On March 26, Greg Kesich wrote in his commentary (“If it’s going to have a shot, USM has to be integral to community”) that what is “especially important for USM is engagement with the community.”

That’s precisely why students and faculty in the sociology department at the University of Southern Maine have a decades-long history of contributions to, and engagement with, the community.

Sociology is the study of human social relationships and institutions; a field that analyzes and explains important matters in our personal lives, our communities and the world. Hence, being in the community is what we do! And that is true of colleagues in other departments at USM also.

Sociology has integrated student engagement with the community into its course design. Students intern or do service learning in agencies like Cultivating Community, STRIVE U, the NAACP, Portland Health and Human Services, LearningWorks, the Maine People’s Alliance, the Long Creek Youth Development Center, Add Verb Productions, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Maine Women’s Fund, Mission Possible, Gary’s House, A Safe Space and the Boys & Girls Club.

Faculty extend their research and teaching to Hospice of Southern Maine, Maine Veterans for Peace and the Maine State Prison hospice program.

We are also active with the board of the foundation Maine Initiatives, with Maine NEW Leadership and in helping to organize Planting Parkside. Further involvement extends to Hour Exchange Portland, Local Sprouts Cooperative, community theater and local library boards.

Sociology faculty and student engagement with the southern Maine community is central to our mission and to student learning; our program is by no means unique at USM.

We agree with Mr. Kesich about the importance of community engagement and are deeply concerned that retrenchment and reorganization will compromise our ability to continue to fulfill this mission as a university.

Luisa S. Deprez

chair and professor

department of sociology

University of Southern Maine

Portland