to open students’ eyes to a new, slightly different way of looking at the world,” he said.

“Even for students that aren’t going to go to grad school and become archeologists, it’s (about) creative critical thinking,” he added. “It’s being out in the field as a team and solving the problems that come up when they come up. It’s really valuable experience in that sense.”

Kyle Brennan, a rising sophomore at UNE, said he’s not sure what he wants to do with his studies in marine biology, but is grateful for the field experience at such a young age stage in his college career.

“I feel like still being a freshman going into my sophomore year, one of the main things we’re all eager to do is go into the field and discover what we truly want,” Brennan said, shoveling layers of dirt into buckets to be screened for artifacts. “I don’t know for certain what I want to do so this is one of those things that, being out in the field, being hands-on, this is going to better-build my persona.”

And, yes, he said the sporadic weather has been worth it — in fact, it’s been welcome.

“Sometimes the worst days have produced the best finds,” he said. “(This is) something not everybody gets to do. Even despite the very humid conditions we’ve had the past two days, and all the sweat and exhaustion, it was worth it just to pull up the smallest fragment of history because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or


An encore 112 years in the making

Originally published July 14, 2016 at:

BIDDEFORD — It’s one of Biddeford’s grandest and most haunting of tales. On Halloween night 1904, singer Eva Gray died at the Biddeford City Theater after performing her third encore of the night, collapsing backstage while the crowd continued calling her name from the stands.

It was almost symbolic: After closing with her final song, “Goodbye, Little Girl, Goodbye,” Gray, a soprano with the Dot Karroll repertoire company, bowed to the audience and walked backstage, where she was seen clutching her chest before dying in her dressing room about an hour later.

Patricia Saltzman, 77, left, and daughter Laura Hopkins-Day, right, stand in front of a portrait of Eva Gray, a singer who died of heart failure at the theater following her third encore on Halloween night 1904. Saltzman is the granddaughter of Gray, and visited the City Theater to learn about her grandmother’s legacy. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

On Wednesday, 112 years later, two of Gray’s descendants were given the opportunity to visit the City Theater, where their late ancestor – now known as the theater’s “resident ghost” – perished.

Gray’s granddaughter Patricia Saltzman, 77, and great-granddaughter Laura Hopkins-Day, 59, visited the theater for both a tour of and a spiritual reconnection to the space where Gray performed for hundreds right before her death.

“Tradition and history are important for every family,” Saltzman said. “I’d never really gotten in touch with (the theater), and it became really important I become in touch with it.”

Until about 10 years ago, Saltzman had hardly heard of her grandmother’s legacy. Her mother, Edna Carucci – Gray’s daughter who was present in the theater at the time of her death – passed away when Saltzman was only 6 years old. Saltzman only heard bits and pieces of Gray’s story from her older half-sisters.

And for her and her daughter Laura, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, coming to the theater now was important for many reasons.

Saltzman, who lives in the Florida Keys, suffers from macular degeneration and only has vision in one eye. She had never seen so much as a picture of her grandmother. For her and Hopkins-Day, the time to visit Biddeford was now or never.

But for the pair, seeing the theater went beyond the story of Eva Gray. Another of Saltzman’s daughters, Lisa, died of a form of ovarian-related cancer in May 2015. The three had planned to come to the theater three years ago before Lisa became sick.

Laura Hopkins-Day, left, talks with Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant, center, and Biddeford City Theater President Mark Nahorney, on July 13, following a tour of the historic building. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

It was a family reunion in many ways on Wednesday. Having been able to experience the history of their ancestry and celebrate their time together as just a duo, the pair were excited to see the City Theater’s efforts to preserve its own history and the legacy of their late ancestor .

“I’m pleased with the fact that they are renovating it now and keeping it up to what it was, bringing it back to what it was. Because that’s important – not just because of my grandmother, but for future generations and this generation too,” Saltzman said.

“There is a great sense of history with the theater, and standing here, I can imagine what it would’ve been like for my great-grandmother standing on the stage. You just get a good sense of the theatrical presence, and you’re standing where others stood before you,” Hopkins- Day said. “You try to experience a little bit of what they experienced looking out over the audience.”

And looking out over the audience, Saltzman drew her eyes to the front row of the stands, where she presumed her mother sat that fateful Halloween night in 1904. That night, Gray was “apparently in good health and was gowned in a handsome spangled costume,” according to a Biddeford Daily Journal article published the day after Gray’s death.

Patricia Saltzman, left, and daughter Laura Hopkins-Day tour the stage of Biddeford’s City Theater on July 13. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

Gray’s descendants hoped Eva would have made herself known to them during their tour of the building. She didn’t, but both women said the experience was still worth the trek across the country.

