January 20, 2013

USM pulls for closer relationship with Gorham

A meeting Tuesday will explore ways to increase intermingling of the two communities and create a 'college town' atmosphere.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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From left, junior Karianna Merrill, freshman Allie Macisso and sophomore Brittany Getch, regulars at the Gorham Grind coffee shop, relax after classes at USM-Gorham. Gorham shops would like to attract a before-class crowd, too.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Caswell said events through the university's departments of music, theater and art bring 7,200 visitors to the campus every year.

"We'd love to have more," said Dahlia Lynn, associate provost for academic affairs. She moved her office from USM's Portland campus to Gorham last month, and has been tasked with improving student life there. Part of creating a more vibrant campus, she said, is to get more people onto it.

Sending newsletters to residents and hanging banners above the town's streets are some of the ideas for letting the community know what's happening on campus.

Beyond the arts, Lynn said, university staff has talked about starting cross-country skiing or snowshoeing courses and opening them up to the community.

Some existing connections could provide a base to build on.

Athletic events are already a big draw to the campus, bringing nearly 275,000 visitors a year, said Caswell.

In addition to intercollegiate games, USM hosts local high school, youth and club teams at its hockey, track and tennis facilities. The fieldhouse at the Costello Sports Complex is also the site of the Gorham Marketplace, an annual trade show featuring local businesses. And, every year, USM students organize a Halloween party there that's been attended by more than 500 kids from the community.

Those are just some of the ways USM and Gorham already interact, Caswell said. He also pointed out that more than 40 education majors intern in Gorham schools.

"Our goal, our intent, clearly, is to build on those collaborations and to increase them whenever and wherever possible," Caswell said.

One major stride USM has already made in strengthening its relationship with the community has been through reforming Greek life. After years of complaints from neighbors of frat houses, the town shut down Phi Kappa Sigma on Preble Street in 2010 and placed more restrictions -- with bigger penalties -- on the remaining frat houses.

Gorham police were called to Delta Chi house on Preble Street 32 times in the 2009-10 school year. Last year, that number was down to six, said Chief Ronald Shepard.

Unlike the community discussions that focused on fraternities a couple of years ago, the talk Tuesday will be focused on celebrating the interactions between the town and college and brainstorming about more.

"I'm encouraged by the attitude of town officials," Kalikow said. "Over the course of a few years, we'll see a difference."

As for specific ideas about how to make the village more attractive to college students, Kalikow has one that would get her walking down the hill more often.

"I would kill for gelato," she said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at

lbridgers@pressherald.com

 

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