GORHAM, Maine – Fourth-year University of Southern Maine Head Women's Basketball Coach Samantha Allen (Bridgton, Maine) was announced as one of nine winners of the USM Faculty Awards Program at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 academic year. Allen, the Huskies' women's basketball coach, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and NCAA Life Skills lecturer was presented with the USM Faculty Award for Community Service.
The USM Faculty Awards program is designed to share accomplishments and exceptional efforts of University faculty members from the College of Management and Human Service, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Science, Technology, and Health, the Lewiston Auburn College, and UMaine Law School. Awards are presented in the areas of Teaching, Scholarship, University Service and Community Service.
"I am pleased that Samantha has been recognized with the USM Faculty Award for Community Service. Samantha continues to set the bar high for faculty, staff and students alike in regard to her incredibly strong commitment to community service," said Kimberly Turner, Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator. "Her passion for providing for the greater good of any community is evident to all who have the good fortune to work with Samantha and I am pleased that the institution has recognized her for the tremendous work she delivers on an annual basis. On behalf of our department, I wish to extend my sincere appreciation and thanks to Samantha for the exemplary leadership she provides to USM in the area of community service."
In Allen's role as advisor to the University of Southern Maine Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and as an instructor the NCAA Champs Life Skills course, and women's basketball coach, she has increased the depth and breadth of community-engagement and civic leadership in all disciplines in her four years as a full-time faculty/staff member. Previously one of nine recipients of USM's President's Award for Community Engagement in May of 2017, Allen has focused her efforts on community-based learning initiatives committing to service-learning and community action beyond the classroom with the intent of developing and strengthening an appreciation for diversity, the multi-cultural perspective, and to strengthen critical thinking and communication skills in each of her three roles on the USM campus. Most recently, Allen was named the USM Advisor of the Year at the 2019 Student Leadership Gala for her work with SAAC.
Allen's actions and initiatives within the field of community service have previously been honored outside of the University as well. During 2018, Allen was recognized at the regional, earning Maine Campus Compact's 2018 Harward Faculty Award for Service-Learning Excellence. At the national level, Allen was chosen as a Women's Basketball Coaches' Association (WBCA) Thirty Under 30 recipient. The WBCA's honor is given to up-and-coming coaches in the NCAA Divisions I, II, and III and NAIA that have exemplified community service, mentorship, impact on others and professionalism.
As the NCAA/Life Skills Lecturer, Allen has built into her course volunteer and mentorship experiences for those enrolled in her class. One of the community-outreach initiatives included in the framework of her syllabus includes volunteerism at the Preble Street Soup Kitchen. Constructed to provide students with a broad scope and understanding of food insecurity and homelessness in their community, students in Allen's class engage with experts in the field of nutrition, non-profit organizers and community leaders prior to their volunteerism. As part of the program, Allen's students met with and spoke to UMaine system nutritionist Chelsea Yates, and Hannaford Bros. outreach personnel Andrea McDonald. Through discussions with Yates, built an understanding of proper nutrition and how it affects performance, and with the class interaction with McDonald, students learned how to shop for healthy food on a budget and learned about the numerous charitable donations made from grocery stores to local shelters. During their interaction with the ROCC, students were able to discuss and explore varies experiences which can lead to homelessness. With each speaker, the goal for the students was to shape their understanding of surviving and thriving on an individual to grander societal scale from their experience as a college-aged student through the perspective of a member of the homeless population.
Finally, students visited and volunteered with Preble Street Soup Kitchen during the midweek lunch shifts. Each student was given a task (food preparation, sanitary preparation, service, dish washing, and stock-room activities) and helped Preble Street Soup Kitchen serve during one of its most fast-paced and busy times. After the lunch session was complete, students participated in a breakdown session of how the food gets donated/used and what a typical day in the life a of a homeless person looks like.
In her fourth year as SAAC Advisor, Allen has continued to lead the student-athlete group comprised of members from each of its 22 intercollegiate programs into a greater civic role. Over the last three years, Allen has guided and assisted the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee into the creation of a Unified Sports Program with Maine Special Olympics, the sponsorship of Mental Health Awareness activities and events, and continued its award-winning work with the Huskies' Community Halloween Party, along with various one-time and on-going events.
During the 2018-2019 academic year, the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators (NADIIIAA) awarded Allen and SAAC with two community-service accolades. The Huskies' SAAC earned the third place prize for its Array of Projects category, which is reflective of the hard-work, diverse and innovative programming administered by Allen and the student-group. Included in this Array of Projects honor, USM SAAC as part of the NCAA initiative to focus efforts on Mental Health Awareness, worked to create educational opportunities for student-athletes, and the USM community as a whole in regards to identifying resources available to them through the University and the community. In the Fall of 2018, USM SAAC sponsored a "Spike the Stigma" volleyball tournament - creating a fun, informal setting in which University counselors could address attendees and provide literature on services and resources, discuss and learn to recognize warning sings among peers, and to encourage outreach on campus.
USM SAAC was also recognized prominently as NADIIIAA chose the Huskies' Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to receive its top honor for its inaugural community service award for its Special Olympics Activity category. In its third year as a program, SAAC's Unified Sports Program has invited local Special Olympians to the Costello Sports Complex for weekly one-hour sessions with USM student-athletes over the course of the academic year. During these sessions, the student-athletes worked with Special Olympians in various sporting activities splitting the time between skill development and application through fun mini-games. One of the highlights of the program included inviting the participants to partake in a halftime exhibition basketball game. Additionally, SAAC sponsored a Spread the Word to End the Word Awareness campaign during the Athletic Department's Gorham Night Celebration. The "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign is a national program with the intent of ending the derogatory use of the word retarded in everyday conversation.
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