“We were very moved and excited to experience the theater and stand on the same stage that Eva stood on,” Hopkins-Day said.

Going forward, Saltzman and Hopkins-Day said they will continue searching for answers about Gray’s life and death, her family and her legacy.

“We’ll just continue searching until we find more information,” said Hopkins- Day. “This is a great stop along that line.”

For an accompanying video to this story, visit

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or

Honors Undergraduate Thesis

My Honors Undergraduate Thesis, Extra! Extra! This Just Thin: Identifying and Evaluating Framing of Obesity-Related News Coverage in Maine, is available here as a PDF. The abstract is copied below:

Obesity is an important health issue, and understanding both its origins and its remedies is critical. More than 78 million people in the United States — more than one-third the nation’s population — are obese, making obesity one of the most newsworthy health concerns of the time. The first step in addressing public health issues is to inform the public, for which news media act as the primary source. However, news media overwhelmingly frame obesity reports through a lens of individual responsibility, which blames people for their eating habits while ignoring systemic factors of obesity such as food industry pressures, food insecurity, and low incomes. Maine has the highest rate of obesity in New England, with nearly 29 percent of adults in the state considered obese. News sources attribute individuals’ weight to their behaviors and largely ignore social constraints of individuals or other systemic responsibilities for addressing obesity. Frame analysis of articles from Maine’s four most prominent newspapers, the Portland Press Herald, Bangor Daily News, Morning Sentinel, and Sun Journal reveals the five dominant frames through which obesity is discussed. These frames include public health and a medicalized obesity “epidemic,” a stern or nurturing parental government, national identity and the “Ideal American” citizen, the toxic environment of an overabundant industrial food system, “fun” versus fear and sadness, and normative education. Taken together, these frames underscore a neoliberal discourse that works to support culturally-held values of national identity, masked by an illusion of choice.

A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for a Degree with Honors (Journalism) at the University of Maine. Successfully defended (High Honors) on May 2, 2016; formally submitted May 11, 2016. 

Framing the Penobscot River Restoration

Framing the Penobscot River Restoration 

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The website, Framing the Penobscot River Restoration, was created to serve as a final group project for CMJ 493: Environmental Communication. The site contains a frame analysis of news articles pertaining to the Penobscot River Restoration Project. This was a group project in collaboration with Margaret Bouchard, Derek Douglass, Diyyinah Jamora, and Chase Brunton.

Maine Summer Youth Music Camp 2015

Originally published July 29, 2015

Around 140 high school students from across Maine gathered at the University of Maine July 18-26 for the annual Maine Summer Youth Music Camp (MSYM). Students participated in musical activities such as concert band, chorus, musical theater and jazz, and performed in a concert at the end of the week.

Video shot/edited by Alan Bennett. Produced for the University of Maine Division of Marketing and Communications and the University of Maine School of Performing Arts.

SMART Institute 2015

Originally published July 21, 2015

Video created for the University of Maine College of Engineering, highlighting the second annual SMART Institute, a stormwater management research team funded through the National Science Foundation. This year, nearly 100 Maine high-schoolers came to the University of Maine for three days to study new technologies in stormwater management and laboratory analysis.

Produced for the University of Maine Division of Marketing and Communications.

Featured image and video by Alan Bennett

A Hidden Art

Originally published Dec. 17, 2014

Final project for CMJ 351: Multimedia Production


It’s often said that there is no such thing like a true Maine winter — harsh, cold and with plenty of snow. When it comes to winter at the University of Maine, tensions often ride high when campus residents and commuters find themselves snowed-in or snowed-off campus.

While many students contest the university’s Facilities Management department lags in cleaning parking lots and sidewalks of snow, further investigation reveals that there is more to campus winter management than meets the eye.

Geremy Chubbuck, director of Facilities Management maintenance and operations for the university, detailed these efforts in an interview and early morning ride-around in a plow truck. Although he did not wish for his likeness — face, voice or other identifying features — to be used in the video, he revealed the staggering numbers and costs associated with winter cleanup.

There are over 16 miles of sidewalks on campus and seven-and-a-half miles of roads. The university must haul away the snow to an off-campus dump, per Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and must then restore this dump to its original condition at the end of the season. Over 600 cubic yards of rock salt are used annually, and most of it is laid on the university’s over 2.8 million square feet of parking lots.

They only receive $550,000 to do all of this, and it’s all done before most people wake up.

Chubbuck described his job as much more than pushing snow. Between coordinating vehicles and staff members, planning for the storm using doppler radar and creating plow routes and paying for all of it, it’s an involved process that requires time, patience and skill.

“It’s an art,” he said.

Featured image courtesy of Geremy Chubbuck

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