By Gia Pilgrim, Staff Writer
After six years at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) Assistant Director of the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) Maya Kasper, announced that she would leave UMF in early October. She moved out of Mallet Hall recently to start her new job, as a Case Manager for developmentally disabled adults, in Vermont.
“I’m pursuing some dreams of mine,” said Kasper in an interview on her last day. She has a background in eco-psychology and was looking for a change in career. She explained her interest in nature sanctuaries and therapeutic rites of passage. She hopes that the move and change in job will help her to pursue her goals.
Kasper had several reasons for leaving, another being a desire be near family in upstate New York. “She wanted to be closer geographically to her aging parents,” said Director of CSI Kirsten Swan via email. Swan has had a long history working alongside Kasper and they crossed career paths many times over the course of Kasper’s 27 years working for the University of Maine System. “I was not surprised with her announcement,” said Swan. “In the field of Student Affairs, those of us in middle management type positions are always looking.”
Kasper’s varied responsibilities included scheduling Landing events, organizing Weekend Adventures and Excursions, advising six clubs, working in the Student Life office, supervising Student Senate, creating signage and advertising, and much more. “Most of it was just day-to-day stuff,” said Kasper. “Meaning that most days were very long, but I have no regrets about all the time I put in.”
At the moment, Kasper’s position at UMF has been split up and assigned to students, faculty and staff. “Her responsibilities have been distributed a lot,” said Devin Gilman a Student Life worker who worked with Kasper. “We feel a lot more responsible.” When Kasper left, she had all the pieces in place to complete the current semester. “While things are different, the skills her staff possess are evident every day,” added Swan.
Coordinator of the Sustainable Campus Coalition (SCC) Lucas Kellett said he will miss Kasper at SCC meetings. “It’ll be too bad to lose that point person who’s in charge of everything,” he said. “It was always, ‘I’ll talk to Maya to figure it out.’ Now it will be, ‘Who’s got what part of Maya’s job?’”
Kasper said her position was round-the-clock. “There’s so much work to do. There wasn’t enough of me to go around,” she explained. “A large part of my job is being physically present for college students. It was never about me; it’s all about bringing out the best in everyone else. [In my position] you need to have the confidence to know who you are so you can help them grow.”
Swan said she has the “green light” to hire an interim person to complete the academic year. She is hoping to have someone in place no later than January 2015. In terms of the position, she has conducted an inquiry meeting with a potential candidate. “It’s important to me to have her current student staff involved in the interview process,” she said.
Kellett mentioned that Kasper came to every meeting at SCC and had a personal interest in eco-psychology. “It’s important to honor her and all she’s done,” he said. “She’s really self-sacrificed for UMF.”
Kasper enjoyed working with the students most of all. Her student workers are missing her presence in the Student Life Office already. “We spent everyday with Maya,” said Gilman. “There were times when we literally spent 24 hours with her working on trips. She would make time for anyone.”
Kasper admitted to having mixed feelings about her departure and it was difficult for her to say goodbye to the students, faculty and staff at her going away party. “I’m not used to hearing about myself. It’s been very interesting,” she said. “But it’s been really cool to me. I hope at my new job I can have the same impact.”
The ties that Kasper has to UMF are still strong. Kirsten Swan said, “I miss Maya as a colleague and a co-worker..I’m confident we will stay in touch.” As for her student workers, Matt Theriault, said emphatically. “We’re going to visit her in Vermont for Christmas Break!” They’ve already touched base since she left and are happy to report that Kasper has started her new job and is enjoying it so far.