Denise Scammon, a 2012 graduate of the Arts and Humanities program at USM LAC, gave a presentation on how she uses her degree at work and in the community, at the Lewiston campus as part of the Alumni Lecture Series.
Scammon pursued her A&H degree while working full time as an editor at the Sun Journal, part time as a special projects writer for USM LAC, and as a volunteer historian for the Woman’s Literary Union of Androscoggin County.
She began her presentation by defining the humanities, using this definition from Stanford University: “The humanities can be described as the study of how people process and document the human experience. Since humans have been able, we have used philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history and language to understand and record our world.” She added that the humanities tap into the human experience.
Scammon encouraged the audience to consider taking humanities courses whenever the opportunity arose. She said that humanities courses offer opportunities to learn to write well, organize work, manage time, meet deadlines, convey meaning precisely, summarize, debate, research, analyze, present information, think logically, and search for ambiguities and context.
Infusing her presentation with humor, Scammon shared an image of a scientist gleeful for having cloned a dinosaur followed by an image of a dinosaur chasing the scientist. The caption stated, “Science can tell you how to clone a tyrannosaurus rex, but the Humanities can tell you why this might be a bad idea.” Her point is that science needs the humanities in research, analysis and critical thinking.
Scammon described her work at the newspaper. “The work I do as special sections editor in the advertising/marketing department at the Sun Journal includes producing over 80 newspaper supplements each year. I come up with story ideas, hire freelance writers/photographers, and curate editorial content from subscription services and other sources. I also design newspaper supplements.” Occasionally Scammon has opportunities to write feature stories and take photos for the special sections at the newspaper.
While many of the special newspaper sections are repeated each year and she has weeks to gather the editorial content, Scammon is also an Encore editor for the newsroom department and has a daily deadline for finding entertainment content. “Organizational skills are essential when you face daily and multiple, overlapping deadlines,” she said.
Joking with the audience about the press releases she receives at the newspaper that are missing important information such as names, street addresses, and dates of upcoming events, or are filled with spelling errors, all capital letters and exclamation marks, Scammon shared some press release writing tips. “Make sure you include the five “W”s in your press release: who, what, when, where, and why. The ‘why’ is where you can include information such as whether the event is a benefit event or whether it is a first-time or annual event — why people should attend your event?”
Briefly describing her experience as a student and freelance writer at LAC, Scammon said “Lewiston-Auburn College provides undergraduate and graduate degrees through an interdisciplinary curriculum. I was one of its many non-traditional students from 2007-2012. I had a great experience as a student here.” She continued, “I have worked for Dan Philbrick at USM LAC on special projects for Dean Joyce Gibson for about four years including the 25th anniversary timeline and commemoration booklet.”
Scammon has also interviewed and written profiles on LAC faculty, alumni and students which have been printed in several publications as well as posted online. “These profiles are a terrific way of communicating the school’s brand to targeted audiences,” she said. Scammon is a member of the USM Alumni board and has participated in its mentor program at LAC.
The Woman’s Literary Union of Androscoggin County has been one of Scammon’s favorite nonprofit organizations to volunteer at since 2010. Its mission is to promote the intellectual, cultural and educational advancement of its members. She first became involved in the organization when she was invited to WLU’s historic, beautiful clubhouse, the Foss Mansion in Auburn, to take photos for a special holiday section published by the newspaper. “One of the members gave me a tour of the mansion. She opened a closet door that revealed a disorganized pile of scrapbooks, ledgers, meeting minutes and stuff that had been accumulated by WLU since it was established in 1892. She said the club didn’t even know what was in all that stuff.”
Scammon created an independent study course in which she researched WLU and its history. She wrote a successful Maine State Archives grant that funded a professional conservationist to help organize WLU’s collection of historical documents and hold a workshop on future preservation. The historical documents in what is now called “the research closet,” revealed important information about WLU that members had forgotten.
“As early as 1898, WLU members started the movement to add kindergarten to the public school systems in Lewiston and Auburn,” Scammon said.
“In 1905, WLU members held a round table with educators and school superintendents to discuss the matter of adding domestic science and manual training to the public school curriculum. And, in 1907, WLU members established three public playgrounds in Lewiston and Auburn, purchasing the playground equipment with funds they had raised. The club members maintained the playgrounds and ran recreation programs for local children for many years.”
More recent WLU activities include a Mother-Daughter-Doll Tea which allows young children to attend a tea that includes a theatrical performance at which they get to see acceptable public behavior and dress. The Tea is WLU’s biggest annual fund raiser and attracts about 400 attendees each year.
For the last three years, WLU has hosted Bunco parties, a game introduced to its members by Scammon. Bunco is a dice game that originated in 18th-century England. It requires a minimum of 12 people as it’s four people to a table and at each table are two teams. “It’s a great way to socialize and meet new people because your partner changes with each round,” said Scammon, noting that 12 rounds are played. Prizes are given to winners of various categories at the end of the game and tea and snacks are served afterward. “People who have played Bunco ask us when WLU is having the next one because it is so much fun.”
New this year, WLU held its first prom gown giveaway event followed by a pay-it-forward thank-you tea for high school girls from any school. “In three weeks’ time, 255 prom gowns were donated by community members who expressed their gratitude at finding a use for their gowns that had been sitting in their closets with no expectation of ever being worn again. The event was a great success,” said Scammon.
Scammon then spoke about the history of the Foss Mansion and presented biographical information on Horatio and Ella Foss, the prior owners of WLU’s clubhouse which was bequeathed to WLU by Ella upon her death in 1941.
Scammon described her latest foray into volunteerism as an elected vice president of the board of L/A Arts. She shared the board’s mission statement: “L/A Arts’ agenda has always been to promote the power of the arts, use its credentials to stimulate economic revival, maintain a diversity of programming in our community and realize a high quality of life for all within the community.”
“L/A Arts provides art engagement in the community through its programs which include Arts in Education, Public Art, Artwalks, and the Ice Festival. The organization is a valuable resource,” said Scammon.
She finished her presentation by repeating the skills she gained through her studies in the Arts and Humanities program at LAC and how she uses those skills at work and in the community. “These are important skills in today’s job market,” she said. “Humanities studies enable students to become better communicators.