Story by Christina Cracolici, Assistant Director of Athletic Media Relations
GORHAM, Maine – The Maine Campus Compact, a consortium of 18 Maine colleges and universities, has honored Samantha Allen, the University of Southern Maine women's basketball coach, faculty member and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) advisor, for her commitment to civic engagement.
The Maine Campus Compact is a part of a national Campus Compact network that includes 1200 college and university presidents with the mission to catalyze civic engagement and reinvigorate the civic mission and public purpose of higher education.
Allen, a lecturer for the Athletic Department's NCAA Champs Life/Skills course, was one of three faculty members teaching in Maine to be honored with the Donald Harward Award for Faculty Service-Learning Excellence. The Harward Award is given annually to faculty members who have made public service an integral part of his or her curriculum, use innovative teaching tools to engage students in civic learning, and have a demonstrated commitment to advocating for service-learning on campus and beyond.
"I am pleased that Samantha has been recognized by the Maine Campus Compact for her outstanding efforts to make civic engagement and community service an integral part of a student's educational experience at the University of Southern Maine," said Association Director of Athletic and Senior Woman Administrator Kimberly Turner. "In her short time at Southern Maine, Samantha has created a welcoming environment where students feel comfortable advocating for themselves and others. As an advisor, lecturer and coach, Sam continues to raise the bar in her commitment to student success, creating opportunities for participatory learning with organizations residing in the town of Gorham, greater Portland and with University partners. On behalf of the Athletics Department, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Coach Allen for the exceptional work she does with students on a daily basis, and to express my gratitude to Samantha for helping provide an opportunity for all students to become active participants in creating meaningful change within their communities."
In her three years as a full-time member of the USM Department of Athletics, Allen has combined her roles as faculty lecturer, SAAC advisor, and women's basketball coach to initiate and steward several service-learning initiatives. Among her endeavors, Allen has strengthened USM Athletics partnership with Maine Special Olympics through the creation of a Unified Sports Program, and has created partnerships with on-campus and off-campus community groups including the ROCC (Recover Oriented Campus Center), Husky Vets, Maine Special Olympics, and Preble Street Soup Kitchen with the goal of fostering inclusivity and embracing diversity.
In her NCAA CHAMPS/Life Skills class, Allen guides students to find commonality across multiple populations by encouraging students to consider their own experiences with community service, to build a baseline understanding in the classroom, to connect classroom experiences to real life situations, and to reflect on their learning process. Through in-class learning activities such as questionnaires, short-response writing, case-study discussions, simulated situations, and listening to speakers from USM's on-campus resources, students consider what drives them to be involved with civic engagement and how they can put skills such as responsibility, compassion, reliability, and trust to use. It is through these meaningful hands-on experiences with community partners that students develop a reciprocal relationship, and explore opportunities to make civic engagement and community service part of his or her future endeavors.
As the SAAC Advisor, Allen leads a student-athlete group comprised of members from Southern Maine's 22 intercollegiate teams. Encouraging SAAC to have a greater civic role on campus and beyond, SAAC has successfully established and administered its Unified Sports Program, sponsored Mental Health Awareness Activities and events, including its recent Active Bystander and Peer Advocacy training which was recognized by the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators with its Josten's Community Service award.
One of nine recipients of USM's President's Award for Community Engagement in the Spring of 2017, Allen was recently named to the Women's Basketball Coaches' Association (WBCA) Thirty Under 30 list given to up-and-coming coaches under the age of 30 who have distinguished themselves early in their career with their professionalism, love of the game, and commitment to the student-athlete, applauding the extensive role they play in impacting the lives of their student-athletes. Allen's teams have won the Athletic Department's Remo Riciputi award, presented to the team sport with the highest collective grade point average, the last three years, are active in SAAC holding leadership roles, and are routine volunteers with the Maine Special Olympics Basketball Tournament.
"Making civic engagement and community service an essential part of every day life is beneficial not only for the individual but for society, and it is important to encourage these activities as an educator in each of my roles at USM," said Allen. "Through connecting with other people, who we might at first see as very different than ourselves, we have an opportunity find a common bond, and gain a greater understanding and empathy for each person's situations or choices. Sharing something as simple as the joy of competition with members of our Special Olympic community, or providing and sharing a midday meal with a person who is struggling with homelessness or hunger at Preble Street is not only rewarding, but encourages thoughtful reflection and respectful dialogue."
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