Top Stories: March 23 Campus Connections

Culinary students win Cajun Cookin’ Challenge

A team of SMCC Culinary Arts students outperformed professional chefs and won top honors at the annual WMPG Cajun Cookin’ Challenge.

Jada Tuttle, Becky Scott, Neil Gardiner and Derek Chao represented SMCC at the 25th annual cook-off, held Feb. 25 at the University of Southern Maine. The competition each year draws teams of chefs from local restaurants who compete to bring home bragging rights for the best Cajun dish.

When the voting was tallied, SMCC’s team took first place for its jambalaya fritters with remoulade sauce. Second place went to Lenny’s Pub of Westbrook for its hush puppy poutine. Portland restaurant Ruski’s came in third for its chicken, shrimp, ham hock and andouille sausage jambalaya.

Other contestants were Po’ Boys and Pickles, Bayside American Cafe, Sodexo USM Dining and Bayside Bowl.

SMCC students came in third place in the 2019 competition.

SMCC Mitchell Scholar writes: Hello from Ireland

By Quin Hassler

In April of last year I was awarded a scholarship in the name of George J. Mitchell that allowed me to move to Cork, Ireland, for my final semester of college. I knew when this happened that it would be an adventure, but I had no idea how life-changing it would really be. I sit here now, two months into the exchange, and reflect on the experiences I’ve had.

I think of the culture I’ve navigated, the people I’ve met, the wonders I’ve seen. The beauty of this ancient place and its people is so undeniable. It’s evident the moment one sees the way the heavy sky sits on the green, green earth. I watch the black birds strut on the stone walls and the sheep graze lazily on the hill and wonder if they know how lovely their home is.

Scenes here look like rawer, purer, older versions of those we see in Maine. Even my old friend, the Atlantic, looks different from this side. She’s rougher and wilder than I ever witnessed from the west.

A greater gift to me than all my fond memories and new friends gained in these past eight weeks is an understanding of something I never even knew I didn’t know. It is the power of a lived moment. A truly lived moment. It’s a quiet thing. A rare thing. To find it here has been my greatest privilege. I have discovered the stillness and might of a moment in the bustling city center and the crowded market and the noisy pub. I have felt it in the presence of the rocky shore and the rolling hills and the dark forest. In the eyes of a stranger. In the song of a street performer. In the smell of the rain.

I believe this gift has been granted to me not because I am a whimsical art student or a fanciful traveler. I don’t think it even has to do with Ireland specifically. I believe the wonder of living these moments is made possible not by the addition of anything, but by the subtraction of everything familiar. By turning my life inside out, I have created space to see things differently. I am able to see an old way of living that doesn’t exist back home. The ancient spirit that indwells this land seeps up through the turf and into me.

I am forever grateful for this opportunity and continue to live mindfully of it. I thank the community college system in Maine and the professors who have helped me in the past. I thank George Mitchell and Cork Institute of Technology. I send greetings and love from the other side of our shared ocean. Slán is beannacht.

Editor’s note: Quin Hasler wrote this personal column before COVD-19 was declared a pandemic. She has since flown home to Maine, cutting short her studies in Ireland.

Auto job fair connects students and potential employers

Automotive Technology students met potential future employers and distributed resumes at the Automotive Technology Job Fair.

Auto dealerships, repair shops and other auto-related businesses set up tables for the March 4 fair in the Johnson Automotive Technology Center, the home of SMCC’s Automotive Technology program.

The fair provided an opportunity for companies to recruit new employees, and for students to check out job and career opportunities that are available.

Bri Doyal, a second-semester student, met with several of the companies and handed out resumes.

“Hopefully I’ll get some job offers for when I’m still in school, or an internship, or a job that I can continue after I graduate,” she said.

SMCC hoops teams compete in national tournament

For the first time in SMCC history, the men’s and women’s basketball teams each won games during the USCAA National Tournament.

The women’s team won its first-round game against the University of Cincinnati-Clermont, 81-66, at the tournament, held March 8-11 in Uniontown, Pa. The team then lost to top-ranked Penn State University Beaver in the semifinal game on March 10.

For the season, the Lady SeaWolves had an overall record of 25-6, and 12-4 in conference play.

The men’s team won its first game at the national tourney on March 8, defeating Penn State-Wilkes Barre 70-68, before losing to top-ranked Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte 81-70 the following day.

The men ended the season with a 21-6 recording, including 12-4 in conference games.

At the national championship banquet, men’s basketball team member Ian Regan was named to the USCAA National All-Academic team. To be eligible, players must have at least 24 credits and a 3.5 GPA.

On the women’s team, Tara Flanders was named an Honorable Mention All-American.

‘Speed dating’ for Fire Science, EMS students

In what could be called a version of “speed dating,” Fire Science and Paramedicine students came face-to-face with potential future employers by meeting in rapid-fire succession with officers from fire-EMS departments across the region.

The annual Fire-EMS Chiefs Roundtable, held March 4 and 5, allowed students to meet with chief officers from fire-EMS departments in 10-minute sessions, rotating from table to table while picking up tips on what departments are looking for in employees.

Over the two days, about 50 students met with chiefs and other top officers from departments in Auburn, Bangor, Brunswick, Falmouth, Portland, South Portland and Scarborough, Maine; Dover, Hudson and Salem, N.H.; Massport at Boston’s Logan Airport; and Hartford, Conn.

Second-year Fire Science student Damien Jackson said the event give students an opportunity to meet employers in person and explore the different options ahead of them after they graduate.

“That gives me an idea of what they’re looking, while also help me become a better firefighter,” he said.

The Chiefs Roundtable event is particularly important to area fire-EMS departments because of the tight job market, said South Portland Fire Chief James Wilson.

“This is a chance to get a look at who the incoming crop of new hires might me,” he said. “Demand has exceeded the resources that past few years, so we’re all competing for the same people.”